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19. Maj 2005, 22:59:53
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I reject your reality and substitute my own!

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     Publika se komešala poput jedinstvenog organizma u bezimenoj tami empateatra pričabroda.
     Kelekisel, koji je sedeo u središtu ogromne prostorije, oseti taj čudno preteći pokret u mraku. Nalazili su se svuda oko njega: osoblje priče i posada kaja nije bila na dužnosti, svi zainteresovani za Frafinovu novu postavku. Već su desetak puta videli dva kalema dok su im elementi doterivani. Sada su čekali na novu probu uvodne scene, a Keleksel je ipak osećao preteći oreol koji je obavijao ovo mesto. Bilo je to nešto lično i neposredno, nešto u vezi sa pričom, ali on nije bio u stanju da odgonetne njegov smisao.
     Do nozdrva mu je dopiralo slabo peckanje ozona iz čulomreže, koja je proistekla iz Tigivogovog otkrića, čije je nevidljivo polje vezivalo publiku za projekciju priče. Stolica mu je izgledala čudno. Bilo je to profesionalno sedište, deo opreme sa čvrstim doručjem i komandama uz ivicu za obeležavanje montaže. Samo mu je prostrana, kupolasta tavanica, sa svojim nitima pantožive snage fokusiranim nadole, prema pozornici daleko ispod njega (pa čak i ispod pozornice) - bila poznata, jer je bila ista kao i u svakom normalnom empateatru.
     Ali zvuci, tipkanje po dirkama za montažu, profesionalne primedbe, "Skratite raspored i dajte krupan plan... Jače obasjajte olfaktor čim se uključi rasveta... Ublažite prvi nalet povetarca... Pojačajte početno osećanje žrtve, a zatim ga naglo presecite..."
     Sve to i dalje nije bilo usaglašeno kako treba.
     Keleksal je ovde proveo dva radna dana, sa dopuštenjem da posmatra posadu kako obavlja poslove. Ali zvuci i glasovi publike nikako da se usklade. Njegovo prethodno iskustvo sa empateatrima uvek se odnosilo na završene priče i ushićene gledaoce.
     Malo dalje, s leve strane, začu se glas uz tame, "Kreeći."
     Linije pantožive snage iščezoše. Prostorijom ovlada potpuna tama.
     Neko pročisti grlo. Pročišćavanje grla predstavljalo je znak nervoze koja se probijala kroz tamu.
     Središte pozornice odjednom obasja svetlost. Keleksel se promeškolji i zauze udobniji položaj. Uvek isti čudni početak, pomisli on. Svetlost je predstavljala usamljenu, bezobličnu stvar koja se lagano pretakala u sjaj ulične svetiljke. Osvetljavala je kosinu travnjaka, jedan deo krivine prilazne staze, i, u pozadini, avetinjski sivi zid domorodačke kuće. Tamni prozori od primitivnog stakla sijali su poput nekih čudnih očiju.
     Negde na pozornici začu se dahtanje, a potom nekoliko tupih udaraca u mahnitom ritmu.
     Insekt zacvrča.
     Keleksel primeti da pantoživa kola veoma verno reprodukuju zvuke. Sedeti obavijen mrežom i povezan sa empatičkim projektorima, bilo je isto tako stvarno kao i posmatranje neobrađene scene sa položaja koji se nalazi iznad nje i malo postrance. Na svoj način, to je odgovaralo jedinstvu Hema. Miris prašine koju je podigao vetar iz suve trave reže Kelekselovu svest. Povetarac mu dodirnu lice svojim hladnim prstom.
     A onda, Keleksela obuze užas. Ponikao je sa scene obavijene senkama i neumoljivo se razlio kroz projektore mreže. Keleksel je morao da se opomene da je posredi umešnost izlaganja priče, da nije u pitanju ništa stvarno... bar ne za njega. Doživljavao je strah nekog drugog bića, uhvaćen i sačuvan na osetljivim trakama.
     Jedno užurbano biće, domorodačka žena obučena u široki, zeleni ogrtač koji joj se zaplitao oko butina, nahrupi u žižu pozornice. Dahtala je i borila se za vazduh dok je trčala. Bosa stopala topotala su joj po travnjaku, a zatim po popločanoj prilaznoj stazi. Za njom se pojavi gonilac, zdepast čovek, lica okruglog kao mesec, držeći u ruci mač čija je oštrica sijala poput srebrnastog traga zmije pri svetlosti ulične svetiljke.
     Žena je zračila užasom. Dahtala je, "Ne! Molim vas, blagi bože, ne!"
     Keleksel zadrža dah. Bez obzira na to što je ovu scenu video mnogo puta, čin nasilja je svaki put doživljavao kao nešto novo. Počinjao je da shvata šta je Frafin želeo ovom pričom. Mač je bio podignut visoko iznad glave...
     "Seci!"
     Mreža se zamrači, nestade osećanja, ničeg više nije bilo. Kao da vas je neko bacio sa litice. Pozornica utonu u tamu.
     Keleksel shvati da je to bio Frafinov glas. Začuo se iz pozadine, negde na desnoj strani. Keleksela za trenutak obuze bes zbog Frafinovog čina. Isledniku je bio potreban samo čas da se preusmeri, ali se ipak osećao osujećenim.
     Svetla se upališe otkrivši stepenasti raspored sedišta u obliku klina koji se na jednom kraju pretvarao u kružnu pozornicu. Keleksel zažmirka i osvrnu se oko sebe na posadu priče. Još je osećao pretnju koja je zračila iz njih i sa prazne pozornice. Kakva ga to opasnost ovde vreba, upita se on. Imao je poverenja u svoje instinkte kada je nešto slično bilo u pitanju: u ovoj prostoriji vrebala je neka opasnost. Ali kakva?
     U nizu redova oko njega sedela je posada, učenici i članovi posade van dužnosti pozadi, pripravnici i specijalni posmatrači u sredini, pomoćno osoblje dole, blizu pozornice. Uzeto pojedinačno, predstavljali su sasvim običan Hem, ali Keleksel se priseti onoga što je osetio u tami - tog jedinstvenog organizma rešenog da mu nanese neko zlo, uverenog u svoju sposobnost da mu naudi. Mogao je to da oseti u Hem empatiji, u jedinstvenom životu koji su delili.
     U prostoriji je sada vladao čudan mir. Čekali su nešto. Tamo daleko dole, blizu pozornice, nekoliko glava se primakoše jedna drugoj u nečujnom razgovoru.
     Keleksela ponovo obuze razočaranost zbog načina na koji je Frafin prekinuo scenu. Bez obzira na to što je znao razvoj događaja to ga je lišavalo vizije... Keleksel zatrese glavom. Bio je zbunjen i uzbuđen. Još jednom prelete pogledom preko posade. Predstavljali su raznobojnu kockarsku tablu u ogromnoj prostoriji; boja svake uniforme označavala je dužnosti onoga koji ju je nosio - crvena polja sačinjavali su flaterski piloti, narandžasto sa crnim nosili su strelci, zeleno stalna posada priče, žuto upravljači i serviseri, ljubičasto glumci, a belo garderoberi. Tu i tamo bilo je crnih tačkica koje su predstavljale manipulante, zamenike režisera, jednom reči Frafinov uži krug.
     Grupa blizu pozornice se razišla, a umesto nje pojavio se Frafin koji se hitro popeo na pozornicu i došao do samog središta, praznog kruga žiže slike. Bio je to promišljen korak koji ga je izjednačio sa akcijom što se u tom prostoru odvijala pre samo nekoliko trenutaka.
     Keleksel se naže napred da bi bolje video režisera. Tamo dole, Frafin je izgledao kao neki suvonjav čovečuljak u crnom ogrtaču; pramen ebanosne kose prekrivao mu je srebrnastu kožu čela, dok su mu usta bila duboko usečena, sa veoma uvučenom gornjom usnom. Odjednom mu se učinio sličan nečem iz senkovitih međa dalekog carstva punog opasnosti koga nijedan Hem nikada nije ugledao. Bilo je nečeg upadljivo individualnog u njemu.
     On podiže svoje upale oči i pogledom potraži Keleksela.
     Empateatar utonu u tišinu sličnu zadržanom dahu. Napregnuta lica posade usredsrediše se na pozornicu slike.
     "Još jednom ću vam ponoviti", reče Frafin, milujući vazduh glasom. "Cilj nam je da postignemo tananost."
     Frafin ponovo podiže pogled prema Kelekselu.
     "Ne mislite dovoljno na gledaoce", reče. Glas mu odjednom postade hladan.
     Empateatrom prostruja uzbuđeni žamor.
     "Ne smemo dozvoliti da naš gledalac prejako oseti užas", reče Frafin. "Treba mu dati do znanja da je užas prisutan. Ne potencirajte to iskustvo. Dopustite mu da uživa u zabavnom nasilju, smešnoj smrti. Gledalac ne sme da pomisli da se njime manipuliše. Ima ovde mnogo važnijih stvari od ustrojstva zapleta u kojima možemo da uživamo."
     Keleksel razabra neizgovorene poruke u Frafinovim rečima. Bila je to nesumnjiva pretnja, da. On oseti oko sebe igru osećanja koja ga začudi.
     Moram doći do jednog od tih domorodaca kako bih mogao da ga pobliže proučim u slobodnim časovima, pomisli Keleksel.
     Učini mu se da je ova misao pravi ključ za zabravljena vrata iskušenja. U Kelekselove misli odjednom se naseli žena iz Frafinove priče. Ime joj je tako egzotično zvučalo - Rut. Crvenokosa Rut. Bilo je u njoj nešto od Subistvorenja, a Subiji su bili poznati po svojoj sposobnosti da Hemima pruže velika erotska zadovoljstva. Keleksel se seti jedne Subi koju je nekada posedovao. Ona je, tako mu se bar činilo, veoma brzo iskopnela. Tako je to sa smrtnim bićima kada im se život uporedi sa besmrtnošću Hema.
     Možda bih mogao da ispitam tu Rut, pomisli Keleksel. Za Frafinove ljude predstavljaće sitnicu da mi je ovamo dovedu.
     "Tananost", reče Frafin. "Publika mora stalno da bude ravnodušno svesna. Razmišljajte o priči kao o obliku plesa, ne kao o nečem stvarnom, kao što je to slučaj sa našim životima, već kao o zanimljivom odblesku bajki Hema. Do sada ste svi morali već da shvatite cilj priče. Gledajte da se pridržavate tog cilja sa odgovarajućom tananošću."
     Frafin teatralnim pokretom ruke obavi crni ogrtač oko tela, zadovoljan što mu je gest tako maestralno uspeo. Okrenu leđa publici i siđe sa pozornice.
     Bila je to dobra posada, podseti se Frafin. Oni bi svoje zadatke izvršili sa uvežbanom tačnošću. Ovu zabavnu priču treba preneti na kalemove. Možda bismo je čak mogli prodati kao međuigru, kao primer umetničke spretnosti. Ali nije važno; poslužila bi svrsi čak i kada bi samo zavela Keleksela - tu i tamo pomalo straha i pokoja želja svaki njegov pokret pomno prate snimatelji. Svaki pokret.
     On prođe kroz službenu cev u dnu scene i obre se među plavim zidovima hodnika iza pozornice, koji se zakrivljeno spuštao pored magacina do njegovih odaja. Frafin pusti da ga zahvati usisno polje i ponese u blagoj zamućenosti pored bešavnih projekcija stepenica.
     Gotovo da mi je bilo žao Keleksela, pomisli on.
     Očigledno je osetio odbojnost pri prvom suočenju sa idejom pojedinačnog nasilja. Ali kako se samo izgubio za vreme scene sukoba među domorocima.
     Tako lako se poistovećujemo sa pojedinačnim nasiljem, pomisli Frafin. Neko bi mogao čak pomisliti da smo u prošlosti stvarno doživeli slična iskustva.
     On oseti da mu se oklop, odnosno koža, refleksno skupio pri iznenadnom nemiru nestalnog osećanja. Frafin proguta knedlu i zaustavi usisivač na stepenici ispred svog salona.
     Beskonačnost njegove vlastite lične priče odjednom ga užasnu. Oseti da se nalazi na ivici zastrašujućih otkrića i uplaši se čudovišta svesti koja su ga vrebala iz večnosti pred njim. Tamo su se nalazile stvari koje nije želeo da vidi.
     Frafina obuze nemoćni bes. Zažele da pesnicom nasrne na večnost, da utiša skrivene glasove koji ga zapljuskuju brbljanjem. A onda oseti da ga bes prolazi i pomisli: Biti besmrtan zahteva često dobijanje moralne anestezije.
     Bila je to tako čudna pomisao, da je odagnala strah iz njega. On uđe u srebrnastu toplinu salona, pitajući se odakle mu ta misao.

