/ Language: English / Genre:sf_epic / Series: Dune Chronicles

ChapterHouse: Dune

Frank Herbert


Chapterhouse: Dune

Frank Herbert

***

Those who would repeat the past must control the teaching of history.

- Bene Gesserit Coda

When the ghola-baby was delivered from the first Bene Gesserit axlotl tank, Mother Superior Darwi Odrade ordered a quiet celebration in her private dining room atop Central. It was barely dawn, and the two other members of her Council - Tamalane and Bellonda - showed impatience at the summons, even though Odrade had ordered breakfast served by her personal chef.

"It isn't every woman who can preside at the birth of her own father," Odrade quipped when the others complained they had too many demands on their time to permit of "time-wasting nonsense."

Only aged Tamalane showed sly amusement.

Bellonda held her over-fleshed features expressionless, often her equivalent of a scowl.

Was it possible, Odrade wondered, that Bell had not exorcised resentment of the relative opulence in Mother Superior's surroundings? Odrade's quarters were a distinct mark of her position but the distinction represented her duties more than any elevation over her Sisters. The small dining room allowed her to consult aides during meals.

Bellonda glanced this way and that, obviously impatient to be gone. Much effort had been expended without success in attempts to break through Bellonda's coldly remote shell.

"It felt very odd to hold that baby in my arms and think: This is my father," Odrade said.

"I heard you the first time!" Bellonda spoke from the belly, almost a baritone rumbling as though each word caused her vague indigestion.

She understood Odrade's wry jest, though. The old Bashar Miles Teg had, indeed, been the Mother Superior's father. And Odrade herself had collected cells (as fingernail scrapings) to grow this new ghola, part of a long-time "possibility plan" should they ever succeed in duplicating Tleilaxu tanks. But Bellonda would be drummed out of the Bene Gesserit rather than go along with Odrade's comment on the Sisterhood's vital equipment.

"I find this frivolous at such a time," Bellonda said. "Those madwomen hunting us to exterminate us and you want a celebration!"

Odrade held herself to a mild tone with some effort. "If the Honored Matres find us before we are ready perhaps it will be because we failed to keep up our morale."

Bellonda's silent stare directly into Odrade's eyes carried frustrating accusation: Those terrible women already have exterminated sixteen of our planets!

Odrade knew it was wrong to think of those planets as Bene Gesserit possessions. The loosely organized confederation of planetary governments assembled after the Famine Times and the Scattering depended heavily on the Sisterhood for vital services and reliable communications, but old factions persisted - CHOAM, Spacing Guild, Tleilaxu, remnant pockets of the Divided God's priesthood, even Fish Speaker auxiliaries and schismatic assemblages. The Divided God had bequeathed humankind a divided Empire - all of whose factions were suddenly moot because of rampaging Honored Matre assaults from the Scattering. The Bene Gesserit - holding to most of their old forms - were the natural prime target for attack.

Bellonda's thoughts never strayed far from this Honored Matre threat. It was a weakness Odrade recognized. Sometimes, Odrade hesitated on the point of replacing Bellonda, but even in the Bene Gesserit there were factions these days and no one could deny that Bell was a supreme organizer. Archives had never been more efficient than under her guidance.

As she frequently did, Bellonda without even speaking the words managed to focus Mother Superior's attention on the hunters who stalked them with savage persistence. It spoiled the mood of quiet success Odrade had hoped to achieve this morning.

She forced herself to think of the new ghola. Teg! If his original memories could be restored, the Sisterhood once more would have the finest Bashar ever to serve them. A Mentat Bashar! A military genius whose prowess already was the stuff of myths in the Old Empire.

But would even Teg be of use against these women returned from the Scattering?

By whatever gods may be, the Honored Matres must not find us! Not yet!

Teg represented too many disturbing unknowns and possibilities. Mystery surrounded the period before his death in the destruction of Dune. He did something on Gammu to ignite the unbridled fury of the Honored Matres. His suicidal stand on Dune should not have been enough to bring this berserk response. There were rumors, bits and pieces from his days on Gammu before the Dune disaster. He could move too fast for the human eye to see! Had he done that? Another outcropping of wild abilities in Atreides genes? Mutation? Or just more of the Teg myth? The Sisterhood had to learn as soon as possible.

An acolyte brought in three breakfasts and the sisters ate quickly, as though this interruption must be put behind them without delay because time wasted was dangerous.

Even after the others had gone, Odrade was left with the aftershock of Bellonda's unspoken fears.

And my fears.

She arose and went to the wide window that looked across lower rooftops to part of the ring of orchards and pastures around Central. Late spring and already fruit beginning to form out there. Rebirth. A new Teg was born today! No feeling of elation accompanied the thought. Usually she found the view restorative but not this morning.

What are my real strengths? What are my facts?

The resources at a Mother Superior's command were formidable: profound loyalty in those who served her, a military arm under a Teg-trained Bashar (far away now with a large portion of their troops guarding the school planet, Lampadas), artisans and technicians, spies and agents throughout the Old Empire, countless workers who looked to the Sisterhood to protect them from Honored Matres, and all the Reverend Mothers with Other Memories reaching into the dawn of life.

Odrade knew without false pride that she represented the peak of what was strongest in a Reverend Mother. If her personal memories did not provide needed information, she had others around her to fill the gaps. Machine-stored data as well, although she admitted to a native distrust of it.

Odrade found herself tempted to go digging in those other lives she carried as secondary memory - these subterranean layers of awareness. Perhaps she could find brilliant solutions to their predicament in experiences of Others. Dangerous! You could lose yourself for hours, fascinated by the multiplicity of human variations. Better to leave Other Memories balanced in there, ready on demand or intruding out of necessity. Consciousness, that was the fulcrum and her grip on identity.

Duncan Idaho's odd Mentat metaphor helped.

Self-awareness: facing mirrors that pass through the universe, gathering new images on the way - endlessly reflexive. The infinite seen as finite, the analogue of consciousness carrying the sensed bits of infinity.

She had never heard words come closer to her wordless awareness. "Specialized complexity," Idaho called it. "We gather, assemble, and reflect our systems of order."

Indeed, it was the Bene Gesserit view that humans were life designed by evolution to create order.

And how does that help us against these disorderly women who hunt us? What branch of evolution are they? Is evolution just another name for God?

Her Sisters would sneer at such "bootless speculation."

Still, there might be answers in Other Memory.

Ahhhh, how seductive!

How desperately she wanted to project her beleaguered self into past identities and feel what it had been to live then. The immediate peril of this enticement chilled her. She felt Other Memory crowding the edges of awareness. "It was like this!" "No! It was more like this!" How greedy they were. You had to pick and choose, discreetly animating the past. And was that not the purpose of consciousness, the very essence of being alive?

Select from the past and match it against the present: Learn consequences.

That was the Bene Gesserit view of history, ancient Santayana's words resonating in their lives: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

The buildings of Central itself, this most powerful of all Bene Gesserit establishments, reflected that attitude wherever Odrade turned. Usiform, that was the commanding concept. Little about any Bene Gesserit working center was allowed to become nonfunctional, preserved out of nostalgia. The Sisterhood had no need for archeologists. Reverend Mothers embodied history.

Slowly (much slower than usual) the view out her high window produced its calming effect. What her eyes reported, that was Bene Gesserit order.

But Honored Matres could end that order in the next instant. The Sisterhood's situation was far worse than what they had suffered under the Tyrant. Many of the decisions she was forced to make now were odious. Her workroom was less agreeable because of actions taken here.

Write off our Bene Gesserit Keep on Palma?

That suggestion was in Bellonda's morning report waiting on the worktable. Odrade fixed an affirmative notation to it. "Yes."

Write it off because Honored Matre attack is imminent and we cannot defend them or evacuate them.

Eleven hundred Reverend Mothers and the Fates alone knew how many acolytes, postulants, and others dead or worse because of that one word. Not to mention all of the "Ordinary lives" existing in the Bene Gesserit shadow.

The strain of such decisions produced a new kind of weariness in Odrade. Was it a weariness of the soul? Did such a thing as a soul exist? She felt deep fatigue where consciousness could not probe. Weary, weary, weary.

Even Bellonda showed the strain and Bell feasted on violence. Tamalane alone appeared above it but that did not fool Odrade. Tam had entered the age of superior observation that lay ahead of all Sisters if they survived into it. Nothing mattered then except observations and judgments. Most of this was never uttered except in fleeting expressions on wrinkled features. Tamalane spoke few words these days, her comments so sparse as to be almost ludicrous:

"Buy more no-ships."

"Brief Sheeana."

"Review Idaho records."

"Ask Murbella."

Sometimes, only grunts issued from her, as though words might betray her.

And always the hunters roamed out there, sweeping space for any clue to the location of Chapterhouse.

In her most private thoughts, Odrade saw the no-ships of Honored Matres as corsairs on those infinite seas between the stars. They flew no black flags with skull and crossbones, but that flag was there nonetheless. Nothing whatsoever romantic about them. Kill and pillage! Amass your wealth in the blood of others. Drain that energy and build your killer no-ships on ways lubricated with blood.

And they did not see they would drown in red lubricant if they kept on this course.

There must be furious people out there in that human Scattering where Honored Matres originated, people who live out their lives with a single fixed idea: Get them!

It was a dangerous universe where such ideas were allowed to float around freely. Good civilizations took care that such ideas did not gain energy, did not even get a chance for birth. When they did occur, by chance or accident, they were to be diverted quickly because they tended to gather mass.

Odrade was astonished that the Honored Matres did not see this or, seeing it, ignored it.

"Full-blown hysterics," Tamalane called them.

"Xenophobia," Bellonda disagreed, always correcting, as though control of Archives gave her a better hold on reality.

Both were right, Odrade thought. The Honored Matres behaved hysterically. All outsiders were the enemy. The only people they appeared to trust were the men they sexually enslaved, and those only to a limited degree. Constantly testing, according to Murbella (our only captive Honored Matre), to see if their hold was firm.

"Sometimes out of mere pique they may eliminate someone just as an example to others." Murbella's words and they forced the question: Are they making an example of us? "See! This is what happens to those who dare oppose us!"

Murbella had said, "You've aroused them. Once aroused, they will not desist until they have destroyed you."

Get the outsiders!

Singularly direct. A weakness in them if we play it right, Odrade thought.

Xenophobia carried to a ridiculous extreme?

Quite possibly.

Odrade pounded a fist on her worktable, aware that the action would be seen and recorded by Sisters who kept constant watch on Mother Superior's behavior. She spoke aloud then for the omnipresent comeyes and watchdog Sisters behind them.

"We will not sit and wait in defensive enclaves! We've become as fat as Bellonda (and let her fret over that!) thinking we've created an untouchable society and enduring structures."

Odrade swept her gaze around the familiar room.

"This place is one of our weaknesses!"

She took her seat behind the worktable thinking (of all things!) about architecture and community planning. Well, that was a Mother Superior's right!

Sisterhood communities seldom grew at random. Even when they took over existing structures (as they had with the old Harkonnen Keep on Gammu) they did so with rebuilding plans. They wanted pneumotubes to shunt small packages and messages. Lightlines and hardray projectors to transmit encrypted words. They considered themselves masters at safeguarding communications. Acolyte and Reverend Mother couriers (committed to self-destruction rather than betray their superiors) carried the more important messages.

She could visualize it out there beyond her window and beyond this planet - her web, superbly organized and manned, each Bene Gesserit an extension of the others. Where Sisterhood survival was concerned, there was an untouchable core of loyalty. Backsliders there might be, some spectacular (as the Lady Jessica, grandmother of the Tyrant), but they slid only so far. Most upsets were temporary.

And all of that was a Bene Gesserit pattern. A weakness.

Odrade admitted a deep agreement with Bellonda's fears. But I'll be damned if I allow such things to depress all joy of living! That would be giving in to the very thing those rampaging Honored Matres wanted.

"It's our strengths the hunters want," Odrade said, looking up at the ceiling comeyes. Like ancient savages eating the hearts of enemies. Well... we will give them something to eat all right! And they will not know until too late that they cannot digest it!

Except for preliminary teachings tailored to acolytes and postulants, the Sisterhood did not go in much for admonitory sayings, but Odrade had her own private watchwords: "Someone has to do the plowing." She smiled to herself as she bent to her work much refreshed. This room, this Sisterhood, these were her garden and there were weeds to be removed, seeds to plant. And fertilizer. Mustn't forget the fertilizer.

***

When I set out to lead humanity along my Golden Path I promised a lesson their bones would remember. I know a profound pattern humans deny with words even while their actions affirm it. They say they seek security and quiet, conditions they call peace. Even as they speak, they create seeds of turmoil and violence.

- Leto II, the God Emperor

So she calls me Spider Queen!

Great Honored Matre leaned back in a heavy chair set high on a dais. Her withered breast shook with silent chuckles. She knows what will happen when I get her in my web! Suck her dry, that's what I'll do.

A small woman with unremarkable features and muscles that twitched nervously, she looked down on the skylighted yellow-tile floor of her audience room. A Bene Gesserit Reverend Mother sprawled there in shigawire bindings. The captive made no attempt to struggle. Shigawire was excellent for this purpose. Cut her arms off, it would!

The chamber where she sat suited Great Honored Matre as much for its dimensions as for the fact that it had been taken from others. Three hundred meters square, it had been designed for convocations of Guild Navigators here on Junction, each Navigator in a monstrous tank. The captive on that yellow floor was a mote in immensity.

This weakling took too much joy in revealing what her so-called Superior named me!

But it still was a lovely morning, Great Honored Matre thought. Except that no tortures or mental probes worked on these witches. How could you torture someone who might choose to die at any moment? And did! They had ways of suppressing pain, too. Very wily, these primitives.

She's loaded with shere, too! A body infused with that damnable drug deteriorated beyond the reach of probes before it could be examined adequately.

Great Honored Matre signaled an aide. That one nudged the sprawled Reverend Mother with a foot and, at a further signal, eased the shigawire bindings to allow minimal movement.

"What is your name, child?" Great Honored Matre asked. Her voice rasped hoarsely with age and false bonhomie.

"I am called Sabanda." Clear young voice, still untouched by the pain of probings.

"Would you like to watch us capture a weak male and enslave him?" Great Honored Matre asked.

Sabanda knew the proper response to this. They had been warned. "I will die first." She said it calmly, staring up at that ancient face the color of a dried root left too long in the sun. Those odd orange flecks in the crone's eyes. A sign of anger, Proctors had told her.

A loosely hung red-gold robe with black dragon figures down its open face and red leotards beneath it only emphasized the scrawny figure they covered.

Great Honored Matre did not change expression even with a recurrent thought about these witches: Damn them! "What was your task on that dirty little planet where we took you?"

"A teacher of the young."

"I'm afraid we didn't leave any of your young alive." Now why does she smile? To offend me! That's why!

"Did you teach your young ones to worship the witch, Sheeana?" Great Honored Matre asked.

"Why should I teach them to worship a Sister? Sheeana would not like that."

"Would not... Are you saying she has come back to life and you know her?"

"Is it only the living we know?"

How clear and fearless the voice of this young witch. They had remarkable self-control, but even that could not save them. Odd, though, how this cult of Sheeana persisted. It would have to be rooted out, of course, destroyed the way the witches themselves were being destroyed.

Great Honored Matre lifted the little finger of her right hand. A waiting aide approached the captive with an injection. Perhaps this new drug would free a witch's tongue, perhaps not. No matter.

Sabanda grimaced when the injector touched her neck. In seconds she was dead. Servants carried the body away. It would be fed to captive Futars. Not that Futars were much use. Wouldn't breed in captivity, wouldn't obey the most ordinary commands. Sullen, waiting.

"Where Handlers?" one might ask. Or other useless words would spill from their humanoid mouths. Still, Futars provided some pleasures. Captivity also demonstrated they were vulnerable. Just as these primitive witches were. We'll find the witches' hiding place. It's only a matter of time.

***

The person who takes the banal and ordinary and illuminates it in a new way can terrify. We do not want our ideas changed. We feel threatened by such demands. "I already know the important things!" we say. Then Changer comes and throws our old ideas away.

- The Zensufi Master

Miles Teg enjoyed playing in the orchards around Central. Odrade had first taken him here when he could just toddle. One of his earliest active memories: hardly more than two years old and already aware he was a ghola, though he did not understand the word's full meaning.

"You are a special child," Odrade said. "We made you from cells taken from a very old man."

Although he was a precocious child and her words had a vaguely disturbing sound, he was more interested then in running through tall summer grass beneath the trees.

Later, he added other orchard days to that first one, accumulating as well impressions about Odrade and the others who taught him. He recognized quite early that Odrade enjoyed the excursions as much as he did.

One afternoon in his fourth year, he told her: "Spring is my favorite time."

"Mine, too."

When he was seven and already showing the mental brilliance coupled to holographic memory that had caused the Sisterhood to place such heavy responsibilities on his previous incarnation, he suddenly saw the orchards as a place touching something deep inside him.

This was his first real awareness that he carried memories he could not recall. Deeply disturbed, he turned to Odrade, who stood outlined in light against the afternoon sun, and said: "There are things I can't remember!"

"One day you will remember," she said.

He could not see her face against the bright light and her words came from a great shadow place, as much within him as from Odrade.

That year he began studying the life of the Bashar Miles Teg, whose cells had started his new life. Odrade had explained some of this to him, holding up her fingernails. "I took tiny scrapings from his neck-cells of his skin and they held all we needed to bring you to life. "

There was something intense about the orchards that year, fruit larger and heavier, bees almost frenetic.

"It's because of the desert growing larger down there in the south," Odrade said. She held his hand as they walked through a dew-fresh morning beneath burgeoning apple trees.

Teg stared southward through the trees, momentarily mesmerized by leaf-dappled sunlight. He had studied about the desert, and he thought he could feel the weight of it on this place.

"Trees can sense their end approaching," Odrade said. "Life breeds more intensely when threatened."

"The air is very dry," he said. "That must be the desert."

"Notice how some of the leaves have gone brown and curled at the edges? We've had to irrigate heavily this year."

He liked it that she seldom talked down to him. It was mostly one person to another. He saw curled brown on leaves. The desert did that.

Deep in the orchard, they listened quietly for a time to birds and insects. Bees working the clover of a nearby pasture came to investigate but he was pheromone-marked, as were all who walked freely on Chapterhouse. They buzzed past him, sensed identifiers and went away about their business with blossoms.

Apples. Odrade pointed westward. Peaches. His attention went where she directed. And yes, there were the cherries east of them beyond the pasture. He saw resin ribbing on the limbs.

Seeds and young shoots had been brought here on the original no-ships some fifteen hundred years ago, she said, and had been planted with loving care.

Teg visualized hands grubbing in dirt, gently patting earth around young shoots, careful irrigation, the fencing to confine the cattle to wild pastures around the first Chapterhouse plantations and buildings.

By this time he already had begun learning about the giant sandworm the Sisterhood had spirited from Rakis. Death of that worm had produced creatures called sandtrout. Sandtrout were why the desert grew. Some of this history touched accounts of his previous incarnation - a man they called "The Bashar." A great soldier who had died when terrible women called Honored Matres destroyed Rakis.

Teg found such studies both fascinating and troubling. He sensed gaps in himself, places where memories ought to be. The gaps called out to him in dreams. And sometimes when he fell into reverie, faces appeared before him. He could almost hear words. Then there were times he knew the names of things before anyone told him. Especially names of weapons.

Momentous things grew in his awareness. This entire planet would become desert, a change started because Honored Matres wanted to kill these Bene Gesserit who raised him.

Reverend Mothers who controlled his life often awed him - black-robed, austere, those blue-in-blue eyes with absolutely no white. The spice did that, they said.

Only Odrade showed him anything he took for real affection and Odrade was someone very important. Everyone called her Mother Superior and that was what she told him to call her except when they were alone in the orchards. Then he could call her Mother.

On a morning walk near harvest time in his ninth year, just over the third rise in the apple orchards north of Central, they came on a shallow depression free of trees and lush with many different plants. Odrade put a hand on his shoulder and held him where they could admire black stepping-stones in a meander track through massed greenery and tiny flowers. She was in an odd mood. He heard it in her voice.

"Ownership is an interesting question," she said. "Do we own this planet or does it own us?"

" I like the smells here," he said.

She released him and urged him gently ahead of her. "We planted for the nose here, Miles. Aromatic herbs. Study them carefully and look them up when you get back to the library. Oh, do step on them!" when he started to avoid a plant runner in his path.

He placed his right foot firmly on green tendrils and inhaled pungent odors.

"They were made to be walked on and give up their savor," Odrade said. "Proctors have been teaching you how to deal with nostalgia. Have they told you nostalgia often is driven by the sense of smell?"

"Yes, Mother." Turning to look back at where he had stepped, he said: "That's rosemary."

"How do you know?" Very intense.

He shrugged. "I just know."

"That may be an original memory." She sounded pleased.

As they continued their walk in the aromatic hollow, Odrade's voice once more became pensive. "Each planet has its own character where we draw patterns of Old Earth. Sometimes, it's only a faint sketch, but here we have succeeded."

She knelt and pulled a twig from an acid-green plant. Crushing it in her fingers, she held it to his nose. "Sage."

She was right but he could not say how he knew.

"I've smelled that in food. Is that like melange?"

"It improves flavor but won't change consciousness." She stood and looked down at him from her full height. "Mark this place well, Miles. Our ancestral worlds are gone, but here we have recaptured part of our origins."

He sensed she was teaching him something important. He asked Odrade: "Why did you wonder if this planet owned us?"

"My Sisterhood believes we are stewards of the land. Do you know about stewards?"

"Like Roitiro, my friend Yorgi's father. Yorgi says his oldest sister will be steward of their plantation someday."

"Correct. We have a longer residence on some planets than any other people we know of but we are only stewards."

"If you don't own Chapterhouse, who does?"

"Perhaps nobody. My question is: How have we marked each other, my Sisterhood and this planet?"

He looked up at her face then down at his hands. Was Chapterhouse marking him right now?

"Most of the marks are deep inside us." She took his hand. "Come along." They left the aromatic dell and climbed up into Roitiro's domain, Odrade speaking as they went.

"The Sisterhood seldom creates botanical gardens," she said. "Gardens must support far more than eyes and nose."

"Food?"

"Yes, supportive first of our lives. Gardens, produce food. That dell back there is harvested for our kitchens."

He felt her words flow into him, lodging there among the gaps. He sensed planning for centuries ahead: trees to replace building beams, to hold watersheds, plants to keep lake and river banks from crumbling, to hold topsoil safe from rain and wind, to maintain seashores and even in the waters to make places for fish to breed. The Bene Gesserit also thought of trees for shade and shelter, or to cast interesting shadows on lawns.

"Trees and other plants for all of our symbiotic relationships," she said.

"Symbiotic?" It was a new word.

She explained with something she knew he already had encountered - going out with others to harvest mushrooms.

"Fungi won't grow except in the company of friendly roots. Each has a symbiotic relationship with a special plant. Each growing thing takes something it needs from the other."

She went on at length and, bored with learning, he kicked a clump of grass, then saw how she stared at him in that disturbing way. He had done something offensive. Why was it right to step on one growing thing and not on another?

"Miles! Grass keeps the wind from carrying topsoil into difficult places such as the bottoms of rivers."

He knew that tone. Reprimanding. He stared down at the grass he had offended.

"These grasses feed our cattle. Some have seeds we eat in bread and other foods. Some cane grasses are windbreaks."

He knew that! Trying to divert her, he said: "Windbrakes?" spelling it.

She did not smile and he knew he had been wrong to think he could fool her. Resigned to it, he listened as she went on with the lesson.

When the desert came, she told him, grapes, their taproots down several hundred meters, probably would be the last to go. Orchards would die first.

"Why do they have to die?"

"To make room for more important life."

"Sandworms and melange."

He saw he had pleased her by knowing the relationship between sandworms and the spice the Bene Gesserit needed for their existence. He was not sure how that need worked but he imagined a circle: Sandworms to sandtrout to melange and back again. And the Bene Gesserit took what they needed from the circle.

He was still tired of all this teaching, and asked: "If all these things are going to die anyway, why do I have to go back to the library and learn their names?"

"Because you're human and humans have this deep desire to classify, to apply labels to everything."

"Why do we have to name things like that?"

"Because that way we lay claim to what we name. We assume an ownership that can be misleading and dangerous."

So she was back on ownership.

"My street, my lake, my planet," she said. "My label forever. A label you give to a place or thing may not even last out your lifetime except as a polite sop granted by conquerors... or as a sound to remember in fear."

"Dune," he said.

"You are quick!"

"Honored Matres burned Dune."

"They'll do the same to us if they find us."

"Not if I'm your Bashar!" The words were out of him without thought but, once spoken, he felt they might have some truth. Library accounts said the Bashar had made enemies tremble just by appearing on a battlefield.

As though she knew what he was thinking, Odrade said: "The Bashar Teg was just as famous for creating situations where no battle was necessary."

"But he fought your enemies."

"Never forget Dune, Miles. He died there."

"I know."

"Do the Proctors have you studying Caladan yet?"

"Yes. It's called Dan in my histories."

"Labels, Miles. Names are interesting reminders but most people don't make other connections. Boring history, eh? Names - convenient pointers, useful mostly with your own kind?"

"Are you my kind?" It was a question that plagued him but not in those words until this instant.

"We are Atreides, you and I. Remember that when you return to your study of Caladan."

When they went back through the orchards and across a pasture to the vantage knoll with its limb-framed view of Central, Teg saw the administrative complex and its barrier plantations with new sensitivity. He held this close as they went down the fenced lane to the arch into First Street.

"A living jewel," Odrade called Central.

As they passed under it, he looked up at the street name burned into the entrance arch. Galach in an elegant script with flowing lines, Bene Gesserit decorative. All streets and buildings were labeled in that same cursive.

Looking around him at Central, the dancing fountain in the square ahead of them, the elegant details, he sensed a depth of human experience. The Bene Gesserit had made this place supportive in ways he did not quite fathom. Things picked up in studies and orchard excursions, simple things and complex, came to new focus. It was a latent Mentat response but he did not know this, only sensing that his unfailing memory had shifted some relationships and reorganized them. He stopped suddenly and looked back the way they had come - the orchard out there framed in the arch of the covered street. It was all related. Central's effluent produced methane and fertilizer. (He had toured the plant with a Proctor.) Methane ran pumps and powered some of the refrigeration.

"What are you looking at, Miles?"

He did not know how to answer. But he remembered an autumn afternoon when Odrade had taken him over Central in a 'thopter to tell him about these relationships and give him "the overview." Only words then but now the words had meaning.

"As near to a closed ecological circle as we can create," Odrade had said in the 'thopter. "Weather Control's orbiters monitor it and order the flow lines."

"Why are you standing there looking at the orchard, Miles?" Her voice was full of imperatives against which he had no defenses.

"In the ornithopter, you said it was beautiful but dangerous."

They had taken only one 'thopter trip together. She caught the reference immediately. "The ecological circle."

He turned and looked up at her, waiting.

"Enclosed," she said. "How tempting it is to raise high walls and keep out change. Rot here in our own self-satisfied comfort."

Her words filled him with disquiet. He felt he had heard them before... some other place with a different woman holding his hand.

"Enclosures of any kind are a fertile breeding ground for hatred of outsiders," she said. "That produces a bitter harvest."

Not exactly the same words but the same lesson.

He walked slowly beside Odrade, his hand sweaty in hers.

"Why are you so silent, Miles?"

"You're farmers," he said. "That's really what you Bene Gesserit do. "

She saw immediately what had happened, Mentat training coming out in him without his knowing. Best not explore that yet. "We are concerned about everything that grows, Miles. It was perceptive of you to see this."

As they parted, she to return to her tower, he to his quarters in the school section, Odrade said: " I will tell your Proctors to place more emphasis on subtle uses of power."

He misunderstood. "I'm already training with lasguns. They say I'm very good."

"So I've heard. But there are weapons you cannot hold in your hands. You can only hold them in your mind."

***

Rules build up fortifications behind which small minds create satrapies. A perilous state of affairs in the best of times, disastrous during crises.

- Bene Gesserit Coda

Stygian blackness in Great Honored Matre's sleeping chamber. Logno, a Grand Dame and senior aide to the High One, entered from the unlighted hallway as she had been summoned to do and, seeing darkness, shuddered. These consultations with no illumination terrified her and she knew Great Honored Matre took pleasure from that. It could not be the only reason for darkness, though. Was Great Honored Matre fearful of attack? Several High Ones had been deposed in bed. No... not just that, although it might bear on the choice of setting.

Grunts and moans in the darkness.

Some Honored Matres snickered and said Great Honored Matre dared bed a Futar. Logno thought it possible. This Great Honored Matre dared many things. Had she not salvaged some of The Weapons from the disaster of the Scattering? Futars, though? The Sisters knew Futars could not be bonded by sex. At least not by sex with humans. That might be the way the Enemies of Many Faces did it, though. Who knew?

There was a furry smell in the bedchamber. Logno closed the door behind her and waited. Great Honored Matre did not like to be interrupted in whatever she did there within shielding blackness. But she permits me to call her Dama.

Another moan, then: "Sit on the floor, Logno. Yes, there by the door. "

Does she really see me or only guess?

Logno did not have the courage to test it. Poison. I'll get her that way someday. She's cautious but she can be distracted. Although her Sisters might sneer at it, poison was an accepted tool of succession... provided the successor possessed further ways to maintain ascendancy.

"Logno, those Ixians you spoke with today. What do they say of The Weapon?"

"They do not understand its function, Dama. I did not tell them what it was."

"Of course not."

"Will you suggest again that Weapon and Charge be united?"

"Are you sneering at me, Logno?"

"Dama! I would never do such a thing."

"I hope not. "

Silence. Logno understood that they both considered the same problem. Only three hundred units of The Weapon survived the disaster. Each could be used only once, provided the Council (which held the Charge) agreed to arm them. Great Honored Matre, controlling The Weapon itself, had only half of that awful power. Weapon without Charge was merely a small black tube that could be held in the hand. With its Charge, it cut a brief swath of bloodless death across the arc of its limited range.

"The Ones of Many Faces," Great Honored Matre muttered.

Logno nodded to the darkness where that muttering originated.

Perhaps she can see me. I do not know what else she salvaged or what the Ixians may have provided her.

And the Ones of Many Faces, curse them through eternity, had caused the disaster. Them and their Futars! The ease with which all but that handful of The Weapon had been confiscated! Awesome powers. We must arm ourselves well before we return to that battle. Dama is right.

"That planet - Buzzell," Great Honored Matre said. "Are you sure it's not defended?"

"We detect no defenses. Smugglers say it is not defended."

"But it is so rich in Soostones!"

"Here in the Old Empire, people seldom dare attack the witches."

"I do not believe there are only a handful of them on that planet! It's a trap of some kind."

"That is always possible, Dama."

I do not trust smugglers, Logno. Bond a few more of them and test this thing of Buzzell again. The witches may be weak but I do not think they are stupid."

"Yes, Dama."

"Tell the Ixians they will displease us if they cannot duplicate The Weapon."

"But without the Charge, Dama...

"We will deal with that when we must. Now, leave."

Logno heard a hissing "Yessssss!" as she let herself out. Even the darkness of the hallway was welcome after the bedchamber and she hurried toward the light.

***

We tend to become like the worst in those we oppose.

- Bene Gesserit Coda

The water images again!

We're turning this whole damned planet into a desert and I get water images!

Odrade sat in her workroom, the usual morning clutter around her, and sensed Sea Child floating in the waves, washed by them, carried by them. The waves were the color of blood. Her Sea Child self anticipated bloody times.

She knew where these images originated: the time before Reverend Mothers ruled her life; childhood in the beautiful home on the Gammu seacoast. Despite immediate worries, she could not prevent a smile. Oysters prepared by Papa. The stew she still preferred.