     Iznenadni nalet vetra stresao je kišne kapi s lišća i raspršio ih.
     Rut se oslobodi njegovog zagrljaja. "Hajde da se prošetamo."
     "Po mraku?"
     "Poznajem put. Sem toga, jahački klub je sada osvetljen. Svetla iz bolnice vide se svake večeri preko doline. Automatska su."
     "Verovatno će da počne kiša."
     "Onda ću moći i da plačem. Obrazi će mi već biti vlažni."
     "Rut... draga... ja..."
     "Povedi me u šetnju... kao nekada."
     Još je oklevao. Prožeo bi ga strah pri pomisli na šumarak... pritisak, gotovo zvuk. On dođe do kola, ispruži ruku i pronađe naočari. Zatim ih stavi, pogleda unaokolo - ništa. Ni mušice, ni znaka od nečeg čudnog... osim prisustva izvesnog pritiska.
     "Neće ti biti potrebne naočari", reče Rut, i uze ga za ruku.
     Furlou oseti da u trenutku nije mogao da progovori usled iznenadnog bola u grlu. Pokuša da razmotri svoj strah, ali zebnja nije bila vezana za njega. Plašio se za Rut.
     "Hajde", reče ona.
     On je pusti da ga povede preko trave put jahačke staze. Tama iskrsnu poput oštre demarkacione linije čim su napustili šumarak eukaliptusa, na prvoj uzvišici, kroz borove i nisko rastinje koje se protezalo duž jahačke staze kluba. Posvuda raspoređene svetiljke za noćno jahanje bile su pričvršćene za drveće i mokro su svetlucale kroz nakvašeno lišće. Uprkos popodnevnoj kiši, utabana staza pod njihovim nogama bila je čvrsta.
     "Noćas je staza samo naša", reče Rut. "Niko neće doći zbog kiše." Ona ga steže za ruku.
     Nije samo naša, pomisli Furlou. Mogao je da oseti nečije prisustvo u blizini što je lebdelo u vazduhu... pomno i opasno. On spusti pogled na Rut. Crvena kosa joj je vlažno svetlucala pri slaboj svetlosti iznad njihovih glava. Okruživalo ga je osećanje obeshrabrujuće tišine a nekog čudnog pritiska. Utabana staza gotovo je potpuno prigušivala korake.
     Ludo osećanje, pomisli on. Kada bi mi ga opisao neki pacijent, smesta bih počeo da tragam za izvorom samoobmane.
     "Često sam ovuda šetala kao dete", reče Rut. "Bilo je to pre nego što su postavili svetiljke za noćne zabave. Zamrzela sam ovo mesto od kada su postavili svetiljke za..."
     "Šetala si ovde po mraku?" upita on.
     "Da. Nikad ti to nisam rekla, zar ne?"
     "Nisi."
     "Vazduh je tako svež posle kiše." Ona duboko uzdahnu.
     "Zar ti roditelji nisu branili? Koliko ti je bilo godina?"
     "Oko jedanaest, čini mi se. Roditelji nisu znali. Uvek su bili toliko zaposleni oko zabava i sličnih stvari."
     Jahačka staza ukrštala se kod malog proplanka sa tamnom stazom koja je vodila nalevo preko brisanog prostora do potpornog zida. Prođoše kroz rupu u zidu, spustiše se niz nekoliko stepenika, a zatim popeše na katranisani vrh nadzemnog rezervoara za vodu. Ispod njih su gradska svetla širila vlažan somot dragulja preko noći. Svetla su izlivala narandžasti sjaj naspram niskih oblaka.
     Furlou je sada još jače osećao čudan pritisak. Pogledao je naviše i okolo, nije bilo ničeg. Zatim baci pogled nadole, prema Rutinom bledosivom licu.
     "Kada smo dolazili ovamo obično bi rekao 'Smem li da te poljubim?'" reče ona. "A ja bih odgovarala: 'Nadala sam se da ćeš me to pitati'."
     Rut se okrenu, pribi uz njega i podiže pogled. Kada se sagnuo da je poljubi, zaboravio je na sva strahovanja i na nejasan pritisak. Za trenutak je izgledalo da se vreme vratilo unazad, da se ono sa Denverom i Nevom nikad nije dogodilo. Ali toplina poljupca, način na koji se njeno telo privilo uz njegovo, ispuniše ga sve jačim čuđenjem. On se odmaknu.
     "Rut, ja..."
     Ona mu položi prst na usta. "Ne govori." A zatim: "Endi, zar nikada nisi poželeo da odeš u motel sa mnom?"
     "Do vraga ! Mnogo puta, ali..."
     "Nikada mi nisi prišao na pravi način."
     Oseti da ga ismejava, te stoga ljutito reče: "Voleo sam te!"
     "Znam", prošaputa ona.
     "Nisam želeo da se valjamo po senu. Želeo sam... do đavola, želeo sam da vodim ljubav s tobom, da imamo decu, čitavu gomilu."
     "Kako sam bila glupa", prošaputa ona.
     "Draga, šta ćeš uraditi? Hoćeš... li... se..." Oklevao je.
     "Razvesti?" upita ona. "Naravno, posle."
     "Posle... suđenja."
     "Da."
     "Tako je to u malom gradu", reče on. "Svako se meša u tuđe stvari, koje ga se uopšte ne tiču."
     "Za jednog psihologa, to je već veoma zamršena rečenica", reče ona, a zatim se priljubi uz njega; ostali su tako tiho da stoje, dok se Furlou ne priseti nejasnog pritiska i poče da ga traži u svesti kao da je u pitanju bolestan zub. Da, još je bio tamo. Čim se opustio, ispuni ga duboka uznemirenost.
     "Stalno mislim na majku", reče Rut.
     "Oh?"
     "I ona je volela mog oca."
     U stomaku mu se nastani hladnoća. On zausti da nešto kaže, ali ne reče ništa, budući da je iznenada opazio neku kretnju naspram narandžastog sjaja oblaka pravo pred njima. Između oblaka pomolio se neki predmet i ostao da lebdi na razdaljini od oko stotinu jardi, gotovo okomito iznad rezervoara i na veoma povoljnom položaju. Furlou je uspeo da razabere oblik predmeta naspram sjaja u pozadini; četiri svetlucave cevaste noge ispod fluorescentne zelene kupole. Oko podnožja svake noge okretao se krug svetiljki duginih boja.
     "Endi! Boli me."
     On shvati da ju je u trenutku šoka stegao u naručje i lagano olabavi stisak.
     "Okreni se", prošaputa on. "Reci mi šta vidiš tamo, naspram oblaka."
     Ona se zbunjeno namrgodi, okrenu se i zagleda prema gradu. "Gde?"
     "Malo iznad nas - pravo napred naspram oblaka."
     "Ništa ne vidim."
     Predmet poče da se približava. Furlou je sada mogao da razazna obličja iza zelene kupole. A onda se ona pomešaše sa maglovitom, fluorescentnom svetlošću. Dugin sjaj ispod cevastih nogu poče da bledi.
     "U šta to gledaš?" upita Rut. "Šta je to?"
     Ruka mu je bila prebačena preko njenog ramena i on oseti da Rut drhti. "Eno tamo", reče on pokazujući. "Pogledaj pravo tamo."
     Ona se pognu napred i zagleda u pravcu koji joj je rukom označavao. "Ništa ne vidim - samo oblake."
     On skide naočari. "Evo ti. Pogledaj kroz njih. Čak i bez naočara Furlou je mogao da vidi obrise predmeta. I dalje se kretao duž obronka brda - dolazeći sve bliže... i bliže."
     Rut stavi naočale i pogleda u pravcu mesta na koje je on pokazivao. "Ja... nešto tamno i nejasno", reče ona. "Liči na... dim ili oblak... ili... insekte. Je li to roj insekata?"
     Furlou oseti da su mu usta suva. Grlo mu se bolno stezalo. On zatraži da mu vrati naočari i pogleda u predmet koji se kretao. Prilike unutar kupole bile su sada dosta razgovetne. On ih izbroja pet: pet pari očiju buljilo je u njega.
     "Endi! Sta ti to vidiš?."
     "Mislićeš da sam poludeo."
     "Šta je to?"
     On duboko uzdahnu i opisa joj predmet.
     "Unutra je petoro ljudi?"
     "Možda su ljudi, ali veoma su mali. Kao da su visoki samo oko tri stope."
     "Endi plašiš me. Zašto me plašiš?"
     "I sam se plašim."
     Ona se ponovo privi uz njega. "Jesi li siguran da vidiš to... to... Ja ništa ne vidim."
     "Vidim ih jasno kao što tebe vidim. Ako je to opsena, onda je izuzetno savršena."
     Dugina svetlost ispod cevastih nogu postala je tamnoplava. Predmet se spustio još niže i ostao da lebdi na udaljenosti od oko petnaest jardi, u istom nivou sa njima.
     "Možda je to neka vrsta helikoptera", reče Rut.
     "Ili... Endi, i dalje ga ne vidim."
     "Opiši mi šta vidiš..." On uperi prst u... "eno tamo."
     "Malu izmaglicu. Izgleda kao da će ponovo početi kiša."
     "Petljaju oko neke četvrtaste mašine", reče on.
     "Vidim i nešto slično kratkoj anteni. Antena svetluca. Pokazuju na nas."
     "Endi, plašim se." Drhtala je u njegovom naručju.
     "Mislim... da će biti bolje da se izgubimo odavde", reče on. Napregnu se da korakne, ali shvati da ne može ni da se pomakne.
     "Ja... ne mogu... da se pomerim", prošaputa Rut.
     Mogao je da čuje kako joj zubi cvokoću, ali sopstveno telo kao da mu je bilo sleđeno i zacementirano.
     "Endi, ne mogu da se pomerim!" U glasu joj se osećala histerija. "Jesu li još tu?"
     "Uperuju neki aparat prema nama", promrmlja on. Glas kao da mu je dopirao sa velike udaljenosti, iz neke druge sobe. "Oni su nas prikovali. Jesi li sigurna da ništa ne vidiš?"
     "Ništa! Mali izmagličasti oblak, ništa više."
     Furlou odjednom pomisli da je devojka jednostavno jogunasta. Svako je mogao da vidi tu stvar pravo ispred njih! Obuze ga, jak bes. Zašto neće da prizna šta vidi? Eno tamo! Mrzeo ju je što je toliko jogunasta. Obuze ga iracionalna osornost, što ga nagna da preispita vlastito ponašanje.
     Kako mogu da osećam mržnju prema Rut? Ja je volim.
     Kao da ga je ta misao oslobodila, Furlou shvati da može da pokreće noge. On poče da se povlači, vukući Rut za sobom. Predstavljala je težak, nepokretan teret. Stopala su joj oštro škripala na šljunku posutom po površini rezervoara.
     Njegovo kretanje izazvalo je užurbanu aktivnost među bićima ispod zelene kupole. Žagorili su i komešali se nad četvrtastom alatkom. Furlou oseti bolan grč u grudima. Svako udisanje i izdisanje zahtevalo je jaku koncentraciju. Ipak je nastavio da se povlači i vuče Rut za sobom. Opustila mu se u naručju. On naiđe na stepenik i umalo ne pade, a zatim poče polako da se uspinje uz stepenice.
     Rut je bila veoma teška.
     "Endi", zadahta ona. "Ne mogu da dišem."
     "Izdrži još... malo", odvrati on.
     Već su se nalazili na vrhu stepenica, a onda se brzo provukoše kroz rupu u kamenom zidu. Kretanje im je postalo nekako lakše, mada je još mogao da vidi taj prokleti predmet kako lebdi s druge strane rezervoara. Svetlucava antena i dalje je bila uperena u njega.
     Rut poče da pokreće noge, a zatim se okrenu i zajedno othramaše do jahačke staze. Svaki korak im je bivao sve lakši. Furlou ju je čuo kako udiše vazduh punim plućima. Iznenada, kao da ih je neko oslobodio velikog tereta, mogli su ponovo normalno da vladaju mišićima.
     Okrenuše se.
     "Nestao je", reče Furlou.
     Uzvratila mu je ljutito, što ga je zapanjilo. "Šta si to pokušao da učiniš, Endi Furlou? Na smrt si me isprepadao."
     "Video sam ono što sam ti opisao", reče on. "Ti to možda nisi videla, ali si ga sigurno osetila."
     "Histerična paraliza", reče ona.
     "Ščepalo nas je oboje u istom trenutku, a takođe istovremeno i oslobodilo", reče on.
     "Ma nemoj!"
     "Rut, video sam upravo ono što sam i opisao."
     "Leteće tanjire!" prosikta ona.
     "Ne... pa, možda. Ali bio je tamo!" Bio je ljut, jer se branio. Racionalni deo njega uviđao je besmislenost upravo proteklih minuta. Da to ipak nije bila prikaza? Ne! On zatrese glavom. "Draga, video sam..."
     "Ne nazivaj me dragom!"
     On je zgrabi za ramena i potrese. "Rut! Pre dva minuta si govorila da me voliš. Zar si u stanju tako lako da se menjaš?"
     "Ja..."
     "Traži li neko od tebe da me mrziš?"
     "Šta?" Ona se zagleda u njega, lica pobledelog od svetlosti koja je dopirala kroz drveće tamo pozadi. On pokaza glavom prema cisterni. "Naljutio sam se na tebe... mrzeo sam te. Rekao sam sebi da je tako nešto nemoguće. Da te ja volim. U tom trenutku sam opet mogao da se pokrenem. Mržnju sam osetio... upravo u času kada su uperili svoju mašinu u nas."
     "Kakvu mašinu?"
     "Neku kutiju sa svetlucavim šipkama ili antenama koje su virile iz nje."
     "Pokušavaš li ti to da mi kažeš kako su ti ćaknuti... koznašta u stanju da izazovu mržnju... ili...?"
     "Izgleda da je tako."
     "To je najluđa stvar koju sam ikad čula!" Ona mu okrenu leđa.
     "Znam da je ludo, ali na to ispada." On posegnu za njenom rukom. "Hajde da se vratimo u kola."
     Rut izvuče ruku. "Neću ni koraka napraviti dok mi ne objasniš šta se dogodilo tamo napolju."
     "Ne umem da objasnim."
     "Kako si ti mogao da vidiš, a ja ne?"
     "Možda slučajno... moje oči, polarizovane naočari."
     "Da li si siguran da pri nesreći u radlaboratoriji nisi pretrpeo i neku drugu povredu, sem one na očima?"
     On obuzda bes. Tako je lako bilo naljutiti se. Uz određeni napor, uspe mu da ne povisi glas. "Držali su me na veštačkom bubregu čitavu nedelju i izvršili su sve moguće testove. Eksplozija je izazvala promenu u sistemu za razmenu jona u kupama mojih mrežnjača. I to je sve. Oštećenje nije stalno. Mislim da je ono što se dogodilo sa mojim očima, bez obzira na to šta to bilo, uzrok što sam u stanju da vidim ovakve stvari. Ne bi trebalo da ih vidim, ali mogu."
     On joj se ponovo približi i uhvati je za ruku.
     Napola je vukući za sobom, uputi se stazom. Malo kasnije ona uhvati korak uporedo sa njim.
     "Ali šta bi oni mogli biti?"
     "Ne znam, ali postoje." Molio ju je, mrzeći sebe zbog toga, ali Rut priđe bliže i zavuče svoju ruku pod njegovu.
     "U redu, dragi, verujem ti. Video si ono što si video. Šta ćeš preduzeti u vezi s tim?"
     Odvojiše se od staze i stigoše do šumarka eukaliptusa. Kola su predstavljala tamno obličje među senkama. Furlou se zaustavi pored njih.
     "Je li mi teško poverovati?" upita on.
     Ćutala je trenutak, a zatim reče, "Veoma je... teško."
     "U redu", reče on. "Poljubi me."
     "Molim?"
     "Poljubi me. Da vidimo da li me stvarno mrziš."
     "Endi, ti si..."
     "Bojiš li se da me poljubiš?"
     "Naravno da ne!"
     "U redu, onda." On je privuče k sebi. Usne im se sretoše. Za trenutak, oseti da mu se opire, a zatim se opusti u njegovom zagrljaju, rukama ga obgrlivši oko vrata.
     "Želim da ova mržnja potraje, ako se to može tim imenom nazvati", reče on.
     "I ja."
     Ona se ponovo priljubi uz njega.
     Furlou oseti da mu je krv uzavrela. On se odmaknu jednim iznenadnim, odbrambenim pokretom.
     "Ponekad poželim da nisi tako zatucani viktorijanac", reče ona. "Ali, možda te onda ne bih volela."
     Ona skloni pramen crvene kose sa obraza. Kao joj je lice samo prozračno svetlucalo pri svetlosti lampi postavljenih duž staze za jahanje koja im je ostala za leđima. "Mislim da je bolje da te odvedem kući... k Sari."
     "Ne želim da me vodiš kući."
     "Ni ja ne želim da pođeš kući."
     "Ali bolje da ipak pođem?"
     "Bolje."
     Ona mu položi ruke na grudi, a zatim ga blago odgurnu.
     Oni uđoše u kola, nagnani iznenadnom, prijatnom nelagodnošću. Furlou upali motor, usredsredivši se na vožnju unazad do okretišta. Prednja svetla obasjaše konture korastog, smeđeg drveća. Svetla se odjednom ugasiše. Motor zakrklja i prestade da radi. Istog časa ščepa ga teško osećanje gušenja.
     "Endi!" reče Rut. "Šta se dešava?"
     Furlou primora sebe da se okrene na levu stranu, zapitavši se pri tom otkud zna kuda treba da pogleda. Spazio je četiri dugina snopa veoma blizu zemlje, cevaste noge i zelenu kupolu malo iznad šumarka. Brod je lebdeo tiho i preteći.
     "Vratili su se", prošaputa on. "Eno tamo." Pokaza.
     "Endi... Endi, bojim se." Ona se privi uz njega.
     "Ma šta se dogodilo, ti me ne mrziš", reče on. "Voliš me. Upamti to. Voliš me. Nemoj da zaboraviš."
 
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I reject your reality and substitute my own!

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"Volim te." Glas joj je bio slab.
     Bezrazložna ljutnja poče da obuzima Furloua. U prvi mah nije se odnosila ni na koga. Bio je to samo bes. Zatim je gotovo mogao da oseti kako pokušava da je usmeri na Rut.
     "Želim da... te... mrzim", prošaputa ona.
     "Ti me voliš", reče on. "Ne zaboravi to."
     "Volim te. Oh, Endi, volim te. Ne želim da te mrzim... volim te."
     Furlou podiže pesnicu i zamahnu njome prema zelenoj kupoli. "Mrzim njih", prosikta on. "Mrzim kopilad koja pokušavaju na ovaj način da raspolažu nama."
     Osećao je kako se devojka trese i drhti na njegovom ramenu. "Ja... ih... mrzim", reče ona.
     "Veruješ li mi, sada?"
     "Da! Verujem ti!"
     "Mogu li kola doživeti histeričnu paralizu?"
     "Ne. Oh, Endi. Nisam mogla odjednom da počnem da te mrzim. Nisam mogla." On oseti bol u ruci od njenog stiska. "Šta su oni? Bože! Šta je to?"
     "Mislim da nisu ljudska bića", reče Furlou.
     "Šta ćemo sad?"
     "Sve šta budemo mogli."
     Krugovi duginih preliva ispod kupole promeniše se u plavo, ljubičasto i na kraju u crveno. Predmet poče da se penje uvis, udaljujući se od šumarka. Zatim se izgubi u tami. S njim nestade i osećanje pritiska.
     "Otišlo je, je li tako?" prošaputa Rut.
     "Otišlo je."
     "Svetla su ti se upalila", reče ona.
     On baci pogled prema kratkim svetlima. Kupasti snopovi farova stajali su zariveni u obližnji šumarak.
     Tada se priseti oblika predmeta: kao džinovski pauk koji se okomio na njih. Naježi se. Kakva li su bila stvorenja iz preteće mašine?
     Na površinu sećanja izbi mu jedna slika iz detinjstva: kao džinovski pauk.
     Zidovi Oberonove palate napravljeni su od nogu pauka.
     Da nisu bili vilenjaci, zlodusi.
     Odakle potiču mitovi, zapita se on. Oseti kako u mislima istražuje stare staze i priseti se jedne strofe iz tih dana nevinosti...

     Zar ne vidiš onaj lepi put
     što vijuga oko krasnog gaja
     taj drum je za patuljka kut
     gde sreća će noćas da nas spaja.

     "Zar ne bi bilo bolje da krenemo?" upita Rut.
     On upali motor. Kretnje su mu bile automatske.
     "Ugasili su nam motor i isključili svetla", reče Rut. "Zašto su to učinili?"
     Oni! pomisli on. Ne sumnja više.
     On upravi kola prema izlasku iz šumarka, zatim niz padinu brda prema Moreno Drajvu.
     "Šta ćemo da radimo?" upita Rut.
     "A šta bismo mogli da radimo?"
     "Ako budemo pričali o ovome, ljudi će reći da smo ludi. Pored toga... nas dvoje... tamo gore..."
     U pravoj smo klopci, pomisli on. Na um mu takođe pade šta bi Vetaj rekao da mu ispriča noćašnje iskustvo. Kažeš da si bio sa tuđom ženom? Da li vas je osećanje krivice moglo dovesti do toga da vam se priviđaju iste stvari? A ako bi odrečno na to odgovorio i izložio svoju pretpostavku: Vilenjaci? Dragi moj Furlou, da li se dobro osećaš?
     Rut se osloni na njega. "Endi, ako su u stanju da nas nateraju da mrzimo, mogu li nas naterati i da volimo?"
     On skrenu kola s puta, isključi motor, povuče ručnu kočnicu i ugasi svetla. "Sada nisu ovde."
     "Otkud da to znamo?"
     On pogleda napolje u noć - tmina, nijedna zvezda nije se videla ispod ovih oblaka... ni traga od čudnog predmeta - ali iza drveća koje je oivičavalo put... šta?

     Mogu li nas naterati da volimo?
     Neka je prokleta što postavlja takva pitanja!
     Ne! Ne smem je proklinjati, moram je voleti... moram...

     "Endi? Šta radiš?"
     "Razmišljam."
     "Endi, bez obzira na nas... još mi se cela ova stvar čini tako nestvarnom. Zar ne bi moglo postojati neko drugo objašnjenje? Hoću da kažem, prestanak rada motora... Motori ponekad zataje; svetla se gase. Zar ne?"
     "Šta hoćeš od mene?" upita on. "Da kažem da, ja sam lud, obmanut, ja..."
     Ona mu šakom prekri usne. "Želim samo da vodimo ljubav i nikada da ne prestanemo."
     On poče da je uzima u zagrljaj, ali ga ona odgurnu. "Ne. Kada do toga dođe, hoću da budem sigurna da to želimo, a ne da nas neko primorava na to."
     Do đavola i njena praktičnost! pomisli on. A zatim: ne! Volim je... ali da li je to ja volim? Je li to moj izbor?
     "Endi? Hoćeš nešto da učiniš za mene?"
     "Šta?"
     "Znaš kuću na Mančester aveniji... gde smo Nev i ja živeli... otac ga je, znaš, postavio za pomoćnika direktora. Zar ti još niko nije rekao da se zbog toga oženio sa mnom? Da bi dobio to mesto."
     Furlou joj položi ruku na mišicu. "Želiš da on sazna... o nama?"
     "Šta tu ima da se sazna?"
     On vrati ruku na volan. "U redu, draga. Kako ti kažeš."
     Ponovo upali motor i vrati kola na put. Vozili su se u tišini. Gume su škripale po mokrom kolovozu. Druga kola su u prolazu svetlucala farovima. Furlou podesi polarizujuća sočiva. Bilo je to veoma teško uraditi omogućiti mu da dobro vidi i istovremeno sprečiti bol od iznenadne svetlosti.
     Rut uskoro reče: "Ne želim neprilike ili gužvu. Sačekaj me u kolima. Ako mi bude potrebna pomoć, pozvaću te."
     "Sigurno ne želiš da pođem s tobom?"
     "Neće on ništa pokušati ako zna da čekaš napolju."
     On slegnu ramenima. Verovatno je bila u pravu. Do sada je već morala da upozna karakter Neva Hadsona. Ali Furloua je još nagrizalo osećanje potisnute osude. Podozrevao je da događaji koji su se zbili u poslednjih nekoliko dana, pa čak i noćašnji zloslutni susret, imaju nekog čudnog smisla.
     "Zašto sam se udala za njega?" upita Rut. "Stalno se pitam. Sam bog zna, ja ne znam. Jednostavno se čini kao da se stiglo do tačke u kojoj..." Ona slegnu ramenima. "Posle ovog noćas sumnjam da iko od nas zna zašto čini ono što čini." Ona podiže pogled prema Furlou. "Zašto se sve ovo događa, dragi?"
     U tome je problem, pomisli Furlou. Evo ključnog pitanja. Nije stvar u tome ko su ta stvorenja. Već... šta žele? Zašto se mešaju u naše živote?

     Frafin pogleda sliku projektovanu iznad stola. Bio je to Lut, nadzornik broda, Hem širokog lica, čelične kože, grub i nagao u donošenju odluka, bez imalo uglađenosti. Posedovao je sve najbolje osobine potrebne onome ko vodi računa o mehaničkom vidu upravljanja, ali upravo ta svojstva sada su došla u sukob sa postavljenim mu zadatkom. Očigledno je izjednačavao uglađenost sa oprezom.
     Jedan trenutak tišine bio je dovoljan da Lut shvati kako je režiser nezadovoljan. Frafin oseti pritisak obličja stolice i baci pogled na srebrnastu paučinu pantožive na drugom kraju salona. Da, Lut je bio kao taj instrument. Trebalo ga je tačno aktivirati.
     Frafin pređe prstom preko Brode, pa reče, "Nisam ti naložio da poštediš imunog. Naređeno ti je da dovedeš ženku smesta!"
     "Ako sam pogrešio, kajem se", reče Lut. "Ali postupio sam prema poslednjim uputstvima koja se odnose na imunog. Način na koji ste vi njegovu ženku dali drugome, način na..."
     "On je samo bio zabavni izuzetak", reče Frafin. "Nju smesta treba dovesti ovamo i to neozleđenu. Taj uslov ne odnosi se ni na kog drugog domoroca koji pokuša da se umeša ili da vas omete u izvršenju ovog naređenja. Da li sam bio jasan?"
     "Režiser je bio jasan."
     "Bez odlaganja", reče Frafin.
     Lutova slika izblede i nestade.
     Frafin se uvali u stolicu. Operacija je prilično dobro napredovala... uprkos ovom zakašnjenju. On zamisli Luta kako pokušava da razdvoji ljubavnike, manipulišući njihovim osećanjima. Taj klipan je trebalo da bude svestan opasnosti takvog jednog poteza kada ima posla sa imunim.
     Frafin se zakikota.
     Rut iznenadi činjenica da uživa u besu koji je zgušnjavao sobu oko nje. Potisnuto osećanje, nastalo kao posledica događaja koje je malopre doživela sa Endijem, konačno je provalilo. Posmatrala je kako Nev nervozno lomi svoje ružičaste prste sa kožom naboranom na zglavcima kao u bebe. Znala je dobro u kojoj meri njegove ruke otkrivaju osećanja bez obzira na to kakvu masku navukao. Osam meseci koje je proživela s njim bili su dovoljni da ga sasvim dobro upozna. Bujica reči poteče sa njenih punih usana poput iverja bambusa, uperena da gane Nevovu odnegovanu dušu.
     "Vrišti ako hoćeš o svom pravu kao muža", reče ona.. "Te stvari se sad tiču samo mene i ne želim da te vidim u blizini. Ohhh, znam zašto si se oženio mnome. Nisi me dugo obmanjivao, Neve. Ne dugo."
     "Rut, ti..."
     "Dosta! Napolju me čeka Endi. Pokupiću nekoliko stvari koje želim odavde i odlazim."
     Nevovo široko i visoko čelo pokri se borama. Svojim okruglim očima buljio je prazno u nju. Opet ju je uhvatio bes i to je sve. Uživa u tome, nek je prokleta! Znam to po načinu na koji klima glavom poput omice... bludnice... omice... bludnice - omica-bludnica iz visokog društva.
     Rut odvrati pogled od njega. Plašila se Neva kada tako bulji. Osvrnu se po sobi, pitajući se da li uopšte postoji nešto što bi želela da ponese. Bila je to soba Neva Hadsona u prepletenim, prigušeno crvenim i smeđim tonovima. Orijentalna starudija, veliki pijanino u jednom uglu, zatvorena kutija za violinu koja bi, kada bi se otvorila, otkrivala tri flaše pića i komplet čaša. Nevu se to dopadalo. "Hajde da se napijemo i pustimo neku lepu muziku, dušo." Na prozorima iza pijana nije bilo zavesa, tako da su unutra prodirali tama noći i svetlost baštenske svetiljke, video se travnjak, jama za roštilj, a baštenska garnitura od kovanog gvožđa belasala se u mraku, dok su se sa nje cedile kapi kiše.
     "U Kaliforniji se računa zajednička imovina", reče Nev.
     "Bolje bi ti bilo da ponovo zaviriš u zakon", reče ona. "Poslovi su moje nasledstvo."
     "Nasledstvo?" upita on. "Ali otac ti je još živ."
     Stajala je zagledana u noć, ne pružajući mu priliku da je isprovocira.
     Do vraga s njom! pomisli on. Bolje da sam je prevario nego što sada moram da se cenkam oko poslova. Misli na ono kopile Endija Furloua. Želi ga, ali joj je potreban moj mozak za vođenje poslova. Ta ružna motka, taj dečak-muškarac u njenom krevetu! Neće ga dobiti; pobrinuću se za to.
     "Ako odeš sa tim doktorom Furlouom, uništiću ga profesionalno, a uništiću i tebe", reče on.
     Ona okrenu glavu u strahu, tako da joj je došao do izražaja grčki profil; crvena kosa bila joj je pokupljena pozadi u rep. Jedva primetan osmeh, koji joj je začas zaigrao na usnama, odmah je nestao.
     "Neve, ti si ljubomoran?"
     "Upozorio sam te."
     "Oženio si se mnome zbog poslova", reče ona. "Šta te briga kako provodim slobodno vreme?" Zatim se okrenu prema njemu. Meškolji se samo ti svinjo od čoveka! Gde mi je pamet bila? Gde mi je pamet bila kada sam mogla tebe da pretpostavim Endiju? Da li mi je nešto sputalo osećanja, nateralo me da to uradim? Ona odjednom oseti slabost i strašnu mržnju. Da li je ijedan izbor ikada onaj pravi, pravi, pravi? Endijevo opredeljenje za stipendiju umesto za mene, njegove oči pune nevinosti, oh kako je to mrsko! Gde sam ja proćerdala svoju nevinost? Nepromišljenost kada je u pitanju animalnost tela i moć. Da li sam u Nevu izabrala moć? Ali dopustio je da mu oduzmem moć, i sada zbog toga mogu da ga mrzim.
     "Kćeri ubice!" prosikta on.
     Ona ga pogleda. Jesam li ja ovo izabrala? Zašto, zašto, zašto? Zbog usamljenosti, eto zašto. Bila sam sasvim sama, kada me je Endi napustio zbog stipendije, i tu se našao Nev. Nev, Nev uporno ljubazan poput lisice. Pijana, bila sam pijana i puna mržnje. Nev je iskoristio moju mržnju i u tome je bila sva njegova moć - mržnja, moja mržnja, moja mržnja, da onda nisam mrzela, bio bi bespomoćan. Ipak ga neću mrzeti ni ako stavi ruku na moje koleno, oh tako je ljubazan i malo više i eto nas već u krevetu, venčani, a Endi daleko u Denveru, a ja sam još usamljena.
     "Idem", reče ona, "Endi će me odvesti kad Sare. Ako pokušaš da me zaustaviš, pozvaću ga i sasvim sam uverena da će te srediti."
     Nevove uske, tanke usne još više se stegnuše. Okrugle oči se izdadoše kratkotrajnim bleskom, ali odmah potom maska se nađe na svom mestu. Uništiću ih oboje! Kučka trtlja o Endiju dobro pokazao sam ja već dragom starom poštenom Endiju dečaku sa usađenim kodeksom časti a šta bi rekla da sazna kako sam se ja založio da dobije stipendiju?
     "Znaš li šta će grad o tome misliti", reče on. "Kakav otac, takva kći. Biće na mojoj strani. Znaš i sama."
     Ona lupi nagom. "Svinjo!"
     Naravno, Rut draga. Razljuti se i lupaj nogama poput divne životinje oh bože kako bih želeo da je odnesem u krevet upravo sada kad je ljuta i kada se bolno bacaka uvija i rastrže oh bože divna si kada si ljuta. Bolje ti odgovaram od Endija i ti bi to trebalo da znaš iste smo fele uzimamo ono što želimo i pljujemo na čast nema časti nema časti na nju na nju na nju kakva je samo životinja kada se naljuti ali zato i živimo da uzimamo dok se ne zasitimo i ne počne da se ushićuje Endijem vrati mu se ali Endi neće uzeti od mene naslednika oslobodiću ga se lako kao i prošli put i Rut će se puzeći vratiti svom uvek voljenom Nevu koji je skroz naskroz poznaje kada bih samo imao hrabrosti da te sada uvučem u spavaću sobu... pa oslobodiću se Endija na isti način kao i prvi put.
     "Da se nagodimo", reče on. "Idi slobodno sa svojim ljubavnikom, ali ne mešaj se u to kako vodim poslove. Sama si rekla: šta se mene tiče kako provodiš slobodno vreme?"
     Samo napred, kompromituj se, pomisli on. Imaću te.
     Ona se okrenu, uputi se hodnikom, jednim naglim pokretom otvori vrata spavaće sobe i upali svetlo.
     Nev ju je pratio u stopu. On zastade na vratima, posmatrajući je kako izvlači odeću iz ladice i ormana i kako je baca na krevet.
     "Pa, šta misliš o tome?" upita on.
     Ona s mukom istisnu nekoliko rečenica, svesna da time otkriva i više nego što je želela. "U redu! Zadrži poslove... ili šta već hoćeš. Znamo šta ti je najdragocenije." Ona se okrete i pogleda ga u lice, spremna da zaplače, ali trudeći se da to sakrije. "Ti si najomraženija osoba koju sam ikad srela! Ti nisi čovek." Ona rukom prekri usta. "Ne, nipošto nisi čovek."
     "Šta to treba da..." On zausti, i zagleda se mimo nje prema francuskim vratima koja su vodila u otvoreno dvorište. "Rut..." Izgovorio je njeno ime kao u hropcu.
     Ona se okrenu.
     Kroz otvorena francuska vrata u sobu su ulazile tri zdepaste prilike odevene u zeleno. Njoj se njihove glave učiniše nekako čudno velike, oči nejasno osvetljene i zastrašujuće. Nosili su sa sobom kratke cevi od srebrnastog metala. Način na koji su se rasporedili i neočekivano uperili metalne cevi u one koji su se zatekli u sobi nosio je u sebi oholo osećanje moći.
     Rut uhvati samu sebe kako razmišlja, dok ju je prožimalo čudno osećanje iznenađenja, o tome kako su otvorili francuska vrata, a da ih ona nije čula.
     Iza nje, Nev reče bez daha: "Pogledaj ovamo! Ko..." Glas mu se prometnu u uplašeno siktanje, u zvuk koji ispušta probušeni balon. Tečno ćurlikanje poteče iz usta spodobe sa Rutine desne strane.
     Ovo ne može biti, pomisli ona. Zatim: To su bića koja su nas uplašila u šumarku. Šta žele? Šta to rade?
     Ona odjednom shvati da ne može da se pokrene. Glava joj je bila na mestu, svest jasna, ali nikakvi impulsi je nisu povezivali sa telom. Jedno stvorenje se pokrenu i stade pravo ispred nje čudan čovečuljak u zelenim hulahopkama; torzo mu je bio sakriven u vazdušastoj, ispupčenoj okruglini koja je pulsirala. Ona se seti Endijevog opisa onoga što je video: svetlucave oči...
     Endi! Želela je da ga pozove, ali glas je nije slušao. Kako je zanosan i nežan izgledao svet!
     Nešto promaknu pored nje i ona vide Neva kako hoda poput lutke na žici. Pogled joj se usredsredi na mrlju od nekog praška na njegovom ramenu i pulsirajućoj veni na slepoočnici. On se iznenada nagnu napred, isto onako čudno i marionetski, banuvši kruto kroz otvorena francuska vrata. Začu se tresak i lomljava stakla. Pod oko njega postade svetao i crveno mokar. On se zgrči i umiri.
     Patuljasto biće ispred nje progovori na sasvim tečnom engleskom, "Nesrećan slučaj, zar ne?"
     Nije smogla glasa da mu odgovori; oseti samo udaljeni užas, negde ispod prašnjavog talasanja, u samoj sebi. Rut zatvori oči, razmišljajući: Endi! Oh, Endi, pomozi mi!
     Ponovo začu kako jedno od stvorenja govori onim žuboravim ćurlikanjem. Pokuša da otvori oči, ali ne uspe. Talasi tame prekriše i poslednje ostatke njene svesti. Kada je postala nesvesna svega što se događalo oko nje, um joj se usredsredi na jednu čudnu i važnu misao: Nemoguće je da se ovo događa, jer niko ne bi poverovao. Ovo je samo košmar.

     Rut se probudi na nečem mekanom - ublažavajuća plavosiva svetlost. Oseti da se nalazi na krevetu, među svilenim i toplim prekrivačima. Shvati da je naga na postelji... ali da joj je toplo... toplo. Iznad nje nalazio se predmet ovalnog oblika prepun svetlucavih kristalnih faceta. Naočigled su menjale boju u zeleno, srebrno, žuto, plavo... Delovale su tako ospokojavajuće.
     Tu negde, znala je to, nalazilo se nešto što je željno očekivalo da obrati pažnju na njega, ali to je bio paradoks. Celim bićem je osećala da ta važna stvar može da pričeka.
     Okrenu glavu udesno. Odnekud je dopirala svetlost, ali nije mogla da odredi odakle svetlost odjednom postade žuta poput sećanja na sunčevu svetlost. Osvetljavala je čudnu odaju, zid postavljen nečim što se pokazalo da su knjige, niski ovalni sto pretrpan čudnim, zlatnim oblicima: kupe, pravougaoni rezervoari, pola ljuske jajeta. Bio je tu i prozor kroz koji je dopiralo tamno plavetnilo noći. Dok je gledala u njega, prozor postade metalno beo i na njemu se pojavi lice koje je gledalo u nju. Bilo je krupno, sa čudnom srebrnastom kožom, veoma uglasto i mestimično ravno, sa upalim, prodornim očima.
     Rut oseti da bi trebalo da se uplaši toga lica, ali nije mogla da pronađe odgovarajući emocionalni odgovor.
     Lica nestade i ona kroz prozor ugleda morsku obalu, stene koje je zapljuskivalo more, strme stene i svetlost sunca. Zatim sve opet prekri tama i ona shvati da to nije bio okvir za prozor.
     Ispred te stvari nalazio se pokretni stalak koji je pridržavao ukoso postavljeni, mnogoredni predmet poput neke nadrealističke pisaće mašine.
     Strujanje vazduha pomilova joj levu stranu tela. Bila je to prva hladna stvar s kojom se susrela od kada se probudila. Ona se okrete prema tom strujanju i ugleda ovalna vrata. Bila su otvorena, ali lišće irisa prianjalo je da ih zatvori. Na vratima je stajala jedna zdepasta prilika u zelenim hulahopkama, lice koje je kroz prozor buljilo u nju. Negde u njoj javi se reakcija koja je govorila: Ovo je gnusan, krivonog čovečuljak. Reakcija je odbila da izbije na površinu.
     Široka, debelousna usta stvorenja se otvoriše. On reče, "Ja sam Keleksel." Glas mu je bio jednoličan. Prože je golicanjem.
     Oči mu skliznuše preko njenog tela i ona prepoznade u njima silnu zloću i iznenadi se što je to nije nimalo odbilo. Ova soba je bila tako topla, a kristalni faceti iznad njene glave pokretali su se tako nežno i lepo.
     "Smatram da ste veoma privlačni", reče Keleksel. "Ne sećam se da sam ikada bio privučen ovako snažno, ovakvim magnetizmom."
     On obiđe oko mesta na kome je ležala.
     Rut ga je pratila pogledom, posmatrajući ga kako barata po tastaturi na mašini postavljenoj na pokretnom stalku. Prože je prijatno drhtanje i ona poče da se pita na šta bi ličilo imati ovo čudno stvorenje, ovog Keleksela, za ljubavnika.
     Negde duboko u njoj, neki glas poče da viče: Ne! Ne! Ne! Lagano je postajao sve tiši dok nije zamukao.
     Keleksel se nadvi nad nju.
     "Ja sam Hem", reče on. "Znači li ti to nešto?"
     Ona odmahnu glavom. "Ne." Glas joj je bio slabašan.
     "Nikada ranije nisi videla nikog sličnog meni?" upita Keleksel.
     "Pa..." Tog časa se seti nekoliko poslednjih minuta provedenih sa Nevom i stvorenja na vratima. I Endija. Znala je da nešto treba da oseća za Endija Furloua, neko duboko i trajno osećanje, ali ne beše ničeg do sestrinske naklonosti. Dragi Endi... tako je mio i sladak.
     "Moraš mi odgovoriti", reče Keleksel. U glasu mu se osećala velika moć.
     "Videla sam... tri... u mojoj kući... trojicu koji su..."
     "Ah, ona trojica koja su te dovela ovamo", reče Keleksel. "Ali pre toga, da li si videla nekog od nas pre toga?"
     Na um joj pade šumarak i Endijev opis (ljubazan, prijatan Endi), ali ona, u stvari, nije videla tamo takva bića.
     "Ne", reče ona.
     Keleksel je oklevao, zatim baci pogled na znake na manipulatoru koji je vodio računa o osećanjima ženke-domoroca. Govorila je istinu. Ipak, vredi biti oprezan.
     "Znači ne govori ti ništa to što sam Hem?" upita on.
     "Šta je... to Hem?" upita ona. Jedan njen deo ispolji jaku znatiželju. Znatiželja se probi kroz blatnjave talase smetnji da bi se nastanila u njenoj svesti i ona se zagleda u Keleksela. Kakva patuljasta spodoba! Kakav sladak patuljak.
     "Značiće ti već nešto", reče Keleksel. "Veoma me privlačiš. Mi Hemi smo ljubazni prema onima koji nam ugađaju. Ti se, naravno, ne možeš vratiti svojim prijateljima, niti ćeš to ikada moći. No, postoje kompenzacije. Smatra se čašću služiti jednom Hemu."
     Gde je Endi? pitala se Rut. Dragi, slatki Endi.
     "Vrlo privlačna", mrmljao je Keleksel.
     Čudeći se snazi koja ga je pokretala, Keleksel ispruži čvornovati prst i dotače njenu desnu dojku. Kako joj je koža bila elastična i divna. Njegov prst stade nežno da se kreće preko bradavice, do vrata, brade, usana, do kose.
     "Imaš zelene oči", reče Keleksel. "Mi Hemi jako volimo zelenu boju."
     Rut proguta knedlu. Milovanje Kelekselovog prsta ispuni je uzbuđenjem. Njegovo lice zaklanjalo joj je sve ostalo. Ona podiže ruku i dodirnu njegovu. Kako je samo tvrda i muška bila. Ona srete prodoran pogled njegovih smeđih očiju.
     Rut oseti kako uranja u zlatnu ošamućenost. Pažnju su joj prikovale kristalne facete iznad kreveta. Kelekselova ruka istog časa zamrači kaleidoskopsko kretanje, i ona zatim oseti da je lice uronio u njena nedra. Njome ovlada zlatasta ošamućenost ispunjena žuborenjem i talasanjem zastrašujuće ekstaze.
     "Oh, bože", prošaputa ona. "Oh, bože. Oh, bože."
     Kako je prijatno kada te neko obožava u jednom ovakvom trenutku, pomisli Keleksel. Bilo je to najveće zadovoljstvo koje mu je pružila jedna žena.
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Dune

Frank Herbert

Book 1. DUNE
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Book Two. MUAD'DIB
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–"Private Reflections on Muad'Dib" by the Princess Irulan
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Book Three. THE PROPHET
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And she had sung the walking song lovers shared on the sand, its rhythm like the drag of the dunes against the feet:
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Appendix I: The Ecology of Dune
Appendix II: The Religion of Dune
SPACE TRAVEL!
Appendix III: Report on Bene Gesserit Motives and Purposes
Appendix IV: The Almanak en-Ashraf (Selected Excerpts of the Noble Houses)
Terminology of the Imperium
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Underpromise; overdeliver.