What she remembered best of childhood was the sea excursions. Something about being afloat spoke to her most basic self. Lift and fall of waves, the sense of unbounded horizons with strange new places just beyond the curved limits of a watery world, that thrilling edge of danger implicit in the very substance that supported her. All of it combined to assure her she was Sea Child.

Papa was calmer there, too. And Mama Sibia happier, face turned into the wind, dark hair blowing. A sense of balance radiated from those times, a reassuring message spoken in a language older than Odrade's oldest Other Memory. "This is my place, my medium. I am Sea Child."

Her personal concept of sanity came from those times. The ability to balance on strange seas. The ability to maintain your deepest self despite unexpected waves.

Mama Sibia had given Odrade that ability long before the Reverend Mothers came and took away their "hidden Atreides scion." Mama Sibia, only a foster mother, had taught Odrade to love herself.

In a Bene Gesserit society where any form of love was suspect, this remained Odrade's ultimate secret.

At root, I am happy with myself. I do not mind being alone. Not that any Reverend Mother was ever truly alone after the Spice Agony flooded her with Other Memories.

But Mama Sibia and, yes, Papa, too, acting in loco parentis for the Bene Gesserit, had impressed a profound strength upon their charge during those hidden years. The Reverend Mothers had been reduced to amplifying that strength.

Proctors had tried to root out Odrade's "deep desire for personal affinities," but failed at last, not quite sure they had failed but always suspicious. They had sent her to Al Dhanab finally, a place deliberately maintained as a mimic of the worst in Salusa Secundus, there to be conditioned on a planet of constant testing. A place worse than Dune in some respects: high cliffs and dry gorges, hot winds and frigid winds, too little moisture and too much. The Sisterhood had thought of it as a proving ground for those destined to survive on Dune. But none of this had touched that secret core within Odrade. Sea Child remained intact.

And it is Sea Child warning me now.

Was it a prescient warning?

She had always possessed this bit of talent, this little twitching that told of immediate peril to the Sisterhood. Atreides genes reminding her of their presence. Was it a threat to Chapterhouse? No... the ache she could not touch said it was others in danger. Important, though.

Lampadas? Her bit of talent could not say.

The Breeding Mistresses had tried to erase this dangerous prescience from their Atreides line but with limited success. "We dare not risk another Kwisatz Haderach!" They knew of this quirk in their Mother Superior, but Odrade's late predecessor, Taraza, had advised "cautious use of her talent." It had been Taraza's view that Odrade's prescience worked only to warn of dangers to the Bene Gesserit.

Odrade agreed. She experienced unwanted moments when she glimpsed threats. Glimpses. And lately she dreamed.

It was a vividly recurring dream, every sense attuned to the immediacy of this thing occurring in her mind. She walked across a chasm on a tightrope and someone (she dared not turn to see who) was coming from behind with an axe to cut the rope. She could feel the rough twists of fiber beneath bare feet. She felt a cold wind blowing, a smell of burning on that wind. And she knew the one with the axe approached!

Each perilous step required all of her energy. Step! Step! The rope swayed and she stretched her arms out straight on each side, struggling for balance.

If I fall, the Sisterhood falls!

The Bene Gesserit would end in the chasm beneath the rope. As with any living thing, the Sisterhood must end sometime. A Reverend Mother dared not deny it.

But not here. Not falling, the rope severed. We must not let the rope be cut! I must get across the chasm before the axe-wielder comes. "I must! I must!"

The dream always ended there, her own voice ringing in her ears as she awoke in her sleeping chamber. Chilled. No perspiration. Even in the throes of nightmare, Bene Gesserit restraints did not permit unnecessary excesses.

Body does not need perspiration? Body does not get perspiration.

As she sat in her workroom remembering the dream, Odrade felt the depth of reality behind that metaphor of a slender rope: The delicate strand on which I carry the fate of my Sisterhood. Sea Child sensed the approaching nightmare and intruded with images of bloody waters. This was no trivial warning. Ominous. She wanted to stand and shout: "Scatter into the weeds, my chicks! Run! Run!"

And wouldn't that shock the watchdogs!

The duties of a Mother Superior required her to put a good face on her tremors and act as though nothing mattered except the formal decisions in front of her. Panic must be avoided! Not that any of her immediate decisions were truly trivial in these times. But calm demeanor was required.

Some of her chicks already were running, gone off into the unknown. Shared lives in Other Memory. The rest of her chicks here on Chapterhouse would know when to run. When we are discovered. Their behavior would be governed then by the necessities of the moment. All that really mattered was their superb training. That was their most reliable preparation.

Each new Bene Gesserit cell, wherever it finally went, was prepared as was Chapterhouse: total destruction rather than submission. The screaming fire would engorge itself on precious flesh and records. All a captor would find would be useless wreckage: twisted shards peppered with ashes.

Some Chapterhouse Sisters might escape. But flight at the moment of attack - how futile!

Key people shared Other Memory anyway. Preparation. Mother Superior avoided it. Reasons of morale!

Where to run and who might escape, who might be captured? Those were the real questions. What if they captured Sheeana down there at the edge of the new desert waiting for sandworms that might never appear? Sheeana plus the sandworms: a potent religious force Honored Matres might know how to exploit. And what if Honored Matres captured ghola-Idaho or ghola-Teg? There might never again be a hiding place if one of those possibilities occurred.

What if? What if?

Angry frustration said: "Should've killed Idaho the minute we got him! We should never have grown ghola-Teg."

Only her Council members, immediate advisors and some among the watchdogs shared her suspicion. They sat on it with reservations. None of them felt really secure about those two gholas, not even after mining the no-ship, making it vulnerable to the screaming fire.

In those last hours before his heroic sacrifice, had Teg been able to see the unseeable (including no-ships)? How did he know where to meet us on that desert of Dune?

And if Teg could do it, the dangerously talented Duncan Idaho with his uncounted generations of accumulated Atreides (and unknown) genes might also stumble upon the ability.

I might do it myself!

With sudden shocking insight, Odrade realized for the first time that Tamalane and Bellonda watched their Mother Superior with the same fears that Odrade felt in watching the two gholas.

Merely knowing it could be done - that a human could be sensitized to detect no-ships and the other forms of that shielding - would have an unbalancing effect on their universe. It would certainly set the Honored Matres on a runaway track. There were uncounted Idaho offspring loose in the universe. He had always complained he was "no damned stud for the Sisterhood," but he had performed for them many times.

Always thought he was doing it for himself. And maybe he was.

Any mainline Atreides offspring might have this talent the Council suspected had come to flower in Teg.

Where did the months and years go? And the days? Another harvest season and the Sisterhood remained in its terrible limbo. Midmorning already, Odrade realized. The sounds and smells of Central made themselves known to her. People out there in the corridor. Chicken and cabbage cooking in the communal kitchen. Everything normal.

What was normal to someone who dwelt in water images even during these working moments? Sea Child could not forget Gammu, the smells, the breeze-blown substance of ocean weeds, the ozone that made every breath oxygen-rich, and the splendid freedom in those around her so apparent in the way they walked and spoke. Conversation on the sea went deeper in a way she had never plumbed. Even small talk had its subterranean elements there, an oceanic elocution that flowed with the currents beneath them.

Odrade felt compelled to remember her own body afloat in that childhood sea. She needed to recapture the forces she had known there, take in the strengthening qualities she had learned in more innocent times.

Face down in salty water, holding her breath as long as she could, she floated in a sea-washed now that cleansed away woes. This was stress management reduced to its essence. A great calmness flooded her.

I float, therefore I am.

Sea Child warned and Sea Child restored. Without ever admitting it, she had needed restoration desperately.

Odrade had looked at her own face mirrored in a workroom window the previous night, shocked by the way age and responsibilities combined with fatigue to suck in her cheeks and turn down the corners of her mouth: the sensual lips thinner, the gentle curves of her face elongated. Only the all-blue eyes blazed with their accustomed intensity and she still was tall and muscular.

On impulse, Odrade punched up the call symbols and stared at a projection above the table: the no-ship sitting on the ground at the Chapterhouse spacefield, a giant bump of mysterious machinery, separated from Time. Over the years of its semi-dormancy, it had depressed a great sunken area into the landing flat, becoming almost wedged there. It was a great lump, its engines ticking away only enough to keep it hidden from prescient searchers, especially from Guild Navigators who would take a special joy in selling out the Bene Gesserit.

Why had she called up this image just now?

Because of the three people confined there - Scytale, the last surviving Tleilaxu Master; Murbella and Duncan Idaho, the sexually bonded pair, held as much by their mutual entrapment as they were by the no-ship.

Not simple, any of it.

There seldom were simple explanations for any major Bene Gesserit undertaking. The no-ship and its mortal contents could only be classified as a major effort. Costly. Very costly in energy even in its standby mode.

The appearance of parsimonious metering to all of that expenditure spoke of energy crisis. One of Bell's concerns. You could hear it in her voice even when she was being her most objective: "Down to the bone and nowhere else to cut!" Every Bene Gesserit knew the watchful eyes of Accounting were on them these days, critical of the Sisterhood's outflowing vitality.

Bellonda strode into the workroom unannounced with a roll of ridulian crystal records under her left arm. She walked as though she hated the floor, stamping on it as if to say: "There! Take that! And that!" Beating the floor because it was guilty of being underfoot.

Odrade felt her chest tighten as she saw the look in Bell's eyes. The ridulian records went "Slap!" as Bellonda threw them onto the table.

"Lampadas!" Bellonda said and there was agony in her voice.

Odrade had no need to open the roll. Sea Child's bloody water has become reality.

"Survivors?" Her voice sounded strained.

"None." Bellonda slumped into the chairdog she kept on her side of Odrade's table.

Tamalane entered then and sat beside Bellonda. Both looked stricken.

No survivors.

Odrade permitted herself a slow shudder that went from her breast to the soles of her feet. She did not care that the others saw such a revealing reaction. This workroom had seen worse behavior from Sisters.

"Who reported?" Odrade asked.

Bellonda said, "It came through our CHOAM spies and had the special mark on it. The Rabbi supplied the information, no doubt of it. "

Odrade did not know how to respond. She glanced at the wide bow window behind her companions, seeing a soft flutter of snowflakes. Yes, this news deservedly went with winter marshaling its forces out there.

The sisters of Chapterhouse were unhappy about the sudden plunge into winter. Necessities had forced Weather Control to let the temperature drop precipitately. No gradual decline into winter, no kindness to growing things that now must pass through the freezing dormancy. This was three and four degrees colder every night. Get the whole thing over in a week or so and plunge them all into the seemingly interminable chill.

Cold to match the news about Lampadas.

One result of this weather shift was fog. She could see it dissipating as the brief snow flurry ended. Very confusing weather. They got the dewpoint next to the air temperature and the fog rolled into the remaining wet spots. It lifted from the ground in tulle mists that wandered through leafless orchards like a poisonous gas.

No survivors at all?

Bellonda shook her head from side to side in answer to Odrade's questioning look.

Lampadas - a jewel in the Sisterhood's network of planets, home of their most prized school, another lifeless ball of ashes and hardened melt. And the Bashar Alef Burzmali with all of his handpicked defense force. All dead?

"All dead," Bellonda said.

Burzmali, favorite student of the old Bashar Teg, gone and nothing gained by it. Lampadas - the marvelous library, the brilliant teachers, the premier students... all gone.

"Even Lucilla?" Odrade asked. The Reverend Mother Lucilla, vice chancellor of Lampadas, had been instructed to flee at the first sign of trouble, taking with her as many of the doomed as she could store in Other Memory.

"The spies said all dead," Bellonda insisted.

It was a chilling signal to surviving Bene Gesserit: "You may be next!"

How could any human society be anesthetized to such brutality? Odrade wondered. She visualized the news with breakfast at some Honored Matre base: "We've destroyed another Bene Gesserit planet. Ten billion dead, they say. That makes six planets this month, doesn't it? Pass the cream, will you, dear?"

Almost glassy-eyed with horror, Odrade picked up the report and glanced through it. From the Rabbi, no doubt of that. She put it down gently and looked at her Councillors.

Bellonda - old, fat and florid, Mentat-Archivist, wearing lenses to read now, uncaring what that revealed about her. Bellonda showed her blunt teeth in a wide grimace that said more than words. She had seen Odrade's reaction to the report. Bell might argue once more for retaliation in kind. That could be expected from someone valued for her natural viciousness. She needed to be thrown back into Mentat mode where she would be more analytical.

In her own way, Bell is right, Odrade thought. But she won't like what I have in mind. I must be cautious in what I say now. Too soon to reveal my plan.

"There are circumstances where viciousness can blunt viciousness," Odrade said. "We must consider it carefully."

There! That would forestall Bell's outburst.

Tamalane shifted slightly in her chair. Odrade looked at the older woman. Tam, composed there behind her mask of critical patience. Snowy hair above that narrow face: the appearance of aged wisdom.

Odrade saw through the mask to Tam's extreme severity, the pose that said she disliked everything she saw and heard.

In contrast to the surface softness of Bell's flesh, there was a bony solidity to Tamalane. She still kept herself in trim, her muscles as well-toned as possible. In her eyes, though, was the thing that belied this: a sense of withdrawing there, pulling back from life. Oh, she observed yet, but something had begun the final retreat. Tamalane's famed intelligence had become a kind of shrewdness, relying mostly on past observations and past decisions rather than on what she saw in the immediate present.

We must begin readying a replacement. It will be Sheeana, I think. Sheeana is dangerous to us but shows great promise. And Sheeana was blooded on Dune.

Odrade focused on Tamalane's shaggy eyebrows. They tended to hang over her lids in a concealing disarray. Yes. Sheeana to replace Tamalane.

Knowing the complicated problems they must solve, Tam would accept the decision. At the moment of announcement, Odrade knew she would only have to turn Tam's attention to the enormity of their predicament.

I will miss her, dammit!

***

You cannot know history unless you know how leaders move with its currents. Every leader requires outsiders to perpetuate his leadership. Examine my career: I was leader and outsider. Do not assume I merely created a Church-State. That was my function as leader and I copied historical models. Barbaric arts of my time reveal me as outsider. Favorite poetry: epics. Popular dramatic ideal: heroism. Dances: wildly abandoned. Stimulants to make people sense what I took from them. What did I take? The right to choose a role in history.

- Leto II (The Tyrant): Vether Bebe Translation

I am going to die! Lucilla thought.

Please, dear Sisters, don't let it come before I pass along the precious burden I carry in my mind!

Sisters!

The idea of family seldom was expressed among the Bene Gesserit but it was there. In a genetic sense, they were related. And because of Other Memory, they often knew where. They had no need for special terms such as "second cousin" or "great aunt." They saw the relationships as a weaver sees his cloth. They knew how the warp and weft created the fabric. A better word than Family, it was the fabric of the Bene Gesserit that formed the Sisterhood but it was the ancient instinct of Family that provided the warp.

Lucilla thought of her sisters only as Family now. The Family needed what she carried.

I was a fool to seek refuge on Gammu!

But her damaged no-ship would limp no farther. How diabolically extravagant Honored Matres had been! The hatred this implied terrified her.

Strewing the escape lanes around Lampadas with deathtraps, the Foldspace perimeter seeded with small no-globes, each containing a field projector and a lasgun to fire on contact. When the laser hit the Holzmann generator in the no-globe, a chain reaction released the nuclear energy. Bzzz into the trap field and a devastating explosion spread silently across you. Costly but efficient! Enough such explosions and even a giant Guildship would become a crippled derelict in the void. Her ship's system of defensive analyses had penetrated the nature of the trap only when it was too late, but she had been lucky, she supposed.

She did not feel lucky as she looked out the second story window of this isolated Gammu farmhouse. The window was open and an afternoon breeze carried the inevitable smell of oil, something dirty in the smoke of a fire out there. The Harkonnens had left their oily mark on this planet so deep it might never be removed.

Her contact here was a retired Suk doctor but she knew him as much more, something so secret that only a limited number in the Bene Gesserit shared it. The knowledge lay in a special classification: The secrets of which we do not speak, even among ourselves, for that would harm us. The secrets we do not pass from Sister to Sister in the sharing of lives for there is no open path. The secrets we dare not know until a need arises. Lucilla had stumbled into it because of a veiled remark by Odrade.

"You know an interesting thing about Gammu? Mmmmm, there's a whole society there that bands itself on the basis that they all eat consecrated foods. A custom brought in by immigrants who have never been assimilated. Keep to themselves, frown on outbreeding, that sort of thing. They ignite the usual mythic detritus, of course: whispers, rumors. Serves to isolate them even more. Precisely what they want."

Lucilla knew of an ancient society that fitted itself neatly into this description. She was curious. The society she had in mind supposedly had died out shortly after the Second Interspace Migrations. Judicious browsing in Archives whetted her curiosity even more. Living styles, rumor-fogged descriptions of religious rituals - especially the candelabra - and the keeping of special holy days with a proscription against any work on those days. And they were not just on Gammu!

One morning, taking advantage of an uncommon lull, Lucilla entered the workroom to test her "projective surmise," something not as reliable as a Mentat's equivalent but more than theory.

"You have a new assignment for me, I suspect."

"I see you've been spending time in Archives."

"It seemed a profitable thing to do just now."

"Making connections?"

"A surmise." That secret society on Gammu - they're Jews, aren't they?

"You may have need of special information because of where we are about to post you." Extremely casual.

Lucilla sank into Bellonda's chairdog without invitation.

Odrade picked up a stylus, scribbled on a sheet of disposable and passed it to Lucilla in a way that hid it from the comeyes.

Lucilla took the hint and bent over the message, holding it close beneath the shield of her head.

"Your surmise is correct. You must die before revealing it. That is the price of their cooperation, a mark of great trust." Lucilla shredded the message.

Odrade used eye and palm identification to unseal a panel on the wall behind her. She removed a small ridulian crystal and handed it to Lucilla. It was warm but Lucilla felt a chill. What could be so secret? Odrade swung the security hood from beneath her worktable and pivoted it into position.

Lucilla dropped the crystal into its receptacle with a trembling hand and pulled the hood over her head. Immediately, words formed in her mind, an oral sense of extremely old accents clipped for recognition: "The people to whom your attention has been called are the Jews. They made a defensive decision eons ago. The solution to recurrent pogroms was to vanish from public view. Space travel made this not only possible but attractive. They hid on countless planets - their own Scattering - and they probably have planets where only their people live. This does not mean they have abandoned age-old practices in which they excelled out of survival necessity. The old religion is sure to persist even though somewhat altered. It is probable that a rabbi from ancient times would not find himself out of place behind the Sabbath menorah of a Jewish household in your age. But their secrecy is such that you could work a lifetime beside a Jew and never suspect. They call it 'Complete Cover,' although they know its dangers."

Lucilla accepted this without question. That which was so secret would be perceived as dangerous by anyone who even suspected its presence. "Else why do they keep it secret, eh? Answer me that!"

The crystal continued to pour its secrets into her awareness: "At the threat of discovery, they have a standard reaction, 'We seek the religion of our roots. It is a revival, bringing back what is best from our past.' "

Lucilla knew this pattern. There were always "nutty revivalists." It was guaranteed to blunt most curiosity. "Them? Oh, they're another bunch of revivalists."

"The masking system (the crystal continued) did not succeed with us. We have our own well-recorded Jewish heritage and a fund of Other Memory to tell us reasons for secrecy. We did not disturb the situation until I, Mother Superior during and after the battle of Corrin (Very old, indeed!), saw that our Sisterhood had need of a secret society, a group responsive to our requests for assistance."

Lucilla felt a surge of skepticism. Requests?

The long-ago Mother Superior had anticipated skepticism. "On occasion, we make demands they cannot avoid. But they make demands on us as well."

Lucilla felt immersed in the mystique of this underground society. It was more than ultra-secret. Her clumsy questions in Archives had elicited mostly rejections. "Jews? What's that? Oh, yes - an ancient sect. Look it up for yourself. We don't have time for idle religious research."

The crystal had more to impart: "Jews are amused and sometimes dismayed at what they interpret as our copying them. Our breeding records dominated by the female line to control the mating pattern are seen as Jewish. You are only a Jew if your mother was a Jew. "

The crystal came to its conclusion: "The Diaspora will be remembered. Keeping this secret involves our deepest honor."

Lucilla lifted the hood from her head.

"You are a very good choice for an extremely touchy assignment on Lampadas," Odrade had said, restoring the crystal to its hiding place.

That is the past and likely dead. Look where Odrade's "touchy assignment" has brought me!

From her vantage in the Gammu farmhouse, Lucilla noted a large produce carrier had entered the grounds. There was a bustle of activity below her. Workers came from all sides to meet the big carrier with towbins of vegetables. She smelled the pungent juices from the cut stems of marrows.

Lucilla did not move from the window. Her host had supplied her with local garments - a long gown of drab gray everwear and a bright blue headscarf to confine her sandy hair. It was important to do nothing calling undue attention to herself. She had seen other women pause to watch the farm work. Her presence here could be taken as curiosity.

It was a large carrier, its suspensors laboring under the load of produce already piled in its articulated sections. The operator stood in a transparent house at the front, hands on the steering lever, eyes straight ahead. His legs were spread wide and he leaned into the web of sloping supports, touching the power bar with his left hip. He was a large man, face dark and deeply wrinkled, hair laced with gray. His body was an extension of the machinery - guiding ponderous movement. He flicked his gaze up to Lucilla as he passed, then back to the track into the wide loading area defined by buildings below her.

Built into his machine, she thought. That said something about the way humans were fitted to the things they did. Lucilla sensed a weakening force in this thought. If you fitted yourself too tightly to one thing, other abilities atrophied. We become what we do.

She pictured herself suddenly as another operator in some great machine, no different from that man in the carrier.

The big machine trundled past her out of the yard, its operator not sparing her another glance. He had seen her once. Why look twice?

Her hosts had made a wise choice in this hiding place, she thought. A sparsely populated area with trustworthy workers in the immediate vicinity and little curiosity among the people who passed. Hard work dulled curiosity. She had noted the character of the area. when she was brought here. Evening then and people already trudging toward their homes. You could measure the urban density of an area by when work stopped. Early to bed and you were in a loosely-packed region. Night activity said people remained restless, twitchy with inner awareness of others active and vibrating too near.

What has brought me to this introspective state?

Early in the Sisterhood's first retreat, before the worst onslaughts of the Honored Matres, Lucilla had experienced difficulty coming to grips with belief that "someone out there is hunting us with intent to kill."

Pogrom! That was what the Rabbi had called it before going off that morning "to see what I can do for you."

She knew the Rabbi had chosen his word from long and bitter memory, but not since her first experience of Gammu before this pogrom had Lucilla felt such confinement to circumstances she could not control.

I was a fugitive then, too.

The Sisterhood's present situation bore similarities to what they had suffered under the Tyrant, except that the God Emperor obviously (in retrospect) never intended to exterminate the Bene Gesserit, only to rule them. And he certainly ruled!

Where is that damned Rabbi?

He was a large, intense man with old-fashioned spectacles. A broad face browned by much sunlight. Few wrinkles despite the age she could read in his voice and movements. The spectacles focused attention on deeply set brown eyes that watched her with peculiar intensity.

"Honored Matres," he had said (right here in this bare-walled upper room) when she explained her predicament. "Oh, my! That is difficult."

Lucilla had expected that response and, what was more, she could see he knew it.

"There is a Guild Navigator on Gammu helping the search for you," he said. "It is one of the Edrics, very powerful, I am told."

"I have Siona blood. He cannot see me."

"Nor me nor any of my people and for the same reason. We Jews adjust to many necessities, you know."

"This Edric is a gesture," she said. "He can do little."

"But they have brought him. I'm afraid there is no way we can get you safely off the planet."

"Then what can we do?"

"We will see. My people are not entirely helpless, you understand?"

She recognized sincerity and concern for her. He spoke quietly of resisting the sexual blandishments of Honored Matres, "doing it unobtrusively so as not to arouse them."

"I will go whisper in a few ears," he said.

She felt oddly restored by this. There often was something coldly remote and cruel about falling into the hands of the medical professions. She reassured herself with the knowledge that Suks were conditioned to be alert to your needs, compassionate and supportive. (All of those things that can fall by the wayside in emergencies.) She bent her efforts to restoring calm, focusing on the personal mantra she had gained in solo death education.

If I am to die, I must pass along a transcendental lesson. I must leave with serenity.

That helped but still she felt a trembling. The Rabbi had been gone too long. Something was wrong.

Was I right to trust him?

Despite a growing sense of doom, Lucilla forced herself to practice Bene Gesserit naivete as she reviewed her encounter with the Rabbi. Her Proctors had called this "the innocence that goes naturally with inexperience, a condition often confused with ignorance." Into this naivete all things flowed. It was close to Mentat performance. Information entered without prejudgment. "You are a mirror upon which the universe is reflected. That reflection is all you experience. Images bounce from your senses. Hypotheses arise. Important even when wrong. Here is the exceptional case where more than one wrong can produce dependable decisions."

"We are your willing servants," the Rabbi had said.

That was guaranteed to alert a Reverend Mother.

The explanations of Odrade's crystal felt suddenly inadequate. It's almost always profit. She accepted this as cynical but from vast experience. Attempts to weed it out of human behavior always broke up on the rocks of application. Socializing and communistic systems only changed the counters that measured profits. Enormous managerial bureaucracies - the counter was power.

Lucilla warned herself that the manifestations were always the same. Look at this Rabbi's extensive farm! Retirement retreat for a Suk? She had seen something of what lay behind the establishment: servants, richer quarters. And there must be more. No matter the system it was always the same: the best foods, beautiful lovers, unrestricted travel, magnificent holiday accommodations.

It gets very tiresome when you've seen it as often as we have.

She knew her mind was jittering but felt powerless to prevent it.

Survival. The very bottom of the demand system is always survival. And I threaten the survival of the Rabbi and his people.

He had fawned upon her. Always beware of those who fawn upon us, nuzzling up to all of that power we're supposed to have. How flattering to find great mobs of servants waiting and anxious to do our bidding! How utterly debilitating.

The mistake of Honored Matres.

What is delaying the Rabbi?

Was he seeing how much he could get for the Reverend Mother Lucilla?

A door slammed below her, shaking the floor under her feet. She heard hurried footsteps on a stairway. How primitive these people were. Stairways! Lucilla turned as the door opened. The Rabbi entered bringing a rich smell of melange. He stood by the door assessing her mood.

"Forgive my tardiness, dear lady. I was summoned for questioning by Edric, the Guild Navigator."

That explained the smell of spice. Navigators were forever bathed in the orange gas of melange, their features often fogged by the vapors. Lucilla could visualize the Navigator's tiny v of a mouth and the ugly flap of nose. Mouth and nose appeared small on a Navigator's gigantic face with its pulsing temples. She knew how threatened the Rabbi must have felt listening to the singsong ululations of the Navigator's voice with its simultaneous mechtranslation into impersonal Galach.

"What did he want?"

"You."

"Does he..."

"He does not know for sure but I am certain he suspects us. However, he suspects everybody."

"Did they follow you?"

"Not necessary. They can find me any time they want."

"What shall we do?" She knew she spoke too fast, much too loud.

"Dear lady..." He came three steps closer and she saw the perspiration on his forehead and nose. Fear. She could smell it.

"Well, what is it?"

"The economic view behind the activities of Honored Matres - we find them quite interesting."

His words crystallized her fears. I knew it! He's selling me out!

"As you Reverend Mothers know very well, there are always gaps in economic systems."

"Yes?" Profoundly wary.

"Incomplete suppression of trade in any commodity always increases the profits of the tradesmen, especially the profits of the senior distributors." His voice was warningly hesitant. "That is the fallacy of thinking you can control unwanted narcotics by stopping them at your borders."

What was he trying to tell her? His words described elementary facts known even to acolytes. Increased profits were always used to buy safe paths past border guards, often by buying the guards themselves.

Has he bought servants of the Honored Matres? Surely, he doesn't believe he can do that safely.

She waited while he composed his thoughts, obviously forming a presentation he believed most likely to gain her acceptance.

Why did he point her attention toward border guards? That certainly was what he had done. Guards always had a ready rationalization for betraying their superiors, of course. "If I don't, someone else will."

She dared to hope.

The Rabbi cleared his throat. It was apparent he had found the words he wanted and had placed them in order.

" I do not believe there is any way to get you off Gammu alive."

She had not expected such a blunt condemnation. "But the..."

"The information you carry, that is a different matter," he said.

So that was behind all of the focusing on borders and guards!

"You don't understand, Rabbi. My information is not just a few words and some warnings." She tapped a finger against her forehead. "In here are many precious lives, all of those irreplaceable experiences, learning so vital that -"

"Ahhh, but I do understand, dear lady. Our problem is that you do not understand."

Always these references to understanding!

"It is your honor upon which I depend at this moment," he said.

Ahhhh, the legendary honesty and trustworthiness of the Bene Gesserit when we have given our word!

"You know I will die rather than betray you," she said.

He spread his hands wide in a rather helpless gesture. "I am fully confident of that, dear lady. The question is not one of betrayal but of something we have never before revealed to your Sisterhood."

"What are you trying to tell me?" Quite peremptory, almost with Voice (which she had been warned not to try on these Jews).

"I must exact a promise from you. I must have your word that you will not turn against us because of what I am about to reveal. You must promise to accept my solution to our dilemma."

"Sight unseen?"

"Only because I ask it of you and assure you that we honor our commitment to your Sisterhood."

She glared at him, trying to see through this barrier he had erected between them. His surface reactions could be read but not the mysterious thing beneath his unexpected behavior.

The Rabbi waited for this fearsome woman to reach her decision. Reverend Mothers always made him uneasy. He knew what her decision must be and pitied her. He saw that she could read the pity in his expression. They knew so much and so little. Their powers were manifest. And their knowledge of Secret Israel so perilous!

We owe them this debt, though. She is not of the Chosen, but a debt is a debt. Honor is honor: Truth is truth.

The Bene Gesserit had preserved Secret Israel in many hours of need. And a pogrom was something his people knew without lengthy explanations. Pogrom was embedded in the psyche of Secret Israel. And thanks to the Unspeakable, the chosen people would never forget. No more than they could forgive.

Memory kept fresh in daily ritual (with periodic emphasis in communal sharings) cast a glowing halo on what the Rabbi knew he must do. And this poor woman! She, too, was trapped by memories and circumstances.

Into the cauldron! Both of us!

"You have my word," Lucilla said.

The Rabbi returned to the room's only door and opened it. An older woman in a long brown gown stood there. She stepped in at the Rabbi's beckoning gesture. Hair the color of old driftwood neatly bound in a bun at the back of her head. Face pinched in and wrinkled, dark as a dried almond. The eyes, though! Total blue! And that steely hardness within them...

"This is Rebecca, one of our people," the Rabbi said. "As I am sure you can see, she has done a dangerous thing."

"The Agony," Lucilla whispered.

"She did it long ago and she serves us well. Now, she will serve you. "

Lucilla had to be certain. "Can you Share?"

"I have never done it, lady, but I know it." As Rebecca spoke, she approached Lucilla and stopped when they were almost touching.

They leaned toward each other until their foreheads made contact. Their hands went out and gripped the offered shoulders.

As their minds locked, Lucilla forced a projective thought: "This must get to my Sisters!"

"I promise, dear lady."

There could be no deception in this total mixing of minds, this ultimate candor powered by imminent and certain death or the poisonous melange essence that ancient Fremen had rightly called "the little death." Lucilla accepted Rebecca's promise. This wild Reverend Mother of the Jews committed her life to the assurance. Something else! Lucilla gasped as she saw it. The Rabbi intended to sell her to the Honored Matres. The driver of the produce carrier had been one of their agents come to confirm that there was indeed a woman of Lucilla's description at the farmhouse.