Zodijak Gemini
Pol Muškarac
Poruke Odustao od brojanja
Zastava 44°49′N - 20°29′E
mob
Apple iPhone 6s
Frank Herbert
Dune

Book 1. DUNE

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   A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct. This every sister of the Bene Gesserit knows. To begin your study of the life of Muad'Dib, then, take care that you first place him in his time: born in the 57th year of the Padishah Emperor, Shaddam IV. And take the most special care that you locate Muad'Dib in his place: the planet Arrakis. Do not be deceived by the fact that he was born on Caladan and lived his first fifteen years there. Arrakis, the planet known as Dune, is forever his place.
   –from “Manual of Muad'Dib” by the Princess Irulan

   In the week before their departure to Arrakis, when all the final scurrying about had reached a nearly unbearable frenzy, an old crone came to visit the mother of the boy, Paul.
   It was a warm night at Castle Caladan, and the ancient pile of stone that had served the Atreides family as home for twenty-six generations bore that cooled-sweat feeling it acquired before a change in the weather.
   The old woman was let in by the side door down the vaulted passage by Paul's room and she was allowed a moment to peer in at him where he lay in his bed.
   By the half-light of a suspensor lamp, dimmed and hanging near the floor, the awakened boy could see a bulky female shape at his door, standing one step ahead of his mother. The old woman was a witch shadow – hair like matted spiderwebs, hooded 'round darkness of features, eyes like glittering jewels.
   “Is he not small for his age, Jessica?” the old woman asked. Her voice wheezed and twanged like an untuned baliset.
   Paul's mother answered in her soft contralto: “The Atreides are known to start late getting their growth, Your Reverence.”
   “So I've heard, so I've heard,” wheezed the old woman. “Yet he's already fifteen.”
   “Yes, Your Reverence.”
   “He's awake and listening to us,” said the old woman. “Sly little rascal.” She chuckled. “But royalty has need of slyness. And if he's really the Kwisatz Haderach . . . well . . .”
   Within the shadows of his bed, Paul held his eyes open to mere slits. Two bird-bright ovals – the eyes of the old woman – seemed to expand and glow as they stared into his.
   “Sleep well, you sly little rascal,” said the old woman. “Tomorrow you'll need all your faculties to meet my gom jabbar.”
   And she was gone, pushing his mother out, closing the door with a solid thump.
   Paul lay awake wondering: What's a gom jabbar?
   In all the upset during this time of change, the old woman was the strangest thing he had seen.
   Your Reverence.
   And the way she called his mother Jessica like a common serving wench instead of what she was – a Bene Gesserit Lady, a duke's concubine and mother of the ducal heir.
   Is a gom jabbar something of Arrakis I must know before we go there? he wondered.
   He mouthed her strange words: Gom jabbar . . . Kwisatz Haderach.
   There had been so many things to learn. Arrakis would be a place so different from Caladan that Paul's mind whirled with the new knowledge. Arrakis – Dune – Desert Planet.
   Thufir Hawat, his father's Master of Assassins, had explained it: their mortal enemies, the Harkonnens, had been on Arrakis eighty years, holding the planet in quasi-fief under a CHOAM Company contract to mine the geriatric spice, melange. Now the Harkonnens were leaving to be replaced by the House of Atreides in fief-complete – an apparent victory for the Duke Leto. Yet, Hawat had said, this appearance contained the deadliest peril, for the Duke Leto was popular among the Great Houses of the Landsraad.
   “A popular man arouses the jealousy of the powerful,” Hawat had said.
   Arrakis – Dune – Desert Planet.
   Paul fell asleep to dream of an Arrakeen cavern, silent people all around him moving in the dim light of glowglobes. It was solemn there and like a cathedral as he listened to a faint sound – the drip-drip-drip of water. Even while he remained in the dream, Paul knew he would remember it upon awakening. He always remembered the dreams that were predictions.
   The dream faded.
   Paul awoke to feel himself in the warmth of his bed – thinking . . . thinking. This world of Castle Caladan, without play or companions his own age, perhaps did not deserve sadness in farewell. Dr. Yueh, his teacher, had hinted that the faufreluches class system was not rigidly guarded on Arrakis. The planet sheltered people who lived at the desert edge without caid or bashar to command them: will-o'-the-sand people called Fremen, marked down on no census of the Imperial Regate.
   Arrakis – Dune – Desert Planet.
   Paul sensed his own tensions, decided to practice one of the mind-body lessons his mother had taught him. Three quick breaths triggered the responses: he fell into the floating awareness . . . focusing the consciousness . . . aortal dilation . . . avoiding the unfocused mechanism of consciousness . . . to be conscious by choice . . . blood enriched and swift-flooding the overload regions . . . one does not obtain food-safety-freedom by instinct alone . . . animal consciousness does not extend beyond the given moment nor into the idea that its victims may become extinct . . . the animal destroys and does not produce . . . animal pleasures remain close to sensation levels and avoid the perceptual . . . the human requires a background grid through which to see his universe . . . focused consciousness by choice, this forms your grid . . . bodily integrity follows nerve-blood flow according to the deepest awareness of cell needs . . . all things/cells/beings are impermanent . . . strive for flow-permanence within . . .
   Over and over and over within Paul's floating awareness the lesson rolled.
   When dawn touched Paul's window sill with yellow light, he sensed it through closed eyelids, opened them, hearing then the renewed bustle and hurry in the castle, seeing the familiar patterned beams of his bedroom ceiling.
   The hall door opened and his mother peered in, hair like shaded bronze held with a black ribbon at the crown, her oval face emotionless and green eyes staring solemnly.
   “You're awake,” she said. “Did you sleep well?”
   “Yes.”
   He studied the tallness of her, saw the hint of tension in her shoulders as she chose clothing for him from the closet racks. Another might have missed the tension, but she had trained him in the Bene Gesserit Way – in the minutiae of observation. She turned, holding a semiformal jacket for him. It carried the red Atreides hawk crest above the breast pocket.
   “Hurry and dress,” she said. “Reverend Mother is waiting.”
   “I dreamed of her once,” Paul said. “Who is she?”
   "She was my teacher at the Bene Gesserit school. Now, she's the Emperor's Truthsayer. And Paul . . . " She hesitated. "You must tell her about your dreams."
   “I will. Is she the reason we got Arrakis?”
   “We did not get Arrakis.” Jessica flicked dust from a pair of trousers, hung them with the jacket on the dressing stand beside his bed. “Don't keep Reverend Mother waiting.”
   Paul sat up, hugged his knees. “What's a gom jabbar?”
   Again, the training she had given him exposed her almost invisible hesitation, a nervous betrayal he felt as fear.
   Jessica crossed to the window, flung wide the draperies, stared across the river orchards toward Mount Syubi. “You'll learn about . . . the gom jabbar soon enough,” she said.
   He heard the fear in her voice and wondered at it.
   Jessica spoke without turning. “Reverend Mother is waiting in my morning room. Please hurry.”

   The Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam sat in a tapestried chair watching mother and son approach. Windows on each side of her overlooked the curving southern bend of the river and the green farmlands of the Atreides family holding, but the Reverend Mother ignored the view. She was feeling her age this morning, more than a little petulant. She blamed it on space travel and association with that abominable Spacing Guild and its secretive ways. But here was a mission that required personal attention from a Bene Gesserit-with-the-Sight. Even the Padishah Emperor's Truthsayer couldn't evade that responsibility when the duty call came.
   Damn that Jessica! the Reverend Mother thought. If only she 'd borne us a girl as she was ordered to do!
   Jessica stopped three paces from the chair, dropped a small curtsy, a gentle flick of left hand along the line of her skirt. Paul gave the short bow his dancing master had taught – the one used “when in doubt of another's station.”
   The nuances of Paul's greeting were not lost on the Reverend Mother. She said: “He's a cautious one, Jessica.”
   Jessica's hand went to Paul's shoulder, tightened there. For a heartbeat, fear pulsed through her palm. Then she had herself under control. “Thus he has been taught, Your Reverence.”
   What does she fear? Paul wondered.
   The old woman studied Paul in one gestalten flicker: face oval like Jessica's, but strong bones . . . hair: the Duke's black-black but with browline of the maternal grandfather who cannot be named, and that thin, disdainful nose; shape of directly staring green eyes: like the old Duke, the paternal grandfather who is dead.
   Now, there was a man who appreciated the power of bravura – even in death, the Reverend Mother thought.
   “Teaching is one thing,” she said, “the basic ingredient is another. We shall see.” The old eyes darted a hard glance at Jessica. “Leave us. I enjoin you to practice the meditation of peace.”
   Jessica took her hand from Paul's shoulder. “Your Reverence, I –”
   “Jessica, you know it must be done.”
   Paul looked up at his mother, puzzled.
   Jessica straightened. “Yes . . . of course.”
   Paul looked back at the Reverend Mother. Politeness and his mother's obvious awe of this old woman argued caution. Yet he felt an angry apprehension at the fear he sensed radiating from his mother.
   “Paul . . . " Jessica took a deep breath. ". . . this test you're about to receive . . . it's important to me.”
   “Test?” He looked up at her.
   "Remember that you're a duke's son, "Jessica said. She whirled and strode from the room in a dry swishing of skirt. The door closed solidly behind her.
   Paul faced the old woman, holding anger in check. “Does one dismiss the Lady Jessica as though she were a serving wench?”
   A smile flicked the corners of the wrinkled old mouth. “The Lady Jessica was my serving wench, lad, for fourteen years at school.” She nodded. “And a good one, too. Now, you come here!”
   The command whipped out at him. Paul found himself obeying before he could think about it. Using the Voice on me, he thought. He stopped at her gesture, standing beside her knees.
   “See this?” she asked. From the folds of her gown, she lifted a green metal cube about fifteen centimeters on a side. She turned it and Paul saw that one side was open – black and oddly frightening. No light penetrated that open blackness.
   “Put your right hand in the box,” she said.
   Fear shot through Paul. He started to back away, but the old woman said: “Is this how you obey your mother?”
   He looked up into bird-bright eyes.
   Slowly, feeling the compulsions and unable to inhibit them, Paul put his hand into the box. He felt first a sense of cold as the blackness closed around his hand, then slick metal against his fingers and a prickling as though his hand were asleep.
   A predatory look filled the old woman's features. She lifted her right hand away from the box and poised the hand close to the side of Paul's neck. He saw a glint of metal there and started to turn toward
   “Stop!” she snapped.
   Using the Voice again! He swung his attention back to her face.
   “I hold at your neck the gom jabbar,” she said. “The gom jabbar, the high-handed enemy. It's a needle with a drop of poison on its tip. Ah-ah! Don't pull away or you'll feel that poison.”
   Paul tried to swallow in a dry throat. He could not take his attention from the seamed old face, the glistening eyes, the pale gums around silvery metal teeth that flashed as she spoke.
   “A duke's son must know about poisons,” she said. “It's the way of our times, eh? Musky, to be poisoned in your drink. Aumas, to be poisoned in your food. The quick ones and the slow ones and the ones in between. Here's a new one for you: the gom jabbar. It kills only animals.”
   Pride overcame Paul's fear. “You dare suggest a duke's son is an animal?” he demanded.
   “Let us say I suggest you may be human,” she said. “Steady! I warn you not to try jerking away. I am old, but my hand can drive this needle into your neck before you escape me.”
   “Who are you?” he whispered. “How did you trick my mother into leaving me alone with you? Are you from the Harkonnens?”
   “The Harkonnens? Bless us, no! Now, be silent.” A dry finger touched his neck and he stilled the involuntary urge to leap away.
   “Good,” she said. “You pass the first test. Now, here's the way of the rest of it: If you withdraw your hand from the box you die. This is the only rule. Keep your hand in the box and live. Withdraw it and die.”
   Paul took a deep breath to still his trembling. “If I call out there'll be servants on you in seconds and you'll die.”
   “Servants will not pass your mother who stands guard outside that door. Depend on it. Your mother survived this test. Now it's your turn. Be honored. We seldom administer this to men-children.”
   Curiosity reduced Paul's fear to a manageable level. He heard truth in the old woman's voice, no denying it. If his mother stood guard out there . . . if this were truly a test . . . And whatever it was, he knew himself caught in it, trapped by that hand at his neck: the gom jabbar. He recalled the response from the Litany against Fear as his mother had taught him out of the Bene Gesserit rite.
   “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.”
   He felt calmness return, said: “Get on with it, old woman.”
   “Old woman!” she snapped. “You've courage, and that can't be denied. Well, we shall see, sirra.” She bent close, lowered her voice almost to a whisper. “You will feel pain in this hand within the box. Pain. But! Withdraw the hand and I'll touch your neck with my gom jabbar – the death so swift it's like the fall of the headsman's axe. Withdraw your hand and the gom jabbar takes you. Understand?”
   “What's in the box?”
   “Pain.”
   He felt increased tingling in his hand, pressed his lips tightly together. How could this be a test? he wondered. The tingling became an itch.
   The old woman said; “You've heard of animals chewing off a leg to escape a trap? There's an animal kind of trick. A human would remain in the trap, endure the pain, feigning death that he might kill the trapper and remove a threat to his kind.”
   The itch became the faintest burning. “Why are you doing this?” he demanded.
   “To determine if you're human. Be silent.”
   Paul clenched his left hand into a fist as the burning sensation increased in the other hand. It mounted slowly: heat upon heat upon heat . . . upon heat. He felt the fingernails of his free hand biting the palm. He tried to flex the fingers of the burning hand, but couldn't move them.
   “It burns,” he whispered.
   “Silence!”
   Pain throbbed up his arm. Sweat stood out on his forehead. Every fiber cried out to withdraw the hand from that burning pit . . . but . . . the gom jabbar. Without turning his head, he tried to move his eyes to see that terrible needle poised beside his neck. He sensed that he was breathing in gasps, tried to slow his breaths and couldn't.
   Pain!
   His world emptied of everything except that hand immersed in agony, the ancient face inches away staring at him.
   His lips were so dry he had difficulty separating them.
   The burning! The burning!
   He thought he could feel skin curling black on that agonized hand, the flesh crisping and dropping away until only charred bones remained.
   It stopped!
   As though a switch had been turned off, the pain stopped.
   Paul felt his right arm trembling, felt sweat bathing his body.
   “Enough,” the old woman muttered. “Kull wahad! No woman child ever withstood that much. I must've wanted you to fail.” She leaned back, withdrawing the gom jabbar from the side of his neck. “Take your hand from the box, young human, and look at it.”
   He fought down an aching shiver, stared at the lightless void where his hand seemed to remain of its own volition. Memory of pain inhibited every movement. Reason told him he would withdraw a blackened stump from that box.
   “Do it!” she snapped.
   He jerked his hand from the box, stared at it astonished. Not a mark. No sign of agony on the flesh. He held up the hand, turned it, flexed the fingers.
   “Pain by nerve induction,” she said. “Can't go around maiming potential humans. There're those who'd give a pretty for the secret of this box, though.” She slipped it into the folds of her gown.
   “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.”
   “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.”
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   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 cannot 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 scrolls, 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 cloud-milk 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 Mental 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.”
   “Piter!”
   “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 Mental without arguing. Do they think I've nothing to do except listen 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 know 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 Harkonnen, 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.”
   “They were toys compared to me,” Piter snarled. “You yourself, Baron, could outperform those machines.”
   "Perhaps," the Baron said. "Ah, well . . . " He took a deep breath, belched. "Now, Piter, outline for my nephew the salient features of our campaign against the House of Atreides. Function as a Mentat for us, if you please."
   “Baron, I've warned you not to trust one so young with this information. My observations of –”
   “I'll be the judge of this,” the Baron said. “I give you an order, Mentat. Perform one of your various functions.”
   “So be it,” Piter said. He straightened, assuming an odd attitude of dignity – as though it were another mask, but this time clothing his entire body. “In a few days Standard, the entire household of the Duke Leto will embark on a Spacing Guild liner for Arrakis. The Guild will deposit them at the city of Arrakeen rather than at our city of Carthag. The Duke's Mentat, Thufir Hawat, will have concluded rightly that Arrakeen is easier to defend.”
   “Listen carefully, Feyd,” the Baron said. “Observe the plans within plans within plans.”
   Feyd-Rautha nodded, thinking: This is more like it. The old monster is letting me in on secret things at last. He must really mean for me to be his heir.
   “There are several tangential possibilities,” Piter said. “I indicate that House Atreides will go to Arrakis. We must not, however, ignore the possibility the Duke has contracted with the Guild to remove him to a place of safety outside the System. Others in like circumstances have become renegade Houses, taking family atomics and shields and fleeing beyond the Imperium.”
   “The Duke's too proud a man for that,” the Baron said.
   “It is a possibility,” Piter said. “The ultimate effect for us would be the same, however.”
   “No, it would not!” the Baron growled. “I must have him dead and his line ended.”
   “That's the high probability,” Piter said. “There are certain preparations that indicate when a House is going renegade. The Duke appears to be doing none of these things.”
   “So,” the Baron sighed. “Get on with it, Piter.”
   “At Arrakeen,” Piter said, “the Duke and his family will occupy the Residency, lately the home of Count and Lady Fenring.”
   “The Ambassador to the Smugglers,” the Baron chuckled.
   “Ambassador to what?” Feyd-Rautha asked.
   “Your uncle makes a joke,” Piter said. “He calls Count Fenring Ambassador to the Smugglers, indicating the Emperor's interest in smuggling operations on Arrakis.”
   Feyd-Rautha turned a puzzled stare on his uncle. “Why?”
   “Don't be dense, Feyd,” the Baron snapped. “As long as the Guild remains effectively outside Imperial control, how could it be otherwise? How else could spies and assassins move about?”
   Feyd-Rautha's mouth made a soundless “Oh-h-h-h.”
   “We've arranged diversions at the Residency,” Piter said. “There'll be an attempt on the life of the Atreides heir – an attempt which could succeed.”
   “Piter,” the Baron rumbled, “you indicated –”
   “I indicated accidents can happen,” Piter said. “And the attempt must appear valid.”
   “Ah, but the lad has such a sweet young body,” the Baron said. “Of course, he's potentially more dangerous than the father . . . with that witch mother training him. Accursed woman! Ah, well, please continue, Piter.”
   “Hawat will have divined that we have an agent planted on him,” Piter said. “The obvious suspect is Dr. Yueh, who is indeed our agent. But Hawat has investigated and found that our doctor is a Suk School graduate with Imperial Conditioning – supposedly safe enough to minister even to the Emperor. Great store is set on Imperial Conditioning. It's assumed that ultimate conditioning cannot be removed without killing the subject. However, as someone once observed, given the right lever you can move a planet. We found the lever that moved the doctor.”
   “How?” Feyd-Rautha asked. He found this a fascinating subject. Everyone knew you couldn't subvert Imperial Conditioning!
   “Another time,” the Baron said. “Continue, Piter.”
   “In place of Yueh,” Piter said, “we'll drag a most interesting suspect across Hawat's path. The very audacity of this suspect will recommend her to Hawat's attention.”
   “Her?” Feyd-Rautha asked.
   “The Lady Jessica herself,” the Baron said.
   “Is it not sublime?” Piter asked. “Hawat's mind will be so filled with this prospect it'll impair his function as a Mentat. He may even try to kill her.” Piter frowned, then: “But I don't think he'll be able to carry it off.”
   “You don't want him to, eh?” the Baron asked.
   "Don't distract me," Piter said. "While Hawat's occupied with the Lady Jessica, we'll divert him further with uprisings in a few garrison towns and the like. These will be put down. The Duke must believe he's gaining a measure of security. Then, when the moment is ripe, we'll signal Yueh and move in with our major force . . . ah . . . "
   “Go ahead, tell him all of it,” the Baron said.
   “We'll move in strengthened by two legions of Sardaukar disguised in Harkonnen livery.”
   “Sardaukar!” Feyd-Rautha breathed. His mind focused on the dread Imperial troops, the killers without mercy, the soldier fanatics of the Padishah Emperor.
   “You see how I trust you, Feyd,” the Baron said. “No hint of this must ever reach another Great House, else the Landsraad might unite against the Imperial House and there'd be chaos.”
   “The main point,” Piter said, “is this: since House Harkonnen is being used to do the Imperial dirty work, we've gained a true advantage. It's a dangerous advantage, to be sure, but if used cautiously, will bring House Harkonnen greater wealth than that of any other House in the Imperium.”
   “You have no idea how much wealth is involved, Feyd,” the Baron said. “Not in your wildest imaginings. To begin, we'll have an irrevocable directorship in the CHOAM Company.”
   Feyd-Rautha nodded. Wealth was the thing. CHOAM was the key to wealth, each noble House dipping from the company's coffers whatever it could under the power of the directorships. Those CHOAM directorships – they were the real evidence of political power in the Imperium, passing with the shifts of voting strength within the Landsraad as it balanced itself against the Emperor and his supporters.
   “The Duke Leto,” Piter said, “may attempt to flee to the new Fremen scum along the desert's edge. Or he may try to send his family into that imagined security. But that path is blocked by one of His Majesty's agents – the planetary ecologist. You may remember him – Kynes.”
   “Feyd remembers him,” the Baron said. “Get on with it.”
   “You do not drool very prettily, Baron,” Piter said.
   “Get on with it, I command you!” the Baron roared.
   Piter shrugged. “If matters go as planned,” he said, “House Harkonnen will have a subfief on Arrakis within a Standard year. Your uncle will have dispensation of that fief. His own personal agent will rule on Arrakis.”
   “More profits,” Feyd-Rautha said.
   “Indeed,” the Baron said. And he thought: It's only just. We're the ones who tamed Arrakis . . .except for the few mongrel Fremen hiding in the skirts of the desert . . . and some tame smugglers bound to the planet almost as tightly as the native labor pool.
   “And the Great Houses will know that the Baron has destroyed the Atreides,” Piter said. “They will know.”
   “They will know,” the Baron breathed.
   “Loveliest of all,” Piter said, “is that the Duke will know, too. He knows now. He can already feel the trap.”
   “It's true the Duke knows,” the Baron said, and his voice held a note of sadness. “He could not help but know . . . more's the pity.”
   The Baron moved out and away from the globe of Arrakis. As he emerged from the shadows, his figure took on dimension – grossly and immensely fat. And with subtle bulges beneath folds of his dark robes to reveal that all this fat was sustained partly by portable suspensors harnessed to his flesh. He might weigh two hundred Standard kilos in actuality, but his feet would carry no more than fifty of them.
   “I am hungry,” the Baron rumbled, and he rubbed his protruding lips with a beringed hand, stared down at Feyd-Rautha through fat-enfolded eyes. “Send for food, my darling. We will eat before we retire.”
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   Thus spoke St. Alia-of-the-Knife: “The Reverend Mother must combine the seductive wiles of a courtesan with the untouchable majesty of a virgin goddess, holding these attributes in tension so long as the powers of her youth endure. For when youth and beauty have gone, she will find that the place-between, once occupied by tension, has become a wellspring of cunning and resourcefulness.”
   –from “Muad'Dib, Family Commentaries” by the Princess Irulan

   “Well, Jessica, what have you to say for yourself?” asked the Reverend Mother.
   It was near sunset at Castle Caladan on the day of Paul's ordeal. The two women were alone in Jessica's morning room while Paul waited in the adjoining soundproofed Meditation Chamber.
   Jessica stood facing the south windows. She saw and yet did not see the evening's banked colors across meadow and river. She heard and yet did not hear the Reverend Mother's question.
   There had been another ordeal once – so many years ago. A skinny girl with hair the color of bronze, her body tortured by the winds of puberty, had entered the study of the Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam, Proctor Superior of the Bene Gesserit school on Wallach IX. Jessica looked down at her right hand, flexed the fingers, remembering the pain, the terror, the anger.
   “Poor Paul,” she whispered.
   “I asked you a question, Jessica!” The old woman's voice was snappish, demanding.
   "What? Oh . . . " Jessica tore her attention away from the past, faced the Reverend Mother, who sat with back to the stone wall between the two west windows. "What do you want me to say?"
   “What do I want you to say? What do I want you to say?” The old voice carried a tone of cruel mimicry.
   “So I had a son!” Jessica flared. And she knew she was being goaded into this anger deliberately.
   “You were told to bear only daughters to the Atreides.”
   “It meant so much to him,” Jessica pleaded.
   “And you in your pride thought you could produce the Kwisatz Haderach!”
   Jessica lifted her chin. “I sensed the possibility.”
   “You thought only of your Duke's desire for a son,” the old woman snapped. “And his desires don't figure in this. An Atreides daughter could've been wed to a Harkonnen heir and sealed the breach. You've hopelessly complicated matters. We may lose both bloodlines now.”
   “You're not infallible,” Jessica said. She braved the steady stare from the old eyes.
   Presently, the old woman muttered: “What's done is done.”
   “I vowed never to regret my decision,” Jessica said.
   “How noble,” the Reverend Mother sneered. “No regrets. We shall see when you're a fugitive with a price on your head and every man's hand turned against you to seek your life and the life of your son.”
   Jessica paled. “Is there no alternative?”
   “Alternative? A Bene Gesserit should ask that?”
   “I ask only what you see in the future with your superior abilities.”
   “I see in the future what I've seen in the past. You well know the pattern of our affairs, Jessica. The race knows its own mortality and fears stagnation of its heredity. It's in the bloodstream – the urge to mingle genetic strains without plan. The Imperium, the CHOAM Company, all the Great Houses, they are but bits of flotsam in the path of the flood.”
   “CHOAM,” Jessica muttered. “I suppose it's already decided how they'll redivide the spoils of Arrakis.”
   “What is CHOAM but the weather vane of our times,” the old woman said. “The Emperor and his friends now command fifty-nine point six-five per cent of the CHOAM directorship's votes. Certainly they smell profits, and likely as others smell those same profits his voting strength will increase. This is the pattern of history, girl.”
   “That's certainly what I need right now,” Jessica said. “A review of history.”
   “Don't be facetious, girl! You know as well as I do what forces surround us. We've a three-point civilization: the Imperial Household balanced against the Federated Great Houses of the Landsraad, and between them, the Guild with its damnable monopoly on interstellar transport. In politics, the tripod is the most unstable of all structures. It'd be bad enough without the complication of a feudal trade culture which turns its back on most science.”
   Jessica spoke bitterly: “Chips in the path of the flood – and this chip here, this is the Duke Leto, and this one's his son, and this one's –”
   “Oh, shut up, girl. You entered this with full knowledge of the delicate edge you walked.”
   " 'I am Bene Gesserit: I exist only to serve,' " Jessica quoted.
   “Truth.” the old woman said. “And all we can hope for now is to prevent this from erupting into general conflagration, to salvage what we can of the key bloodlines.”
   Jessica closed her eyes, feeling tears press out beneath the lids. She fought down the inner trembling, the outer trembling, the uneven breathing, the ragged pulse, the sweating of the palms. Presently, she said, “I'll pay for my own mistake.”
   “And your son will pay with you.”
   “I'll shield him as well as I'm able.”
   “Shield!” the old woman snapped. “You well know the weakness there! Shield your son too much, Jessica, and he'll not grow strong enough to fulfill any destiny.”
   Jessica turned away, looked out the window at the gathering darkness. “Is it really that terrible, this planet of Arrakis?”
   “Bad enough, but not all bad. The Missionaria Protectiva has been in there and softened it up somewhat.” The Reverend Mother heaved herself to her feet, straightened a fold in her gown. “Call the boy in here. I must be leaving soon.”
   “Must you?”
   The old woman's voice softened. “Jessica, girl, I wish I could stand in your place and take your sufferings. But each of us must make her own path.”
   “I know.”
   “You're as dear to me as any of my own daughters, but I cannot let that interfere with duty.”
   “I understand . . . the necessity.”
   “What you did, Jessica, and why you did it – we both know. But kindness forces me to tell you there's little chance your lad will be the Bene Gesserit Totality. You mustn't let yourself hope too much.”
   Jessica shook tears from the corners of her eyes. It was an angry gesture. “You make me feel like a little girl again – reciting my first lesson.” She forced the words out: " 'Humans must never submit to animals.' " A dry sob shook her. In a low voice, she said: “I've been so lonely.”
   “It should be one of the tests,” the old woman said. “Humans are almost always lonely. Now summon the boy. He's had a long, frightening day. But he's had time to think and remember, and I must ask the other questions about these dreams of his.”
   Jessica nodded, went to the door of the Meditation Chamber, opened it. “Paul, come in now, please.”
   Paul emerged with a stubborn slowness. He stared at his mother as though she were a stranger. Wariness veiled his eyes when he glanced at the Reverend Mother, but this time he nodded to her, the nod one gives an equal. He heard his mother close the door behind him.
   “Young man,” the old woman said, “let's return to this dream business.”
   “What do you want?”
   “Do you dream every night?”
   “Not dreams worth remembering. I can remember every dream, but some are worth remembering and some aren't.”
   “How do you know the difference?”
   “I just know it.”
   The old woman glanced at Jessica, back to Paul. “What did you dream last night? Was it worth remembering?”
   “Yes.” Paul closed his eyes. “I dreamed a cavern . . . and water . . . and a girl there – very skinny with big eyes. Her eyes are all blue, no whites in them. I talk to her and tell her about you, about seeing the Reverend Mother on Caladan.” Paul opened his eyes.
   “And the thing you tell this strange girl about seeing me, did it happen today?”
   Paul thought about this, then: “Yes. I tell the girl you came and put a stamp of strangeness on me.”
   “Stamp of strangeness,” the old woman breathed, and again she shot a glance at Jessica, returned her attention to Paul. “Tell me truly now, Paul, do you often have dreams of things that happen afterward exactly as you dreamed them?”
   “Yes. And I've dreamed about that girl before.”
   “Oh? You know her?”
   “I will know her.”
   “Tell me about her.”
   Again, Paul closed his eyes. "We're in a little place in some rocks where it's sheltered. It's almost night, but it's hot and I can see patches of sand out of an opening in the rocks. We're . . . waiting for something . . . for me to go meet some people. And she's frightened but trying to hide it from me, and I'm excited. And she says: 'Tell me about the waters of your homeworld, Usul.' " Paul opened his eyes. "Isn't that strange? My homeworld's Caladan. I've never even heard of a planet called Usul."
   “Is there more to this dream?” Jessica prompted.
   “Yes. But maybe she was calling me Usul,” Paul said. “I just thought of that.” Again, he closed his eyes. “She asks me to tell her about the waters. And I take her hand. And I say I'll tell her a poem. And I tell her the poem, but I have to explain some of the words – like beach and surf and seaweed and seagulls.”
   “What poem?” the Reverend Mother asked.
   Paul opened his eyes. “It's just one of Gurney Halleck's tone poems for sad times.”
   Behind Paul Jessica began to recite:

   "I remember salt smoke from a beach fire
   And shadows under the pines –
   Solid, clean . . . fixed –
   Seagulls perched at the tip of land,
   White upon green . . .
   And a wind comes through the pines
   To sway the shadows;
   The seagulls spread their wings,
   Lift
   And fill the sky with screeches.
   And I hear the wind
   Blowing across our beach,
   And the surf,
   And I see that our fire
   Has scorched the seaweed."

   “That's the one,” Paul said.
   The old woman stared at Paul, then: “Young man, as a Proctor of the Bene Gesserit, I seek the Kwisatz Haderach, the male who truly can become one of us. Your mother sees this possibility in you, but she sees with the eyes of a mother. Possibility I see, too, but no more.”
   She fell silent and Paul saw that she wanted him to speak. He waited her out.
   Presently, she said: “As you will, then. You've depths in you; that I'll grant.”
   “May I go now?” he asked.
   “Don't you want to hear what the Reverend Mother can tell you about the Kwisatz Haderach?” Jessica asked.
   “She said those who tried for it died.”
   “But I can help you with a few hints at why they failed,” the Reverend Mother said.
   She talks of hints, Paul thought. She doesn't really know anything. And he said: “Hint then.”
   "And be damned to me?" She smiled wryly, a crisscross of wrinkles in the old face. "Very well: 'That which submits rules.' "
   He felt astonishment: she was talking about such elementary things as tension within meaning. Did she think his mother had taught him nothing at all?
   “That's a hint?” he asked.
   “We're not here to bandy words or quibble over their meaning,” the old woman said. “The willow submits to the wind and prospers until one day it is many willows – a wall against the wind. This is the willow's purpose.”
   Paul stared at her. She said purpose and he felt the word buffet him, reinfecting him with terrible purpose. He experienced a sudden anger at her: fatuous old witch with her mouth full of platitudes.
   “You think I could be this Kwisatz Haderach,” he said. “You talk about me, but you haven't said one thing about what we can do to help my father. I've heard you talking to my mother. You talk as though my father were dead. Well, he isn't!”
   “If there were a thing to be done for him, we'd have done it,” the old woman growled. “We may be able to salvage you. Doubtful, but possible. But for your father, nothing. When you've learned to accept that as a fact, you've learned a real Bene Gesserit lesson.”
   Paul saw how the words shook his mother. He glared at the old woman. How could she say such a thing about his father? What made her so sure? His mind seethed with resentment.
   The Reverend Mother looked at Jessica. “You've been training him in the Way – I've seen the signs of it. I'd have done the same in your shoes and devil take the Rules.”
   Jessica nodded.
   “Now, I caution you,” said the old woman, “to ignore the regular order of training. His own safety requires the Voice. He already has a good start in it, but we both know how much more he needs . . . and that desperately.” She stepped close to Paul, stared down at him. “Goodbye, young human. I hope you make it. But if you don't – well, we shall yet succeed.”
   Once more she looked at Jessica. A flicker sign of understanding passed between them. Then the old woman swept from the room, her robes hissing, with not another backward glance. The room and its occupants already were shut from her thoughts.
   But Jessica had caught one glimpse of the Reverend Mother's face as she turned away. There had been tears on the seamed cheeks. The tears were more unnerving than any other word or sign that had passed between them this day.
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= = = = = =

   You have read that Muad'Dib had no playmates his own age on Caladan. The dangers were too great. But Muad'Dib did have wonderful companion-teachers. There was Gurney Halleck, the troubadour-warrior. You will sing some of Gurney's songs, as you read along in this book. There was Thufir Hawat, the old Mentat Master of Assassins, who struck fear even into the heart of the Padishah Emperor. There were Duncan Idaho, the Swordmaster of the Ginaz; Dr. Wellington Yueh, a name black in treachery but bright in knowledge; the Lady Jessica, who guided her son in the Bene Gesserit Way, and – of course – the Duke Leto, whose qualities as a father have long been overlooked.
   –from “A Child's History of Muad'Dib” by the Princess Irulan