Rebecca's candor gave Lucilla no escape: "It is the only way we can save ourselves and maintain our credibility."

So that was why the Rabbi had made her think of guards and power brokers! Clever, clever. And I accept it as he knew I would.

***

You cannot manipulate a marionette with only one string.

- The Zensunni Whip

The Reverend Mother Sheeana stood at her sculpting stand, a gray-clawed shaper covering each hand like exotic gloves. The black sensiplaz on the stand had been taking form under her hands for almost an hour. She felt herself close to the creation that sought realization, surging from a wild place within her. The intensity of the creative force made her skin tremble and she wondered that passersby in the hall to her right did not sense it. The north window of her workroom admitted gray light behind her and the western window glowed orange with a desert sunset.

Prester, Sheeana's senior assistant here at the Desert Watch Station, had paused in the doorway a few minutes ago but the entire station complement knew better than to interrupt Sheeana at this work.

Stepping back, Sheeana brushed a strand of sun-streaked brown hair from her forehead with the back of a hand. The black plaz stood in front of her like a challenge, its curves and planes almost fitted to the form she sensed within her.

I come here to create when my fears are greatest, she thought.

This thought dampened the creative surge and she redoubled her efforts to complete the sculpture. Her shaper-clad hands dipped and swooped over the plaz and the black shape followed each intrusion like a wave driven by an insane wind.

The light from the north window faded and the automatics compensated with a yellow-gray glow from the ceiling edges but it was not the same. It was not the same!

Sheeana stepped back from her work. Close... but not close enough. She could almost touch the form within her and feel it striving for birth. But the plaz was not right. One sweeping stroke of her right hand reduced it to a black blob on the stand.

Damn!

She stripped off the shapers and dropped them to the shelf beside the sculpting stand. The horizon out the western window still carried a strip of orange. Fading fast the way she felt the fading of her creative urge.

Striding to the sunset window, she was in time to see the last of the day's search teams return. Their landing lights were firefly darts off to the south where a temporary flat had been established in the path of the advancing dunes. She could see from the slow way the 'thopters came down that they had found no spiceblows or other signs that sandworms were at last developing from the sandtrout planted here.

I am shepherd to worms that may never come.

The window gave back to her a dark reflection of her features. She could see where the Spice Agony had left its marks. The slender, brown-skinned waif of Dune had become a tall, rather austere woman. But her brown hair still insisted on escaping the tight coif at the nape of her neck. And she could see the wildness in her all-blue eyes. Others could see it, too. And that was the problem, source of some of her fears.

There appeared to be no stopping the Missionaria in its preparations for our Sheeana.

If the giant sandworms developed - Shai-hulud returned! And the Missionaria Protectiva of the Bene Gesserit was ready to launch her onto an unsuspecting humanity prepared for religious adoration. The myth become real... just the way she tried to make that sculpture back there a reality.

Holy Sheeana! The God Emperor is her thrall! See how the sacred sandworms obey her! Leto is returned!

Would it influence the Honored Matres? Probably. They gave at least lip service to the God Emperor in his name of Guldur.

Not likely they would follow "Holy Sheeana's" lead except in the matter of sexual exploits. Sheeana knew her own sexual behavior, outrageous even by Bene Gesserit standards, was a form of protest against this role the Missionaria tried to impose on her. The excuse that she only polished the males trained in sexual bondage by Duncan Idaho was just that... an excuse.

Bellonda suspects.

Mentat Bell was a constant danger to Sisters who got out of line. And that was a major reason Bell held her powerful position in the high Council of the Sisterhood.

Sheeana turned away from the window and flung herself onto the orange and umber spread covering her cot. Directly in front of her, a large black and white drawing of a giant worm poised above a tiny human figure.

That's the way they were and may never be again. What was I trying to say with that drawing? If I knew I might be able to complete the plaz sculpture.

It had been perilous to develop a secret hand-talk with Duncan. But there were things the Sisterhood could not know - not yet.

There might be a way of escape for both of us.

But where could they go? It was a universe beset by Honored Matres and other forces. It was a universe of scattered planets peopled mostly by humans who wanted only to live out their lives in peace - accepting Bene Gesserit guidance in some places, squirming under Honored Matre suppression in many regions, mostly hoping to govern themselves as best they could, the perennial dream of democracy, and then there were always the unknowns. And always the lesson of the Honored Matres! Murbella's clues said Fish Speakers and Reverend Mothers in extremis formed the Honored Matres. Fish Speaker democracy become Honored Matre autocracy! The clues were too numerous to ignore. But why had they emphasized unconscious compulsions with their T-probes, cellular induction, and sexual prowess?

Where is the market to accept our fugitive talents?

This universe no longer possessed a single bourse. A species of subterranean webworks could be defined. It was extremely loose, based on old compromises and temporary agreements.

Odrade had once said: "It resembles an old garment with frayed edges and patched holes."

CHOAM's tightly bound trading network of the Old Empire was no more. Now, it was fearful bits and pieces held together by the loosest of ties. People treated this patched thing with contempt, longing always for the good old days.

What kind of a universe would accept us merely as fugitives and not as the Sacred Sheeana with her consort?

Not that Duncan was a consort. That had been the Bene Gesserit's original plan: "Bond Sheeana to Duncan. We control him and he can control her."

Murbella cut that plan short. And a good thing for both of us. Who needs a sexual obsession? But Sheeana was forced to admit she harbored oddly confused feelings about Duncan Idaho. The hand-talks, the touching. And what could they say to Odrade when she came prying? Not if, but when.

"We talk about ways for Duncan and Murbella to escape you, Mother Superior. We talk about other ways to restore Teg's memories. We talk about our own private rebellion against the Bene Gesserit. Yes, Darwi Odrade! Your former student has become a rebel against you."

Sheeana admitted to mixed feelings about Murbella as well.

She domesticated Duncan where I might have failed.

The captive Honored Matre was a fascinating study... and amusing at times. There was her joking doggerel posted on the wall of the ship's Acolyte dining room.

Hey, God! I hope you're there.
I want you to hear my prayer.
That graven image on my shelf:
Is it really you or just myself?
Well, anyway, here it goes:
Please keep me on my toes.
Help me past my worst mistakes,
Doing it for both our sakes,
For an example of perfection
To the Proctors in my section;
Or merely for the Heaven of it,
Like bread, for the leaven of it.
For whatever reason may incline,
Please act for yours and mine.

The subsequent confrontation with Odrade, caught by the comeyes, had been a beautiful thing to watch. Odrade's voice oddly strident: "Murbella? You?"

"I'm afraid so." No contrition in her at all.

"Afraid so?" Still strident.

"Why not?" Quite defiant.

"You joke about the Missionaria! Don't protest. That was your intent."

"They're so damned pretentious!"

Sheeana could only sympathize as she reflected on that confrontation. Rebellious Murbella was a symptom. What ferments until you are forced to notice it?

I fought in just that way against the everlasting discipline, "which will make you strong, child."

What was Murbella like as a child? What pressures shaped her? Life was always a reaction to pressures. Some gave in to easy distractions and were shaped by them: pores bloated and reddened by excesses. Bacchus leering at them. Lust fixing its shape on their features. A Reverend Mother knew it by millennial observation. We are shaped by pressures whether we resist them or not. Pressures and shapings - that was life. And I create new pressures by my secret defiance.

Given the Sisterhood's present state of alertness to all threats, the hand-talk with Duncan probably was futile.

Sheeana tipped her head and looked at the black blob on the sculpting stand.

But I will persist. I will create my own statement of my life. I will create my own life! Damn the Bene Gesserit!

And I will lose the respect of my Sisters.

There was something antique about the way respectful conformity was forced upon them. They had preserved this thing from their most ancient past, taking it out regularly to polish and make the necessary repairs that time required of all human creations. And here it was today, held in unspoken reverence.

Thus you are a Reverend Mother and by no other judgment shall that be true.

Sheeana knew then she would be forced to test that antique thing to its limits, probably breaking it. And that black plaz form seeking outlet from the wild place within her was only one element of what she knew she had to do. Call it rebellion, call it by any other name, the force she felt in her breast could not be denied.

***

Confine yourself to observing and you always miss the point of your own life. The object can be stated this way: Live the best life you can. Life is a game whose rules you learn if you leap into it and play it to the hilt. Otherwise, you are caught off balance, continually surprised by the shifting play. Non-players often whine and complain that luck always passes them by. They refuse to see that they can create some of their own luck.

- Darwi Odrade

"Have you studied the latest comeye record of Idaho?" Bellonda asked.

"Later! Later!" Odrade knew she was feeling peckish and it had come out in this response to Bell's pertinent question.

Pressures confined the Mother Superior more and more these days. She had always tried to face her duties with an attitude of broad interest. The more things to interest her, the wider her scan and that was sure to bring more usable data. Using the senses improved them. Substance, that was what her questing interests desired. Substance. It was like hunting for food to assuage a deep hunger.

But her days were becoming duplicates of this morning. Her liking for personal inspections was well known but these workroom walls held her. She must be where she could be reached. Not only reached, but able to dispatch communications and people on the instant.

Damn! I will make the time. I must!

It was time pressure as much as anything.

Sheeana said: "We trundle along on borrowed days."

Very poetic! Not much help in the face of pragmatic demands. They had to get as many Bene Gesserit cells as possible Scattered before the axe fell. Nothing else had that priority. The Bene Gesserit fabric was being torn apart, sent to destinations no one on Chapterhouse could know. Sometimes, Odrade saw this flow as rags and remnants. They went flapping away in their no-ships, a stock of sandtrout in their holds, Bene Gesserit traditions, learning, and memories as guide. But the Sisterhood had done this long ago in the first Scattering and none came back or sent a message. Not one. Not one. Only Honored Matres returned. If they had ever been Bene Gesserit, they now were a terrible distortion, blindly suicidal.

Will we ever be whole again?

Odrade looked down at the work on her table: more selection charts. Who shall go and who shall remain? There was little time to pause and take a deep breath. Other Memory from her late predecessor, Taraza, took on an "I told you so!" character. "See what I had to go through?"

And I once wondered if there was room at the top.

There might be room at the top (as she was fond of telling acolytes) but there was seldom enough time.

When she thought of the largely passive non-Bene Gesserit populace "out there," Odrade sometimes envied them. They were permitted their illusions. What a comfort. You could pretend your life was forever, that tomorrow would be better, that the gods in their heavens watched you with care.

She recoiled from this lapse with disgust at herself. The unclouded eye was better, no matter what it saw.

"I've studied the latest Idaho records," she said, looking across the table at the patient Bellonda.

"He has interesting instincts," Bellonda said.

Odrade thought about that. Comeyes throughout the no-ship missed little. The Council's theory about ghola-Idaho became daily less a theory and more a conviction. How many memories from the serial Idaho lifetimes did this ghola contain?

"Tam is raising doubts about their children," Bellonda said. "Do they have dangerous talents?"

That was to be expected. The three children Murbella had borne Idaho in the no-ship had been removed at birth. All were being observed with care as they developed. Did they have that uncanny reactive speed Honored Matres displayed? Too early to say. It was a thing that developed in puberty, according to Murbella.

Their captive Honored Matre accepted the removal of her children with angry resignation. Idaho, however, showed little reaction. Odd. Did something give him a broader view of procreation? Almost a Bene Gesserit view?

"Another Bene Gesserit breeding program," he sneered.

Odrade let her thoughts flow. Was it really the Bene Gesserit attitude they saw in Idaho? The Sisterhood said emotional attachments were ancient detritus - important for human survival in their day but no longer required in the Bene Gesserit plan.

Instincts.

Things that came with egg and sperm. Often vital and loud: "This is the species talking to you, dolt!"

Loves... offspring... hungers... All of those unconscious motives to compel specific behavior. It was dangerous to meddle in such matters. The Breeding Mistresses knew this even while they did it. The Council debated it periodically and ordered a careful watch on consequences.

"You've studied the records. Is that all the answer I get?" Quite plaintive for Bellonda.

The comeye record of such interest to Bell was of Idaho questioning Murbella about Honored Matre sexual-addiction techniques. Why? His parallel abilities came from Tleilaxu conditioning impressed on his cells in the axlotl tank. Idaho's abilities originated as an unconscious pattern akin to instincts but the result was indistinguishable from the Honored Matre effect: ecstasy amplified until it drove out all reason and bound its victims to the source of such rewards.

Murbella went only so far in a verbal exploration of her abilities. Obvious residual fury that Idaho had addicted her with the same techniques she had been taught to use.

"Murbella blocks up when Idaho questions motives," Bellonda said.

Yes, I've seen that.

"I could kill you and you know it!" Murbella had said.

The comeye record showed them in bed in Murbella's no-ship quarters, having just satiated their mutual addiction. Sweat glistened on bare flesh. Murbella lay with a blue towel across her forehead, green eyes staring up at the comeyes. She appeared to be looking directly at the observers. Little orange flecks in her eyes. Anger flecks from her body's residual store of the spice substitute Honored Matres employed. She was on melange now - and no adverse symptoms.

Idaho lay beside her, black hair in disarray around his face, a sharp contrast to the white pillow beneath his head. His eyes were closed but the lids flickered. Thin. He wasn't eating enough despite tempting dishes sent by Odrade's own chef. His high cheekbones were strongly defined. The face had become craggy in the years of his confinement.

Murbella's threat was backed by physical ability, Odrade knew, but it was psychologically false. Kill her lover? Not likely!

Bellonda was thinking along these same lines. "What was she doing when she demonstrated her physical speed? We've seen that before."

"She knows we watch."

The comeyes showed Murbella defying post-coital fatigue to leap from bed. Moving with blurred speed (much faster than anything the Bene Gesserit had ever achieved), she kicked out with her right foot, stopping the blow only a hair's breadth from Idaho's head.

At her first movement, Idaho opened his eyes. He watched without fear, without flinching.

That blow! Fatal if it struck. You had only to see such a thing once to fear it. Murbella moved with no resort to her central cortex. Insect-like, an attack triggered by nerves at the point of muscle ignition.

"You see!" Murbella lowered her foot and glared down at him.

Idaho smiled.

Watching it, Odrade reminded herself that the Sisterhood had three of Murbella's children, all female. The Breeding Mistresses were excited. In time, Reverend Mothers born of this line might match that Honored Matre ability.

In time we probably don't have.

But Odrade shared the excitement of the Breeding Mistresses. That speed! Add that to the nerve-muscle training, the great prana-bindu resources of the Sisterhood! What that might create lay wordlessly within her.

"She did that for us, not for him," Bellonda said.

Odrade was not sure. Murbella resented the constant watch over her but she had come to an accommodation with it. Many of her actions obviously ignored the people behind the comeyes. This record showed her returning to her place in the bed beside Idaho.

"I have restricted access to that record," Bellonda said. "Some acolytes are becoming troubled."

Odrade nodded. Sexual addiction. That aspect of Honored Matre abilities created disturbing ripples in the Bene Gesserit, especially among acolytes. Very suggestive. And most of the Sisters on Chapterhouse knew the Reverend Mother Sheeana, alone among them, practiced some of these techniques in defiance of a general fear this could weaken them.

"We must not become Honored Matres!" Bell was always saying that. But Sheeana represents a significant control factor. She teaches us something about Murbella.

One afternoon, catching Murbella alone in her no-ship quarters and obviously relaxed, Odrade had tried a direct question. "Before Idaho, were none of you ever tempted to, let us say, 'join in the fun'?"

Murbella had recoiled with angry pride. "He caught me by accident!"

The same kind of anger she showed to Idaho's questions. Remembering this, Odrade leaned over her worktable and called up the original record.

"Look at how angry she gets," Bellonda said. "A hypnotrance injunction against answering such questions. I'd stake my reputation on it."

"That'll come out in the Spice Agony," Odrade said.

"If she ever gets to it!"

"Hypnotrance is supposed to be our secret."

Bellonda chewed on the obvious inference: No Sister we sent out in the original Scattering ever returned.

It was written large in their minds: "Did renegade Bene Gesserit create the Honored Matres?" Much suggested it. Then why did they resort to sexual enslavement of males? Murbella's historical prattlings did not satisfy. Everything about this went against Bene Gesserit teaching.

"We have to learn," Bellonda insisted. "What little we know is very disturbing."

Odrade recognized the concern. How much of a lure was this ability? Very big, she thought. Acolytes complained that they dreamed about becoming Honored Matres. Bellonda was rightly worried.

Create or arouse such unbridled forces and you built carnal fantasies of enormous complexity. You could lead whole populations around by their desires, by their fantasy projections.

There was the terrible power the Honored Matres dared use. Let it be known that they had the key to blinding ecstasy and they had won half the battle. The simple clue that such a thing existed, that was the beginning of surrender. People at Murbella's level in that other Sisterhood might not understand this but the ones at the top... Was it possible they merely used this power without caring or even suspecting its deeper force? If that were the case, how were our first Scattered Ones lured into this dead end?

Earlier, Bellonda had offered her hypothesis:

Honored Matre with captive Reverend Mother taken prisoner in that first Scattering. "Welcome, Reverend Mother. We would like you to witness a small demonstration of our powers." Interlude of sexual demonstration followed by a display of Honored Matre physical speed. Then - withdrawal of melange and injection of the adrenaline-based substitute laced with a hypnodrug. In that hypothetical trance, the Reverend Mother was sexually imprinted.

That coupled to the selective agony of melange withdrawal (Bell suggested) might make the victim deny her origins.

Fates help us! Were the original Honored Matres all Reverend Mothers? Do we dare test this hypothesis on ourselves? What can we learn of this from that pair in the no-ship?

Two sources of information lay there under the Sisterhood's watchful eyes but the key had yet to be found.

Woman and man no longer just breeding partners, no longer a comfort and support to each other. Something new has been added. The stakes have been escalated.

In the comeye record playing at the worktable, Murbella said something that caught the Mother Superior's full attention.

"We Honored Matres did this to ourselves! Can't blame anyone else."

"You hear that?" Bellonda demanded.

Odrade shook her head sharply, wanting all of her attention on this exchange.

"You can't say the same about me," Idaho objected.

"That's an empty excuse," Murbella accused. "So you were conditioned by the Tleilaxu to snare the first Imprinter you encountered!"

"And to kill her," Idaho corrected. "That's what they intended."

"But you didn't even try to kill me. Not that you could have."

"That's when..." Idaho broke off with an involuntary glance at the recording comeyes.

"What was he about to say there?" Bellonda pounced. "We must find out!"

But Odrade continued her silent observation of the captive pair. Murbella demonstrated a surprising insight. "You think you caught me through some accident in which you were not involved?"

"Exactly."

"But I see something in you that accepted all of it! You didn't just go along with your conditioning. You performed to your limits."

An inward look filmed Idaho's eyes. He tipped his head back, stretching his chest muscles.

"That's a Mentat expression!" Bellonda accused.

All of Odrade's analysts suggested this but they had yet to wrest an admission from Idaho. If he was a Mentat, why withhold that information?

Because of the other things implied by such abilities. He fears us and rightly so.

Murbella spoke with a sneer. "You improvised and improved on what the Tleilaxu did to you. There was something in you that made no complaint whatsoever!"

"That's how she deals with her own guilt feelings," Bellonda said. "She has to believe it's true or Idaho would not have been able to trap her."

Odrade pursed her lips. The projection showed Idaho amused. "Perhaps it was the same for both of us."

"You can't blame the Tleilaxu and I can't blame the Honored Matres."

Tamalane entered the workroom and sank into her chairdog beside Bellonda. " I see it has your interest, too." She gestured at the projected figures.

Odrade shut down the projector.

"I've been inspecting our axlotl tanks," Tamalane said. "That damned Scytale has withheld vital information."

"There's no flaw in our first ghola, is there?" Bellonda demanded.

"Nothing our Suks can find."

Odrade spoke in a mild tone: "Scytale has to keep some bargaining chips."

Both sides shared a fantasy: Scytale was paying the Bene Gesserit for rescue from the Honored Matres and sanctuary on Chapterhouse. But every Reverend Mother who studied him knew something else drove the last Tleilaxu Master.

Clever, clever, the Bene Tleilax. Far more clever than we suspected. And they have dirtied us with their axlotl tanks. The very word "tank" - another of their deceptions. We pictured containers of warmed amniotic fluid, each tank the focus of complex machinery to duplicate (in a subtle, discrete and controllable way) the workings of the womb. The tank is there all right! But look at what it contains.

The Tleilaxu solution was direct: Use the original. Nature already had worked it out over the eons. All the Bene Tleilax need do was add their own control system, their own way of replicating information stored in the cell.

"The Language of God," Scytale called it. Language of Shaitan was more appropriate.

Feedback. The cell directed its own womb. That was more or less what a fertilized ovum did anyway. The Tleilaxu merely refined it.

A sigh escaped Odrade, bringing sharp glances from her companions. Does Mother Superior have new troubles?

Scytale's revelations trouble me. And what those revelations have done to us. Oh, how we recoiled from the "debasement." Then, rationalizations. And we knew they were rationalizations! "If there is no other way. If this produces the gholas we need so desperately. Volunteers probably can be found." Were found! Volunteers!

"You're woolgathering!" Tamalane grumbled. She glanced at Bellonda, started to say something and thought better of it.

Bellonda's face went soft-bland, a frequent accompaniment to her darker moods. Her voice came out little more than a guttural whisper. "I strongly urge that we eliminate Idaho. And as for that Tleilaxu monster..."

"Why do you make such a suggestion with a euphemism?" Tamalane demanded.

"Kill him then! And the Tleilaxu should be subjected to every persuasion we -"

"Stop it, both of you!" Odrade ordered.

She pressed both palms briefly against her forehead and, staring at the bow window, saw icy rain out there. Weather Control was making more mistakes. You couldn't blame them, but there was nothing humans hated more than the unpredictable. "We want it natural!" Whatever that means.

When such thoughts came over her, Odrade longed for an existence confined to the order that pleased her: an occasional walk in the orchards. She enjoyed them in all seasons. A quiet evening with friends, the give and take of probing conversations with those for whom she felt warmth. Affection? Yes. The Mother Superior dared much - even love of companions. And good meals with drinks chosen for their enhancement of flavors. She wanted that, too. How fine it was to play upon the palate. And later... yes, later - a warm bed with a gentle companion sensitive to her needs as she was sensitive to his.

Most of this could not be, of course. Responsibilities! What an enormous word. How it burned.

"I'm getting hungry," Odrade said. "Shall I order lunch served here?"

Bellonda and Tamalane stared at her. "It's only half past eleven," Tamalane complained.

"Yes or no?" Odrade insisted.

Bellonda and Tamalane exchanged a private look. "As you wish," Bellonda said.

There was a saying in the Bene Gesserit (Odrade knew) that the Sisterhood ran smoother when Mother Superior's stomach was satisfied. That had just tipped the scales.

Odrade keyed the intercom to her private kitchen. "Lunch for three, Duana. Something special. You choose."

Lunch, when it came, featured a dish Odrade especially enjoyed, a veal casserole. Duana displayed a delicate touch with herbs, a bit of rosemary in the veal, the vegetables not overcooked. Superb.

Odrade savored every bite. The other two plodded through the meal, spoon-to-mouth, spoon-to-mouth.

Is this one of the reasons I am Mother Superior and they are not?

While an acolyte cleared away the remains of lunch, Odrade turned to one of her favorite questions: "What is the gossip in the common rooms and among the acolytes?"

She remembered in her own acolyte days how she had hung on the words of the older women, expecting great truths and getting mostly small talk about Sister So-and-so or the latest problems of Proctor X. Occasionally, though, the barriers came down and important data flowed.

"Too many acolytes talk of wanting to go out in our Scattering," Tamalane rasped. "Sinking ships and rats, I say."

"There's a great interest in Archives lately," Bellonda said. "Sisters who know better come looking for confirmation - whether such and so acolyte has a heavy Siona gene-mark."

Odrade found this interesting. Their common Atreides ancestor from the Tyrant's eons, Siona Ibn Fuad al-Seyefa Atreides, had imparted to her descendants this ability that hid them from prescient searchers. Every person walking openly on Chapterhouse shared that ancestral protection.

"A heavy mark?" Odrade asked. "Do they doubt that the ones in question are protected?"

"They want reassurance," Bellonda growled. "And now may I return to Idaho? He has the genetic mark and he does not. It worries me. Why do some of his cells not have the Siona marker? What were the Tleilaxu doing?"

"Duncan knows the danger and he's not suicidal," Odrade said.

"We don't know what he is," Bellonda complained.

"Probably a Mentat, and we all know what that could mean," Tamalane said.

"I understand why we keep Murbella," Bellonda said. "Valuable information. But Idaho and Scytale..."

"That's enough!" Odrade snapped. "Watchdogs can bark too long!"

Bellonda accepted this grudgingly. Watchdogs. Their Bene Gesserit term for constant monitoring by Sisters to see that you did not fall into shallow ways. Very trying to acolytes but just another part of life to Reverend Mothers.

Odrade had explained it one afternoon to Murbella, the two of them alone in a gray-walled interview chamber of the no-ship. Standing close together facing each other. Eyes at a level. Quite informal and intimate. Except for the knowledge of those comeyes all around them.

"Watchdogs," Odrade said, responding to a question from Murbella. "It means we are mutual gadflies. Don't make that more than it is. We seldom nag. A simple word can be enough."

Murbella, her oval face drawn into a look of distaste, the wide-set green eyes intent, obviously thought Odrade referred to some common signal, a word or saying the Sisters used in such situations.

"What word?"

"Any word, dammit! Whatever's appropriate. It's like a mutual reflex. We share a common 'tic' that comes not to annoy us. We welcome it because it keeps us on our toes."

"And you'll watchdog me if I become a Reverend Mother?"

"We want our watchdogs. We'd be weaker without them."

"It sounds oppressive."

"We don't find it so."

"I think it's repellent." She looked at the glittering lenses in the ceiling. "Like those damned comeyes."

"We take care of our own, Murbella. Once you're a Bene Gesserit, you're assured of lifelong maintenance."

"A comfortable niche." Sneering.

Odrade spoke softly. "Something quite different. You are challenged throughout your life. You repay the Sisterhood right up to the limits of your abilities."

"Watchdogs!"

"We're always mindful of one another. Some of us in positions of power can be authoritarian at times, familiar even, but only to a point carefully measured for the requirements of the moment."

"Never really warm or tender, eh?"

"That's the rule."

"Affection, maybe, but no love?"

"I've told you the rule." And Odrade could see the reaction clearly on Murbella's face: "There it is! They will demand that I give up Duncan!"

"So there's no love among the Bene Gesserit." How sad her tone. There was hope for Murbella yet.

"Loves occur, " Odrade said, "but my Sisters treat them as aberrations."

"So what I feel for Duncan is aberration?"

"And Sisters will try to treat it."

"Treat! Apply correctional therapy to the afflicted!"

"Love is considered a sign of rot in Sisters."

"I see signs of rot in you!"

As though she followed Odrade's thoughts, Bellonda dragged Odrade out of reverie. "That Honored Matre will never commit herself to us!" Bellonda wiped a bit of luncheon gravy from the corner of her mouth. "We're wasting our time trying to teach her our ways.'

At least Bell was no longer calling Murbella "whore," Odrade thought. That was an improvement.

***

All governments suffer a recurring problem: Power attracts pathological personalities. It is not that power corrupts but that it is magnetic to the corruptible. Such people have a tendency to become drunk on violence, a condition to which they are quickly addicted.

- Missionaria Protectiva, Text QIV (decto)

Rebecca knelt on the yellow tile floor as she had been ordered to do, not daring to look up at Great Honored Matre seated so remotely high, so dangerous. Two hours Rebecca had waited here almost in the center of a giant room while Great Honored Matre and her companions ate a lunch served by obsequious attendants. Rebecca marked the manners of the attendants with care and emulated them.

Her eye sockets still ached from transplants the Rabbi had given her less than a month ago. These eyes showed a blue iris and white sclera, no clue to the Spice Agony in her past. It was a temporary defense. In less than a year, the new eyes would betray her with total blue.

She judged the ache in her eyes to be the least of her problems. An organic implant fed her metered doses of melange, concealing her dependence. The supply was gauged to last about sixty days. If these Honored Matres held her longer than that, withdrawal would plunge her into an agony that would make the original appear mild by comparison. The most immediately dangerous thing was the shere being metered to her with the spice. If these women detected it, they certainly would be suspicious.

You are doing well. Be patient. That was Other Memory from the horde of Lampadas. The voice rang softly in her head. It had the sound of Lucilla but Rebecca could not be sure.

It had become a familiar voice in the months since the Sharing when it had announced itself as "Speaker of your Mohalata." These whores cannot match our knowledge. Remember that and let it give you courage.

The presence of Others Within who subtracted none of her attention from what went on around her had filled her with awe. We call it Simulflow, Speaker had said. Simulflow multiplies your awareness. When she had tried to explain this to the Rabbi, he had reacted in anger.

"You have been tainted by unclean thoughts!"

They had been in the Rabbi's study late at night. "Stealing time from the days allotted us," he called it. The study was an underground room, its walls lined with old books, ridulian crystals, scrolls. The room was protected from probes by the best Ixian devices and they had been modified by his own people to improve them.

She was allowed to sit beside his desk at such times while he leaned back in an old chair. A glowglobe placed low beside him cast an antique yellow light on his bearded face, glinting off the spectacles he wore almost as badge of office.

Rebecca pretended confusion. "But you said it was required of us to save this treasure from Lampadas. Have the Bene Gesserit not been honorable with us?"

She saw the worry in his eyes. "You heard Levi talking yesterday of the questions being asked here. Why did the Bene Gesserit witch come to us? That is what they ask."

"Our story is consistent and believable," Rebecca protested. "The Sisters have taught us ways that even Truthsay cannot penetrate."

"I don't know... I don't know." The Rabbi shook his head sadly. "What is a lie? What is truth? Do we condemn ourselves with our own mouths?"

"It is pogrom that we resist, Rabbi!" That usually stiffened his resolve.

"Cossacks! Yes, you are right, daughter. There have been Cossacks in every age and we are not the only ones who have felt their knouts and swords as they rode into the village with murder in their hearts."

It was odd, Rebecca thought, how he managed to give the impression that these events were of recent occurrence and that his eyes had seen them. Never to forgive, never to forget. Lidiche was yesterday. What a powerful thing that was in the memory of Secret Israel. Pogrom! Almost as powerful in its continuity as these Bene Gesserit presences she carried in her awareness. Almost. That was the thing the Rabbi resisted, she told herself.

"I fear that you have been taken from us," the Rabbi said. "What have I done to you? What have I done? And all in the name of honor."

He looked at the instruments on his study wall that reported the nightly power accumulations from the vertical-axis windmills placed around the farmstead. The instruments said the machines were humming away up there, storing energy for the morrow. That was a gift of the Bene Gesserit: freedom from Ix. Independence. What a peculiar word.

Without looking at Rebecca, he said: " I find this thing of Other Memory very difficult and always have. Memory should bring wisdom but it does not. It is how we order the memory and where we apply our knowledge."

He turned and looked at her, his face falling into shadows. "What is it this one inside you says? This one you think of as Lucilla?"

Rebecca could see it pleased him to say Lucilla's name. If Lucilla could speak through a daughter of Secret Israel, then she still lived and had not been betrayed.

Rebecca lowered her gaze as she spoke. "She says we have these inner images, sounds and sensations that come at command or intrude under necessity."

"Necessity, yes! And what is that except reports of senses from flesh that may have been where you should not have been and done offensive things?"

Other bodies, other memories, Rebecca thought. Having experienced this she knew she could never willingly abandon it. Perhaps I have indeed become Bene Gesserit. That is what he fears, of course.

"I will tell you a thing," the Rabbi said. "This 'crucial intersection of living awareness,' as they call it, that is nothing unless you know how your own decisions go out from you like threads into the lives of others."