   Thufir Hawat slipped into the training room of Castle Caladan, closed the door softly. He stood there a moment, feeling old and tired and storm-leathered. His left leg ached where it had been slashed once in the service of the Old Duke.
   Three generations of them now, he thought.
   He stared across the big room bright with the light of noon pouring through the skylights, saw the boy seated with back to the door, intent on papers and charts spread across an ell table.
   How many times must I tell that lad never to settle himself with his back to a door? Hawat cleared his throat.
   Paul remained bent over his studies.
   A cloud shadow passed over the skylights. Again, Hawat cleared his throat.
   Paul straightened, spoke without turning: “I know. I'm sitting with my back to a door.”
   Hawat suppressed a smile, strode across the room.
   Paul looked up at the grizzled old man who stopped at a corner of the table. Hawat's eyes were two pools of alertness in a dark and deeply seamed face.
   “I heard you coming down the hall,” Paul said. “And I heard you open the door.”
   “The sounds I make could be imitated.”
   “I'd know the difference.”
   He might at that, Hawat thought. That witch-mother of his is giving him the deep training, certainly. I wonder what her precious school thinks of that? Maybe that's why they sent the old Proctor here – to whip our dear Lady Jessica into line.
   Hawat pulled up a chair across from Paul, sat down facing the door. He did it pointedly, leaned back and studied the room. It struck him as an odd place suddenly, a stranger-place with most of its hardware already gone off to Arrakis. A training table remained, and a fencing mirror with its crystal prisms quiescent, the target dummy beside it patched and padded, looking like an ancient foot soldier maimed and battered in the wars.
   There stand I, Hawat thought.
   “Thufir, what're you thinking?” Paul asked.
   Hawat looked at the boy. “I was thinking we'll all be out of here soon and likely never see the place again.”
   “Does that make you sad?”
   “Sad? Nonsense! Parting with friends is a sadness. A place is only a place.” He glanced at the charts on the table. “And Arrakis is just another place.”
   “Did my father send you up to test me?”
   Hawat scowled – the boy had such observing ways about him. He nodded. “You're thinking it'd have been nicer if he'd come up himself, but you must know how busy he is. He'll be along later.”
   “I've been studying about the storms on Arrakis.”
   “The storms. I see.”
   “They sound pretty bad.”
   “That's too cautious a word: bad. Those storms build up across six or seven thousand kilometers of flatlands, feed on anything that can give them a push – coriolis force, other storms, anything that has an ounce of energy in it. They can blow up to seven hundred kilometers an hour, loaded with everything loose that's in their way – sand, dust, everything. They can eat flesh off bones and etch the bones to slivers.”
   “Why don't they have weather control?”
   “Arrakis has special problems, costs are higher, and there'd be maintenance and the like. The Guild wants a dreadful high price for satellite control and your father's House isn't one of the big rich ones, lad. You know that.”
   “Have you ever seen the Fremen?”
   The lad's mind is darting all over today, Hawat thought.
   “Like as not I have seen them,” he said. “There's little to tell them from the folk of the graben and sink. They all wear those great flowing robes. And they stink to heaven in any closed space. It's from those suits they wear – call them 'stillsuits' – that reclaim the body's own water.”
   Paul swallowed, suddenly aware of the moisture in his mouth, remembering a dream of thirst. That people could want so for water they had to recycle their body moisture struck him with a feeling of desolation. “Water's precious there,” he said.
   Hawat nodded, thinking: Perhaps I'm doing it, getting across to him the importance of this planet as an enemy. It's madness to go in there without that caution in our minds.
   Paul looked up at the skylight, aware that it had begun to rain. He saw the spreading wetness on the gray meta-glass. “Water,” he said.
   “You'll learn a great concern for water,” Hawat said. “As the Duke's son you'll never want for it, but you'll see the pressures of thirst all around you.”
   Paul wet his lips with his tongue, thinking back to the day a week ago and the ordeal with the Reverend Mother. She, too, had said something about water starvation.
   “You'll learn about the funeral plains,” she'd said, “about the wilderness that is empty, the wasteland where nothing lives except the spice and the sandworms. You'll stain your eyepits to reduce the sun glare. Shelter will mean a hollow out of the wind and hidden from view. You'll ride upon your own two feet without 'thopter or groundcar or mount.”
   And Paul had been caught more by her tone – singsong and wavering – than by her words.
   “When you live upon Arrakis,” she had said, “khala, the land is empty. The moons will be your friends, the sun your enemy.”
   Paul had sensed his mother come up beside him away from her post guarding the door. She had looked at the Reverend Mother and asked: “Do you see no hope. Your Reverence?”
   “Not for the father.” And the old woman had waved Jessica to silence, looked down at Paul. “Grave this on your memory, lad: A world is supported by four things . . . " She held up four big-knuckled fingers. ". . . the learning of the wise, the justice of the great, the prayers of the righteous and the valor of the brave. But all of these are as nothing . . . " She closed her fingers into a fist. ". . . without a ruler who knows the art of ruling. Make that the science of your tradition!”
   A week had passed since that day with the Reverend Mother. Her words were only now beginning to come into full register. Now, sitting in the training room with Thufir Hawat, Paul felt a sharp pang of fear. He looked across at the Mentat's puzzled frown.
   “Where were you woolgathering that time?” Hawat asked.
   “Did you meet the Reverend Mother?”
   “That Truthsayer witch from the Imperium?” Hawat's eyes quickened with interest. “I met her.”
   "She . . . " Paul hesitated, found that he couldn't tell Hawat about the ordeal. The inhibitions went deep.
   “Yes? What did she?”
   Paul took two deep breaths. “She said a thing.” He closed his eyes, calling up the words, and when he spoke his voice unconsciously took on some of the old woman's tone: " 'You, Paul Atreides, descendant of kings, son of a Duke, you must learn to rule. It's something none of your ancestors learned.' " Paul opened his eyes, said: “That made me angry and I said my father rules an entire planet. And she said, 'He's losing it.' And I said my father was getting a richer planet. And she said. 'He'll lose that one, too.' And I wanted to run and warn my father, but she said he'd already been warned – by you, by Mother, by many people.”
   “True enough,” Hawat muttered.
   “Then why're we going?” Paul demanded.
   “Because the Emperor ordered it. And because there's hope in spite of what that witch-spy said. What else spouted from this ancient fountain of wisdom?”
   Paul looked down at his right hand clenched into a fist beneath the table. Slowly, he willed the muscles to relax. She put some kind of hold on me, he thought. How?
   “She asked me to tell her what it is to rule,” Paul said. “And I said that one commands. And she said I had some unlearning to do.”
   She hit a mark there right enough, Hawat thought. He nodded for Paul to continue.
   “She said a ruler must learn to persuade and not to compel. She said he must lay the best coffee hearth to attract the finest men.”
   “How'd she figure your father attracted men like Duncan and Gurney?” Hawat asked.
   Paul shrugged. “Then she said a good ruler has to learn his world's language, that it's different for every world. And I thought she meant they didn't speak Galach on Arrakis, but she said that wasn't it at all. She said she meant the language of the rocks and growing things, the language you don't hear just with your ears. And I said that's what Dr. Yueh calls the Mystery of Life.”
   Hawat chuckled. “How'd that sit with her?”
   “I think she got mad. She said the mystery of life isn't a problem to solve, but a reality to experience. So I quoted the First Law of Mentat at her: 'A process cannot be understood by stopping it. Understanding must move with the flow of the process, must join it and flow with it.' That seemed to satisfy her.”
   He seems to be getting over it, Hawat thought, but that old witch frightened him. Why did she do it?
   “Thufir,” Paul said, “will Arrakis be as bad as she said?”
   "Nothing could be that bad," Hawat said and forced a smile. "Take those Fremen, for example, the renegade people of the desert. By first-approximation analysis, I can tell you there're many, many more of them than the Imperium suspects. People live there, lad: a great many people, and . . ." Hawat put a sinewy finger beside his eye. ". . . they hate Harkonnens with a bloody passion. You must not breathe a word of this, lad. I tell you only as your father's helper."
   “My father has told me of Salusa Secundus,” Paul said. “Do you know, Thufir, it sounds much like Arrakis . . . perhaps not quite as bad, but much like it.”
   “We do not really know of Salusa Secundus today,” Hawat said. “Only what it was like long ago . . . mostly. But what is known – you're right on that score.”
   “Will the Fremen help us?”
   “It's a possibility.” Hawat stood up. “I leave today for Arrakis. Meanwhile, you take care of yourself for an old man who's fond of you, heh? Come around here like the good lad and sit facing the door. It's not that I think there's any danger in the castle; it's just a habit I want you to form.”
   Paul got to his feet, moved around the table. “You're going today?”
   “Today it is, and you'll be following tomorrow. Next time we meet it'll be on the soil of your new world.” He gripped Paul's right arm at the bicep. “Keep your knife arm free, heh? And your shield at full charge.” He released the arm, patted Paul's shoulder, whirled and strode quickly to the door.
   "Thufir! "Paul called.
   Hawat turned, standing in the open doorway.
   “Don't sit with your back to any doors,” Paul said.
   A grin spread across the seamed old face. “That I won't, lad. Depend on it.” And he was gone, shutting the door softly behind.
   Paul sat down where Hawat had been, straightened the papers. One more day here, he thought. He looked around the room. We 're leaving. The idea of departure was suddenly more real to him than it had ever been before. He recalled another thing the old woman had said about a world being the sum of many things – the people, the dirt, the growing things, the moons, the tides, the suns – the unknown sum called nature, a vague summation without any sense of the now. And he wondered: What is the now?
   The door across from Paul banged open and an ugly lump of a man lurched through it preceded by a handful of weapons.
   “Well, Gurney Halleck,” Paul called, “are you the new weapons master?”
   Halleck kicked the door shut with one heel. “You'd rather I came to play games, I know,” he said. He glanced abound the room, noting that Hawat's men already had been over it, checking, making it safe for a duke's heir. The subtle code signs were all around.
   Paul watched the rolling, ugly man set himself back in motion, veer toward the training table with the load of weapons, saw the nine-string baliset slung over Gurney's shoulder with the multipick woven through the strings near the head of the fingerboard.
   Halleck dropped the weapons on the exercise table, lined them up – the rapiers, the bodkins, the kindjals, the slow-pellet stunners, the shield belts. The inkvine scar along his jawline writhed as he turned, casting a smile across the room.
   “So you don't even have a good morning for me, you young imp,” Halleck said. “And what barb did you sink in old Hawat? He passed me in the hall like a man running to his enemy's funeral.”
   Paul grinned. Of all his father's men, he liked Gurney Halleck best, knew the man's moods and deviltry, his humors, and thought of him more as a friend than as a hired sword.
   Halleck swung the baliset off his shoulder, began tuning it. “If y' won't talk, y' won't,” he said.
   Paul stood, advanced across the room, calling out: “Well, Gurney, do we come prepared for music when it's fighting time?”
   “So it's sass for our elders today,” Halleck said. He tried a chord on the instrument, nodded.
   “Where's Duncan Idaho?” Paul asked. “Isn't he supposed to be teaching me weaponry?”
   “Duncan's gone to lead the second wave onto Arrakis,” Halleck said. “All you have left is poor Gurney who's fresh out of fight and spoiling for music.” He struck another chord, listened to it, smiled. “And it was decided in council that you being such a poor fighter we'd best teach you the music trade so's you won't waste your life entire.”
   “Maybe you'd better sing me a lay then,” Paul said. “I want to be sure how not to do it.”
   “Ah-h-h, hah!” Gurney laughed, and he swung into “Galacian Girls.” his multipick a blur over the strings as he sang:

   "Oh-h-h, the Galacian girls
   Will do it for pearls,
   And the Arrakeen for water!
   But if you desire dames
   Like consuming flames,
   Try a Caladanin daughter!"

   “Not bad for such a poor hand with the pick,” Paul said, “but if my mother heard you singing a bawdy like that in the castle, she'd have your ears on the outer wall for decoration.”
   Gurney pulled at his left ear. “Poor decoration, too, they having been bruised so much listening at keyholes while a young lad I know practiced some strange ditties on his baliset.”
   “So you've forgotten what it's like to find sand in your bed,” Paul said. He pulled a shield belt from the table, buckled it fast around his waist. “Then, let's fight!”
   Halleck's eyes went wide in mock surprise. “So! It was your wicked hand did that deed! Guard yourself today, young master – guard yourself.” He grabbed up a rapier, laced the air with it. “I'm a hellfiend out for revenge!”
   Paul lifted the companion rapier, bent it in his hands, stood in the aguile, one foot forward. He let his manner go solemn in a comic imitation of Dr. Yueh.
   “What a dolt my father sends me for weaponry,” Paul intoned. “This doltish Gurney Halleck has forgotten the first lesson for a fighting man armed and shielded.” Paul snapped the force button at his waist, felt the crinkled-skin tingling of the defensive field at his forehead and down his back, heard external sounds take on characteristic shield-filtered flatness. “In shield fighting, one moves fast on defense, slow on attack,” Paul said. “Attack has the sole purpose of tricking the opponent into a misstep, setting him up for the attack sinister. The shield turns the fast blow, admits the slow kindjal!” Paul snapped up the rapier, feinted fast and whipped it back for a slow thrust timed to enter a shield's mindless defenses.
   Halleck watched the action, turned at the last minute to let the blunted blade pass his chest. “Speed, excellent,” he said. “But you were wide open for an underhanded counter with a slip-tip.”
   Paul stepped back, chagrined.
   “I should whap your backside for such carelessness,” Halleck said. He lifted a naked kindjal from the table and held it up. “This in the hand of an enemy can let out your life's blood! You're an apt pupil, none better, but I've warned you that not even in play do you let a man inside your guard with death in his hand.”
   “I guess I'm not in the mood for it today,” Paul said.
   “Mood?” Halleck's voice betrayed his outrage even through the shield's filtering. “What has mood to do with it? You fight when the necessity arises – no matter the mood! Mood's a thing for cattle or making love or playing the baliset. It's not for fighting.”
   “I'm sorry, Gurney.”
   “You're not sorry enough!”
   Halleck activated his own shield, crouched with kindjal outthrust in left hand, the rapier poised high in his right. “Now I say guard yourself for true!” He leaped high to one side, then forward, pressing a furious attack.
   Paul fell back, parrying. He felt the field crackling as shield edges touched and repelled each other, sensed the electric tingling of the contact along his skin. What's gotten into Gurney? he asked himself. He's not faking this! Paul moved his left hand, dropped his bodkin into his palm from its wrist sheath.
   “You see a need for an extra blade, eh?” Halleck grunted.
   Is this betrayal? Paul wondered. Surely not Gurney!
   Around the room they fought – thrust and parry, feint and counterfeint. The air within their shield bubbles grew stale from the demands on it that the slow interchange along barrier edges could not replenish. With each new shield contact, the smell of ozone grew stronger.
   Paul continued to back, but now he directed his retreat toward the exercise table. If I can turn him beside the table, I'll show him a trick, Paul thought. One more step, Gurney.
   Halleck took the step.
   Paul directed a parry downward, turned, saw Halleck's rapier catch against the table's edge. Paul flung himself aside, thrust high with rapier and came in across Halleck's neckline with the bodkin. He stopped the blade an inch from the jugular.
   “Is this what you seek?” Paul whispered.
   “Look down, lad,” Gurney panted.
   Paul obeyed, saw Halleck's kindjal thrust under the table's edge, the tip almost touching Paul's groin.
   “We'd have joined each other in death,” Halleck said. “But I'll admit you fought some better when pressed to it. You seemed to get the mood.” And he grinned wolfishly, the inkvine scar rippling along his jaw.
   “The way you came at me,” Paul said. “Would you really have drawn my blood?”
   Halleck withdrew the kindjal, straightened. “If you'd fought one whit beneath your abilities. I'd have scratched you a good one, a scar you'd remember. I'll not have my favorite pupil fall to the first Harkonnen tramp who happens along.”
   Paul deactivated his shield, leaned on the table to catch his breath. “I deserved that, Gurney. But it would've angered my father if you'd hurt me. I'll not have you punished for my failing.”
   “As to that,” Halleck said, “it was my failing, too. And you needn't worry about a training scar or two. You're lucky you have so few. As to your father – the Duke'd punish me only if I failed to make a first-class fighting man out of you. And I'd have been failing there if I hadn't explained the fallacy in this mood thing you've suddenly developed.”
   Paul straightened, slipped his bodkin back into its wrist sheath.
   “It's not exactly play we do here,” Halleck said.
   Paul nodded. He felt a sense of wonder at the uncharacteristic seriousness in Halleck's manner, the sobering intensity. He looked at the beet-colored inkvine scar on the man's jaw, remembering the story of how it had been put there by Beast Rabban in a Harkonnen slave pit on Giedi Prime. And Paul felt a sudden shame that he had doubted Halleck even for an instant. It occurred to Paul, then, that the making of Halleck's scar had been accompanied by pain – a pain as intense, perhaps, as that inflicted by a Reverend Mother. He thrust this thought aside; it chilled their world.
   “I guess I did hope for some play today,” Paul said. “Things are so serious around here lately.”
   Halleck turned away to hide his emotions. Something burned in his eyes. There was pain in him – like a blister, all that was left of some lost yesterday that Time had pruned off him.
   How soon this child must assume his manhood, Halleck thought. How soon he must read that form within his mind, that contract of brutal caution, to enter the necessary fact on the necessary line: “Please list your next of kin.”
   Halleck spoke without turning: “I sensed the play in you, lad, and I'd like nothing better than to join in it. But this no longer can be play. Tomorrow we go to Arrakis. Arrakis is real. The Harkonnens are real.”
   Paul touched his forehead with his rapier blade held vertical.
   Halleck turned, saw the salute and acknowledged it with a nod. He gestured to the practice dummy. “Now, we'll work on your timing. Let me see you catch that thing sinister. I'll control it from over here where I can have a full view of the action. And I warn you I'll be trying new counters today. There's a warning you'd not get from a real enemy.”
   Paul stretched up on his toes to relieve his muscles. He felt solemn with the sudden realization that his life had become filled with swift changes. He crossed to the dummy, slapped the switch on its chest with his rapier tip and felt the defensive field forcing his blade away.
   “En garde!” Halleck called, and the dummy pressed the attack.
   Paul activated his shield, parried and countered.
   Halleck watched as he manipulated the controls. His mind seemed to be in two parts: one alert to the needs of the training fight, and the other wandering in fly-buzz.
   I'm the well-trained fruit tree, he thought. Full of well-trained feelings and abilities and all of them grafted onto me – all bearing for someone else to pick.
   For some reason, he recalled his younger sister, her elfin face so clear in his mind. But she was dead now – in a pleasure house for Harkonnen troops. She had loved pansies . . . or was it daisies? He couldn't remember. It bothered him that he couldn't remember.
   Paul countered a slow swing of the dummy, brought up his left hand entretisser.
   That clever little devil! Halleck thought, intent now on Paul's interweaving hand motions. He's been practicing and studying on his own. That's not Duncan's style, and it's certainly nothing I've taught him.
   This thought only added to Halleck's sadness. I'm infected by mood, he thought. And he began to wonder about Paul, if the boy ever listened fearfully to his pillow throbbing in the night.
   “If wishes were fishes we'd all cast nets,” he murmured.
   It was his mother's expression and he always used it when he felt the blackness of tomorrow on him. Then he thought what an odd expression that was to be taking to a planet that had never known seas or fishes.
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   YUEH (yu'e), Wellington (weling-tun), Stdrd 10,082-10,191; medical doctor of the Suk School (grd Stdrd 10,112); md: Wanna Marcus, B.G. (Stdrd 10,092-10,186?); chiefly noted as betrayer of Duke Leto Atreides. (Cf: Bibliography, Appendix VII [Imperial Conditioning] and Betrayal, The.)
   –from “Dictionary of Muad'Dib” by the Princess Irulan
 