"To see our own actions in the reactions of others, yes, that is how the Sisters view it."

"That is wisdom. What is it the lady says they seek?"

"Influence on the maturing of humankind."

"Mmmmmm. And she finds that events are not beyond her influence, merely beyond her senses. That is almost wise. But maturity... ahhh, Rebecca. Do we interfere with a higher plan? Is it the right of humans to set limits on the nature of Yaweh? I think Leto II understood that. This lady in you denies it."

"She says he was a damnable tyrant."

"He was but there have been wise tyrants before him and doubtless will be more after us."

"They call him Shaitan."

"He had Satan's own powers. I share their fear of that. He was not so much prescient as he was a cement. He fixed the shape of what he saw."

"That is what the lady says. But she says it is their grail that he preserved."

"Again, they are almost wise."

A great sigh shook the Rabbi and once more he looked to the instruments on his wall. Energy for the morrow.

He returned his attention to Rebecca. She was changed. He could not avoid awareness of it. She had become very like the Bene Gesserit. It was understandable. Her mind was filled with all of those people from Lampadas. But they were not Gadarene swine to be driven into the sea and their diabolism with them. And I am not another Jesus.

"This thing they tell you about the Mother Superior Odrade - that she often damns her own Archivists and the Archives with them. What a thing! Are not Archives like the books in which we preserve our wisdom?"

"Then am I an Archivist, Rabbi?"

Her question confounded him but it also illuminated the problem. He smiled. " I tell you something, daughter. I admit to a little sympathy with this Odrade. There is always something grumbling about Archivists."

"Is that wisdom, Rabbi?" How slyly she asked it!

"Believe me, daughter, it is. How carefully the Archivist suppresses even the smallest hint of judgment. One word after another. Such arrogance!"

"How do they judge which words to use, Rabbi?"

"Ahhh, a bit of wisdom comes to you, daughter. But these Bene Gesserit have not achieved wisdom and it is their grail that prevents it."

She could see it on his face. He tries to arm me with doubts about these lives I carry.

"Let me tell you a thing about the Bene Gesserit," he said. Nothing came into his mind then. No words, no sage advice. This had not happened to him for years. There was only one course open to him: speak from the heart.

"Perhaps they have been too long on the road to Damascus without a blinding flash of illumination, Rebecca. I hear them say they act for the benefit of humankind. Somehow, I cannot see this in them, nor do I believe the Tyrant saw it."

When Rebecca started to reply, he stopped her with an upraised hand. "Mature humanity? That is their grail? Is it not the mature fruit that is plucked and eaten?"

On the floor of junction's Great Hall, Rebecca remembered these words, seeing the personification of them not in the lives she preserved but in the actions of her captors.

Great Honored Matre had finished eating. She wiped her hands on the gown of an attendant.

"Let her approach," Great Honored Matre said.

Pain lanced Rebecca's left shoulder and she lurched forward on her knees. The one called Logno had come up behind with the stealth of a hunter and had jabbed a shuntgoad into the captive's flesh.

Laughter echoed through the room.

Rebecca staggered to her feet and, staying just ahead of the goad, arrived at the foot of the steps leading up to the Great Honored Matre where the goad stopped her.

"Down!" Logno emphasized the command with another jab.

Rebecca sank to her knees and stared straight ahead at the risers of the steps. The yellow tiles displayed tiny scratches. Somehow, these flaws reassured her.

Great Honored Matre said: "Let her be, Logno. I wish answers, not screams." Then to Rebecca: "Look at me, woman!"

Rebecca raised her eyes and stared up at the face of death. What an unremarkable face it was to have that threat in it. So... so evenly featured. Almost plain. Such a small figure. This amplified the peril Rebecca sensed. What powers the small woman must have to rule these terrible people.

"Do you know why you are here?" Great Honored Matre demanded.

In her most obsequious tones, Rebecca said: " I was told, O Great Honored Matre, that you wished me to recount the lore of Truthsay and other matters of Gammu."

"You were mated to a Truthsayer!" It was accusation.

"He is dead, Great Honored Matre."

"No, Logno!" This was directed at the aide who lunged forward with the goad. "This wretch does not know our ways. Now, go stand at the side, Logno, where I will not be annoyed by your impetuosity.

"You will speak to me only in response to questions or when I command it, wretch!" Great Honored Matre shouted.

Rebecca cringed.

Speaker whispered in Rebecca's head: That was almost Voice. Be warned.

"Have you ever known any of the ones who call themselves Bene Gesserit?" Great Honored Matre asked.

Really now! "Everyone has encountered the witches, Great Honored Matre."

"What do you know of them?"

So this is why they brought me here.

"Only what I have heard, Great Honored Matre."

"Are they brave?"

"It is said they always try to avoid risks, Great Honored Matre."

You are worthy of us, Rebecca. That is the pattern of these whores. The marble rolls down the incline in its proper channel. They think you dislike us.

"Are these Bene Gesserit rich?" Great Honored Matre asked.

" I think the witches are poor beside you, Honored Matre," Rebecca said.

"Why do you say that? Do not speak just to please me!"

"But Honored Matre, could the witches send a great ship from Gammu to here just to carry me? And where are the witches now? They hide from you."

"Yes, where are they?" Honored Matre demanded.

Rebecca shrugged.

"Were you on Gammu when the one they called Bashar fled us?" Honored Matre asked.

She knows you were. "I was there, Great Honored Matre, and heard the stories. I do not believe them."

"Believe what we tell you to believe, wretch! What are the stories you heard?"

"That he moved with a speed the eye could not see. That he killed many... people with only his hands. That he stole a no-ship and fled into the Scattering."

"Believe that he fled, wretch." See how she fears! She cannot hide the trembling.

"Speak of the Truthsay," Great Honored Matre commanded.

"Great Honored Matre, I do not understand the Truthsay. I know only the words of my Sholem, my husband. I can repeat his words if you wish."

Great Honored Matre considered this, glancing from side to side at her aides and councillors, who were beginning to show signs of boredom. Why doesn't she just kill this wretch?

Rebecca, seeing the violence in eyes that glared orange at her, shrank into herself. She thought of her husband by his love-name, Shoel, now, and his words comforted. He had shown the "proper talent" while still a child. Some called it an instinct but Shoel had never used that word. "Trust your gut feelings. That's what my teachers always said."

It was such a down-to-earth expression that he said it usually threw off the ones who came seeking "the esoteric mystery."

"There is no secret," Shoel had said. "It's training and hard work like anything else. You exercise what they call 'petit perception,' the ability to detect very small variations in human reactions.'

Rebecca could see such small reactions in those who stared down at her. They want me dead. Why?

Speaker had advice. The great one likes to show off her power over the others. She does not do what others want but what she thinks they do not want.

"Great Honored Matre," Rebecca ventured, "you are so rich and powerful. Surely you must have a place of menial employment where I may be of service to you."

"You wish to enter my service?" What a feral grin!

"It would make me happy, Great Honored Matre."

"I am not here to make you happy."

Logno took a step forward onto the floor. "Then make us happy, Dama. Let us have some sport with -"

"Silence!" Ahhh, that was a mistake, calling her by the intimate name here among the others.

Logno drew back and almost dropped the goad.

Great Honored Matre stared down at Rebecca with an orange glare. "You will go back to your miserable existence on Gammu, wretch. I will not kill you. That would be a mercy. Having seen what we could give you, live your life without it."

"Great Honored Matre!" Logno protested. "We have suspicions about -"

"I have suspicions about you, Logno. Send her back and alive! Hear me? Do you think us incapable of finding her if we ever have need of her?"

"No, Great Honored Matre."

"We are watching you, wretch," Great Honored Matre said.

Bait! She thinks of you as something to capture larger game. How interesting. This one has a head and uses it in spite of her violent nature. So that's how she came to power.

All the way back to Gammu, confined to stinking quarters in a ship that had once served the Guild, Rebecca considered her predicament. Surely, those whores had not expected her to mistake their intent. But... perhaps they did. Subservience, cringing. They revel in such things.

She knew this came from a bit of her Shoel's Truthsay as much as from the Lampadas advisors.

"You accumulate a lot of small observations, sensed but never brought to consciousness, Shoel had said. "Cumulatively, they say things to you but not in a language anyone speaks. Language isn't necessary."

She had thought this one of the oddest things she had ever heard. But that was before her own Agony. In bed at night, comforted by darkness and the touch of loving flesh, they had acted wordlessly but had shared words, too.

"Language obstructs you," Shoel had said. "What you do is learn to read your own reactions. Sometimes, you can find words to describe this... sometimes... not."

"No words? Not even for the questions?"

"Words you want, is it? How are these? Trust. Belief. Truth. Honesty."

"Those are good words, Shoel."

"But they miss the mark. Don't depend on them."

"Then what do you depend on?"

"My own internal reactions. I read myself, not the person in front of me. I always know a lie because I want to turn my back on the liar."

"So that's how you do it!" Pounding his bare arm.

"Others do it differently. One person I heard say she knew a lie because she wanted to put her arm through the liar's arm and walk a ways, comforting the liar. You may think that's nonsense, but it works."

"I think it's very wise, Shoel." Love speaking. She did not really know what he meant.

"My precious love," he said, cradling her head on his arm, "Truthsayers have a Truthsense that, once awakened, works all the time. Please don't tell me I'm wise when it's your love speaking."

"I'm sorry, Shoel." She liked the smell of his arm and buried her head in the crook of it, tickling him. "But I want to know everything you know."

He pushed her head into a more comfortable position. "You know what my Third Stage instructor said? 'Know nothing! Learn to be totally naive.' "

She was astonished. "Nothing at all?"

"You approach everything with a clean slate, nothing on you or in you. Whatever comes is written there by itself."

She began to see it. "Nothing to interfere."

"Correct. You are the original ignorant savage, completely unsophisticated to the point where you back right into ultimate sophistication. You find it without looking for it, you might say."

"Now, that is wise, Shoel. I'll bet you were the best student they ever had, the quickest and the -"

"I thought it was interminable nonsense."

"You didn't!"

"Until one day I read a little twitch in me. It wasn't the movement of a muscle or something someone else might detect. Just a... a twitch."

"Where was it?"

"Nowhere I could describe. But my Fourth Stage instructor had prepared me for it. 'Grab that thing with gentle hands. Delicately.' One of the students thought he meant your real hands. Oh, how we laughed."

"That was cruel." She touched his cheek and felt the beginning of his dark stubble. It was late but she did not feel sleepy.

"I suppose it was cruel. But when the twitch came, I knew it. I had never felt such a thing before. I was surprised by it, too, because knowing it then, I knew it had been there all along. It was familiar. It was my Truthsense twitching."

She thought she could feel Truthsense stirring within herself. The feeling of wonder in his voice aroused something.

"It was mine then," he said. "It belonged to me and I belonged to it. No separation ever again."

"How wonderful that must be." Awe and envy in her voice.

"No! Some of it I hate. Seeing some people this way is like seeing them eviscerated, their guts hanging out."

"That's disgusting!"

"Yes, but there are compensations, love. There are people you meet, people who are like beautiful flowers extended to you by an innocent child. Innocence. My own innocence responds and my Truthsense is strengthened. That is what you do for me, my love."

The no-ship of the Honored Matres arrived at Gammu and they sent her down to the Landing Flat in the garbage lighter. It disgorged her beside the ship's discards and excrement but she did not mind. Home! I'm home and Lampadas survives.

The Rabbi, however, did not share her enthusiasm.

Once more, they sat in his study, but now she felt more familiar with Other Memory, much more confident. He could see this.

"You are even more like them than ever! It's unclean."

"Rabbi, we all have unclean ancestors. I am fortunate in that I know some of mine."

"What is this? What are you saying?"

"All of us are descendants of people who did nasty things, Rabbi. We don't like to think of barbarians in our ancestry but they're there. "

"Such talk!"

"Reverend Mothers can recall them all, Rabbi. Remember, it is the victors who breed. You understand?"

"I've never heard you talk so boldly. What has happened to you, daughter?"

" I survived, knowing that victory sometimes is achieved at a moral price."

"What is this? These are evil words."

"Evil? Barbarism is not even the proper word for some of the evil things our ancestors did. The ancestors of all of us, Rabbi."

She saw she had hurt him and felt the cruelty of her own words but could not stop. How could he escape the truth of what she said? He was an honorable man.

She spoke more softly but her words cut him even deeper. "Rabbi, if you shared witness to some of the things Other Memory has forced me to know, you would come back seeking new words for evil. Some things our ancestors have done debase the worst label you could imagine."

"Rebecca... Rebecca... I know necessities of... "

"Don't make excuses about 'necessities of the times'! You, a Rabbi, know better. When are we without a moral sense? It's just that sometimes we don't listen."

He put his hands over his face, rocking back and forth in the old chair. It creaked mournfully.

"Rabbi, you I have always loved and respected. I went through the Agony for you. I shared Lampadas for you. Do not deny what I have learned from this."

He lowered his hands. " I do not deny, daughter. But permit me my pain."

"Out of all these realizations, Rabbi, the thing I must deal with most immediately and without respite is that there are no innocents. "

"Rebecca!"

"Guilty may not be the right word, Rabbi, but our ancestors did things for which payment must be made."

"That I understand, Rebecca. It is a balance that -"

"Don't tell me you understand when I know you don't." She stood and glared down at him. "It's not a balance book that you set aright. How far back would you go?"

"Rebecca, I am your Rabbi. You must not talk this way, especially to me."

"The farther back you go, Rabbi, the worse the evil atrocities and higher the price. You cannot go back that far but I am forced to it. "

Turning, she left him, ignoring the pleading in his voice, the painful way he said her name. As she closed the door, she heard him say: "What have we done? Israel, help her."

***

The writing of history is largely a process of diversion. Most historical accounts distract attention from the secret influences behind great events.

- The Bashar Teg

When left to his own devices, Idaho often explored his no-ship prison. So much to see and learn about this Ixian artifact. It was a cave of wonders.

He paused on this afternoon's restless walk through his quarters and looked at the tiny comeyes built into the glittering surface of a doorway. They were watching him. He had the odd sensation of seeing himself through those prying eyes. What did the Sisters think when they looked at him? The blocky ghola-child from Gammu's long-dead Keep had become a lanky man: dark skin and hair. The hair was longer than when he had entered this no-ship on the last day of Dune.

Bene Gesserit eyes peered below the skin. He was sure they suspected he was a Mentat and he feared how they might interpret that. How could a Mentat expect to hide the fact from Reverend Mothers indefinitely? Foolishness! He knew they already suspected him of Truthsay.

He waved at the comeyes and said: "I'm restless. I think I'll explore."

Bellonda hated it when he took that jocular attitude toward surveillance. She did not like him to roam the ship. She did not try to hide it from him. He could see the unspoken question in her glowering features whenever she came to confront him: "Is he looking for a way to escape?"

Exactly what I'm doing, Bell, but not in the way you suspect.

The no-ship presented him with fixed limits: the exterior forcefield he could not penetrate, certain machinery areas where the drive (so he was told) had been temporarily disabled, guard quarters (he could see into some of them but not enter), the armory, the section reserved to the captive Tleilaxu, Scytale. He occasionally met Scytale at one of the barriers and they peered at each other across the silencing field that held them apart. Then there was the information barrier - sections of Shiprecords that would not respond to his questions, answers his warders would not give.

Within these limits lay a lifetime of things to see and learn, even the lifetime of some three hundred Standard Years he could reasonably expect.

If Honored Matres do not find us.

Idaho saw himself as the game they sought, wanting him even more than they wanted the women of Chapterhouse. He had no illusions about what the hunters would do to him. They knew he was here. The men he trained in sexual bonding and sent out to plague the Honored Matres - those men taunted the hunters.

When the Sisters learned of his Mentat ability they would know immediately that his mind carried the memories of more than one ghola lifetime. The original did not have that talent. They would suspect he was a latent Kwisatz Haderach. Look how they rationed his melange. They were clearly terrified of repeating the mistake they had made with Paul Atreides and his Tyrant son. Thirty-five hundred years of bondage!

But dealing with Murbella required Mentat awareness. He entered every encounter with her not expecting to achieve answers then or later. It was a typical Mentat approach: concentrate on the questions. Mentats accumulated questions the way others accumulated answers. Questions created their own patterns and systems. This produced the most important shapes. You looked at your universe through self-created patterns - all composed of images, words, and labels (everything temporary), all mingled in sensory impulses that reflected off his internal constructs the way light bounced from bright surfaces.

Idaho's original Mentat instructor had formed the temporary words for that first tentative construct: "Watch for consistent movements against your internal screen."

From that first hesitant dip into Mentat powers, Idaho could trace the growth of a sensitivity to changes in his own observations, always becoming Mentat.

Bellonda was his most severe trial. He dreaded her penetrating gaze and slashing questions. Mentat probing Mentat. He met her forays delicately, with reserve and patience. Now, what are you after?

As if he didn't know.

He wore patience as a mask. But fear came naturally and there was no harm in showing it. Bellonda did not hide her wish to see him dead.

Idaho accepted the fact that soon the watchers would see only one possible source for the skills he was forced to use.

A Mentat's real skills lay in that mental construct they called "the great synthesis." It required a patience that non-Mentats did not even imagine possible. Mentat schools defined it as perseverance. You were a primitive tracker, able to read minuscule signs, tiny disturbances in the environment, and follow where these led. At the same time, you remained open to broad motions all around and within. This produced naivete, the basic Mentat posture, akin to that of Truthsayers but far more sweeping.

"You are open to whatever the universe may do," his first instructor had said. "Your mind is not a computer; it is a response-tool keyed to whatever your senses display."

Idaho always recognized when Bellonda's senses were open. She stood there, gaze slightly withdrawn, and he knew few preconceptions cluttered her mind. His defense lay in her basic flaw: Opening the senses required an idealism that was foreign to Bellonda. She did not ask the best questions and he wondered at this. Would Odrade use a flawed Mentat? It went against her other performances.

I seek the questions that form the best images.

Doing this, you never thought of yourself as clever, that you had the formula to provide the solution. You remained as responsive to new questions as you did to new patterns. Testing, re-testing, shaping and re-shaping. A constant process, never stopping, never satisfied. It was your own private pavane, similar to that of other Mentats but it carried always your own unique posture and steps.

"You are never truly a Mentat. That is why we call it 'The Endless Goal.' " The words of his teachers were burned into his awareness.

As he accumulated observations of Bellonda, he came to appreciate a viewpoint of those great Mentat Masters who had taught him. "Reverend Mothers do not make the best Mentats."

No Bene Gesserit appeared capable of completely removing herself from that binding absolute she achieved in the Spice Agony: loyalty to her Sisterhood.

His teachers had warned against absolutes. They created a serious flaw in a Mentat.

"Everything you do, everything you sense and say is experiment. No deduction final. Nothing stops until dead and perhaps not even then, because each life creates endless ripples. Induction bounces within and you sensitize yourself to it. Deduction conveys illusions of absolutes. Kick the truth and shatter it!"

When Bellonda's questions touched on the relationship between himself and Murbella, he saw vague emotional responses. Amusement? Jealousy? He could accept amusement (and even jealousy) about the compelling sexual demands of this mutual addiction. Is the ecstasy truly that great?

He wandered through his quarters this afternoon feeling displaced, as though newly here and not yet accepting these rooms as home. That is emotion talking to me.

Over the years of his confinement, these quarters had taken on a lived-in appearance. This was his cave, the former supercargo suite: large rooms with slightly curved walls - bedroom, library-workroom, sitting room, a green-tiled bath with dry and wet cleansing systems, and a long practice hall he shared with Murbella for exercise.

The rooms bore a unique collection of artifacts and marks of his presence: that slingchair placed at just the right angle to the console and projector linking him to Shipsystems, those ridulian records on that low side table. And there were stains of occupancy - that dark brown blot on the worktable. Spilled food had left its indelible mark.

He moved restlessly into his sleeping quarters. The light was dimmer. His ability to identify the familiar held true for odors. There was a saliva-like smell to the bed - the residue of last night's sexual collision.

That is the proper word: Collision.

The no-ship's air-filtered, recycled and sweetened - often bored him. No break in the no-ship maze to the exterior world ever remained open long. He sometimes sat silently sniffing, hoping for a faint trace of air that had not been adjusted to this prison's demands.

There is a way to escape!

He wandered out of his quarters and down the corridor, took the dropchute at the end of the passage and emerged in the ship's lowest level.

What is really happening out there in that world open to the sky?

The bits Odrade told him about events filled him with dread and a trapped feeling. No place to run! Am I wise to share my fears with Sheeana? Murbella merely laughed. "I will protect you, love. Honored Matres won't hurt me." Another false dream.

But Sheeana... how quickly she had picked up the hand-language and entered the spirit of his conspiracy. Conspiracy? No... I doubt that any Reverend Mother will act against her Sisters. Even the Lady Jessica went back to them in the end. But I don't ask Sheeana to act against the Sisterhood, only that she protect us from Murbella's folly.

The enormous powers of the hunters made only the destruction predictable. A Mentat had but to look at their disruptive violence. They brought something else as well, something hinting at matters out there in the Scattering. What were these Futars Odrade mentioned with such casualness? Part human, part beast? That had been Lucilla's guess. And where is Lucilla?

He found himself presently in the Great Hold, the kilometer-long cargo space where they had carried the last giant sandworm of Dune, bringing it to Chapterhouse. The area still smelled of spice and sand, filling his mind with long-ago and the dead far away. He knew why he came so often to the Great Hold, doing it sometimes without even thinking, as he had just done. It both attracted and repelled. The illusion of unlimited space with traces of dust, sand, and spice carried the nostalgia of lost freedoms. But there was another side. This is where it always happened to him.

Will it happen today?

Without warning, the sense of being in the Great Hold would vanish. Then... the net shimmering in a molten sky. He was aware when the vision came that he was not really seeing a net. His mind translated what the senses could not define.

A shimmering net undulating like an infinite borealis.

Then the net would part and he would see the two people - man and woman. How ordinary they appeared and yet extraordinary. A grandmother and grandfather in antique clothing: bib coveralls for the man and a long dress with headscarf for the woman. Working in a flower garden! He thought it must be more of the illusion. I am seeing this but it is not really what I see.

They always noticed him eventually. He heard their voices. "There he is again, Marty," the man would say, calling the woman's attention to Idaho.

"I wonder how it is he can look through?" Marty asked once. "Doesn't seem possible."

"He's spread pretty thin, I think. Wonder if he knows the danger?"

Danger. That was the word that always jerked him out of the vision.

"Not at your console today?"

For just an instant, Idaho thought it was the vision, the voice of that odd woman, then he realized it was Odrade. Her voice came from close behind. He whirled and saw he had failed to close the hatch. She had followed him into the Hold, stalking him quietly, avoiding the scattered patches of sand that might have grated underfoot and betrayed her approach.

She looked tired and impatient. Why did she think I would be at my console?

As though answering his unspoken question, she said: " I find you at your console so often lately. For what do you search, Duncan?"

He shook his head without speaking. Why do I suddenly feel in peril?

It was a rare feeling in Odrade's company. He could remember other occasions, though. Once when she had stared suspiciously at his hands in the field of his console. Fear associated with my console. Do I reveal my Mentat hunger for data? Do they guess that I have hidden my private self there?

"Do I get no privacy at all?" Anger and attack.

She shook her head slowly from side to side as much as to say, "You can do better than that."

"This is your second visit today," he accused.

"I must say you're looking well, Duncan." More circumlocution.

"Is that what your watchers say?"

"Don't be petty. I came for a chat with Murbella. She said you'd be down here."

"I suppose you know Murbella's pregnant again." Was that trying to placate her?

"For which we are grateful. I came to tell you that Sheeana wants to visit you again."

Why would Odrade announce that?

Her words filled him with images of the Dune waif who had become a full Reverend Mother (the youngest ever, so they said). Sheeana, his confidante, out there watching over that last great sandworm. Had it finally perpetuated itself? Why should Odrade interest herself in Sheeana's visit?

"Sheeana wants to discuss the Tyrant with you."

She saw the surprise this produced.

"What could I possibly add to Sheeana's knowledge of Leto II?" he demanded. "She's a Reverend Mother."

"You knew the Atreides intimately."

Ahhhhh. She's hunting for the Mentat.

"But you said she wanted to discuss Leto and it's not safe to think of him as Atreides."

"Oh, but he was. Refined into something more elemental than anyone before him, but one of us, nonetheless."

One of us! She reminded him that she, too, was Atreides. Calling in his never-ending debt to the family!

"So you say."

"Shouldn't we stop playing this foolish game?"

Caution gripped him. He knew she saw it. Reverend Mothers were so damnably sensitive. He stared at her, not daring to speak, knowing even this told her too much.

"We believe you remember more than one ghola lifetime." And when he still did not respond, "Come, come, Duncan! Are you a Mentat?"

The way she spoke, as much accusation as question, he knew concealment had ended. It was almost a relief.

"And if I am?"

"The Tleilaxu mixed the cells from more than one Idaho ghola when they grew you."

Idaho-ghola! He refused to think of himself in that abstraction. "Why is Leto suddenly so important to you?" No escaping the admission in that response.

"Our worm has become sandtrout."

"Are they growing and propagating?"

"Apparently."

"Unless you contain them or eliminate them, Chapterhouse may become another Dune. "

"You figured that out, did you?"

"Leto and I together."

"So you remember many lives. Fascinating. It makes you somewhat like us." How unswerving her stare!

"Very different, I think." Have to get her off that track!

"You acquired the memories during your first encounter with Murbella?"

Who guessed it? Lucilla? She was there and might have guessed, confiding her suspicions to her Sisters. He had to bring the deadly issue into the open. "I'm not another Kwisatz Haderach!"

"You're not?" Studied objectivity. She allowed this to reveal itself, a cruelty, he thought.

"You know I'm not!" He was fighting for his life and knew it. Not so much with Odrade as with those others who watched and reviewed the comeye records.

"Tell me about your serial memories." That was a command from the Mother Superior. No escaping it.

"I know those... lives. It's like one lifetime."

"That accumulation could be very valuable to us, Duncan. Do you also remember the axlotl tanks?"

Her question sent his thoughts into the misty probings that caused him to imagine strange things about the Tleilaxu - great mounds of human flesh softly visible to the imperfect newborn eyes, blurred and unfocused images, almost-memories of emerging from birth canals. How could that accord with tanks?

"Scytale has provided us with the knowledge to make our own axlotl system," Odrade said.

System? Interesting word. "Does that mean you also duplicate Tleilaxu spice production?"

"Scytale bargains for more than we will give. But spice will come in time, one way or another."

Odrade heard herself speak firmly and wondered if he detected uncertainty. We might not have the time to do it.

"The Sisters you Scatter are hobbled," he said, giving her a small taste of Mentat awareness. "You're drawing on your spice stockpiles to supply them and those must be finite."

"They have our axlotl knowledge and sandtrout."

He was shocked to silence by the possibility of countless Dunes being reproduced in an infinite universe.

"They will solve the problem of melange supply with tanks or worms or both," she said. This she could say sincerely. It came from statistical expectation. One among those Scattered bands of Reverend Mothers should accomplish it.

"The tanks," he said. "I have strange... dreams." He had almost said "musings."

"And well you should." Briefly, she told him how female flesh was incorporated.

"For making the spice, too?"

"We think so."

"Disgusting!"

"That's juvenile," she chided.

In such moments, he disliked her intensely. Once, he had reproached her for the way Reverend Mothers removed themselves from "the common stream of human emotions," and she had given him that identical answer.

Juvenile!

"For which there probably is no remedy," he said. "A disgraceful flaw in my character."

"Were you thinking to debate morality with me?"

He thought he heard anger. "Not even ethics. We work by different rules."

"Rules are often an excuse to ignore compassion."

"Do I hear a faint echo of conscience in a Reverend Mother?"

"Deplorable. My Sisters would exile me if they thought conscience ruled me."

"You can be prodded, but not ruled."

"Very good, Duncan! I like you much better when you're openly Mentat."

"I distrust your liking."

She laughed aloud. "How like Bell!"

He stared at her dumbly, plunged by her laughter into sudden knowledge of the way to escape his warders, remove himself from the constant Bene Gesserit manipulations and live his own life. The way out lay not in machinery but in the Sisterhood's flaws. The absolutes by which they thought they surrounded and held him - there was the way out!

And Sheeana knows! That's the bait she dangles in front of me.

When Idaho did not speak, Odrade said: "Tell me about those other lives."

"Wrong. I think of them as one continuous life."

"No deaths?"

He let a response form silently. Serial memories: the deaths were as informative as the lives. Killed so many times by Leto himself!

"The deaths do not interrupt my memories."

"An odd kind of immortality," she said. "You know, don't you, that Tleilaxu Masters recreated themselves? But you - what did they hope to achieve, mixing different gholas in one flesh?"

"Ask Scytale."

"Bell felt sure you were a Mentat. She will be delighted."

"I think not."

"I will see to it that she is delighted. My! I have so many questions I'm not sure where to begin." She studied him, left hand to her chin.

Questions? Mentat demands flowed through Idaho's mind. He let the questions he had asked himself so many times move of themselves, forming their patterns. What did the Tleilaxu seek in one? They could not have included cells from all of his ghola-selves for this incarnation. Yet... he had all of the memories. What cosmic linkage accumulated all of those lives in this one self? Was that the clue to the visions that beset him in the Great Hold? Half-memories formed in his mind: his body in warm fluid, fed by tubes, massaged by machines, probed and questioned by Tleilaxu observers. He sensed murmurous responses from semi-dormant selves. The words had no meaning. It was as though he listened to a foreign language coming from his own lips but he knew it was ordinary Galach.

The scope of what he sensed in Tleilaxu actions awed him. They investigated a cosmos no one but the Bene Gesserit had ever dared touch. That the Bene Tleilax did this for selfish reasons did not subtract from it. The endless rebirths of Tleilaxu Masters were a reward worthy of daring.

Face Dancer servants to copy any life, any mind. The scope of the Tleilaxu dream was as awesome as Bene Gesserit achievements.

"Scytale admits to memories of Muad'Dib's times," Odrade said. "You might compare notes with him someday."

"That kind of immortality is a bargaining chip," he warned. "Could he sell it to the Honored Matres?"

"He might. Come. Let's go back to your quarters."

In his workroom, she gestured him to the chair at his console and he wondered if she was still hunting for his secrets. She bent over him to manipulate the controls. The overhead projector produced a scene of desert to a horizon of rolling dunes.

"Chapterhouse?" she said. "A wide band along our equator."

Excitement gripped him. "Sandtrout, you said. But are there any new worms?"

"Sheeana expects them soon."

"They require a large amount of spice as catalyst."

"We've gambled a great deal of melange out there. Leto told you about the catalyst, didn't he? What else do you remember of him?"

"He killed me so many times it's an ache when I think about it."

She had the records from Dar-es-Balat on Dune to confirm this. "Killed you himself, I know. Did he just throw you away when you were used up?"

" I sometimes performed up to expectations and was allowed a natural death."

"Was his Golden Path worth it?"

We don't understand his Golden Path nor the fermentations that produced it. He said this.

"Interesting choice of word. A Mentat thinks of the Tyrant's eons as fermentation."

"That erupted in the Scattering."

"Driven also by the Famine Times."

"You think he didn't anticipate famines?"

She did not reply, held to silence by his Mentat view. Golden Path: humankind "erupting" into the universe... never again confined to any single planet and susceptible to a singular fate. All of our eggs no longer in one basket.

"Leto thought of all humankind as a single organism," he said. "But he enlisted us in his dream against our will."

"You Atreides always do that."

You Atreides! "Then you've paid your debt to us?"

" I didn't say that."

"Do you appreciate my present dilemma, Mentat?"

"How long have the sandtrout been at work?"

"More than eight Standard Years."

"How fast is our desert growing?"

Our desert! She gestured at the projection. "That's more than three times larger than it was before the sandtrout."

"So fast!"

"Sheeana expects to see small worms any day."

"They tend not to surface until they reach about two meters." "So she says."

He spoke in a musing tone. "Each with a pearl of Leto's awareness in his 'endless dream.' "

"So he said and he never lied about such things."

"His lies were more subtle. Like a Reverend Mother's."

"You accuse us of lying?"

"Why does Sheeana want to see me?"

"Mentats! You think your questions are answers." Odrade shook her head in mock dismay. "She must learn as much as possible about the Tyrant as the center of religious adoration."

"Gods below! Why?"

"The cult of Sheeana has spread. It's all over the Old Empire and beyond, carried by surviving priests from Rakis."

"From Dune," he corrected her. "Don't think of it as Arrakis or Rakis. It fogs your mind."

She accepted his correction. He was fully Mentat now and she waited patiently.

"Sheeana talked to the sandworms on Dune," he said. "They responded." He met her questioning stare. "Up to your old tricks with your Missionaria Protectiva, eh?"

"The Tyrant is known as Dur and Guldur in the Scattering," she said, feeding his Mentat naivete.

"You have a dangerous assignment for her. Does she know?"

"She knows and you could make it less dangerous."

"Then open your data systems to me."

"No limits?" She knew what Bell would say to that!

He nodded, unable to allow himself the hope that she might agree. Does she suspect how desperately I want this? It was an ache where he held his knowledge of how he might escape. Unimpeded access to information! She will think I want the illusion of freedom.

"Will you be my Mentat, Duncan?"

"What choice do I have?"

"I will discuss your request in Council and give you our answer."

Is the escape door opening?

"I must think like an Honored Matre," he said, arguing for the comeyes and the watchdogs who would review his request.

"Who could do it better than the one who lives with Murbella?" she asked.

***

Corruption wears infinite disguises.

- Tleilaxu Thu-zen

They do not know what I think nor what I can do, Scytale thought. Their Truthsayers cannot read me. That, at least, he had salvaged from disaster - the art of deception learned from his perfected Face Dancers.

He moved softly through his area of the no-ship, observing, cataloguing, measuring. Every look weighed people or place in a mind trained to seek flaws.

Each Tleilaxu Master had known that someday God might set him a task to test his commitment.

Very well! This was such a task. The Bene Gesserit who claimed they shared his Great Belief swore it falsely. They were unclean. He no longer had companions to cleanse him on his return from alien places. He had been cast into the powindah universe, made prisoner by servants of Shaitan, was hunted by whores from the Scattering. But none of those evil ones knew his resources. None suspected how God would help him in this extremity.

I cleanse myself, God!

When the women of Shaitan had plucked him from the hands of the whores, promising sanctuary and "every assistance," he had known them false.

The greater the test, the greater my faith.

Only a few minutes ago, he had watched through a shimmering barrier as Duncan Idaho took a morning walk down the long corridor. The forcefield that kept them apart prevented the passage of sound, but Scytale saw Idaho's lips move and read the curse. Curse me, ghola, but we made you and still may use you.

God had introduced a Holy Accident into the Tleilaxu plan for this ghola, but God always had larger designs. It was the task of the faithful to fit themselves into God's plans and not demand that God follow the designs of humans.

Scytale set himself to this test, renewing his holy pledge. It was done without words in the ancient Bene Tleilax way of s'tori. "To achieve s'tori no understanding is needed. S'tori exists without words, without even a name."

The magic of his God was his only bridge. Scytale felt this deeply. The youngest Master in the highest kehl, he had known from the beginning he would be chosen for this ultimate task. That knowledge was one of his strengths and he saw it every time he looked in a mirror. God formed me to deceive the powindah! His slight, childlike appearance was formed in a gray skin whose metallic pigments blocked scanning probes. His diminutive shape distracted those who saw him and hid the powers he had accumulated in serial ghola incarnations. Only the Bene Gesserit carried older memories, but he knew evil guided them.

Scytale rubbed his breast, reminding himself of what was hidden there with such skill that not even a scar marked the place. Each Master had carried this resource - a nullentropy capsule preserving the seed cells of a multitude: fellow Masters of the central kehl, Face Dancers, technical specialists and others he knew would be attractive to the women of Shaitan... and to many weakling powindah! Paul Atreides and his beloved Chani were there. (Oh what that had cost in searching garments of the dead for random cells!) The original Duncan Idaho was there with other Atreides minions - the Mentat Thufir Hawat, Gurney Halleck, the Fremen Naib Stilgar... enough potential servants and slaves to people a Tleilaxu universe.

The prize of prizes in the nullentropy tube, the ones he longed to bring into existence, made him catch his breath when he thought of them. Perfect Face Dancers! Perfect mimics. Perfect recorders of a victim's persona. Capable of deceiving even the witches of the Bene Gesserit. Not even shere could prevent them from capturing the mind of another.

The tube he thought of as his ultimate bargaining power. No one must know of it. For now, he catalogued flaws.

There were enough gaps in the no-ship's defenses to gratify him. In his serial lifetimes, he had collected skills the way his fellow Masters collected pleasing baubles. They had always considered him too serious but now he had found the place and time for vindication.

Study of the Bene Gesserit had always attracted him. Over the eons, he had acquired a body of knowledge about them. He knew it held myths and misinformation, but faith in the purposes of God assured him the view he held would serve the Great Belief, no matter the rigors of Holy Testing.

Part of his Bene Gesserit catalog he called "Typicals," from the frequent remark: "That's typical of them!"

The typicals fascinated him.

It was typical for them to tolerate gross but non-threatening behavior in others they would not accept in themselves. "Bene Gesserit standards are higher." Scytale had heard that even from some of his late companions.

"We have the gift of seeing ourselves as others see us," Odrade had once said.

Scytale included this among typicals, but her words did not accord with the Great Belief. Only God saw your ultimate self! Odrade's boast had the sound of hubris.

"They tell no casual lies. Truth serves them better."

He often wondered about that. Mother Superior herself quoted it as a rule of the Bene Gesserit. There remained the fact that witches appeared to hold a cynical view of truth. She dared claim it was Zensunni. "Whose truth? Modified in what way? In what context?"

They had been seated the previous afternoon in his no-ship quarters. He had asked for "a consultation on mutual problems," his euphemism for bargaining. They were alone except for comeyes and the comings and goings of watchful Sisters.

His quarters were comfortable enough: three plaz-walled rooms in restful green, a soft bed, chairs reduced to fit his diminutive body.

This was an Ixian no-ship and he felt certain his warders did not suspect how much he knew of it. As much as the Ixians. Ixian machines all around but never an Ixian to be seen. He doubted there was a single Ixian on Chapterhouse. The witches were notorious for doing their own maintenance.

Odrade moved and spoke slowly, watching him with care. "They are not impulsive." You heard that often.

She asked after his comfort and appeared concerned for him.

He glanced around his sitting room. "I see no Ixians."

She pursed her lips with displeasure. "Is this why you asked for consultation?"

Of course not, witch! I merely practice my arts of distraction. You would not expect me to mention things I wished to conceal. Then why would I call your attention to Ixians when I know it is unlikely there are any dangerous intruders walking freely on your accursed planet? Ahhh, the much vaunted Ixian connection we Tleilaxu maintained so long. You know of that! You punished Ix memorably more than once.

The technocrats of Ix might hesitate to irritate the Bene Gesserit, he thought, but they would be extremely careful not to arouse the ire of Honored Matres. Secret trading was indicated by the presence of this no-ship but the price must have been ruinous and the circumlocutions exceptional. Very nasty, those whores from the Scattering. They might need Ix themselves, he guessed. And Ix might secretly defy the whores to make an arrangement with the Bene Gesserit. But the limits were tight and chances of betrayal many.

These thoughts comforted him as he bargained. Odrade, in a brittle mood, unsettled him several times with silences during which she stared at him in that disturbing Bene Gesserit way.

The bargaining chips were large - no less than survival for each of them and always in the pot that tenuous thing: ascendancy, control of the human universe, perpetuation of your own ways as the dominant pattern.

Give me a small opening that I may expand, Scytale thought. Give me my own Face Dancers. Give me servants who will do only my bidding.

"It is a small thing to ask," he said. " I seek personal comfort, my own servants."

Odrade continued to stare at him in that weighted way of the Bene Gesserit that always seemed to peel away the masks and see deep into you.

But I have masks you have not penetrated.

He could see that she found him repulsive - the way her gaze fixed sequentially on each of his features. He knew what she was thinking. An elfin figure with narrow face and puckish eyes. Widow's peak. Her gaze moved down: tiny mouth with sharp teeth and pointed canines.

Scytale knew himself to be a figure out of humankind's most dangerously disturbing mythologies. Odrade would ask herself: Why did the Bene Tleilax choose this particular physical appearance when their control of genetics could have given them something more impressive?

For the very reason that it disturbs you, powindah dirt!

He thought immediately of another Typical: "The Bene Gesserit seldom scatter dirt."

Scytale had seen the dirty aftermath of many Bene Gesserit actions. Look at what happened to Dune! Burnt to cinders because you women of Shaitan chose that holy ground to challenge the whores. Even the revenants of our Prophet gone to their reward. Everyone dead!

And he hardly dared contemplate his own losses. No Tleilaxu planet had escaped the fate of Dune. The Bene Gesserit caused that! And he must suffer their tolerance - a refugee with only God to support him.

He asked Odrade about scattered dirt on Dune.

"You find that only when we are in extremis."

"Is that why you attracted the violence of those whores?"

She refused to discuss it.

One of Scytale's late companions had said: "The Bene Gesserit leave straight tracks. You might think them complex, but when you look closely their way smooths."

That companion and all the others had been butchered by the whores. His only survival lay in cells of a nullentropy capsule. So much for a dead Master's wisdom!

Odrade wanted more technical information about axlotl tanks. Ohhhh, how cleverly she worded her questions!

Bargaining for survival, and each little bit carried a heavy weight. What had he received for his tiny measured pieces of data about the axlotl tanks? Odrade took him out of the ship occasionally now. But the whole planet was as much a prison to him as this ship. Where could he go that the witches would not find him?

What were they doing with their own axlotl tanks? He was not even sure about this. The witches lied with such facility.

Was it wrong to supply them even with limited knowledge? He realized now he had told them far more than the bare biotechnical details to which he had confined himself. They definitely deduced how Masters had created a limited immortality - always a ghola-replacement growing in the tanks. That, too, was lost! He wanted to scream this at her in his frustrated rage.

Questions... obvious questions.

He parried her questions with wordy arguments about "my need for Face Dancer servants and my own Shipsystem console."

She was slyly adamant, probing for more knowledge of the tanks. "The information to produce melange from our tanks might induce us to be more liberal with our guest."

Our tanks! Our guest!

These women were like a plasteel wall. No tanks for his personal use. All of that Tleilaxu power gone. It was a thought full of mournful self-pity. He restored himself with a reminder: God obviously tested his resourcefulness. They think they hold me in a trap. But their restrictions hurt. No Face Dancer servants? Very well. He would seek other servants. Not Face Dancers.

Scytale felt the deepest anguish of his many lives when he thought of his lost Face Dancers - his mutable slaves. Damn these women and their pretense that they shared the Great Belief! Omnipresent acolytes and Reverend Mothers always snooping around. Spies! And comeyes everywhere. Oppressive.

On first coming to Chapterhouse, he had sensed a shyness about his jailers, a privacy that became intense when he probed into the workings of their order. Later, he came to see this as a circling up, all facing outward at any threat. What is ours is ours. You may not enter!

Scytale recognized a parental posturing in this, a maternal view of humankind: "Behave or we will punish you!" And Bene Gesserit punishments certainly were to be avoided.

As Odrade continued to demand more than he would give, Scytale fastened his attention on a typical he felt sure was true: They cannot love. But he was forced to agree. Neither love nor hate were purely rational. He thought of such emotions as a dark fountain shadowing the air all around, a primitive gusher that sprayed unsuspecting humans.

How this woman does chatter! He watched her, not really listening. What were their flaws? Was it a weakness that they avoided music? Did they fear the secret play on emotions? The aversion appeared to be heavily conditioned, but the conditioning did not always succeed. In his many lives he had seen witches appear to enjoy music. When he questioned Odrade, she became quite heated, and he suspected a deliberate display to mislead him.

"We cannot let ourselves be distracted!"

"Don't you ever replay great musical performances in memory? I'm told that in ancient times... "

"Of what use is music played on instruments no longer known to most people?"

"Oh? What instruments are those?"

"Where would you find a piano?" Still in that false anger. "Terrible instruments to tune and even more difficult to play."

How prettily she protests. "I've never heard of this... this... piano, did you say? Is it like the baliset?"

"Distant cousins. But it could only be tuned to an approximate key. An idiosyncracy of the instrument."

"Why do you single out this... this piano?"

"Because I sometimes think it too bad we no longer have it. Producing perfection from imperfection is, after all, the highest of art forms."

Perfection from imperfections! She was trying to distract him with Zensunni words, feeding the illusion that these witches shared his Great Belief. He had been warned many times about this peculiarity of Bene Gesserit bargaining. They approached everything from an oblique angle, revealing only at the last instant what they really sought. But he knew what they bargained for here. She wanted all of his knowledge and sought to pay nothing. Still, how tempting her words were.

Scytale felt a deep wariness. Her words fitted themselves so neatly into her claim that the Bene Gesserit sought only to perfect human society. So she thought she could teach him! Another typical: "They see themselves as teachers."

When he expressed doubt of this claim, she said, "Naturally we build up pressures in societies we influence. We do it that we may direct those pressures."

"I find this discordant," he complained.

"Why Master Scytale! It's a very common pattern. Governments often do this to produce violence against chosen targets. You did it yourselves! And see where it got you."

So she dares claim the Tleilaxu brought this calamity on themselves!

"We follow the lesson of the Great Messenger," she said, using the Islamiyat for the Prophet Leto II. The words sounded alien on her lips, but he was taken aback. She knew how all Tleilaxu revered the Prophet.

But I have heard these women call Him Tyrant!

Still speaking Islamiyat, she demanded, "Was it not His goal to divert violence, producing a lesson of value to all?"

Does she joke about the Great Belief?

"That is why we accepted him," she said. "He did not play by our rules but he played for our goal."

She dared say she accepted the Prophet!

He did not challenge her, although the provocation was great. A delicate thing, a Reverend Mother's view of herself and her behavior. He suspected they constantly readjusted this view, never bouncing far in any direction. No self-hate, no self-love. Confidence, yes. Maddening self-confidence. But that did not require hate or love. Only a cool head, every judgment ready for correction, just as she claimed. It would seldom require praise. A job well done? Well, what else did you expect?

"Bene Gesserit training strengthens the character." That was Folk Wisdom's most popular typical.

He tried to start an argument with her on this. "Isn't Honored Matres' conditioning the same as yours? Look at Murbella!"

"Is it generalities you want, Scytale?" Was that amusement in her tone?

"A collision between two conditioning systems, isn't that a good way to view this confrontation?" he ventured.

"And the more powerful will emerge victorious, of course."

Definitely sneering!

"Isn't that how it always works?" His anger not well bridled.

"Must a Bene Gesserit remind a Tleilaxu that subtleties are another kind of weapon? Have you not practiced deception? A feigned weakness to deflect your enemies and lead them into traps? Vulnerabilities can be created."

Of course! She knows about the eons of Tleilaxu deception, creating an image of inept stupidities.

"So that's how you expect to deal with our foes?"

"We intend to punish them, Scytale."

Such implacable determination!

New things he learned about the Bene Gesserit filled him with misgivings.

Odrade, taking him for a well-guarded afternoon stroll in the cold winter outside the ship (burly Proctors just a pace behind), stopped to watch a small procession coming from Central. Five Bene Gesserit women, two of them acolytes by their white-trimmed robes, but the other three in an unrelieved gray not known to him. They wheeled a cart into one of the orchards. A frigid wind blew across them. A few old leaves whipped from the dark branches. The cart bore a long bundle shrouded in white. A body? It was the right shape.

When he asked, Odrade regaled him with an account of Bene Gesserit burial practices.

If there was a body to bury, it was done with the casual dispatch he now witnessed. No Reverend Mother ever had an obituary or wanted time-wasting rituals. Did her memory not live on in her Sisters?

He started to argue that this was irreverent but she cut him off.

"Given the phenomenon of death, all attachments in life are temporary! We modify that somewhat in Other Memory. You did a similar thing, Scytale. And now we incorporate some of your abilities in our bag of tricks. Oh, yes! That's the way we think of such knowledge. It merely modifies the pattern."

"An irreverent practice!"

"Nothing irreverent about it. Into the dirt they go where, at least, they can become fertilizer." And she continued to describe the scene without giving him a chance for further protests.

They had this regular routine he now observed, she said. A large mechanical auger was wheeled into the orchard, where it drilled a suitable hole in the earth. The corpse, bound in that cheap cloth, was buried vertically and an orchard tree planted over it. Orchards were laid out in grid patterns, a cenotaph at one corner where the locations of burials were recorded. He saw the cenotaph when she pointed it out, a square green thing about three meters high.

"I think that body's being buried at about C-21," she said, watching the auger at work while the burial team waited, leaning against the cart. "That one will fertilize an apple tree." She sounded ungodly happy about it!

As they watched the auger withdraw and the cart being tipped, the body sliding into the hole, Odrade began to hum.

Scytale was surprised. "You said the Bene Gesserit avoided music."

"Just an old ditty."

The Bene Gesserit remained a puzzle and, more than ever, he saw the weakness of typicals. How could you bargain with people whose patterns did not follow an acceptable path? You might think you understood them and then they shot off in a new direction. They were untypical! Trying to understand them disrupted his sense of order. He was certain he had not received anything real in all of this bargaining. A bit more freedom that was actually the illusion of freedom. Nothing he really wanted came from this cold-faced witch! It was tantalizing to try piecing together any substance from what he knew about the Bene Gesserit. There was, for instance, the claim they did without most bureaucratic systems and record keeping. Except for Bellonda's Archives, of course, and every time he mentioned those, Odrade said "Heaven guard us!" or something equivalent.

"Now he asked how do you maintain yourselves without officials and records?" He was deeply puzzled.

"A thing needs doing, we do it. Bury a Sister?" She pointed to the scene in the orchard where shovels had been brought into play and dirt was being tamped on the grave.

"That's how it's done and there's always someone around who's responsible. They know who they are."

"Who... who takes care of this unwholesome...?"

"It's not unwholesome! It's part of our education. Failed Sisters usually supervise. Acolytes do the work."

"Don't they... I mean, isn't this distasteful to them? Failed Sisters, you say. And acolytes. It would seem to be more of a punishment than..."

"Punishment! Come, come, Scytale. Have you only one song to sing?" She pointed at the burial party. "After their apprenticeship, all of our people willingly accept their jobs."

"But no... ahhh, bureaucratic..."

"We're not stupid!"

Again, he did not understand, but she responded to his silent puzzlement.

"Surely you know bureaucracies always become voracious aristocracies after they attain commanding power."

He had difficulty seeing the relevance. Where was she leading him?

When he remained silent, she said: "Honored Matres have all the marks of bureaucracy. Ministers of this, Great Honored Matres of that, a powerful few at the top and many functionaries below. They already are full of adolescent hungers. Like voracious predators, they never consider how they exterminate their prey. A tight relationship: Reduce the numbers of those upon whom you feed and you bring your own structure crashing down."

He found it difficult to believe the witches really saw Honored Matres this way and said so.

"If you survive, Scytale, you will see my words made real. Great cries of rage by those unthinking women at the necessity to retrench. Much new effort to wring the most out of their prey. Capture more of them! Squeeze them harder! It will just mean quicker extermination. Idaho says they're already in the die-back stage."

The ghola says this? So she was using him as a Mentat! "Where do you get such ideas? Surely this does not originate with your ghola." Continue to believe he's yours!

"He merely confirmed our assessment. An example in Other Memory alerted us."

"Ohh?" This thing of Other Memory bothered him. Could their claim be true? Memories from his own multiple lives were of enormous value. He asked for confirmation.

"We remembered the relationship between a food animal called a snowshoe rabbit and a predatory cat called a lynx. The cat population always grew to follow the population of the rabbits, and then overfeeding dumped the predators into famine times and severe die-back."

"An interesting term, die-back."

"Descriptive of what we intend for the Honored Matres."

When their meeting ended (without anything gained for him), Scytale found himself more confused than ever. Was that truly their intent? The damnable woman! He could not be sure of anything she said.

When she returned him to his quarters in the ship, Scytale stood for a long time looking through the barrier field at the long corridor where Idaho and Murbella sometimes came on their way to their practice floor. He knew that must be where they went through a wide doorway down there. They always emerged sweating and breathing deeply.

Neither of his fellow prisoners appeared, although he loitered there for more than an hour.

She uses the ghola as a Mentat! That must mean he has access to a Shipsystems console. Surely, she would not deprive her Mentat of his data. Somehow, I must contrive it that Idaho and I meet intimately. There's always the whistling language we impress on every ghola. I must not appear too anxious. A small concession in the bargaining, perhaps. A complaint that my quarters are confining. They see how I chafe at imprisonment.

***

Education is no substitute for intelligence. That elusive quality is defined only in part by puzzle-solving ability. It is in the creation of new puzzles reflecting what your senses report that you round out the definition.

- Mentat Text One (decto)

They wheeled Lucilla into Great Honored Matre's presence in a tubular cage - a cage within a cage. Shigawire netting confined her to the center of the thing.

"I am Great Honored Matre," the woman in the heavy black chair greeted her. Small woman, red-gold leotards. "The cage is for your protection should you try to use Voice. We are immune. Our immunity takes the form of a reflex. We kill. A number of you have died that way. We know Voice and use it. Remember it when I release you from your cage." She waved away the servants who had brought the cage. "Go! Go!"

Lucilla looked around at the room. Windowless. Almost square. Lighted by a few silvery glowglobes. Acid-green walls. Typical interrogation setting. It was somewhere high. They had brought her cage in a nulltube shortly after dawn.

A panel behind Great Honored Matre snapped aside and a smaller cage came sliding into the room on a hidden mechanism. This cage was square and in it stood what she thought at first was a naked man until he turned and looked at her.

Futar! It had a wide face and she saw the canines.

"Want back rub," the Futar said.

"Yes, darling. I'll rub your back later."

"Want eat," the Futar said. It glared at Lucilla.

"Later, darling."

The Futar continued to study Lucilla. "You Handler?" it asked.

"Of course she's not a Handler!"

"Want eat," the Futar insisted.

"Later, I said! For now, you just sit there and purr for me."

The Futar squatted in its cage and a rumbling sound issued from its throat.

"Aren't they sweet when they purr?" Great Honored Matre obviously did not expect an answer.

The presence of the Futar puzzled Lucilla. Those things were supposed to hunt and kill Honored Matres. It was caged, though.

"Where did you capture it?" Lucilla asked.

"On Gammu." She did not see what she had revealed.

And this is junction, Lucilla thought. She had recognized it from the lighter the evening before.

The Futar stopped purring. "Eat," it grumbled.

Lucilla would have liked something to eat. They had not fed her in three days and she was forced to suppress hunger pangs. Small sips of water from a literjon left in the cage helped but that was almost empty. The servants who had brought her had laughed at her request for food. "Futars like lean meat!"

It was the absence of melange that plagued her most. She had begun to feel the first withdrawal pains that morning.

I shall have to kill myself soon.

The Lampadas horde pleaded for her to endure. Be brave. What if that wild Reverend Mother fails us?

Spider Queen. That is what Odrade calls this woman.

Great Honored Matre continued to study her, hand to chin. It was a weak chin. In a face without positive features, the negative attracted the gaze.

"You will lose in the end, you know," Great Honored Matre said.

"Whistling past the graveyard," Lucilla said and then had to explain the expression.

There was a polite show of interest on Great Honored Matre's face. How interesting.

"Any of my aides would have killed you immediately for saying that. This is one of the reasons we are alone. I am curious why you would say such a thing?"

Lucilla glanced at the squatting Futar. "Futars did not occur overnight. They were genetically created from wild animal stock for one purpose."

"Careful!" Orange flamed in Great Honored Matre's eyes.

"Generations of development went into the creation of the Futars," Lucilla said.

"We hunt them for our pleasure!"

"And the hunter becomes the hunted."

Great Honored Matre leaped to her feet, eyes completely orange. The Futar became agitated and began whining. This calmed the woman. Slowly, she sank back into her chair. One hand gestured at the caged Futar. "It's all right, darling. You'll eat soon and then I'll rub your back."

The Futar resumed its purring.

"So you think we came back here as refugees," Great Honored Matre said. "Yes! Don't try to deny it."

"Worms often turn," Lucilla said.

"Worms? You mean like those monstrosities we destroyed on Rakis?"

It was tempting to prod this Honored Matre and evoke the dramatic response. Alarm her enough and she would certainly kill.

Please, Sister! the Lampadas horde begged. Endure.

You think I can escape from this place? That silenced them, except for one faint protest. Remember! We are the ancient doll: seven times down, eight times up. It came with a rocking image of a small red doll, grinning Buddha face and hands clasped over its fat belly.

"You're obviously referring to the revenants of the God Emperor," Lucilla said. " I had something else in mind."

Great Honored Matre took her time considering this. The orange faded from her eyes.

She's playing with me, Lucilla thought. She intends to kill me and feed me to her pet.

But think of the tactical information you could provide if we did escape!

We! But there was no avoiding the accuracy of that protest. They had brought her cage from the lighter while it was still daylight. Approaches to the Spider Queen's lair were well planned for difficult access but the planning amused Lucilla. Very ancient, out-of-date planning. Narrow places in the approach lanes with observation turrets projecting from the ground like dull gray mushrooms appearing at the proper places on their mycelium. Sharp turns at critical points. No ordinary ground vehicle could negotiate such turns at speed.

There was mention of this in Teg's critique of junction, she recalled. Nonsense defenses. One had only to bring in heavy equipment or go over such crude installations another way and the things were isolated. Linked underground, naturally, but that could be disrupted by explosives. Ligate them, cut them off from their source, and they would fall piecemeal. No more precious energy coming down your tube, idiots! Visible sense of security and Honored Matres kept it. For reassurance! Their defenders must spend a great deal of energy on useless displays to give these women a false sense of security.

The hallways! Remember the hallways.

Yes, the hallways in this gigantic building were enormous, the better to accommodate giant tanks in which Guild Navigators were forced to live groundside. Ventilation systems low along the halls to take out and reclaim spilled melange gas. She could imagine hatches thumping open and closed with disturbing reverberations. Guildsmen never seemed to mind loud noises. Energy transmission lines for mobile suspensors were thick black snakes winding across passages and into every room she had glimpsed. Wouldn't do to keep a Navigator from snooping any place he desired.

Many of the people she had seen wore guide pulsers. Even Honored Matres. So they got lost here. Everything under the one giant mound of a roof with its phallic towers. The new residents found this attractive. Heavily insulated from the crude outdoors (where none of the important people go anyway except to kill things or watch the slaves at their amusing work and play). Through much of it, she had seen a shabbiness that said minimal expenditure on maintenance. They are not changing much. Teg's ground plan is still accurate.

See how valuable your observations could be?

Great Honored Matre stirred from her reverie. "It is just possible that I could permit you to live. Provided you satisfy some of my curiosity."

"How do you know I won't respond to your curiosity with a flow of pure shit?"

Vulgarity amused Great Honored Matre. She almost laughed. Apparently no one had ever warned her to beware of the Bene Gesserit when they resorted to vulgarity. The motivation for it was sure to be something distressing. No Voice, eh? She thinks that's my only resource? Great Honored Matre had said enough and reacted enough to give any Reverend Mother a sure handle on her. Body and speech signals always carried more information than was necessary for comprehension. There was inevitable extra information to be sampled.

"Do you find us attractive?" Great Honored Matre asked.

Odd question. "People from the Scattering all possess a certain attraction." Let her think I've seen many of them, including her enemies. "You're exotic, meaning strange and new."

"And our sexual prowess?"

"There's an aura to that, naturally. Exciting and magnetic to some."

"But not to you."

Go for the chin! It was a suggestion from the horde. Why not?

"I've been studying your chin, Great Honored Matre."

"You have?" Surprised.

"It's obviously your childhood chin and you should be proud of that youthful remembrance."

Not pleased at all but unable to show it. Hit the chin again.

"I'll bet your lovers often kiss your chin," Lucilla said.

Angry now and still unable to vent it. Threaten me, will you! Warn me not to use Voice!

"Kiss chin," the Futar said.

"I said later, darling. Now will you shut up!"

Taking it out on her poor pet.

"But you have questions you want to ask me," Lucilla said. Sweetness itself. Another warning signal to the knowledgeable. I'm one of those who pours sugar syrup over everything. "How nice! Such a pleasant time when we're with you. Isn't that beautiful! Weren't you clever to get it so cheaply! Easily. Quickly." Supply your own adverb.

Great Honored Matre was a moment composing herself. She sensed that she had been placed at a disadvantage but could not say how. She covered the moment with an enigmatic smile, then: "But I said I would release you." She pressed something on the side of her chair and a section of the tubular cage swung aside, taking the shigawire netting with it. In the same instant, a low chair lifted from a panel in the floor directly in front of her and not a pace away.

Lucilla seated herself in the chair, knees almost touching her inquisitor. Feet. Remember they kill with their feet. She flexed her fingers, realizing then that she had been gripping her hands into fists. Damn the tensions!

"You should have some food and drink," Great Honored Matre said. She pushed something else on the side of her chair. A tray came up beside Lucilla - plate, spoon, a glass brimming with red liquid. Showing off her toys.

Lucilla picked up the glass.

Poison? Smell it first.

She sampled the drink. Stimtea and melange! I'm hungry.

Lucilla returned an empty glass to the tray. The stim on her tongue smelled sharply of melange. What is she doing? Wooing me? Lucilla felt a flow of relief at the spice. The plate proved to hold beans in a piquant sauce. She ate it all after sampling the first bite for unwanted additives. Garlic in the sauce. She was hung up for the barest fraction of a second on Memory of this ingredient - adjunct to fine cooking, specific against werewolves, potent treatment for flatulence.

"You find our food pleasant?"

Lucilla wiped her chin. "Very good. You are to be complimented on your chef." Never compliment the chef in a private establishment. Chefs can be replaced. Hostess is irreplaceable. "A nice touch with garlic."

"We've been studying some of the library salvaged from Lampadas." Gloating: See what you lost? "So little of interest buried in all of that prattle."

Does she want you to be her librarian? Lucilla waited silently.

"Some of my aides think there may be clues to your witches' nest there or, at least, a way to eliminate you quickly. So many languages!"

Does she need a translator? Be blunt!

"What interests you?"

"Very little. Who could possibly need accounts of the Butlerian Jihad?"

"They destroyed libraries, too."

"Don't patronize me!"

She's sharper than we thought. Keep it blunt.

"I thought I was the object of patronage."

"Listen to me, witch! You think you can be ruthless in defense of your nest but you do not understand what it is to be ruthless."

"I don't think you have yet told me how I can satisfy your curiosity. "

"It's your science we want, witch!" She pitched her voice lower. "Let us be reasonable. With your help we could achieve utopia."

And conquer all of your enemies and achieve orgasm every time.

"You think science holds the keys to utopia?"

"And better organization for our affairs."

Remember: Bureaucracy elevates conformity... Make that elevates "fatal stupidity" to the status of religion.

"Paradox, Great Honored Matre. Science must be innovative. It brings change. That's why science and bureaucracy fight a constant war."

Does she know her roots?

"But think of the power! Think of what you could control!" She doesn't know.