   Although he heard Dr. Yueh enter the training room, noting the stiff deliberation of the man's pace, Paul remained stretched out face down on the exercise table where the masseuse had left him. He felt deliciously relaxed after the workout with Gurney Halleck.
   “You do look comfortable,” said Yueh in his calm, high-pitched voice.
   Paul raised his head, saw the man's stick figure standing several paces away, took in at a glance the wrinkled black clothing, the square block of a head with purple lips and drooping mustache, the diamond tattoo of Imperial Conditioning on his forehead, the long black hair caught in the Suk School's silver ring at the left shoulder.
   “You'll be happy to hear we haven't time for regular lessons today,” Yueh said. “Your father will be along presently.”
   Paul sat up.
   “However, I've arranged for you to have a filmbook viewer and several lessons during the crossing to Arrakis.”
   “Oh.”
   Paul began pulling on his clothes. He felt excitement that his father would be coming. They had spent so little time together since the Emperor's command to take over the fief of Arrakis.
   Yueh crossed to the ell table, thinking: How the boy has filled out these past few months. Such a waste! Oh, such a sad waste. And he reminded himself: I must not falter. What I do is done to be certain my Wanna no longer can be hurt by the Harkonnen beasts.
   Paul joined him at the table, buttoning his jacket. “What'll I be studying on the way across?”
   “Ah-h-h-h, the terranic life forms of Arrakis. The planet seems to have opened its arms to certain terranic life forms. It's not clear how. I must seek out the planetary ecologist when we arrive – a Dr. Kynes – and offer my help in the investigation.”
   And Yueh thought: What am I saying? I play the hypocrite even with myself.
   “Will there be something on the Fremen?” Paul asked.
   “The Fremen?” Yueh drummed his fingers on the table, caught Paul staring at the nervous motion, withdrew his hand.
   “Maybe you have something on the whole Arrakeen population,” Paul said.
   "Yes, to be sure," Yueh said. "There are two general separations of the people – Fremen, they are one group, and the others are the people of the graben, the sink, and the pan. There's some intermarriage, I'm told. The women of pan and sink villages prefer Fremen husbands; their men prefer Fremen wives. They have a saying: 'Polish comes from the cities; wisdom from the desert.' "
   “Do you have pictures of them?”
   “I'll see what I can get you. The most interesting feature, of course, is their eyes – totally blue, no whites in them.”
   “Mutation?”
   “No; it's linked to saturation of the blood with melange.”
   “The Fremen must be brave to live at the edge of that desert.”
   “By all accounts,” Yueh said. “They compose poems to their knives. Their women are as fierce as the men. Even Fremen children are violent and dangerous. You'll not be permitted to mingle with them, I daresay.”
   Paul stared at Yueh, finding in these few glimpses of the Fremen a power of words that caught his entire attention. What a people to win as allies!
   “And the worms?” Paul asked.
   “What?”
   “I'd like to study more about the sandworms.”
   “Ah-h-h-h, to be sure. I've a filmbook on a small specimen, only one hundred and ten meters long and twenty-two meters in diameter. It was taken in the northern latitudes. Worms of more than four hundred meters in length have been recorded by reliable witnesses, and there's reason to believe even larger ones exist.”
   Paul glanced down at a conical projection chart of the northern Arrakeen latitudes spread on the table. “The desert belt and south polar regions are marked uninhabitable. Is it the worms?”
   “And the storms.”
   “But any place can be made habitable.”
   “If it's economically feasible,” Yueh said. “Arrakis has many costly perils.” He smoothed his drooping mustache. “Your father will be here soon. Before I go, I've a gift for you, something I came across in packing.” He put an object on the table between them – black, oblong, no larger than the end of Paul's thumb.
   Paul looked at it. Yueh noted how the boy did not reach for it, and thought: How cautious he is.
   “It's a very old Orange Catholic Bible made for space travelers. Not a filmbook, but actually printed on filament paper. It has its own magnifier and electrostatic charge system.” He picked it up, demonstrated. “The book is held closed by the charge, which forces against spring-locked covers. You press the edge – thus, and the pages you've selected repel each other and the book opens.”
   “It's so small.”
   “But it has eighteen hundred pages. You press the edge – thus, and so . . . and the charge moves ahead one page at a time as you read. Never touch the actual pages with your fingers. The filament tissue is too delicate.” He closed the book, handed it to Paul. “Try it.”
   Yueh watched Paul work the page adjustment, thought: I salve my own conscience. I give him the surcease of religion before betraying him. Thus may I say to myself that he has gone where I cannot go.
   “This must've been made before filmbooks,” Paul said.
   “It's quite old. Let it be our secret, eh? Your parents might think it too valuable for one so young.”
   And Yueh thought: His mother would surely wonder at my motives.
   "Well . . . " Paul closed the book, held it in his hand. "If it's so valuable . . . "
   “Indulge an old man's whim,” Yueh said. “It was given to me when I was very young.” And he thought: I must catch his mind as well as his cupidity. “Open it to four-sixty-seven Kalima – where it says: 'From water does all life begin.' There's a slight notch on the edge of the cover to mark the place.”
   Paul felt the cover, detected two notches, one shallower than the other. He pressed the shallower one and the book spread open on his palm, its magnifier sliding into place.
   “Read it aloud,” Yueh said.
   Paul wet his lips with his tongue, read: “Think you of the fact that a deaf person cannot hear. Then, what deafness may we not all possess? What senses do we lack that we cannot see and cannot hear another world all around us? What is there around us that we cannot –”
   “Stop it!” Yueh barked.
   Paul broke off, stared at him.
   Yueh closed his eyes, fought to regain composure. What perversity caused the book to open at my Wanna's favorite passage? He opened his eyes, saw Paul staring at him.
   “Is something wrong?” Paul asked.
   “I'm sorry,” Yueh said. “That was . . . my . . . dead wife's favorite passage. It's not the one I intended you to read. It brings up memories that are . . . painful.”
   “There are two notches,” Paul said.
   Of course, Yueh thought. Wanna marked her passage. His fingers are more sensitive than mine and found her mark. It was an accident, no more.
   “You may find the book interesting,” Yueh said. “It has much historical truth in it as well as good ethical philosophy.”
   Paul looked down at the tiny book in his palm – such a small thing. Yet, it contained a mystery . . . something had happened while he read from it. He had felt something stir his terrible purpose.
   “Your father will be here any minute,” Yueh said. “Put the book away and read it at your leisure.”
   Paul touched the edge of it as Yueh had shown him. The book sealed itself. He slipped it into his tunic. For a moment there when Yueh had barked at him, Paul had feared the man would demand the book's return.
   “I thank you for the gift. Dr. Yueh,” Paul said, speaking formally. “It will be our secret. If there is a gift of favor you wish from me, please do not hesitate to ask.”
   “I . . . need for nothing,” Yueh said.
   And he thought: Why do I stand here torturing myself? And torturing this poor lad . . . though he does not know it. Oeyh! Damn those Harkonnen beasts! Why did they choose me for their abomination?
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   How do we approach the study of Muad'Dib's father? A man of surpassing warmth and surprising coldness was the Duke Leto Atreides. Yet, many facts open the way to this Duke: his abiding love for his Bene Gesserit lady; the dreams he held for his son; the devotion with which men served him. You see him there – a man snared by Destiny, a lonely figure with his light dimmed behind the glory of his son. Still, one must ask: What is the son but an extension of the father?
   –from “Muad'Dib, Family Commentaries” by the Princess Irulan

   Paul watched his father enter the training room, saw the guards take up stations outside. One of them closed the door. As always, Paul experienced a sense of presence in his father, someone totally here.
   The Duke was tall, olive-skinned. His thin face held harsh angles warmed only by deep gray eyes. He wore a black working uniform with red armorial hawk crest at the breast. A silvered shield belt with the patina of much use girded his narrow waist.
   The Duke said: “Hard at work, Son?”
   He crossed to the ell table, glanced at the papers on it, swept his gaze around the room and back to Paul. He felt tired, filled with the ache of not showing his fatigue. I must use every opportunity to rest during the crossing to Arrakis, he thought. There'll be no rest on Arrakis.
   "Not very hard," Paul said. "Everything's so . . . " He shrugged.
   “Yes. Well, tomorrow we leave. It'll be good to get settled in our new home, put all this upset behind.”
   Paul nodded, suddenly overcome by memory of the Reverend Mother's words: " . . . for the father, nothing."
   “Father,” Paul said, “will Arrakis be as dangerous as everyone says?”
   The Duke forced himself to the casual gesture, sat down on a corner of the table, smiled. A whole pattern of conversation welled up in his mind – the kind of thing he might use to dispel the vapors in his men before a battle. The pattern froze before it could be vocalized, confronted by the single thought:
   This is my son.
   “It'll be dangerous,” he admitted.
   “Hawat tells me we have a plan for the Fremen,” Paul said. And he wondered: Why don't I tell him what that old woman said? How did she seal my tongue?
   The Duke noted his son's distress, said: “As always, Hawat sees the main chance. But there's much more. I see also the Combine Honnete Ober Advancer Mercantiles – the CHOAM Company. By giving me Arrakis, His Majesty is forced to give us a CHOAM directorship . . . a subtle gain.”
   “CHOAM controls the spice,” Paul said.
   “And Arrakis with its spice is our avenue into CHOAM,” the Duke said. “There's more to CHOAM than melange.”
   “Did the Reverend Mother warn you?” Paul blurted. He clenched his fists, feeling his palms slippery with perspiration. The effort it had taken to ask that question.
   “Hawat tells me she frightened you with warnings about Arrakis,” the Duke said. “Don't let a woman's fears cloud your mind. No woman wants her loved ones endangered. The hand behind those warnings was your mother's. Take this as a sign of her love for us.”
   “Does she know about the Fremen?”
   “Yes, and about much more.”
   “What?”
   And the Duke thought: The truth could be worse than he imagines, but even dangerous facts are valuable if you've been trained to deal with them. And there's one place where nothing has been spared for my son – dealing with dangerous facts. This must be leavened, though; he is young.
   “Few products escape the CHOAM touch,” the Duke said. “Logs, donkeys, horses, cows, lumber, dung, sharks, whale fur – the most prosaic and the most exotic . . . even our poor pundi rice from Caladan. Anything the Guild will transport, the art forms of Ecaz, the machines of Richesse and Ix. But all fades before melange. A handful of spice will buy a home on Tupile. It cannot be manufactured, it must be mined on Arrakis. It is unique and it has true geriatric properties.”
   “And now we control it?”
   “To a certain degree. But the important thing is to consider all the Houses that depend on CHOAM profits. And think of the enormous proportion of those profits dependent upon a single product – the spice. Imagine what would happen if something should reduce spice production.”
   “Whoever had stockpiled melange could make a killing,” Paul said. “Others would be out in the cold.”
   The Duke permitted himself a moment of grim satisfaction, looking at his son and thinking how penetrating, how truly educated that observation had been. He nodded. “The Harkonnens have been stockpiling for more than twenty years.”
   “They mean spice production to fail and you to be blamed.”
   “They wish the Atreides name to become unpopular,” the Duke said. “Think of the Landsraad Houses that look to me for a certain amount of leadership – their unofficial spokesman. Think how they'd react if I were responsible for a serious reduction in their income. After all, one's own profits come first. The Great Convention be damned! You can't let someone pauperize you!” A harsh smile twisted the Duke's mouth. “They'd look the other way no matter what was done to me.”
   “Even if we were attacked with atomics?”
   “Nothing that flagrant. No open defiance of the Convention. But almost anything else short of that . . . perhaps even dusting and a bit of soil poisoning.”
   “Then why are we walking into this?”
   “Paul!” The Duke frowned at his son. “Knowing where the trap is – that's the first step in evading it. This is like single combat, Son, only on a larger scale – a feint within a feint within a feint . . . seemingly without end. The task is to unravel it. Knowing that the Harkonnens stockpile melange, we ask another question: Who else is stockpiling? That's the list of our enemies.”
   “Who?”
   “Certain Houses we knew were unfriendly and some we'd thought friendly. We need not consider them for the moment because there is one other much more important: our beloved Padishah Emperor.”
   Paul tried to swallow in a throat suddenly dry. “Couldn't you convene the Landsraad, expose –”
   “Make our enemy aware we know which hand holds the knife? Ah, now, Paul – we see the knife, now. Who knows where it might be shifted next? If we put this before the Landsraad it'd only create a great cloud of confusion. The Emperor would deny it. Who could gainsay him? All we'd gain is a little time while risking chaos. And where would the next attack come from?”
   “All the Houses might start stockpiling spice.”
   “Our enemies have a head start – too much of a lead to overcome.”
   “The Emperor,” Paul said. “That means the Sardaukar.”
   “Disguised in Harkonnen livery, no doubt,” the Duke said. “But the soldier fanatics nonetheless.”
   “How can Fremen help us against Sardaukar?”
   “Did Hawat talk to you about Salusa Secundus?”
   “The Emperor's prison planet? No.”
   “What if it were more than a prison planet, Paul? There's a question you never hear asked about the Imperial Corps of Sardaukar: Where do they come from?”
   “From the prison planet?”
   “They come from somewhere.”
   “But the supporting levies the Emperor demands from –”
   “That's what we're led to believe: they're just the Emperor's levies trained young and superbly. You hear an occasional muttering about the Emperor's training cadres, but the balance of our civilization remains the same: the military forces of the Landsraad Great Houses on one side, the Sardaukar and their supporting levies on the other. And their supporting levies, Paul. The Sardaukar remain the Sardaukar.”
   “But every report on Salusa Secundus says S.S. is a hell world!”
   “Undoubtedly. But if you were going to raise tough, strong, ferocious men, what environmental conditions would you impose on them?”
   “How could you win the loyalty of such men?”
   “There are proven ways: play on the certain knowledge of their superiority, the mystique of secret covenant, the esprit of shared suffering. It can be done. It has been done on many worlds in many times.”
   Paul nodded, holding his attention on his father's face. He felt some revelation impending.
   “Consider Arrakis,” the Duke said. “When you get outside the towns and garrison villages, it's every bit as terrible a place as Salusa Secundus.”
   Paul's eyes went wide. “The Fremen!”
   “We have there the potential of a corps as strong and deadly as the Sardaukar. It'll require patience to exploit them secretly and wealth to equip them properly. But the Fremen are there . . . and the spice wealth is there. You see now why we walk into Arrakis, knowing the trap is there.”
   “Don't the Harkonnens know about the Fremen?”
   “The Harkonnens sneered at the Fremen, hunted them for sport, never even bothered trying to count them. We know the Harkonnen policy with planetary populations – spend as little as possible to maintain them.”
   The metallic threads in the hawk symbol above his father's breast glistened as the Duke shifted his position. “You see?”
   “We're negotiating with the Fremen right now,” Paul said.
   “I sent a mission headed by Duncan Idaho,” the Duke said. “A proud and ruthless man, Duncan, but fond of the truth. I think the Fremen will admire him. If we're lucky, they may judge us by him: Duncan, the moral.”
   “Duncan, the moral,” Paul said, “and Gurney the valorous.”
   “You name them well,” the Duke said.
   And Paul thought: Gurney's one of those the Reverend Mother meant, a supporter of worlds – " . . . the valor of the brave."
   “Gurney tells me you did well in weapons today,” the Duke said.
   “That isn't what he told me.”
   The Duke laughed aloud. “I figured Gurney to be sparse with his praise. He says you have a nicety of awareness – in his own words – of the difference between a blade's edge and its tip.”
   “Gurney says there's no artistry in killing with the tip, that it should be done with the edge.”
   “Gurney's a romantic,” the Duke growled. This talk of killing suddenly disturbed him, coming from his son. “I'd sooner you never had to kill . . . but if the need arises, you do it however you can – tip or edge.” He looked up at the skylight, on which the rain was drumming.
   Seeing the direction of his father's stare, Paul thought of the wet skies out there – a thing never to be seen on Arrakis from all accounts – and this thought of skies put him in mind of the space beyond. “Are the Guild ships really big?” he asked.
   The Duke looked at him. “This will be your first time off planet,” he said. “Yes, they're big. We'll be riding a Heighliner because it's a long trip. A Heighliner is truly big. Its hold will tuck all our frigates and transports into a little corner – we'll be just a small part of the ship's manifest.”
   “And we won't be able to leave our frigates?”
   “That's part of the price you pay for Guild Security. There could be Harkonnen ships right alongside us and we'd have nothing to fear from them. The Harkonnens know better than to endanger their shipping privileges.”
   “I'm going to watch our screens and try to see a Guildsman.”
   “You won't. Not even their agents ever see a Guildsman. The Guild's as jealous of its privacy as it is of its monopoly. Don't do anything to endanger our shipping privileges, Paul.”
   “Do you think they hide because they've mutated and don't look . . . human anymore?”
   “Who knows?” The Duke shrugged. “It's a mystery we're not likely to solve. We've more immediate problems – among them: you.”
   “Me?”
   “Your mother wanted me to be the one to tell you, Son. You see, you may have Mentat capabilities.”
   Paul stared at his father, unable to speak for a moment, then: "A Mentat? Me? But I . . . "
   “Hawat agrees, Son. It's true.”
   "But I thought Mentat training had to start during infancy and the subject couldn't be told because it might inhibit the early . . . " He broke off, all his past circumstances coming to focus in one flashing computation. "I see," he said.
   “A day comes,” the Duke said, “when the potential Mentat must learn what's being done. It may no longer be done to him. The Mentat has to share in the choice of whether to continue or abandon the training. Some can continue; some are incapable of it. Only the potential Mentat can tell this for sure about himself.”
   Paul rubbed his chin. All the special training from Hawat and his mother – the mnemonics, the focusing of awareness, the muscle control and sharpening of sensitivities, the study of languages and nuances of voices – all of it clicked into a new kind of understanding in his mind.
   “You'll be the Duke someday, Son,” his father said. “A Mentat Duke would be formidable indeed. Can you decide now . . . or do you need more time?”
   There was no hesitation in his answer. “I'll go on with the training.”
   “Formidable indeed,” the Duke murmured, and Paul saw the proud smile on his father's face. The smile shocked Paul: it had a skull look on the Duke's narrow features. Paul closed his eyes, feeling the terrible purpose reawaken within him. Perhaps being a Mentat is terrible purpose, he thought.
   But even as he focused on this thought, his new awareness denied it.
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Zodijak Gemini
Pol Muškarac
Poruke Odustao od brojanja
Zastava 44°49′N - 20°29′E
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Apple iPhone 6s
= = = = = =

   With the Lady Jessica and Arrakis, the Bene Gesserit system of sowing implant-legends through the Missionaria Protectiva came to its full fruition. The wisdom of seeding the known universe with a prophecy pattern for the protection of B.G. personnel has long been appreciated, but never have we seen a condition-ut-extremis with more ideal mating of person and preparation. The prophetic legends had taken on Arrakis even to the extent of adopted labels (including Reverend Mother, canto and respondu, and most of the Shari-a panoplia propheticus). And it is generally accepted now that the Lady Jessica's latent abilities were grossly underestimated.
   –from “Analysis: The Arrakeen Crisis” by the Princess Irulan [Private circulation: B.G. file number AR-81088587]
 