Honored Matre assumptions about control fascinated Lucilla. You controlled your universe; you did not balance with it. You looked outward, never inward. You did not train yourself to sense your own subtle responses, you produced muscles (forces, powers) to overcome everything you defined as an obstacle. Were these women blind?

When Lucilla did not speak, Honored Matre said: "We found much in the library about the Bene Tleilax.

"You joined them for many projects, witch. Multiple projects: how to nullify a no-ship's invisibility, how to penetrate the secrets of the living cell, your Missionaria Protectiva, and something called 'The Language of God.' "

Lucilla produced a tight smile. Did they fear there might be a real god out there somewhere? Give her a little taste! Be candid.

"We joined the Tleilaxu in nothing. Your people misinterpret what they found. You worry about being patronized? How do you think God would feel about it? We plant protective religions to help us. That is the Missionaria's function. The Tleilaxu have only one religion."

"You organize religions?"

"Not quite. The organizational approach to religion is always apologetic. We do not apologize."

"You are beginning to bore me. Why did we find so little about the God Emperor?" Pouncing!

"Perhaps your people destroyed it."

"Ahhhh, then you do have an interest in him."

And so do you, Madame Spider!

"I would have presumed, Great Honored Matre, that Leto II and his Golden Path were subjects of study at many of your academic centers."

That was cruel!

"We have no academic centers!"

"I find your interest in him surprising."

"Casual interest, no more."

And that Futar sprang from an oak tree struck by lightning!

"We call his Golden Path 'the paper chase.' He blew it into the infinite winds and said: 'See? There is where it goes.' That's the Scattering."

"Some prefer to call it the Seeking."

"Could he really predict our future? Is that what interests you?"

Bullseye!

Great Honored Matre coughed into her hand.

"We say Muad'Dib created a future. Leto II un-created it."

"But if I could know..."

"Please! Great Honored Matre! People who demand that the oracle predict their lives really want to know where the treasure is hidden."

"But of course!"

"Know your entire future and nothing will ever surprise you? Is that it?"

"In so many words."

"You don't want the future, you want now extended forever."

"I could not have said it better."

"And you said I bored you!"

"What?"

Orange in her eyes. Careful.

"Never another surprise? What could be more boring?"

"Ahhhh... Oh! But that's not what I mean."

"Then I'm afraid I do not understand what you want, Great Honored Matre."

"No matter. We'll return to it tomorrow."

Reprieve!

Great Honored Matre stood. "Back into your cage."

"Eat?" The Futar sounded plaintive.

" I have some wonderful food for you downstairs, darling. Then I'll rub your back."

Lucilla entered her cage. Great Honored Matre threw a chair cushion in after her. "Use that against the shigawire. See how kind I can be?"

The cage door sealed with a click.

The Futar in its cage slid back into the wall. The panel snapped closed over it.

"They get so restless when they're hungry," Great Honored Matre said. She opened the door to the room and turned to contemplate Lucilla for a moment. "You will not be disturbed here. I am refusing permission for anyone else to enter this room."

***

Many things we do naturally become difficult only when we try to make them intellectual subjects. It is possible to know so much about a subject that you become totally ignorant.

- Mentat Text Two (dicto)

Periodically, Odrade went for dinner with acolytes and their Proctor-Watchers, the most immediate warders in this mind-prison from which many would never be released.

What the acolytes thought and did really informed the depths of Mother Superior's consciousness on how well Chapterhouse functioned. Acolytes responded from their moods and forebodings more directly than Reverend Mothers. Full Sisters got very good at not being seen at their worst. They did not try to conceal essentials, but anyone could walk in an orchard or close a door and be out of the view of watchdogs.

Not so the acolytes.

There was little slack time in Central these days. Even the dining halls had their constant streams of occupants no matter the hour. Workshifts were staggered and it was easy for a Reverend Mother to adjust her circadian rhythms to off-beat time. Odrade could not waste energy on such adjustments. At the evening meal, she paused at the door to the Acolyte Hall and heard the sudden hush.

Even the way they conveyed food to their mouths said something. Where did the eyes go as the chopsticks progressed mouthward? Was it a quick stab and a rapid chew before a convulsive swallow? That was a one to watch. She was brewing upsets. And that thoughtful one over there who looked at each mouthful as though wondering how they hid the poison in such slop? A creative mind behind those eyes. Test her for a more sensitive position.

Odrade entered the hall.

The floor had a large checkerboard pattern, black and white plaz, virtually unscratchable. Acolytes said the pattern was for Reverend Mothers to use as a game board: "Place one of us here and another over there and some along that central line. Move them thus - winner take all."

Odrade took a seat near the corner of a table beside the western windows. The acolytes made room for her, their movements quietly unobtrusive.

This hall was part of the oldest construction on Chapterhouse. Built of wood with clear-span beams overhead, enormously thick and heavy things finished in dull black. They were some twenty-five meters long without a joint. Somewhere on Chapterhouse there was a grove of genetically tailored oaks reaching up to sunlight in their carefully tended plantations. Trees going up thirty meters at least without a limb, and more than two meters through the boles. They had been planted when this hall was built, replacements for these beams when age weakened them. Nineteen hundred SY the beams were supposed to endure.

How carefully the acolytes around her watched Mother Superior without ever appearing to look directly at her.

Odrade turned her head to peer out the western windows at the sunset. Dust again. The spreading intrusion from the desert inflamed the setting sun and set it glowing like a distant ember that might explode into uncontrollable fire at any instant.

Odrade suppressed a sigh. Thoughts such as these recreated her nightmare: the chasm... the tightrope. She knew if she closed her eyes she would feel herself swaying on the rope. The hunter with the axe was nearer!

Acolytes eating close by stirred nervously as though they sensed her disquiet. Perhaps they did. Odrade heard the movement of fabrics and this dragged her out of her nightmare. She had become sensitized to a new note in the sounds of Central. There was a grating noise behind the most commonplace movements - that chair being shifted behind her... and the opening of that kitchen door. Rasping grit. Cleaning crews complained of sand and "the damnable dust."

Odrade stared out the window at the source of that irritation: wind from the south. A dull haze, something between tan and earth brown, drew a curtain across the horizon. After the wind, dustings of its deposits would be found in building corners and on lee sides of hills. There was a flinty aroma to it, something alkaline that irritated the nostrils.

She looked down at the table as a serving acolyte placed her meal in front of her.

Odrade found herself enjoying this change from quick meals in her workroom and private dining room. When she ate alone up there, acolytes brought food so quietly and cleared away with such silent efficiency that sometimes she was surprised to find everything gone. Here, dining was bustle and conversation. In her quarters, Chef Duana might come in clucking, "You are not eating enough." Odrade generally heeded such admonitions. Watchdogs had their uses.

Tonight's meal was sligpork in a sauce of soy and molasses, minimal melange, a touch of basil and lemon. Fresh green beans cooked al dente with peppers. Dark red grape juice to drink. She took a bite of sligpork with anticipation and found it passable, a bit overcooked for her taste. Acolyte chefs had not missed it by much.

Then why this feeling of too many such meals?

She swallowed and hypersensitivity identified additives. This food was not here just to replenish Mother Superior's energy. Someone in the kitchen had asked for her day's nutrition list and adjusted this plate accordingly.

Food is a trap, she thought. More addictions. She did not like the cunning ways Chapterhouse chefs concealed things they put in the food "for the good of the diners." They knew, of course, that a Reverend Mother could identify ingredients and adjust metabolism within her limits. They were watching her right now, wondering how Mother Superior would judge tonight's menu.

As she ate, she listened to the other diners. None intruded on her - not physically or vocally. Sounds returned almost to what they had been before her entrance. Waggling tongues always changed their tone slightly when she entered and resumed at lower volume.

An unspoken question lay in all of those busy minds around her:

Why is she here tonight?

Odrade sensed quiet awe in some nearby diners, a reaction Mother Superior sometimes employed to her advantage. Awe with an edge on it. Acolytes whispered among themselves (so the Proctors reported), "She has Taraza." They meant Odrade possessed her late predecessor as Primary. The two of them were a historical pair, required study for postulants.

Dar and Tar, already a legend.

Even Bellonda (dear old vicious Bell) came at Odrade obliquely because of this. Few frontal attacks, very little blaring in her accusatory arguments. Taraza was credited with saving the Sisterhood. That silenced much opposition. Taraza had said Honored Matres were essentially barbarians and their violence, although not totally deflectable, could be guided into bloody displays. Events had more or less verified this.

Correct up to a point, Tar. None of us anticipated the extent of their violence.

Taraza's classical veronica (how apt the bullring image) had aimed the Honored Matres into such episodes of carnage that the universe was mordant with potential supporters of their brutalized victims.

How do I defend us?

It was not so much that defensive plans were inadequate. They could become irrelevant.

That, of course, is what I seek. We must be purified and made ready for a supreme effort.

Bellonda had sneered at that idea. "For our demise? Is that why we must be purified?"

Bellonda would be ambivalent when she discovered what Mother Superior planned. Bellonda-vicious would applaud. Bellonda-Mentat would argue for delay "until a more propitious moment. "

But I will seek my own peculiar way despite what my Sisters think.

And many Sisters thought Odrade quite the strangest Mother Superior they had ever accepted. Elevated more with the left hand than with the right. Taraza Primary. I was there when you died, Tar. No one else to gather your persona. Elevation by accident?

Many disapproved of Odrade. But when opposition arose, back they went to "Taraza Primary - the best Mother Superior in our history."

Amusing! Taraza Within was the quickest to laugh and ask: Why don't you tell them about my mistakes, Dar? Especially about how I misjudged you.

Odrade chewed reflectively on a bite of sligpork. I'm overdue for a visit to Sheeana. South into the desert and that soon. Sheeana must be made ready to replace Tam.

The changing landscape loomed large in Odrade's thoughts. More than fifteen hundred years of Bene Gesserit occupancy on Chapterhouse. Signs of us everywhere. Not just in special groves or vineyards and orchards. What it must be doing to the collective psyche, seeing such changes come over their familiar land.

The acolyte seated beside Odrade made a soft throat-clearing sound. Was she about to address Mother Superior? A rare occurrence. The young woman continued to eat without speaking.

Odrade's thoughts returned to the prospective journey into the desert. Sheeana must have no forewarning. I must be sure she is the one we need. There were questions for Sheeana to answer.

Odrade knew what she would find on inspection stops en route. In Sisters, in plant and animal life, in the very foundations of Chapterhouse, she would see changes gross and changes subtle, things to wrench at Mother Superior's vaunted serenity. Even Murbella, never out of the no-ship, sensed these changes.

Only that morning, seated with her back to her console, Murbella had listened with new attentiveness to Odrade standing over her. Edgy alertness in the captive Honored Matre. Her voice betrayed doubts and unbalanced judgments.

"All is transient, Mother Superior?"

"That is knowledge impressed on you by Other Memory. No planet, no land or sea, no part of any land or sea is here forever."

"A morbid thought!" Rejection.

"Wherever we stand, we are only stewards."

"A useless viewpoint." Hesitant, questioning why Mother Superior chose this moment to say such things.

"I hear Honored Matres talking through you. They gave you greedy dreams, Murbella."

"So you say!" Deeply resentful.

"Honored Matres think they can buy infinite security: a small planet, you know, with plenty of subservient population."

Murbella produced a grimace.

"More planets!" Odrade snapped. "Always more and more and more! That's why they come swarming back."

"Poor pickings in this Old Empire."

"Excellent, Murbella! You're beginning to think like one of us."

"And that makes me a nothing!"

"Neither fish nor fowl, but your own true self? Even there, you're only a steward. Beware, Murbella! If you think you own something, that's like walking on quicksand."

This got a puzzled frown. Something would have to be done about the way Murbella allowed her emotions to play so openly on her face. It was permissible here, but someday...

"So nothing is safely owned. So what!" Bitter, bitter.

"You speak some of the right words but I don't think you've yet found a place in yourself where you can endure for your lifetime."

"Until an enemy finds me and slaughters me?"

Honored Matre training clings like glue! But she spoke to Duncan the other night in a way that tells me she is ready. The Van Gogh painting, I do believe, has sensitized her. I heard it in her voice. I must review that record.

"Who would slaughter you, Murbella?"

"You'll never withstand an Honored Matre attack!"

"I've already stated the basic fact that concerns us: No place is eternally safe."

"Another of your useless damned lessons!"

In the Acolyte Hall, Odrade recalled she had not found time to review that comeye record of Duncan and Murbella. A sigh almost escaped her. She covered it with a cough. Never do to let the young women see disturbance in Mother Superior.

To the desert and Sheeana! Inspection tour as soon as I can make time for it. Time!

Again, the acolyte seated beside Odrade made that throat noise. Odrade watched peripherally - blond, short black dress trimmed in white - Intermediate Third Stage. No movement of the head toward Odrade, no sidelong glances.

This is what I will find on my inspection tour: Fears. And in the landscape, those things we always see when we run out of time: trees left uncut because woodcutters have gone - dragooned into our Scattering, gone to their graves, gone to unknown places, perhaps even to peonage. Will I see architectural Fancies becoming attractive because they are incomplete, builders departed? No. We don't go in much for Fancies.

Other Memory held examples she wished she might find: old buildings more beautiful because they were unfinished. The builder bankrupt, an owner angered at his mistress... Some things were more interesting because of that: old walls, old ruins. Time sculpture.

What would Bell say if I ordered a Fancy in my favorite orchard?

The acolyte beside Odrade said: "Mother Superior?"

Excellent! They so seldom find the courage.

"Yes?" Faint questioning. This had better be important. Would she hear?

She heard. "I intrude, Mother Superior, because of the urgency and because I know your interest in the orchards."

Superb! This acolyte had thick legs but that did not extend to her mind. Odrade stared at her silently.

"I am the one making the map for your bedchamber, Mother Superior."

So this was a reliable adept, a person trusted with work for Mother Superior. Even better.

"Will I have my map soon?"

"Two days, Mother Superior. I am adjusting projection overlays where I will mark the desert's daily growth."

A brief nod. That had been in the original order: an acolyte to keep the map current. Odrade wanted to awaken each morning, her imagination ignited by that changing view, the first thing impressed on awareness at arising.

"I put a report in your workroom this morning, Mother Superior. 'Orchard Management.' Perhaps you did not see it."

Odrade had seen only the label. She had been late coming from exercises, anxious to visit Murbella. So much depended on Murbella!

"The plantations around Central must either be abandoned or action taken to sustain them," the acolyte said. "That's the gist of the report."

"Repeat the report verbatim."

Night fell and the room lights brightened as Odrade listened. Concise. Terse even. The report carried a note of admonishment Odrade recognized as originating with Bellonda. No Archival signature but Weather's warnings went through Archives and this acolyte had lifted some of the original words.

The acolyte fell silent, report concluded.

How do I respond? Orchards, pastures and vineyards were not merely a buffer against alien intrusions, pleasant decorations on the landscape. They supported Chapterhouse morale and tables.

They support my morale.

How quietly this acolyte waited. Curly blond hair and round face. Pleasing countenance, though the mouth was wide. Food remained on her plate but she was not eating. Hands folded in her lap. I am here to serve you, Mother Superior.

While Odrade composed her response, memory intruded - an old incident simulflowing over immediate observations. She remembered her ornithopter training course. Two acolyte students with instructor at midday high over the wetlands of Lampadas. She had been paired with as inept an acolyte as could have been accepted by the Sisterhood. Obviously a gene-choice. The Breeding Mistresses wanted her for a characteristic to be passed along to offspring. It certainly wasn't emotional balance or intelligence! Odrade remembered the name: Linchine.

Linchine had shouted at their instructor: "I am going to fly this damned 'thopter!"

And all the while a whirling sky and landscape of trees and marshy lakeshore dizzied them. That was how it seemed: us stationary and the world moving. Linchine doing the wrong thing every time. Each movement created worse gyrations.

The instructor cut her out of the system by pulling the disconnect only he could reach. He did not speak until they were flying straight and level.

"No way are you ever going to fly this, lady. Not ever! You don't have the right reactions. You have to begin training those into someone like you before puberty."

"I am! I am! I'll fly this damned thing." Hands jerking at the useless controls.

"You're washed out, lady. Grounded!"

Odrade breathed easier, realizing she had known all along that Linchine might kill them.

Whirling toward Odrade in the rear, Linchine screamed: "Tell him! Tell him he must obey a Bene Gesserit!"

Addressing the fact that Odrade, several years ahead of Linchine, already displayed a commanding presence.

Odrade sat in silence, features immobile.

Silence is often the best thing to say, some Bene Gesserit humorist had scrawled on a washroom mirror. Odrade found that good advice then and later.

Recalling herself to the needs of the acolyte in the dining hall, Odrade wondered why that old memory had come of itself. Such things seldom happened without purpose. Not silence now, certainly. Humor? Yes! That was the message. Odrade's humor (applied later) had taught Linchine something about herself. Humor under stress.

Odrade smiled at the acolyte beside her in the dining hall. "How would you like to be a horse?"

"What?" The word was startled out of her but she responded to Mother Superior's smile. Nothing alarming in that. Warm even. Everyone said Mother Superior permitted affections.

"You don't understand, of course," Odrade said.

"No, Mother Superior." Still smiling and patient.

Odrade allowed her gaze to quest over the young face. Clear blue eyes not yet touched by the engulfing blue of Spice Agony. A mouth almost like Bell's but without the viciousness. Dependable muscles and dependable intelligence. She would be good at anticipating Mother Superior's needs. Witness her map assignment and that report. Sensitive. Went with her superior intelligence. Not likely to rise to the very top but always in key positions where you needed her qualities.

Why did I sit beside this one?

Odrade frequently selected a particular companion at mealtime visits. Acolytes mostly. They could be so revealing. Reports often found their way to Mother Superior's workroom: personal observations from Proctors about one acolyte or another. But sometimes, Odrade chose a seat for no reason she could explain. As I did tonight. Why this one?

Conversation rarely occurred unless Mother Superior initiated it. Gentle initiation usually, easing into more intimate matters. Others around them listened avidly.

At such moments, Odrade often produced a manner of almost religious serenity. It soothed nervous ones. Acolytes were... well, acolytes, but Mother Superior was the supreme witch of them all. Nervousness was natural.

Someone behind Odrade whispered: "She has Streggi on the coals tonight."

On the coals. Odrade knew the expression. It had been used in her acolyte days. So this one was named Streggi. Let it be unspoken for now. Names carry magic.

"Do you enjoy tonight's dinner?" Odrade asked.

"It's acceptable, Mother Superior." One tried not to give false opinions, but Streggi was confused by the shift in conversation.

"They've overcooked it," Odrade said.

"Serving so many, how can they please everyone, Mother Superior?"

She speaks her mind and speaks it well.

"Your left hand is trembling," Odrade said.

"I'm nervous with you, Mother Superior. And I've just come from the practice floor. Very tiring today."

Odrade analyzed the tremors. "They have you doing the long-arm lift."

"Was it painful in your day, Mother Superior?" (In those ancient times?) "Just as painful as today. Pain teaches, they told me."

That softened things. Shared experiences, the patter of the Proctors.

"I don't understand about horses, Mother Superior." Streggi looked at her plate. "This cannot be horse meat. I'm sure I..."

Odrade laughed loudly, attracting startled looks. She put a hand on Streggi's arm and subsided to a gentle smile. "Thank you, my dear. No one has made me laugh that much in years. I hope this is the beginning of a long and joyous association."

"Thank you, Mother Superior, but I -"

"I will explain about the horse, my own little joke and no intent to demean you. I want you to carry a young child on your shoulders, to move him more rapidly than his short legs will carry him."

"As you wish, Mother Superior." No objections, no more questions. Questions were there, but the answers would come in their own time and Streggi knew it.

Magic time.

Withdrawing her hand, Odrade said: "Your name?"

"Streggi, Mother Superior. Aloana Streggi."

"Rest easy, Streggi. I will see to the orchards. We need them for morale as much as for food. You report to Reassignment tonight. Tell them I want you in my workroom at six tomorrow morning."

"I will be there, Mother Superior. Will I continue to mark your map?" As Odrade was rising to leave.

"For now, Streggi. But ask Reassignment for a new acolyte and begin training her. Soon, you will be much too busy for the map."

"Thank you, Mother Superior. The desert is growing very fast."

Streggi's words gave Odrade a certain satisfaction, dispelling gloom that had hampered her most of the day.

The cycle was getting another chance, turning once more as it was impelled to do by those subterranean forces called "life" and "love" and other unnecessary labels.

Thus it turns. Thus it renews. Magic. What witchery could take your attention from this miracle?

In her workroom, she issued an order to Weather, then silenced the tools of her office and went to the bow window. Chapterhouse glowed pale red in the night from reflections of groundlights against low clouds. It gave a romantic appearance to rooftops and walls that Odrade quickly rejected.

Romance? There was nothing romantic about what she had done in the Acolyte Dining Hall.

I have finally done it. I have committed myself. Now, Duncan must restore our Bashar's memories. A delicate assignment.

She continued to stare into the night, suppressing knots in her stomach.

I not only commit myself but I commit what remains of my Sisterhood. So this is how it feels, Tar.

This is how it feels and your plan is tricky.

It was going to rain. Odrade sensed it in the air coming through the ventilators around the window. No need to read a Weather Dispatch. She seldom did that these days, anyway. Why bother? But Streggi's report carried a potent warning.

Rains were becoming rarer here and rather to be welcomed.

Sisters would emerge to walk in it despite the cold. There was a touch of sadness in the thought. Each rain she saw brought the same question: Is this the last one?

The people of Weather did heroic things to keep an expanding desert dry and the growing areas irrigated. Odrade did not know how they had managed this rain to comply with her order. Before long, they would not be able to obey such commands, even from Mother Superior. The desert will triumph because that is what we have set in motion.

She opened the central panes of her window. The wind at this level had stopped. Just the clouds moving overhead. Wind at higher elevations harrying things along. A sense of urgency in the weather. The air was chilly. So they had made temperature adjustments to bring this bit of rain. She closed the window, feeling no desire to go outside. Mother Superior had no time to play the game of last rain. One rain at a time. And always out there the desert moving inexorably toward them.

That, we can map and watch. But what of the hunter behind me - the nightmare figure with the axe? What map tells me where she is tonight?

***

Religion (emulation of adults by the child) encysts past mythologies: guesses, hidden assumptions of trust in the universe, pronouncements made in search of personal power, all mingled with shreds of enlightenment. And always an unspoken commandment: Thou shalt not question! We break that commandment daily in the harnessing of human imagination to our deepest creativity.

- Bene Gesserit Credo

Murbella sat cross-legged on the practice floor, alone, shivering after her exertions. Mother Superior had been here less than an hour this afternoon. And, as often happened, Murbella felt she had been abandoned in a fever dream.

Odrade's parting words reverberated in the dream: "The hardest lesson for an acolyte to learn is that she must always go the limit. Your abilities will take you farther than you imagine. Don't imagine, then. Extend yourself."

What is my response? That I was taught to cheat?

Odrade had done something to call up the patterns of childhood and Honored Matre education. I learned cheating as an infant. How to simulate a need and gain attention. Many "how-to's" in the cheating pattern. The older she got, the easier the cheating. She had learned what the big people around her were demanding. I regurgitated on demand. That was called "education." Why were the Bene Gesserit so remarkably different in their teaching?

"I don't ask you to be honest with me," Odrade had said. "Be honest with yourself."

Murbella despaired of ever rooting out all of the cheating in her past. Why should I? More cheating!

"Damn you, Odrade!"

Only after the words were out did she realize she had spoken them aloud. She started to put a hand to her mouth and aborted the movement. Fever said: "What's the difference?"

"Educational bureaucracies dull a child's questing sensitivity." Odrade explaining. "The young must be damped down. Never let them know how good they can be. That brings change. Spend lots of committee time talking about how to deal with exceptional students. Don't spend any time dealing with how the conventional teacher feels threatened by emerging talents and squelches them because of a deep-seated desire to feel superior and safe in a safe environment. "

She was talking about Honored Matres.

Conventional teachers?

There it was: Behind that facade of wisdom, the Bene Gesserit were unconventional. They often did not think about teaching; they just did it.

Gods! I want to be like them!

The thought shocked her and she leaped to her feet, launching herself into a training routine for wrists and arms.

Realization bit deeper than ever. She did not want to disappoint these teachers. Candor and honesty. Every acolyte heard that. "Basic tools of learning," Odrade said.

Distracted by her thoughts, Murbella tumbled hard and stood up, rubbing a bruised shoulder.

She had thought at first that the Bene Gesserit protestation must be a lie. I am being so candid with you that I must tell you about my unswerving honesty.

But actions confirmed their claim. Odrade's voice persisted in the fever dream: "That is how you judge."

They had something in the mind, in memory and a balance of intellect no Honored Matre had ever possessed. This thought made her feel small. Enter corruption. It was like liver spots in her feverish thoughts.

But I have talent! It required talent to become an Honored Matre.

Do I still think of myself as an Honored Matre?

The Bene Gesserit knew she had not fully committed herself to them. What skills do I have that they could possibly want? Not the skills of deception.

"Do actions agree with words? There's your measure of reliability. Never confine yourself to the words."

Murbella put her hands over her ears. Shut up, Odrade!

"How does a Truthsayer separate sincerity from a more fundamental judgment?"

Murbella dropped her hands to her sides. Maybe I'm really sick. She swept her gaze around the long room. No one there to utter these words. Anyway, it was Odrade's voice.

"If you convince yourself, sincerely, you can speak utter balderdash (marvelous old word; look it up), absolute poppylarky in every word and you will be believed. But not by one of our Truthsayers."

Murbella's shoulders sagged. She began to wander aimlessly around the practice floor. Was there no place to escape?

"Look for the consequences, Murbella. That's how you ferret out things that work. That's what our much-vaunted truths are all about."

Pragmatism?

Idaho found her then and responded to the wild look in her eyes. "What's wrong?"

" I think I'm sick. Really sick. I thought it was something Odrade did to me but..."

He caught her as she fell.

"Help us!"

For once, he was glad of the comeyes. A Suk was with them in less than a minute. She bent over Murbella where Idaho cradled her on the floor.

The examination was brief. The Suk, a graying older Reverend Mother with the traditional diamond brand on her forehead, straightened and said: "Overstressed. She's not trying to find her limits, she's going beyond them. We'll put her back into the sensitizing class before we let her continue. I'll send the Proctors."

Odrade found Murbella in the Proctor's Ward that evening, propped up in a bed, two Proctors taking turns testing her muscle responses. A small gesture and they left Odrade alone with Murbella.

"I tried to avoid complicating things," Murbella said. Candor and honesty.

"Trying to avoid complications often creates them." Odrade sank into a chair beside the bed and put a hand on Murbella's arm. Muscles quivered under the hand. "We say 'words are slow, feeling's faster.' " Odrade withdrew. "What decisions have you been making?"

"You let me make decisions?"

"Don't sneer." She lifted a hand to prevent interruption. "I didn't take your previous conditioning into sufficient account. The Honored Matres left you practically incapable of making decisions. Typical of power-hungry societies. Teach their people to diddle around forever. 'Decisions bring bad results!' You teach avoidance."

"What's that have to do with me collapsing?" Resentful.

"Murbella! The worst products of what I'm describing are almost basket cases - can't make decisions about anything, or leave them until the last possible second and then leap at them like desperate animals. "

"You told me to go the limit!" Almost wailing.

"Your limits, Murbella. Not mine. Not Bell's or those of anyone else. Yours."

"I've decided I want to be like you." Very faint.

"Marvelous! I don't believe I've ever tried to kill myself. Especially when I was pregnant."

In spite of herself, Murbella grinned.

Odrade stood. "Sleep. You're going into a special class tomorrow where we'll work on your ability to mesh your decisions with sensitivity to your limits. Remember what I told you. We take care of our own."

"Am I yours?" Almost whispered.

"Since you repeated the oath before the Proctors." Odrade turned out the lights as she left. Murbella heard her speak to someone before the door closed. "Stop fussing with her. She needs rest."

Murbella closed her eyes. The fever dream was gone but in its place was her own memory. "I am a Bene Gesserit. I exist only to serve."

She heard herself saying those words to the Proctors but memory gave them an emphasis not in the original.

They knew I was being cynical.

What could you hide from such women?

She felt the remembered hand of the Proctor on her forehead and heard the words that had possessed no meaning until this moment.

"I stand in the sacred human presence. As I do now, so should you stand some day. I pray to your presence that this be so. Let the future remain uncertain for that is the canvas to receive our desires. Thus the human condition faces its perpetual tabula rasa. We possess no more than this moment where we dedicate ourselves continuously to the sacred presence we share and create."

Conventional but unconventional. She realized that she had not been physically or emotionally prepared for this moment. Tears flowed down her cheeks.

***

Laws to suppress tend to strengthen what they would prohibit. This is the fine point on which all the legal professions of history have based their job security.

- Bene Gesserit Coda

On her restless prowlings through Central (infrequent these days but more intense because of that), Odrade looked for signs of slackness and especially for areas of responsibility that were running too smoothly.

The Senior Watchdog had her own watchwords: "Show me a completely smooth operation and I'll show you someone who's covering mistakes. Real boats rock."

She said this often and it became an identifying phrase the Sisters (and even some acolytes) employed to comment on Mother Superior.

"Real boats rock." Soft chuckles.

Bellonda accompanied Odrade on today's early morning inspection, not mentioning that "once a month" had been stretched to "once every two months" - if that. This inspection was a week past the mark. Bell wanted to use this time for warnings about Idaho. And she had dragged Tamalane along although Tam was supposed to be reviewing Proctor performance at this hour.

Two against one? Odrade wondered. She did not think Bell or Tam suspected what Mother Superior intended. Well, it would come out, as had Taraza's plan. In its own time, eh, Tar?

Down the corridors they stalked, black robes swishing with urgency, eyes missing little. It was all familiar and yet they looked for things that were new. Odrade carried her Ear-C over her left shoulder like a misplaced diving weight. Never be out of communication range these days.

Behind the scenes in any Bene Gesserit center were the support facilities: clinic-hospital, kitchen, morgue, garbage control, reclamation systems (attached to sewage and garbage), transport and communications, kitchen provisioning, training and physical maintenance halls, schools for acolytes and postulants, quarters for all of the denominations, meeting centers, testing facilities and much more. Personnel often changed because of the Scattering and movement of people into new responsibilities, all according to subtle Bene Gesserit awareness. But tasks and places for them remained.

As they strode swiftly from one area to another, Odrade spoke of the Sisterhood Scattering, not trying to hide her dismay at "the atomic family" they had become.

"I find it difficult to contemplate humankind spreading into an unlimited universe," Tam said. "The possibilities..."

"Infinite numbers game." Odrade stepped across a broken curb. "That should be repaired. We've been playing the infinity game since we learned to jump Foldspace."

There was no joy in Bellonda. "It's not a game!"

Odrade could appreciate Bellonda's feelings. We have never seen empty space. Always more galaxies. Tam's right. It's daunting when you focus on that Golden Path.

Memories of explorations gave the Sisterhood a statistical handle on it but little else. So many habitable planets in a given assemblage and, among those, an expected additional number that could be terraformed.

"What's evolving out there?" Tamalane demanded.

A question they could not answer. Ask what Infinity might produce and the only answer possible was, "Anything."

Any good, any evil; any god, any devil.

"What if Honored Matres are fleeing something?" Odrade asked. "Interesting possibility?"

"These speculations are useless," Bellonda muttered. "We don't even know if Foldspace introduces us to one universe or many... or even an infinite number of expanding and collapsing bubbles."

"Did the Tyrant understand this any better than we do?" Tamalane asked.