   All around the Lady Jessica – piled in corners of the Arrakeen great hall, mounded in the open spaces – stood the packaged freight of their lives: boxes, trunks, cartons, cases – some partly unpacked. She could hear the cargo handlers from the Guild shuttle depositing another load in the entry.
   Jessica stood in the center of the hall. She moved in a slow turn, looking up and around at shadowed carvings, crannies and deeply recessed windows. This giant anachronism of a room reminded her of the Sisters' Hall at her Bene Gesserit school. But at the school the effect had been of warmth. Here, all was bleak stone.
   Some architect had reached far back into history for these buttressed walls and dark hangings, she thought. The arched ceiling stood two stories above her with great crossbeams she felt sure had been shipped here to Arrakis across space at monstrous cost. No planet of this system grew trees to make such beams – unless the beams were imitation wood.
   She thought not.
   This had been the government mansion in the days of the Old Empire. Costs had been of less importance then. It had been before the Harkonnens and their new megalopolis of Carthag – a cheap and brassy place some two hundred kilometers northeast across the Broken Land. Leto had been wise to choose this place for his seat of government. The name, Arrakeen, had a good sound, filled with tradition. And this was a smaller city, easier to sterilize and defend.
   Again there came the clatter of boxes being unloaded in the entry. Jessica sighed.
   Against a carton to her right stood the painting of the Duke's father. Wrapping twine hung from it like a frayed decoration. A piece of the twine was still clutched in Jessica's left hand. Beside the painting lay a black bull's head mounted on a polished board. The head was a dark island in a sea of wadded paper. Its plaque lay flat on the floor, and the bull's shiny muzzle pointed at the ceiling as though the beast were ready to bellow a challenge into this echoing room.
   Jessica wondered what compulsion had brought her to uncover those two things first – the head and the painting. She knew there was something symbolic in the action. Not since the day when the Duke's buyers had taken her from the school had she felt this frightened and unsure of herself.
   The head and the picture.
   They heightened her feelings of confusion. She shuddered, glanced at the slit windows high overhead. It was still early afternoon here, and in these latitudes the sky looked black and cold – so much darker than the warm blue of Caladan. A pang of homesickness throbbed through her.
   So far away, Caladan.
   “Here we are!”
   The voice was Duke Leto's.
   She whirled, saw him striding from the arched passage to the dining hall. His black working uniform with red armorial hawk crest at the breast looked dusty and rumpled.
   “I thought you might have lost yourself in this hideous place,” he said.
   “It is a cold house,” she said. She looked at his tallness, at the dark skin that made her think of olive groves and golden sun on blue waters. There was woodsmoke in the gray of his eyes, but the face was predatory: thin, full of sharp angles and planes.
   A sudden fear of him tightened her breast. He had become such a savage, driving person since the decision to bow to the Emperor's command.
   “The whole city feels cold,” she said.
   “It's a dirty, dusty little garrison town,” he agreed. “But we'll change that.” He looked around the hall. “These are public rooms for state occasions. I've just glanced at some of the family apartments in the south wing. They're much nicer.” He stepped closer, touched her arm, admiring her stateliness.
   And again, he wondered at her unknown ancestry – a renegade House, perhaps? Some black-barred royalty? She looked more regal than the Emperor's own blood.
   Under the pressure of his stare, she turned half away, exposing her profile. And he realized there was no single and precise thing that brought her beauty to focus. The face was oval under a cap of hair the color of polished bronze. Her eyes were set wide, as green and clear as the morning skies of Caladan. The nose was small, the mouth wide and generous. Her figure was good but scant: tall and with its curves gone to slimness.
   He remembered that the lay sisters at the school had called her skinny, so his buyers had told him. But that description oversimplified. She had brought a regal beauty back into the Atreides line. He was glad that Paul favored her.
   “Where's Paul?” he asked.
   “Someplace around the house taking his lessons with Yueh.”
   “Probably in the south wing,” he said. “I thought I heard Yueh's voice, but I couldn't take time to look.” He glanced down at her, hesitating. “I came here only to hang the key of Caladan Castle in the dining hall.”
   She caught her breath, stopped the impulse to reach out to him. Hanging the key – there was finality in that action. But this was not the time or place for comforting. “I saw our banner over the house as we came in,” she said.
   He glanced at the painting of his father. “Where were you going to hang that?”
   “Somewhere in here.”
   “No.” The word rang flat and final, telling her she could use trickery to persuade, but open argument was useless. Still, she had to try, even if the gesture served only to remind herself that she would not trick him.
   "My Lord," she said, "if you'd only . . . "
   “The answer remains no. I indulge you shamefully in most things, not in this. I've just come from the dining hall where there are –”
   “My Lord! Please.”
   “The choice is between your digestion and my ancestral dignity, my dear,” he said. “They will hang in the dining hall.”
   She sighed. “Yes, my Lord.”
   “You may resume your custom of dining in your rooms whenever possible. I shall expect you at your proper position only on formal occasions.”
   “Thank you, my Lord.”
   “And don't go all cold and formal on me! Be thankful that I never married you, my dear. Then it'd be your duty to join me at table for every meal.”
   She held her face immobile, nodded.
   “Hawat already has our own poison snooper over the dining table,” he said. “There's a portable in your room.”
   “You anticipated this . . . disagreement,” she said.
   “My dear, I think also of your comfort. I've engaged servants. They're locals, but Hawat has cleared them – they're Fremen all. They'll do until our own people can be released from their other duties.”
   “Can anyone from this place be truly safe?”
   “Anyone who hates Harkonnens. You may even want to keep the head housekeeper: the Shadout Mapes.”
   “Shadout,” Jessica said. “A Fremen title?”
   “I'm told it means 'well-dipper,' a meaning with rather important overtones here. She may not strike you as a servant type, although Hawat speaks highly of her on the basis of Duncan's report. They're convinced she wants to serve – specifically that she wants to serve you.”
   “Me?”
   “The Fremen have learned that you're Bene Gesserit,” he said. “There are legends here about the Bene Gesserit.”
   The Missionaria Protectiva, Jessica thought. No place escapes them.
   “Does this mean Duncan was successful?” she asked. “Will the Fremen be our allies?”
   “There's nothing definite,” he said. “They wish to observe us for a while, Duncan believes. They did, however, promise to stop raiding our outlying villages during a truce period. That's a more important gain than it might seem. Hawat tells me the Fremen were a deep thorn in the Harkonnen side, that the extent of their ravages was a carefully guarded secret. It wouldn't have helped for the Emperor to learn the ineffectiveness of the Harkonnen military.”
   “A Fremen housekeeper,” Jessica mused, returning to the subject of the Shadout Mapes. “She'll have the all-blue eyes.”
   “Don't let the appearance of these people deceive you,” he said. “There's a deep strength and healthy vitality in them. I think they'll be everything we need.”
   “It's a dangerous gamble,” she said.
   “Let's not go into that again,” he said.
   She forced a smile. “We are committed, no doubt of that.” She went through the quick regimen of calmness – the two deep breaths, the ritual thought, then: “When I assign rooms, is there anything special I should reserve for you?”
   “You must teach me someday how you do that,” he said, “the way you thrust your worries aside and turn to practical matters. It must be a Bene Gesserit thing.”
   “It's a female thing,” she said.
   He smiled. “Well, assignment of rooms: make certain, I have large office space next my sleeping quarters. There'll be more paper work here than on Caladan. A guard room, of course. That should cover it. Don't worry about security of the house. Hawat's men have been over it in depth.”
   “I'm sure they have.”
   He glanced at his wristwatch. “And you might see that all our timepieces are adjusted for Arrakeen local. I've assigned a tech to take care of it. He'll be along presently.” He brushed a strand of her hair back from her forehead. “I must return to the landing field now. The second shuttle's due any minute with my staff reserves.”
   “Couldn't Hawat meet them, my Lord? You look so tired.”
   “The good Thufir is even busier than I am. You know this planet's infested with Harkonnen intrigues. Besides, I must try persuading some of the trained spice hunters against leaving. They have the option, you know, with the change of fief – and this planetologist the Emperor and the Landsraad installed as Judge of the Change cannot be bought. He's allowing the opt. About eight hundred trained hands expect to go out on the spice shuttle and there's a Guild cargo ship standing by.”
   "My Lord . . . " She broke off, hesitating.
   “Yes?”
   He will not be persuaded against trying to make this planet secure for us, she thought. And I cannot use my tricks on him.
   “At what time will you be expecting dinner?” she asked.
   That's not what she was going to say, he thought. Ah-h-h-h, my Jessica, would that we were somewhere else, anywhere away from this terrible place – alone, the two of us, without a care.
   “I'll eat in the officers' mess at the field,” he said. “Don't expect me until very late. And . . .ah, I'll be sending a guardcar for Paul. I want him to attend our strategy conference.”
   He cleared his throat as though to say something else, then, without warning, turned and strode out, headed for the entry where she could hear more boxes being deposited. His voice sounded once from there, commanding and disdainful, the way he always spoke to servants when he was in a hurry: “The Lady Jessica's in the Great Hall. Join her there immediately.”
   The outer door slammed.
   Jessica turned away, faced the painting of Leto's father. It had been done by the famed artist, Albe, during the Old Duke's middle years. He was portrayed in matador costume with a magenta cape flung over his left arm. The face looked young, hardly older than Leto's now, and with the same hawk features, the same gray stare. She clenched her fists at her sides, glared at the painting.
   “Damn you! Damn you! Damn you!” she whispered.
   “What are your orders, Noble Born?”
   It was a woman's voice, thin and stringy.
   Jessica whirled, stared down at a knobby, gray-haired woman in a shapeless sack dress of bondsman brown. The woman looked as wrinkled and desiccated as any member of the mob that had greeted them along the way from the landing field that morning. Every native she had seen on this planet, Jessica thought, looked prune dry and undernourished. Yet, Leto had said they were strong and vital. And there were the eyes, of course – that wash of deepest, darkest blue without any white – secretive, mysterious. Jessica forced herself not to stare.
   The woman gave a stiff-necked nod, said: “I am called the Shadout Mapes, Noble Born. What are your orders?”
   "You may refer to me as 'my Lady,' " Jessica said. "I'm not noble born. I'm the bound concubine of the Duke Leto."
   Again that strange nod, and the woman peered upward at Jessica with a sly questioning, “There's a wife, then?”
   “There is not, nor has there ever been. I am the Duke's only . . . companion, the mother of his heir-designate.”
   Even as she spoke, Jessica laughed inwardly at the pride behind her words. What was it St. Augustine said? she asked herself. “The mind commands the body and it obeys. The mind orders itself and meets resistance.” Yes – I am meeting more resistance lately. I could use a quiet retreat by myself.
   A weird cry sounded from the road outside the house. It was repeated: “Soo-soo-Sook! Soo-soo-Sook!” Then: “Ikhut-eigh! Ikhut-eigh!” And again: “Soo-soo-Sook!”
   “What is that?” Jessica asked. “I heard it several times as we drove through the streets this morning.”
   “Only a water-seller, my Lady. But you've no need to interest yourself in such as they. The cistern here holds fifty thousand liters and it's always kept full.” She glanced down at her dress. “Why, you know, my Lady, I don't even have to wear my stillsuit here?” She cackled. “And me not even dead!”
   Jessica hesitated, wanting to question this Fremen woman, needing data to guide her. But bringing order of the confusion in the castle was more imperative. Still, she found the thought unsettling that water was a major mark of wealth here.
   “My husband told me of your title, Shadout,” Jessica said. “I recognized the word. It's a very ancient word.”
   “You know the ancient tongues then?” Mapes asked, and she waited with an odd intensity.
   “Tongues are the Bene Gesserit's first learning,” Jessica said. “I know the Bhotani Jib and the Chakobsa, all the hunting languages.”
   Mapes nodded. “Just as the legend says.”
   And Jessica wondered: Why do I play out this sham? But the Bene Gesserit ways were devious and compelling.
   “I know the Dark Things and the ways of the Great Mother,” Jessica said. She read the more obvious signs in Mapes' actions and appearance, the petit betrayals. “Miseces prejia,” she said in the Chakobsa tongue. “Andral t're pera! Trada cik buscakri miseces perakri –”
   Mapes took a backward step, appeared poised to flee.
   “I know many things.” Jessica said. “I know that you have borne children, that you have lost loved ones, that you have hidden in fear and that you have done violence and will yet do more violence. I know many things.”
   In a low voice, Mapes said: “I meant no offense, my Lady.”
   “You speak of the legend and seek answers,” Jessica said. “Beware the answers you may find. I know you came prepared for violence with a weapon in your bodice.”
   "My Lady, I . . . "
   “There's a remote possibility you could draw my life's blood,” Jessica said, “but in so doing you'd bring down more ruin than your wildest fears could imagine. There are worse things than dying, you know – even for an entire people.”
   “My Lady!” Mapes pleaded. She appeared about to fall to her knees. “The weapon was sent as a gift to you should you prove to be the One.”
   “And as the means of my death should I prove otherwise,” Jessica said. She waited in the seeming relaxation that made the Bene Gesserit-trained so terrifying in combat.
   Now we see which way the decision tips, she thought.
   Slowly, Mapes reached into the neck of her dress, brought out a dark sheath. A black handle with deep finger ridges protruded from it. She took sheath in one hand and handle in the other, withdrew a milk-white blade, held it up. The blade seemed to shine and glitter with a light of its own. It was double-edged like a kindjal and the blade was perhaps twenty centimeters long.
   “Do you know this, my Lady?” Mapes asked.
   It could only be one thing, Jessica knew, the fabled crysknife of Arrakis, the blade that had never been taken off the planet, and was known only by rumor and wild gossip.
   “It's a crysknife,” she said.
   “Say it not lightly,” Mapes said. “Do you know its meaning?”
   And Jessica thought: There was an edge to that question. Here's the reason this Fremen has taken service with me, to ask that one question. My answer could precipitate violence or . . . what? She seeks an answer from me: the meaning of a knife. She's called the Shadow in the Chakobsa tongue. Knife, that's “Death Maker” in Chakobsa. She's getting restive. I must answer now. Delay is as dangerous as the wrong answer.
   Jessica said: “It's a maker –”
   “Eighe-e-e-e-e-e!” Mapes wailed. It was a sound of both grief and elation. She trembled so hard the knife blade sent glittering shards of reflection shooting around the room.
   Jessica waited, poised. She had intended to say the knife was a maker of death and then add the ancient word, but every sense warned her now, all the deep training of alertness that exposed meaning in the most casual muscle twitch.
   The key word was . . . maker.
   Maker? Maker.
   Still, Mapes held the knife as though ready to use it.
   Jessica said: “Did you think that I, knowing the mysteries of the Great Mother, would not know the Maker?”
   Mapes lowered the knife. “My Lady, when one has lived with prophecy for so long, the moment of revelation is a shock.”
   Jessica thought about the prophecy – the Shari-a and all the panoplia propheticus, a Bene Gesserit of the Missionaria Protectiva dropped here long centuries ago – long dead, no doubt, but her purpose accomplished: the protective legends implanted in these people against the day of a Bene Gesserit's need.
   Well, that day had come.
   Mapes returned knife to sheath, said: “This is an unfixed blade, my Lady. Keep it near you. More than a week away from flesh and it begins to disintegrate. It's yours, a tooth of shai-hulud, for as long as you live.”
   Jessica reached out her right hand, risked a gamble: “Mapes, you've sheathed that blade unblooded.”
   With a gasp, Mapes dropped the sheathed knife into Jessica's hand, tore open the brown bodice, wailing: “Take the water of my life!”
   Jessica withdrew the blade from its sheath. How it glittered! She directed the point toward Mapes, saw a fear greater than death-panic come over the woman. Poison in the point? Jessica wondered. She tipped up the point, drew a delicate scratch with the blade's edge above Mapes' left breast. There was a thick welling of blood that stopped almost immediately. Ultrafast coagulation, Jessica thought. A moisture-conserving mutation?
   She sheathed the blade, said: “Button your dress, Mapes.”
   Mapes obeyed, trembling. The eyes without whites stared at Jessica. “You are ours,” she muttered. “You are the One.”
   There came another sound of unloading in the entry. Swiftly, Mapes grabbed the sheathed knife, concealed it in Jessica's bodice. “Who sees that knife must be cleansed or slain!” she snarled. “You know that, my Lady!”
   I know it now, Jessica thought.
   The cargo handlers left without intruding on the Great Hall.
   Mapes composed herself, said: “The uncleansed who have seen a crysknife may not leave Arrakis alive. Never forget that, my Lady. You've been entrusted with a crysknife.” She took a deep breath. “Now the thing must take its course. It cannot be hurried.” She glanced at the stacked boxes and piled goods around them. “And there's work aplenty to while the time for us here.”
   Jessica hesitated. “The thing must take its course.” That was a specific catchphrase from the Missionaria Protectiva's stock of incantations – The coming of the Reverend Mother to free you.
   But I'm not a Reverend Mother, Jessica thought. And then: Great Mother! They planted that one here! This must be a hideous place!
   In matter-of-fact tones, Mapes said: “What'll you be wanting me to do first, my Lady?”
   Instinct warned Jessica to match that casual tone. She said: “The painting of the Old Duke over there, it must be hung on one side of the dining hall. The bull's head must go on the wall opposite the painting.”
   Mapes crossed to the bull's head. “What a great beast it must have been to carry such a head,” she said. She stooped. “I'll have to be cleaning this first, won't I, my Lady?”
   “No.”
   “But there's dirt caked on its horns.”
   “That's not dirt, Mapes. That's the blood of our Duke's father. Those horns were sprayed with a transparent fixative within hours after this beast killed the Old Duke.”
   Mapes stood up. “Ah, now!” she said.
   “It's just blood,” Jessica said. “Old blood at that. Get some help hanging these now. The beastly things are heavy.”
   “Did you think the blood bothered me?” Mapes asked. “I'm of the desert and I've seen blood aplenty.”
   “I . . . see that you have,” Jessica said.
   “And some of it my own,” Mapes said. “More'n you drew with your puny scratch.”
   “You'd rather I'd cut deeper?”
   “Ah, no! The body's water is scant enough 'thout gushing a wasteful lot of it into the air. You did the thing right.”
   And Jessica, noting the words and manner, caught the deeper implications in the phrase, 'the body's water.' Again she felt a sense of oppression at the importance of water on Arrakis.
   “On which side of the dining hall shall I hang which one of these pretties, my Lady?” Mapes asked.
   Ever the practical one, this Mapes, Jessica thought. She said: “Use your own judgment, Mapes. It makes no real difference.”
   “As you say, my Lady.” Mapes stooped, began clearing wrappings and twine from the head. “Killed an old duke, did you?” she crooned.
   “Shall I summon a handler to help you?” Jessica asked.
   “I'll manage, my Lady.”
   Yes, she'll manage, Jessica thought. There's that about this Fremen creature: the drive to manage.
   Jessica felt the cold sheath of the crysknife beneath her bodice, thought of the long chain of Bene Gesserit scheming that had forged another link here. Because of that scheming, she had survived a deadly crisis. “It cannot be hurried,” Mapes had said. Yet there was a tempo of headlong rushing to this place that filled Jessica with foreboding. And not all the preparations of the Missionaria Protectiva nor Hawat's suspicious inspection of this castellated pile of rocks could dispel the feeling.
   “When you've finished hanging those, start unpacking the boxes,” Jessica said. “One of the cargo men at the entry has all the keys and knows where things should go. Get the keys and the list from him. If there are any questions I'll be in the south wing.”
   “As you will, my Lady,” Mapes said.
   Jessica turned away, thinking: Hawat may have passed this residency as safe, but there's something wrong about the place. I can feel it.
   An urgent need to see her son gripped Jessica. She began walking toward the arched doorway that led into the passage to the dining hall and the family wings. Faster and faster she walked until she was almost running.
   Behind her, Mapes paused in clearing the wrappings from the bull's head, looked at the retreating back. “She's the One all right,” she muttered. “Poor thing.”
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