They paused while Odrade looked into a room where five Advanced acolytes and a Proctor studied a projection of regional melange stores. The crystal holding the information performed an intricate dance in the projector, bouncing on its beam like a ball on a fountain. Odrade saw the summation and turned away before scowling. Tam and Bell did not see Odrade's expression. We will have to start limiting access to melange data. Too depressing to morale.

Administration! It all came back to Mother Superior. Delegate heavily to only the same people and you fell into bureaucracy.

Odrade knew she depended too much on her inner sense of administration. A system frequently tested and revised, using automation only where essential. "The machinery" they called it. By the time they became Reverend Mothers, all of them had some sensitivity to "the machinery" and tended to use it without question thereafter. There lay the danger. Odrade pressed for constant improvements (even tiny ones) to introduce change into their activities. Randomness! No absolute patterns that others could find and use against them. One person might not see such shifts in a lifetime but differences over longer periods were sure to be measurable.

Odrade's party came down to ground level and onto the major thoroughfare of Central. "The Way," Sisters called it. An in-joke, referring to the training regimen popularly known as "The Bene Gesserit Way."

The Way reached from the square beside Odrade's tower to the southern outskirts of the urban area - straight as a lasgun beam, almost twelve klicks of tall buildings and low ones. The low ones all had something in common: they had been built strong enough to expand upward.

Odrade flagged an open transporter with empty seats and the three of them crowded into a space where they could continue to talk. Frontage on The Way carried an old-fashioned appeal, Odrade thought. Buildings such as these with their tall rectangular windows of insulating plaz had framed Bene Gesserit "Ways" through much of the Sisterhood's history. Down the center ran a line of elms genetically tailored for height and narrow profile. Birds nested in them and the morning was bright with flitting spots of red and orange - orioles, tanagers.

Is it dangerously patterned for us to prefer this familiar setting?

Odrade led them off the transporter at Tipsy Trail, thinking how Bene Gesserit humor came out in curious names. Waggish in the streets. Tipsy Trail because the foundation of one building had subsided slightly, giving that structure a curiously drunken appearance. The one member of the group stepping out of line.

Like Mother Superior. Only they don't know it yet.

Her Ear-C buzzed as they came to Tower Lane. "Mother Superior?" It was Streggi. Without stopping, Odrade signaled that she was on-line. "You asked for a report on Murbella. Suk Central says she is fit for assigned classes."

"Then assign her." They continued down Tower Lane: all one-story buildings.

Odrade spared a brief glance for the low buildings on both sides of the street. A two-story addition was being made to one of them. Might be a real Tower Lane here someday and the joke (such as it was) abandoned.

It was argued that naming was just a convenience anyway and they might as well enjoy this venture into what was a delicate subject for the Sisterhood.

Odrade stopped abruptly on a busy walkway and turned to her companions. "What would you say if I suggested we name streets and places after departed Sisters?"

"You're full of nonsense today!" Bellonda accused.

"They are not departed," Tamalane said.

Odrade resumed her prowling walk. She had expected that. Bell's thoughts could almost be heard. We carry the "departed" around in Other Memory!

Odrade wanted no argument here in the open but she thought her idea had merit. Some Sisters died without Sharing. Major Memory Lines were duplicated but you lost a thread and its terminated carrier. Schwangyu of the Gammu Keep had gone that way, killed by attacking Honored Matres. Plenty of memories remained to carry her good qualities... and complexities. One hesitated to say her mistakes taught more than her successes.

Bellonda increased her pace to walk beside Odrade in a relatively empty stretch. "I must speak of Idaho. A Mentat, yes, but those multiple memories. Supremely dangerous!"

They were passing a morgue, the strong smell of antiseptics even in the street. The arched doorway stood open.

"Who died?" Odrade asked, ignoring Bellonda's anxiety.

"A Proctor from Section Four and an orchard maintenance man," Tamalane said. Tam always knew.

Bellonda was furious at being ignored and made no attempt to hide it. "Will you two stick to the point?"

"What is the point?" Odrade asked. Very mild.

They emerged on the south terrace and stopped at the stone rail to look over the plantations - vineyards and orchards. The morning light had a dusty haze in it not at all like the mists created of moisture.

"You know the point!" Bell would not be deflected.

Odrade stared at the vista, pressing herself against the stones. The railing was frigid. That mist out there was a different color, she thought. Sunlight came through dust with a different reflective spectrum. More bounce and sharpness to the light. Absorbed in a different way. The nimbus was tighter. The blowing dust and sand crept into every crevice the way water did but the grating and rasping betrayed its source. The same with Bell's persistence. No lubrication.

"That's desert light," Odrade said, pointing.

"Stop avoiding me," Bellonda said.

Odrade chose not to answer. The dusty light was a classical thing, but not reassuring in the way of the elder painters and their misty mornings.

Tamalane came up beside Odrade. "Beautiful in its own way." The remote tone said she made Other Memory comparisons similar to Odrade's.

If that's how you were conditioned to look for beauty. But something deep within Odrade said this was not the beauty for which she longed.

In the shallow swales below them, where once there had been greenery, now there was dryness and a sense of the earth being gutted the way ancient Egyptians had prepared their dead - dried to essential matter, preserved for their Eternity. Desert as deathmaster, swaddling the dirt in nitron, embalming our beautiful planet with all of its jewels concealed.

Bellonda stood behind them, muttering and shaking her head, refusing to look at what their planet would become.

Odrade almost shuddered in a sudden thrust of simulflow. Memory flooded her: She felt herself searching Sietch Tabr's ruins, finding desert-embalmed bodies of spice pirates left where killers had dropped them.

What is Sieteh Tabr now? A molten flow solidified and without anything to mark its proud history. Honored Matres: killers of history.

"If you won't eliminate Idaho, then I must protest your using him as a Mentat."

Bell was such a fussy woman! Odrade noted that she was showing her age more than ever. Reading lenses on her nose even now. They magnified her eyes until she had the look of a great-orbed fish. Use of lenses and not one of the more subtle prostheses said something about her. She flaunted a reverse vanity that announced: "I am greater than the devices my failing senses require. "

Bellonda was definitely irritated by Mother Superior. "Why are you staring at me that way?"

Odrade, caught by abrupt awareness of a weakness in her Council, shifted her attention to Tamalane. Cartilage never stopped growing and this had enlarged Tam's ears, nose and chin. Some Reverend Mothers adjusted this by metabolism control or sought regular surgical correction. Tam would not bow to such vanity. "Here's what I am. Take it or leave it."

My advisors are too old. And I... I should be younger and stronger to have these problems on my shoulders. Oh, damn this for a lapse into self-pity!

Only one supreme danger: action against survival of the Sisterhood.

"Duncan is a superb Mentat!" Odrade spoke with all the force of her position. "But I use none of you beyond your capabilities."

Bellonda remained silent. She knew a Mentat's weaknesses.

Mentats! Odrade thought. They were like walking Archives but when you most needed answers they relapsed into questions.

"I don't need another Mentat," Odrade said. "I need an inventor!"

When Bellonda still did not speak, Odrade said: "I am freeing his mind, not his body."

"I insist on an analysis before you open all data sources to him!"

Considering Bellonda's usual stance, that was mild. But Odrade did not trust it. She detested those sessions - endless rehashing of Archival reports. Bellonda doted on them. Bellonda of Archival minutiae and boring excursions into irrelevant details! Who cared if Reverend Mother X preferred skimmed milk on her porridge?

Odrade turned her back on Bellonda and looked at the southern sky. Dust! We would sift more dust! Bellonda would be flanked by assistants. Odrade felt boredom just imagining it.

"No more analysis." Odrade spoke more sharply than she had intended.

"I do have a point of view." Bellonda sounded hurt.

Point of view? Are we no more than sensory windows on our universe, each with only a point of view?

Instincts and memories of all types... even Archives - none of these things spoke for themselves except by compelling intrusions. None carried weight until formulated in a living consciousness. But whoever produced the formulation tipped the scales. All order is arbitrary! Why this datum rather than some other? Any Reverend Mother knew events occurred in their own flux, their own relative environment. Why couldn't a Mentat Reverend Mother act from that knowledge?

"Do you refuse counsel?" That was Tamalane. Was she siding with Bell?

"When have I ever refused counsel?" Odrade let her outrage show. "I am refusing another of Bell's Archival merry-go-rounds."

Bellonda intruded. "Then, in reality -"

"Bell! Don't talk to me about reality!" Let her simmer in that! Reverend Mother and Mentat! There is no reality. Only our own order imposed on everything. A basic Bene Gesserit dictum.

There were times (and this was one of them) when Odrade wished she had been born in an earlier era - a Roman matron in the long pax of the aristocrats, or a much-pampered Victorian. But she was trapped by time and circumstances.

Trapped forever?

Must face that possibility. The Sisterhood might have only a future confined to secret hideaways, always fearing discovery. The future of the hunted. And here at Central we may be allowed no more than one mistake.

"I've had enough of this inspection!" Odrade called for private transport and hurried them back to her workroom.

What will we do if the hunters come upon us here?

Each of them had her own scenario, a little playlet full of planned reactions. But every Reverend Mother was sufficiently a realist to know her playlet might be more hindrance than help.

In the workroom, morning light harshly revealing on everything around them, Odrade sank into her chair and waited for Tamalane and Bellonda to take their seats.

No more of those damned analysis sessions. She really needed access to something better than Archives, better than anything they had ever used before. Inspiration. Odrade rubbed her legs, feeling muscles tremble. She had not slept well for days. This inspection left her feeling frustrated.

One mistake could end us and I am about to commit us to a no-return decision.

Am I being too tricky?

Her advisors argued against tricky solutions. They said the Sisterhood must move with steady assurance, the ground ahead known in advance. Everything they did lay counterpoised by the disaster awaiting them at the slightest misstep.

And I am on the tightrope over the chasm.

Did they have room to experiment, to test possible solutions? They all played that game. Bell and Tam screened a constant flow of suggestions but nothing more effective than their atomic Scattering.

We must be prepared to kill Idaho at the slightest sign he is a Kwisatz Haderach," Bellonda said.

"Don't you have work to do? Get out of here, both of you!"

As they stood, the workroom around Odrade took on an alien feeling. What was wrong? Bellonda stared down at her with that awful look of censure. Tamalane appeared more wise than she could possibly be.

What is it about this room?

The workroom would have been recognized for its function by humans from pre-space history. What felt so alien? A worktable was a worktable and the chairs were in convenient positions. Bell and Tam preferred chairdogs. Those would have seemed odd to the early human in Other Memory she suspected was coloring her view. The ridulian crystals might glisten strangely, the light pulsing in them and blinking. Messages dancing above the table might be surprising. Instruments of her labors could appear strange to an early human sharing her awareness.

But it felt alien to me.

"Are you all right, Dar?" Tam spoke with concern.

Odrade waved her away but neither woman moved.

Things were happening in her mind that could not be blamed on the long hours and insufficient rest. This was not the first time she had felt she worked in alien surroundings. The previous night while eating a snack at this table, the surface littered with assignment orders as it was now, she had found herself just sitting and staring at uncompleted work.

Which Sisters could be spared from what posts for this terrible Scattering? How could they improve survival chances of the few sandtrout the Scattered Sisters took? What was a proper allotment of melange? Should they wait before sending more Sisters into the unknown? Wait for the possibility that Scytale could be induced to tell them how axlotl tanks produced the spice?

Odrade recalled that the alien feeling had occurred to her as she chewed on a sandwich. She had looked at it, opening it slightly. What is this thing I'm eating? Chicken liver and onions on some of the best Chapterhouse bread.

Questioning her own routines, that was part of this alien sensation.

"You look ill," Bellonda said.

"Just fatigue," Odrade lied. They knew she was lying but would they challenge her? "You both must be equally tired." Affection in her tone.

Bell was not satisfied. "You set a bad example!"

"What? Me?" The jesting was not lost on Bell.

"You know damned well you do!"

"It's your displays of affection," Tamalane said.

"Even for Bell."

"I don't want your damned affection! It's wrong."

"Only if I let it rule my decisions, Bell. Only then."

Bellonda's voice fell to a husky whisper. "Some think you're a dangerous romantic, Dar. You know what that could do."

"Ally Sisters with me for other than our survival. Is that what you mean?"

"Sometimes you give me a headache, Dar!"

"It's my duty and right to give you a headache. When your head fails to ache, you become careless. Affections bother you but hates don't."

"I know my flaw."

You couldn't be a Reverend Mother and not know it.

The workroom once more had become a familiar place but now Odrade knew a source of her alien feelings. She was thinking of this place as part of ancient history, viewing it as she might when it was long gone. As it certainly would be if her plan succeeded. She knew what she had to do now. Time to reveal the first step.

Careful.

Yes, Tar, I'm as cautious as you were.

Tam and Bell might be old but their minds were sharp when necessity required it.

Odrade fixed her gaze on Bell. "Patterns, Bell. It is our pattern not to offer violence for violence." Raising a hand to stop Bell's response. "Yes, violence builds more violence and the pendulum swings until the violent ones are shattered."

"What are you thinking?" Tam demanded.

"Perhaps we should consider baiting the bull more strongly."

"We dare not. Not yet."

"But we also dare not sit here witlessly waiting for them to find us. Lampadas and our other disasters tell us what will happen when they come. When, not if"

As she spoke, Odrade sensed the chasm beneath her, the nightmare hunter with the axe ever nearer. She wanted to sink into the nightmare, turning there to identify the one who stalked them, but dared not. That had been the mistake of the Kwisatz Haderach.

You do not see that future, you create it.

Tamalane wanted to know why Odrade raised this issue. "Have you changed your mind, Dar?"

"Our ghola-Teg is ten years old."

"Much too young for us to attempt restoring his original memories," Bellonda said.

"Why have we recreated Teg if not for violent uses?" Odrade asked. "Oh, yes!" As Tam started to object. "Teg did not always solve our problems with violence. The peaceful Bashar could deflect enemies with reasonable words."

Tam spoke musingly. "But Honored Matres may never negotiate."

"Unless we can drive them to extremis."

"I think you are proposing to move too fast," Bellonda said. Trust Bell to reach a Mentat summation.

Odrade drew in a deep breath and looked down at her worktable. It had come at last. On that morning when she had removed the baby ghola from his obscene "tank," she had sensed this moment waiting for her. Even then she had known she would put this ghola into the crucible before his time. Ties of blood notwithstanding.

Reaching beneath her table, Odrade touched a call field. Her two councillors stood silently waiting. They knew she was about to say something important. One thing a Mother Superior could be sure of - her Sisters listened to her with great care, with an intensity that would have gratified someone more ego-bound than a Reverend Mother.

"Politics," Odrade said.

That snapped them to attention! A loaded word. When you entered Bene Gesserit politics, marshaling your powers for the rise to eminence, you became a prisoner of responsibility. You saddled yourself with duties and decisions that bound you to the lives of those who depended on you. This was what really tied the Sisterhood to their Mother Superior. That one word told councillors and the watchdogs the First-Among-Equals had reached a decision.

They all heard the small scuffling sound of someone arriving outside the workroom door. Odrade touched the white plate in the near right corner of her table. The door behind her opened and Streggi stood there awaiting the Mother Superior's orders.

"Bring him," Odrade said.

"Yes, Mother Superior." Almost emotionless. A very promising acolyte, that Streggi.

She stepped out of sight and returned leading Miles Teg by the hand. The boy's hair was quite blond but streaked with darker lines that said the light coloration would go dark when he matured. His face was narrow, nose just beginning to show that hawkish angularity so characteristic of Atreides males. His blue eyes moved alertly taking in room and occupants with expectant curiosity.

"Wait outside, please, Streggi."

Odrade waited for the door to close.

The boy stood looking at Odrade with no sign of impatience.

"Miles Teg, ghola," Odrade said. "You remember Tamalane and Bellonda, of course."

He favored the two women with a short glance but remained silent, apparently unmoved by the intensity of their inspection.

Tamalane frowned. She had disagreed from the first with calling this child a ghola. Gholas were grown from cells of a cadaver. This was a clone, just as Scytale was a clone.

"I am going to send him into the no-ship with Duncan and Murbella," Odrade said. "Who better than Duncan to restore Miles to his original memories?"

"Poetic justice," Bellonda agreed. She did not speak her objections although Odrade knew they would come out when the boy had gone. Too young!

"What does she mean, poetic justice?" Teg asked. His voice had a piping quality.

"When the Bashar was on Gammu, he restored Duncan's original memories."

"Is it really painful?"

"Duncan found it so."

Some decisions must be ruthless.

Odrade thought that a great barrier to accepting the fact that you could make your own decisions. Something she would not be required to explain to Murbella.

How do I soften the blow?

There were times when you could not soften it; in fact when it was kinder to rip off the bandages in one swift shot of agony.

"Can this... this Duncan Idaho really give me back my memories from... before?"

"He can and he will."

"Are we not being too precipitous?" Tamalane asked.

"I've been studying accounts of the Bashar," Teg said. "He was a famous military man and a Mentat."

"And you're proud of that, I suppose?" Bell was taking out her objections on the boy.

"Not especially." He returned her gaze without flinching. "I think of him as someone else. Interesting, though."

"Someone else," Bellonda muttered. She looked at Odrade with ill-concealed disagreement. "You're giving him the deep teaching!"

"As his birth-mother did."

"Will I remember her?" Teg asked.

Odrade gave him a conspiratorial smile, one they had shared often in their orchard walks. "You will."

"Everything?"

"You'll remember all of it - your wife, your children, the battles. Everything. "

"Send him away!" Bellonda said.

The boy smiled but looked to Odrade, awaiting her command.

"Very well, Miles," Odrade said. "Tell Streggi to take you to your new quarters in the no-ship. I'll come along later and introduce you to Duncan."

"May I ride on Streggi's shoulders?"

"Ask her."

Impulsively, Teg dashed up to Odrade, lifted himself onto his toes and kissed her cheek. "I hope my real mother was like you."

Odrade patted his shoulder. "Very much like me. Run along now. "

When the door closed behind him, Tamalane said: "You haven't told him you're one of his daughters!"

"Not yet."

"Will Idaho tell him?"

"If it's indicated."

Bellonda was not interested in petty details. "What are you planning, Dar?"

Tamalane answered for her. "A punishment force commanded by our Mentat Bashar. It's obvious."

She took the bait!

"Is that it?" Bellonda demanded.

Odrade favored them both with a hard stare. "Teg was the best we ever had. If anyone can punish our enemies..."

"We'd better start growing another one," Tamalane said.

"I don't like the influence Murbella may have on him," Bellonda said.

"Will Idaho cooperate?" Tamalane asked.

"He will do what an Atreides asks of him."

Odrade spoke with more confidence than she felt but the words opened her mind to another source of the alien feelings.

I'm seeing us as Murbella sees us! I can think like at least one Honored Matre!

***

We do not teach history; we recreate the experience. We follow the chain of consequences - the tracks of the beast in its forest. Look behind our words and you see the broad sweep of social behavior that no historian has ever touched.

- Bene Gesserit Panoplia Propheticus

Scytale whistled while he walked down the corridor fronting his quarters, taking his afternoon exercise. Down and back. Whistling.

Get them accustomed to me whistling.

As he whistled, he composed a ditty to go with the sound: "Tleilaxu sperm does not talk." Over and over, the words rolled in his mind. They could not use his cells to bridge the genetic gap and learn his secrets.

They must come to me with gifts.

Odrade had stopped by to see him earlier "on my way to confer with Murbella." She mentioned the captive Honored Matre to him frequently. There was a purpose but he had no idea what it might be. Threat? Always possible. It would be revealed eventually.

"I hope you are not fearful," Odrade had said.

They had been standing at his food slot while he waited for lunch to appear. The menu was never quite to his liking but acceptable. Today, he had asked for seafood. No telling what form it would take.

"Fearful? Of you? Ahhh, dear Mother Superior, I am priceless to you alive. Why should I fear?"

"My Council reserves judgment on your latest requests."

I expected that.

"It's a mistake to hobble me," he said. "Limits your choices. Weakens you."

Those words had taken several days of planning for him to compose. He waited for their effect.

"It depends on how one intends to employ the tool, Master Scytale. Some tools break when you don't use them properly."

Damn you, witch!

He smiled, showing his sharp canines. "Testing to extinction, Mother Superior?"

She made one of her rare sallies into humor. "Do you really expect me to strengthen you? For what do you bargain now, Scytale?"

So I'm no longer Master Scytale. Strike her with the flat of the blade!

"You Scatter your Sisters, hoping some will escape destruction. What are the economic consequences of your hysterical reaction?"

Consequences! They always talk about consequences.

"We trade for time, Scytale." Very solemn.

He gave this a silent moment of reflection. The comeyes were watching them. Never forget it! Economics, witch! Who and what do we buy and sell? This alcove by the food slot was a strange place for bargaining, he thought. Bad management of the economy. The management hustle, the planning and strategy session, should occur behind closed doors, in high rooms with views that did not distract the occupants from the business at hand.

The serial memories of his many lives would not accept that.

Necessity. Humans conduct their merchant affairs wherever they can - on the decks of sailing ships, in tawdry streets full of bustling clerks, in the spacious halls of a traditional bourse with information flowing above their heads for all to see.

Planning and strategy might come from those high rooms but the evidence of it was like the common information of the bourse - there for all to see.

So let the comeyes watch.

"What are your intentions toward me, Mother Superior?"

"To keep you alive and strong."

Careful, careful.

"But not give me a free hand."

"Scytale! You speak of economics and then want something free?"

"But my strength is important to you?"

"Believe it!"

"I do not trust you."

The food slot took that moment to disgorge his lunch: a white fish sauteed in a delicate sauce. He smelled herbs. Water in a tall glass, faint aroma of melange. A green salad. One of their better efforts. He felt himself salivating.

"Enjoy your lunch, Master Scytale. There is nothing in it to harm you. Is that not a measure of trust?"

When he did not respond, she said: "What does trust have to do with our bargaining?"

What game is she playing now?

"You tell me what you intend for Honored Matres but you do not say what you intend for me." He knew he sounded plaintive. Unavoidable.

"I intend to make the Honored Matres aware of their mortality."

"As you do with me!"

Was that satisfaction in her eyes?

"Scytale." How soft her voice. "People thus made aware truly listen. They hear you." She glanced at his tray. "Would you like something special?"

He drew himself up as best he could. "A small stimulant drink. It helps when I must think."

"Of course. I'll see that it's sent down at once." She turned her attention out of the alcove toward the main room of his quarters. He watched where she paused, her gaze shifting from place to place, item to item.

Everything in its place, witch. I am not an animal in its cave. Things must be convenient, where I can find them without thinking. Yes, those are stimpens beside my chair. So I use 'pens. But I avoid alcohol. You notice?

The stimulant, when it came, tasted of a bitter herb he was a moment identifying. Casmine. A genetically modified blood strengthener from the Gammu pharmacopoeia.

Did she intend to remind him of Gammu? They were so devious, these witches!

Poking fun at him over the question of economics. He felt the sting of this as he turned at the end of his corridor and continued his exercise in a brisk walk back to his quarters. What glue had actually held the Old Empire together? Many things, some small and some large, but mostly economic. Lines of connection thought of often as conveniences. And what kept them from blasting one another out of existence? The Great Convention. "You blast anyone and we unite to blast you."

He stopped outside his door, brought up short by a thought.

Was that it? How could punishment be enough to stop the greedy powindah? Did it come down to a glue composed of intangibles? The censure of your peers? But what if your peers balked at no obscenity? You could do anything. And that said something about Honored Matres. It certainly did.

He longed for a sagra chamber in which to bare his soul.

The Yaghist is gone! Am I the last Masheikh?

His chest felt empty. It was an effort to breathe. Perhaps it would be best to bargain more openly with the women of Shaitan.

No! That is Shaitan himself tempting me!

He entered his chambers in a chastened mood.

I must make them pay. Make them pay dearly. Dearly, dearly, dearly. Each dearly accompanied a step toward his chair. When he sat, his right hand reached out automatically for a 'pen. Soon, he felt his mind driving at speed, thoughts pouring through in marvelous array.

They do not guess how well I know the Ixian ship. It's here in my head.

He spent the next hour deciding how he would record these moments when it came time to tell his fellows how he had triumphed over the powindah. With God's help!

They would be glittering words, filled with drama and the tensions of his testing. History, after all, was always written by the victors.

***

They say Mother Superior can disregard nothing - a meaningless aphorism until you grasp its other significance: I am the servant of all my Sisters. They watch their servant with critical eyes. I cannot spend too much time on generalities nor on trivia. Mother Superior must display insightful action else a sense of disquiet penetrates to the farthest corners of our order.

- Darwi Odrade

Something of what Odrade called "my servant-self" went with her as she walked the halls of Central this morning, making this her exercise rather than take time on a practice floor. A disgruntled servant! She did not like what she saw.

We are too tightly bound up in our difficulties, almost incapable of separating petty problems from great ones.

What had happened to their conscience?

Although some denied it, Odrade knew there was a Bene Gesserit conscience. But they had twisted and reshaped it into a form not easily recognized.

She felt loath to meddle with it. Decisions taken in the name of survival, the Missionaria (their interminable Jesuitical arguments!) - all diverged from something far more demanding of human judgment. The Tyrant had known this.

To be human, that was the issue. But before you could be human, you had to feel it in your guts.

No clinical answers! It came down to a deceptive simplicity whose complex nature appeared when you applied it.

Like me.

You looked inward and found who and what you believed you were. Nothing else would serve.

So what am I?

"Who asks that question?" It was a skewering thrust from Other Memory.

Odrade laughed aloud and a passing Proctor named Praska stared at her in astonishment. Odrade waved to Praska and said: "It's good to be alive. Remember that."

Praska produced a faint smile before going on about her business.

So who asks: What am I?

Dangerous question. Asking it put her in a universe where nothing was quite human. Nothing matched the undefined thing she sought. All around her, clowns, wild animals and puppets reacted to the pull of hidden strings. She sensed the strings that jerked her into movement.

Odrade continued along the corridor toward the tube that would take her up to her quarters.

Strings. What came with the egg? We speak glibly of "the mind at its beginning." But what was I before the pressures of living shaped me?

It wasn't enough to seek something "natural." No "Noble Savage." She had seen plenty of those in her lifetime. The strings jerking them were quite visible to a Bene Gesserit.

She felt the taskmaster within her. Strong today. It was a force she sometimes disobeyed or avoided. Taskmaster said: "Strengthen your talents. Do not flow gently in the current. Swim! Use it or lose it."

With a gasping sensation of near panic, she realized she had barely retained her humanity, that she had been on the point of losing it.

I've been trying too hard to think like an Honored Matre! Manipulating and maneuvering anyone I could. And all in the name of Bene Gesserit survival!

Bell said there were no limits beyond which the Sisterhood would refuse to go in preserving the Bene Gesserit. A modicum of truth in this boast but it was the truth of all boasting. There were indeed things a Reverend Mother would not do to save the Sisterhood.

We would not block the Tyrant's Golden Path.

Survival of humankind took precedence over survival of the Sisterhood. Else our grail of human maturity is meaningless.

But oh, the perils of leadership in a species so anxious to be told what to do. How little they knew of what they created by their demands. Leaders made mistakes. And those mistakes, amplified by the numbers who followed without questioning, moved inevitably toward great disasters.

Lemming behavior.

It was right that her Sisters watched her carefully. All governments needed to remain under suspicion during their time of power including that of the Sisterhood itself. Trust no government! Not even mine!

They are watching me this very instant. Very little escapes my Sisters. They will know my plan in time.

It required constant mental cleansing to face up to the fact of her great power over the Sisterhood. I did not seek this power. It was thrust upon me. And she thought: Power attracts the corruptible. Suspect all who seek it. She knew the chances were great that such people were susceptible to corruption or already lost.

Odrade made a mental note to scribe and transmit a Coda memo to Archives. (Let Bell sweat this one!) "We should grant power over our affairs only to those who are reluctant to hold it and then only under conditions that increase the reluctance."

Perfect description of the Bene Gesserit!

"Are you well, Dar?" It was Bellonda's voice from the tube door beside Odrade. "You look... strange."

"I just thought of something to do. You getting off?"

Bellonda stared at her as they exchanged places. The tubefield caught Odrade and whisked her away from that questioning gaze.

Odrade entered the workroom and saw her table piled with things her aides thought only she could resolve.

Politics, she recalled as she sat at her table and prepared to deal with responsibilities. Tam and Bell had heard her clearly the other day but they had only the vaguest idea of what they would be asked to support. They were worried and increasingly watchful. As they should be.

Almost any subject had political elements, she thought. As emotions were whipped up, political forces came more and more into the foreground. This put lie! to that old nonsense about "separation of church and state." Nothing more susceptible to emotional heat than religion.

No wonder we distrust emotions.

Not all emotions, of course. Only the ones you could not escape in moments of necessity: love, hate. Let in a little anger sometimes but keep it on a short leash. That was the Sisterhood's belief. Utter nonsense!

The Tyrant's Golden Path made their mistake no longer tolerable. The Golden Path left the Bene Gesserit in a perpetual backwater. You could not minister to Infinity!

Bell's recurrent question had no answer. "What did he really want us to do?" Into what actions was he manipulating us? (As we manipulate others!) Why look for meaning where there is none? Would you follow a path you knew led nowhere?

Golden Path! A track laid down in one imagination. Infinity is nowhere! And the finite mind balked. Here was where Mentats found mutable projections, always producing more questions than answers. It was the empty grail of those who, noses close to an endless circle, looked for "the one answer to all things."

Looking for their own kind of gad.

She found it hard to censure them. The mind recoiled in the face of infinity. The Void! Alchemists of any age were like rag pickers bent over their bundles, saying: "There must be order in here somewhere. If I keep on, I'm sure to find it."

And all the time, the only order was the order they themselves created.

Ahhh, Tyrant! You droll fellow. You saw it. You said: "I will create order for you to follow. Here is the path. See it? No! Don't look over there. That is the way of the Emperor-Without-Clothes (a nakedness apparent only to children and the insane). Keep your attention where I direct it. This is my Golden Path. Isn't that a pretty name? It's all there is and all there ever will be."

Tyrant, you were another clown. Pointing us into endless recycling of cells from that lost and lonely ball of dirt in our common past.

You knew the human universe could never be more than communities and weak glue binding us when we Scattered. A common birth tradition so far away in our past that pictures of it carried by descendants are mostly distorted. Reverend Mothers carry the original, but we cannot force it onto unwilling people. You see, Tyrant? We heard you: "Let them come asking for it! Then, and only then..."

And that was why you preserved us, you Atreides bastard! That's why I must get to work.

Despite the peril to her sense of humanity, she knew she would continue to insinuate herself into the ways of Honored Matres. I must think as they think.

The hunters' problem: predator and prey shared it. Not quite needle-in-the-haystack. More a question of tracking across a terrain littered with the familiar and the unfamiliar. Bene Gesserit deceptions insured that the familiar would cause Honored Matres at least as much difficulty as the unfamiliar.

But what have they done for us?

Interplanetary communication worked for the hunted. Limited by economics for millennia. Not much of it except among Important People and Traders. Important meant what it had always meant: rich, powerful; bankers, officials, couriers. Military. "Important" labeled many categories - negotiators, entertainers, medical personnel, skilled technicians, spies, and other specialists. It was not much different in kind from the days of the Master Masons on Old Terra. Mainly a difference in numbers, quality and sophistication. Boundaries were transparent to some as they had always been.

She felt it important to review this occasionally, looking for flaws.

The great mass of planet-bound humanity spoke of "the silence of space," meaning they could not afford the cost of such travel or communication. Most people knew the news they received across this barrier was managed for special interests. It had always been that way.

On a planet, terrain and avoiding telltale radiation dictated the communications systems used: tubes, messengers, lightlines, nerve riders and many permutations. Secrecy and encryption were important, not only between planets but on them.

Odrade saw it as a system Honored Matres could tap if they found an entry point. Hunters had to begin by deciphering the system, but then: Where did a trail to Chapterhouse originate?

Untrackable no-ships, Ixian machines, and Guild Navigators - all contributed to the blanket of silence between planets except for the privileged few. Give hunters no starting points!

It came as a surprise then when an aging Reverend Mother from a Bene Gesserit punishment planet appeared at Mother Superior's workroom shortly before the lunch break. Archives identified her: Name: Dortujla. Sent to special perdition years ago for an unforgivable infraction. Memory said it had been a love affair of some kind. Odrade did not ask for details. Some of them were displayed anyway. (Bellonda interfering again!) Emotional upheaval at the time of Dortujla's banishment, Odrade noted. Futile attempts by the lover to prevent separation.

Odrade recalled gossip about Dortujla's disgrace. "The Jessica crime!" Much valuable information arrived via gossip. Where the devil had Dortujla been posted? Never mind. Not important at the moment. More important: Why is she here? Why did she dare a trip that might lead the hunters to us?

Odrade asked Streggi when she announced the arrival. Streggi did not know. "She says what she must reveal is for your ears alone, Mother Superior."

"Alone?" Odrade almost chuckled, considering the constant monitoring (surveillance was a better term) of her every action. "This Dortujla has not said why she is here?"

"The ones who told me to interrupt you, Mother Superior, said they thought you should see her."

Odrade pursed her lips. The fact that the banished Reverend Mother had penetrated this far aroused Odrade's curiosity. A persistent Reverend Mother could cross ordinary barriers but these barriers were not ordinary. Dortujla's reason for coming already had been told. Others had heard and passed her. It was apparent that Dortujla had not relied on Bene Gesserit wiles to persuade her Sisters. That would have brought immediate rejection. No time for such nonsense! So she had observed the chain of command. Her action spoke of careful assessment, a message within whatever message she brought.

"Bring her."

Dortujla had aged smoothly on her backwater planet. She revealed her years mostly in shallow wrinkles around her mouth. The hood of her robe concealed her hair but the eyes peering from beneath it were bright and alert.

"Why are you here?" Odrade's tone said: "This had damned well better be important."

Dortujla's story was straightforward enough. She and three Reverend Mother associates had spoken to a band of Futars from the Scattering. Dortujla's post had been searched out and asked to get a message to Chapterhouse. Dortujla had filtered the request through Truthsense, she said, reminding Mother Superior that even in backwaters there could be some talent. Judging the message truthful, her Sisters concurring, Dortujla had acted with speed, not unmindful of caution.

"All due dispatch in our own no-ship," was the way she put it. The ship, she said, was small, a smuggler type.

"One person can operate it."

The heart of the message was fascinating. Futars wished to ally themselves with Reverend Mothers in opposition to Honored Matres. How much of a force these Futars commanded was difficult to assess, Dortujla said.

"They refused to say when I asked."

Odrade had assessed many stories about Futars. Killers of Honored Matres? There were reasons to believe it but Futar performance was confusing, especially in accounts from Gammu.

"How many in this party?"

"Sixteen Futars and four Handlers. That's what they called themselves: Handlers. And they say Honored Matres have a dangerous weapon they can use only once."

"You only mentioned Futars. Who are these Handlers? And what is this about a secret weapon?"

"I reserved mention of them. They appear to be human within variables noted from the Scattering: three men and a woman. As to the weapon, they would not say more."

"Appear to be human?"

"There you have it, Mother Superior. I had the odd first impression they were Face Dancers. None of the criteria applied. Pheromones negative. Gestures, expressions - everything negative."

"Just that first impression?"

"I cannot explain it."

"What of the Futars?"

"They matched the descriptions. Human in outward appearance but with unmistakable ferocity. Cat family origins, I would judge."

"So others have said."

"They speak but it's an abbreviated Galach. Word bursts, I thought them. 'When eat?' 'You nice lady.' 'Want head scratch.' 'Sit here?' They appeared immediately responsive to the Handlers but not fearful. Between Futars and Handlers I had the impression there was mutual respect and liking."

"Knowing the risks, why did you think this important enough to bring immediately?"

"These are people from the Scattering. Their offer of alliance is an opening into places where Honored Matres originate."

"You asked about them, of course. And about conditions in the Scattering. "

"No answers."

The fact, simply stated. One could not sneer at the banished Sister no matter how much of a cloud she carried over her past. More questions were indicated. Odrade asked them, observing closely as answers came, watching the old mouth like a withered fruit opening purple and closing pink.

Something in Dortujla's service, the long years of penitence perhaps, had gentled her but left the core of Bene Gesserit toughness untouched. She spoke with natural hesitancy. Her gestures were softly fluid. She looked at Odrade with kindness. (There was the flaw her Sisters condemned: Bene Gesserit cynicism held at bay.) Dortujla interested Odrade. Sister to Sister, she spoke, a strong and well-composed mind behind her words. A mind toughened by adversity in the years at a punishment post. Doing what she could now to make up for that lapse of her youth. No attempt to appear some time-server not up on current affairs. An account pared to essentials. Let it be known that she had as full as possible an awareness of necessities. Bowed to Mother Superior's decisions and caution about the dangerous visit but still felt that "you should have this information."

"I'm convinced it's not a trap."

Dortujla's demeanor was above reproach. Direct gaze, eyes and face held in proper composure but no attempts at concealment. A Sister could read through this mask for a proper assessment. Dortujla acted from a sense of urgency. She had been a fool once but she no longer was a fool.

What was the name of her punishment planet?

The worktable's projector produced it: Buzzell.

That name brought an alertness to Odrade. Buzzell! Her fingers danced in the console, confirming memories. Buzzell: mostly ocean. Cold. Very cold. Hardscrabble islands, none bigger than a large no-ship. The Bene Gesserit once had considered Buzzell a punishment. Object lesson: "Careful, girl, or you'll be sent to Buzzell." Odrade recalled the other key then: soostones. Buzzell was a place where they had naturalized the monoped sea creature, Cholister, whose abraded carapace produced marvelous tumors, one of the most valued jewels in the universe.

Soostones.

Dortujla was wearing one of the things just visible above the tuck of her neckline. The workroom light turned it an elegant blend of deeply glowing sea-green and mauve. It was larger than a human eyeball, flaunted there like a declaration of wealth. They probably thought little of such decorations on Buzzell. Pick them up on the beaches.

Soostones. That was significant. By Bene Gesserit design, Dortujla had frequent dealings with smugglers. (Witness her possession of that no-ship.) This must be addressed with care. No matter the Sister-to-Sister discussion, it was still Mother Superior and Reverend Mother from a punishment planet.

Smuggling. A major crime to Honored Matres and others who had not faced the fact of unenforceable laws. Foldspace had not changed it for smuggling, just made small intrusions easier if anything. Tiny no-ships. How small could you make one of them? A gap in Odrade's knowledge. Archives corrected it: "Diameter, meters 140."

Small enough, then. Soostones were a cargo with natural attraction. Foldspace was a critical economic barrier: How valuable a cargo compared to size and mass? You could spend many Solaris moving massive stuff. Soostones - magnetic to smugglers. They had special interest to Honored Matres as well. Simple economics? Always a big market. As attractive to smugglers as melange now that the Guild was being so free with it. The Guild had always stockpiled with generations of spice in scattered storage and (doubtless) many hidden backups.

They think they can buy immunity from Honored Matres! But that offered something she sensed might be turned to advantage. In their wild anger, Honored Matres had destroyed Dune, only known natural source of melange. Still unthinking of consequences (odd, that), they had eliminated the Tleilaxu, whose axlotl tanks had flooded the Old Empire with spice.

And we have creatures capable of recreating Dune. We also may have the only living Tleilaxu Master. Locked in Scytale's mind - the way to turn axlotl tanks into a melange cornucopia. If we can get him to reveal it.

The immediate problem was Dortujla. The woman conveyed her ideas with a conciseness that did her credit. Handlers and their Futars, she said, were disturbed by something they would not reveal. Dortujla had been wise not to attempt Bene Gesserit persuasives. No telling how people from the Scattering might react. But what disturbed them?

"Some threat other than Honored Matres," Dortujla suggested. She would not venture more but the possibility was there and had to be considered.

"The essential thing is that they say they want an alliance," Odrade said.

"Common cause for a common problem," was the way they had put it. Despite Truthsense, Dortujla advised only a cautious exploration of the offer.

Why go to Buzzell at all? Because Honored Matres had missed Buzzell or judged it insignificant in their angry sweeps?

"Not likely," Dortujla said.

Odrade agreed. Dortujla, no matter how grubby her original posting, now commanded a valuable property and, much more important, she was a Reverend Mother with a no-ship to take her to Mother Superior. She knew the location of Chapterhouse. Useless to the hunters, of course. They knew a Reverend Mother would kill herself before betraying that secret.

Problems compounded problems. But first, some Sisterly sharing. Dortujla was sure to make a correct interpretation of Mother Superior's motives. Odrade shifted the conversation into personal matters.

It went well. Dortujla was clearly amused but willing to talk.

Reverend Mothers on lonely posts tended to have what Sisters called "other interests." An earlier age had called them hobbies but attention devoted to interests often was extreme. Odrade thought most interests boring but found it significant that Dortujla called hers a hobby. She collected old coins, did she?

"What kind?"

"I have two early Greek in silver and a perfect gold obol."

"Authentic?"

"They're real." Meaning she had done a self-scan of Other Memory to authenticate them. Fascinating. She exercised her abilities in a strengthening way, even with her hobby. Inner history and exterior coincided.

"This is all very interesting, Mother Superior," Dortujla said finally. "I appreciate your reassurance that we are still Sisters and find your interest in ancient paintings a parallel hobby. But we both know why I risked coming here."

"The smugglers."

"Of course. Honored Matres cannot have overlooked my presence on Buzzell. Smugglers will sell to the high bidders. We must assume they have profited from their valuable knowledge about Buzzell, the soostones, and a resident Reverend Mother with attendants. And we must not forget that Handlers found me."

Damn! Odrade thought. Dortujla is the kind of advisor I like to have near me. I wonder how many more such buried treasures are out there, tucked away for mean motives? Why do we so often shunt our talented ones aside? It's an ancient weakness the Sisterhood has not exorcised.

"I think we have learned something valuable about Honored Matres," Dortujla said.

There was no need to nod agreement. This was the core of what had brought Dortujla to Chapterhouse. The ravening hunters had come swarming into the Old Empire, killing and burning wherever they suspected the presence of Bene Gesserit establishments. But the hunters had not touched Buzzell even though its location must be known.

"Why?" Odrade asked, voicing what was in their minds.

"Never damage your own nest," Dortujla said.

"You think they're already on Buzzell?"

"Not yet."

"But you believe Buzzell is a place they want."

"Prime projection."

Odrade merely stared at her. So Dortujla had another hobby! She burrowed into Other Memory, revived and perfected talents stored there. Who could blame her? Time must drag on Buzzell.

"A Mentat summation," Odrade accused.

"Yes, Mother Superior." Very meek. Reverend Mothers were supposed to dig into Other Memory this way only with Chapterhouse permission and then only with guidance and support from companion Sisters. So Dortujla remained a rebel. She followed her own desires the way she had with her forbidden lover. Good! The Bene Gesserit needed such rebels.

"They want Buzzell undamaged," Dortujla said.

"A water world?"

"It would make a suitable home for amphibian servants. Not the Futars or Handlers. I studied them carefully."

The evidence suggested a plan by Honored Matres to bring in enslaved servants, amphibians perhaps, to harvest soostones. Honored Matres could have amphibian slaves. Knowledge that produced Futars might create many forms of sentient life.

"Slaves, dangerous imbalance," Odrade said.

Dortujla showed her first strong emotion, deep revulsion that drew her mouth into a tight line.

It was a pattern the Sisterhood had long recognized: the inevitable failure of slavery and peonage. You created a reservoir of hate. Implacable enemies. If you had no hope of exterminating all of these enemies, you dared not try. Temper your efforts by the sure awareness that oppression will make your enemies strong. The oppressed will have their day and heaven help the oppressor when that day comes. It was a two-edged blade. The oppressed always learned from and copied the oppressor. When the tables were turned, the stage was set for another round of revenge and violence - roles reversed. And reversed and reversed ad nauseam.

"Will they never mature?" Odrade asked.

Dortujla had no answer but she did have an immediate suggestion. "I must return to Buzzell."

Odrade considered this. Once more, the banished Reverend Mother was ahead of Mother Superior. As disagreeable as the decision was, they both knew it as their best move. Futars and Handlers would return. More important, with a planet Honored Matres desired, odds were high that visitors from the Scattering had been observed. Honored Matres would have to make a move and that move could reveal much about them.

"Of course, they think Buzzell is bait for a trap," Odrade said. " I could let it be known that I was banished by my Sisters," Dortujla said. "It can be verified."

"Use yourself as bait?"

"Mother Superior, what if they could be tempted into a parley?"

"With us?" What a startling idea!

"I know their history is not one of reasonable negotiations but still... "

"It's brilliant! But let us make it even more enticing. Say I am convinced I must come to them with a proposal for submission of the Bene Gesserit."

"Mother Superior!"

"I have no intention of surrendering. But what better way to get them to talk?"

"Buzzell is not a good place for a meeting. Our facilities are very poor."

"They are on junction in force. If they suggested junction as a meeting place, could you let yourself be persuaded?"

"It would take careful planning, Mother Superior."

"Oh, very careful." Odrade's fingers flickered in her console. "Yes, tonight," she said answering a visible question, and then, speaking to Dortujla across the cluttered worktable: "I want you to meet with my Council and others before you return. We will brief you thoroughly but I give you my personal assurance you will have an open assignment. The important thing is to get them to a meeting on junction... and I hope you know how much I dislike using you as bait. "

When Dortujla remained deep in thought and not responding, Odrade said: "They may ignore our overtures and wipe you out. Still, you're the best bait we have."

Dortujla showed she still had her sense of humor. "I don't much like the idea of dangling on a hook myself, Mother Superior. Please keep a firm grip on the line." She stood and with a worried look at the work on Odrade's table, said: "You have so much to do and I fear I have kept you far past lunch."

"We will dine here together, Sister. For the moment, you are more important than anything else."

***

All states are abstractions.

- Octun Politicus, BG Archives

Lucilla cautioned herself not to assume too familiar a feeling about this acid-green room and the recurring presence of Great Honored Matre. This was junction, stronghold of the ones who sought extermination of the Rene Gesserit. This was the enemy. Day seventeen.

The infallible mental clock that had been set ticking during the Spice Agony told her she had adapted to the planet's circadian rhythms. Awake at dawn. No telling when she would be fed. Honored Matre confined her to one meal a day.

And always that Futar in its cage. A reminder: Both of you in cages. This is how we treat dangerous animals. We may let them out occasionally to stretch their legs and give us pleasure but back to the cage afterward.

Minimal amounts of melange in the food. Not being parsimonious. Not with their wealth. A small show of "what could be yours if you would only be reasonable."

When will she come today?

Great Honored Matre arrivals had no set time. Random appearances to confuse the captive? Probably. There would be other demands on a commander's time. Fit the dangerous pet into the regular schedule wherever you could.

I may be dangerous, Spider Lady, but I am not your pet.

Lucilla felt the presence of scanning devices, things that did more than provide stimulus for eyes. These looked into flesh, probing for concealed weapons, for the functioning of organs. Does she have strange implants? What about additional organs surgically added to her body?

None of those, Madame Spider. We rely on things that come with birth.

Lucilla knew her greatest immediate danger - that she would feel inadequate in such a setting. Her captors had her at a terrible disadvantage but they had not destroyed her Bene Gesserit capabilities. She could will herself to die before the shere in her body was depleted to the point of betrayal. She still had her mind... and the horde from Lampadas.

The Futar panel opened and it came sliding out in its cage. So Spider Queen was on her way. Displaying threat ahead of her as usual. Early today. Earlier than ever.

"Good morning, Futar." Lucilla spoke with a merry lilt.

The Futar looked at her but did not speak.

"You must hate it in that cage," Lucilla said.

"Not like cage."

She had already determined that these creatures possessed a degree of language facility but the extent of it still eluded her.

"I suppose she keeps you hungry, too. Would you like to eat me?"

"Eat." Definite show of interest.

"I wish I were your Handler."

"You Handler?"

"Would you obey me if I were?"

Spider Queen's heavy chair lifted from its concealment under the floor. No sign of her yet but it had to be assumed she listened to these conversations.

The Futar stared at Lucilla with peculiar intensity.

"Do Handlers keep you caged and hungry?"

"Handler?" Clear inflections of a question.

"I want you to kill Great Honored Matre." That would be no surprise to them.

"Kill Dama!"

"And eat her."

"Dama poison." Dejected.

Ooooh. Isn't that an interesting bit of information!

"She's not poison. Her meat is the same as mine."

The Futar approached her to the cage's limits. The left hand peeled down its lower lip. Angry redness of a scar there, appearance of a burn.

"See poison," it said, dropping its hand.

I wonder how she did that? No smell of poison about her. Human flesh plus adrenaline-based drug to produce orange eyes in response to anger... and those other responses Murbella revealed. A sense of absolute superiority.

How far did Futar comprehension go? "Was it a bitter poison?" The Futar grimaced and spat.

Action faster and more powerful than words.

"Do you hate Dama?"

Bared canines.

"Do you fear her?"

Smile.

"Then why don't you kill her?"

"You not Handler."

It requires a kill command from a Handler!

Great Honored Matre entered and sank into her chair.

Lucilla pitched her voice in the merry lilt: "Good morning, Dama."

"I did not give you permission to call me that." Low and with beginning flecks of orange in the eyes.

"Futar and I have been having a conversation."

"I know." More orange in the eyes. "And if you have spoiled him for me..."

"But Dama -"

"Don't call me that!" Out of her chair, eyes blazing orange.

"Do sit down," Lucilla said. "This is no way to conduct an interrogation." Sarcasm, a dangerous weapon. "You said yesterday you wanted to continue our discussion of politics."

"How do you know what time it is?" Sinking back in her chair but eyes still flaming.

"All Bene Gesserit have this ability. We can feel the rhythms of any planet after a short time on it."

"A strange talent."

"Anyone can do it. A matter of being sensitized."

"Could I learn this?" Orange fading.

" I said anyone. You're still human, aren't you?" A question not yet fully answered.

"Why do you say you witches have no government?"

Wants to change the subject. Our abilities worry her. "That's not what I said. We have no conventional government."

"Not even a social code?"

"There's no such thing as a social code to meet all necessities. A crime in one society can be a moral requirement in another society."

"People always have government." Orange completely faded.

Why does this interest her so much?

"People have politics. I told you that yesterday. Politics: the art of appearing candid and completely open while concealing as much as possible."

"So you witches conceal."

"I did not say that. When we say 'politics,' that's a warning to our Sisters."

"I don't believe you. Humans always create some form of..."

"Accord?"

"As good a word as any!" It angers her.

When Lucilla made no further response, Great Honored Matre leaned forward. "You're concealing!"

"Isn't it my right to hide from you things that might help you defeat us?" There's a juicy morsel of bait!

"I thought so!" Leaning back with a look of satisfaction.

"However, why not reveal it? You think the niches of authority are always there for the filling and you don't see what that says about my Sisterhood."

"Oh, please tell me." Heavy-handed with her sarcasm.

"You believe all of this conforms to instincts going back to tribal days and beyond. Chiefs and Elders. Mystery Mother and Council. And before that, the Strong Man (or Woman) who saw to it that everyone was fed, that all were guarded by fire at the cave's mouth."

"It makes sense."

Does it really?

"Oh, I agree. Evolution of the forms is quite clearly laid out."

"Evolution, witch! One thing piled on another."

Evolution. See how she snaps at key words?

"It's a force that can be brought under control by turning it upon itself."

Control! Look at the interest you've aroused. She loves that word.

"So you make laws just like anyone else!"

"Regulations, perhaps, but isn't everything temporary?"

Intensely interested. "Of course."

"But your society is administered by bureaucrats who know they cannot apply the slightest imagination to what they do."

"That's important?" Really puzzled. Look at her scowl.

"Only to you, Honored Matre."

"Great Honored Matre!" Isn't she touchy!

"Why don't you permit me to call you Dama?"

"We're not intimates."

"Is Futar an intimate?"

"Stop changing the subject!"

"Want tooth clean," the Futar said.

"You shut up!" Really blazing.

The Futar sank to its haunches but it was not cowed.

Great Honored Matre turned her orange gaze toward Lucilla. "What about bureaucrats?"

"They have no room to maneuver because that's the way their superiors grow fat. If you don't see the difference between regulation and law, both have the force of law."

"I see no difference." She doesn't know what she reveals.

"Laws convey the myth of enforced change. A bright new future will come because of this law or that one. Laws enforce the future. Regulations are believed to enforce the past."

"Believed?" She doesn't like that word, either.

"In each instance, action is illusory. Like appointing a committee to study a problem. The more people on the committee, the more preconceptions applied to the problem."

Careful! She's really thinking about this, applying it to herself.

Lucilla pitched her voice in its most reasonable tones. "You live by a past-magnified and try to understand some unrecognized future."

"We don't believe in prescience." Yes, she does! At last. This is why she keeps us alive.

"Dama, please. There's always something unbalanced about confining yourself to a tight circle of laws."

Be careful! She didn't bridle at your calling her Dama.

Great Honored Matre's chair creaked as she shifted in it. "But laws are necessary!"

"Necessary? That's dangerous."

"How so?"

Softly. She feels threatened.

"Necessary rules and laws keep you from adapting. Inevitably, everything comes crashing down. It's like bankers thinking they buy the future. 'Power in my time! To hell with my descendants!' "

"What are descendants doing for me?"

Don't say it! Look at her. She's reacting out of the common insanity. Give her another small taste.

"Honored Matres originated as terrorists. Bureaucrats first and terror as your chosen weapon."

"When it's in your hands, use it. But we were rebels. Terrorists? That's too chaotic."

She likes that word "chaos." It defines everything on the outside. She doesn't even ask how you know her origins. She accepts our mysterious abilities.

"Isn't it odd, Dama... " No reaction; continue. "... how rebels all too soon fall into old patterns if they are victorious? It's not so much a pitfall in the path of all governments as it is a delusion waiting for anyone who gains power."

"Hah! And I thought you would tell me something new. We know that one: 'Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.' "

"Wrong, Dama. Something more subtle but far more pervasive: Power attracts the corruptible."

"You dare accuse me of being corrupt?"

Watch the eyes!

"I? Accuse you? The only one who can do that is yourself. I merely give you the Bene Gesserit opinion."

"And tell me nothing!"

"Yet we believe there's a morality above any law, which must stand watchdog on all attempts at unchanging regulation."

You used both words in one sentence and she didn't notice.

"Power always works, witch. That's the law."

"And governments that perpetuate themselves long enough under that belief always become packed with corruption."

"Morality!"

She's not very good at sarcasm, especially when she's on the defensive.

"I've really tried to help you, Dama. Laws are dangerous to everyone - innocent and guilty alike. No matter whether you believe yourself powerful or helpless. They have no human understanding in and of themselves."

"There's no such thing as human understanding!"

Our question is answered. Not human. Talk to her unconscious side. She's wide open.

"Laws must always be interpreted. The law-bound want no latitude for compassion. No elbow room. 'The law is the law!"' "It is!" Very defensive.

"That's a dangerous idea, especially for the innocent. People know this instinctively and resent such laws. Little things are done, often unconsciously, to hamstring 'the law' and those who deal in that nonsense."

"How dare you call it nonsense?" Half rising from her chair and sinking back.

"Oh, yes. And the law, personified by all whose livelihoods depend on it, becomes resentful hearing words such as mine."

"Rightly so, witch!" But she doesn't tell you to be silent.

" 'More law!' you say. 'We need more law!' So you make new instruments of non-compassion and, incidentally, new niches of employment for those who feed on the system."

"That's the way it's always been and always will be."

"Wrong again. It's a rondo. It rolls and rolls until it injures the wrong person or the wrong group. Then you get anarchy. Chaos." See her jump? "Rebels, terrorists, increasing outbursts of raging violence. A jihad! And all because you created something nonhuman."

Hand on her chin. Watch it!

"How did we wander so far away from politics, witch? Was this your intention?"

"We haven't wandered a fraction of a millimeter!"

"I suppose you're going to tell me you witches practice a form of democracy."

"With an alertness you cannot imagine."

"Try me." She thinks you'll tell her a secret. Tell her one.

"Democracy is susceptible to being led astray by having scapegoats paraded in front of the electorate. Get the rich, the greedy, the criminals, the stupid leader and so on ad nauseam."

"You believe as we do." My! How desperately she wants us to be like her.

"You said you were bureaucrats who rebelled. You know the flaw. A top-heavy bureaucracy the electorate cannot touch always expands to the system's limits of energy. Steal it from the aged, from the retired, from anyone. Especially from those we once called middle class because that's where most of the energy originates."

"You think of yourselves as... as middle class?"

"We don't think of ourselves in any fixed way. But Other Memory tells us the flaws of bureaucracy. I presume you have some form of civil service for the 'lower orders.' "

"We take care of our own." That's a nasty echo.

"Then you know how that dilutes the vote. Chief symptom: People don't vote. Instinct tells them it's useless."

"Democracy is a stupid idea anyway!"

"We agree. It's demagogue-prone. That's a disease to which electoral systems are vulnerable. Yet demagogues are easy to identify. They gesture a lot and speak with pulpit rhythms, using words that ring of religious fervor and god-fearing sincerity."

She's chuckling!

"Sincerity with nothing behind it takes so much practice, Dama. The practice can always be detected."

"By Truthsayers?"

See how she leans forward? We have her again.

"By anyone who learns the signs: Repetition. Great attempts to keep your attention on words. You must pay no attention to words. Watch what the person does. That way you learn the motives."

"Then you don't have a democracy." Tell me more Bene Gesserit secrets.

"But we do."

"I thought you said..."

"We guard it well, watching for the things I've just described. The dangers are great but so are the rewards."

"Do you know what you've told me? That you're a pack of fools!"

"Nice lady!" the Futar said.

"Shut up or I'll send you back to the herd!"

"You not nice, Dama."

"See what you've done, witch? You've ruined him!"

"I suppose there are always others."

Ohhhhh. Look at that smile.

Lucilla matched the smile precisely, pacing her own breaths to those of the Great Honored Matre. See how alike we are? Of course I tried to injure you. Wouldn't you have done the same in my place?

"So you know how to make a democracy do whatever you want." A gloating expression.

"The technique is quite subtle but easy. You create a system where most people are dissatisfied, vaguely or deeply."

That's how she sees it. Look at her nod in time to your words.

Lucilla held herself to the rhythm of Great Honored Matre's nodding head. "This builds up widespread feelings of vindictive anger. Then you supply targets for that anger as you need them."

"A diversionary tactic."

" I prefer to think of it as distraction. Don't give them time to question. Bury your mistakes in more laws. You traffic in illusion. Bullring tactics."

"Oh, yes! That's good!" She's almost gleeful. Give her more bullring.

"Wave the pretty cape. They'll charge it and be confused when there's no matador behind the thing. That dulls the electorate just as it dulls the bull. Fewer people use their vote intelligently next time."

"And that's why we do it!"

We do it! Does she listen to herself?

"Then you rail against the apathetic electorate. Make them feel guilty. Keep them dull. Feed them. Amuse them. Don't overdo it!"

"Oh, no! Never overdo it."

"Let them know hunger awaits them if they don't fall into line. Give them a look at the boredom imposed on boat rockers." Thank you, Mother Superior. It's an appropriate image.

"Don't you let the bull get an occasional matador?"

"Of course. Thump! Got that one! Then you wait for the laughter to subside."

" I knew you didn't allow a democracy!"

"Why won't you believe me?" You're tempting fate!

"Because you'd have to permit open voting, juries and judges and..."

"We call them Proctors. A sort of jury of the Whole."

Now you've confused her.

"And no laws... regulations, whatever you want to call them?"

"Didn't I say we defined them separately? Regulation-past. Law-future."

"You limit these... these Proctors, somehow!"

"They can arrive at any decision they desire, the way a jury should function. The law be damned!"

"That's a very disturbing idea." She's disturbed all right. Look at how dull her eyes are.

"The first rule of our democracy: no laws restricting juries. Such laws are stupid. It's astonishing how stupid humans can be when acting in small, self-serving groups."

"You're calling me stupid, aren't you!"

Beware the orange.

"There appears to be a rule of nature that says it's almost impossible for self-serving groups to act enlightened."

"Enlightened! I knew it!"

That's a dangerous smile. Be careful.

"It means flowing with the forces of life, adjusting your actions that life may continue."

"With the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest number, of course."

Quick! We've been too clever! Change the subject!

"That was an element the Tyrant left out of his Golden Path. He didn't consider happiness, only survival of humankind."

We said change the subject! Look at her! She's in a rage!

Great Honored Matre dropped her hand away from her chin. "And I was going to invite you into our order, make you one of us. Release you."

Get her off this! Quick!

"Don't speak," Great Honored Matre said. "Don't even open your mouth."

Now you've done it!

"You'd help Logno or one of the others and she'd be in my seat!!" She glanced at the crouching Futar. "Eat, darling?"

"Not eat nice lady."

"Then I'll throw her carcass to the herd!"

"Great Honored Matre -"

"I told you not to speak! You dared call me Dama."

She was out of her chair in a blur. Lucilla's cage door slammed open with a crash against the wall. Lucilla tried to dodge but the shigawire confined her. She did not see the kick that crushed her temple.

As she died, Lucilla's awareness was filled with a scream of rage - the horde of Lampadas venting emotions it had confined for many generations.

***

Some never participate. Life happens to them. They get by on little more than dumb persistence and resist with anger or violence all things that might lift them out of resentment-filled illusions of security.

- Alma Mavis Taraza

Back and forth, back and forth. All day long, back and forth. Odrade shifted from one comeye record to another, searching, undecided, uneasy. First a look at Scytale, then young Teg out there with Duncan and Murbella, then a long stare out a window while she thought about Burzmali's last report from Lampadas.

How soon could they try to restore the Bashar's memories? Would a restored ghola obey?

Why no more word from the Rabbi? Should we begin Extremis Progressiva, Sharing among ourselves as far as possible? The effect on morale would be devastating.

Records were projected above her table while aides and advisors entered and departed. Necessary interruptions. Sign this. Approve that. Decrease melange for this group?

Bellonda was here, seated at the table. She had stopped asking what Odrade sought and merely watched with that unwavering stare. Merciless.

They had argued about whether a new sandworm population in the Scattering might restore the Tyrant's malign influence. That endless dream in each revenant of the worm still worried Bell. But population numbers alone said the Tyrant's hold on their destiny was ended.

Tamalane had come in earlier seeking some record from Bellonda. Fresh from a new accumulation of Archives, Bellonda had launched herself into a diatribe about Sisterhood population shifts, the drain on resources.

Odrade stared out the window now as dusk moved across the landscape. It became darker in almost imperceptible shadings. As full dark fell, she became aware of lights far out in the plantation houses. She knew those lights had been turned on much earlier but she had the sensation that night created the lights. Some blanked out occasionally as people moved about in their dwellings. No people - no lights. Don't waste energy.

Winking lights held her attention for a moment. A variation on the old question about a tree falling in the forest: Was there sound if no one heard? Odrade voted on the side of those who said vibrations existed no matter whether a sensor recorded them.

Do secret sensors follow our Scattering? What new talents and inventions do the first Scattered Ones use?

Bellonda had allowed long enough silence. "Dar, you're sending worrisome signals through Chapterhouse."

Odrade accepted this without comment.

"Whatever you're doing, it's being interpreted as indecision." How sad Bell sounds. "Important groups are discussing whether to replace you. Proctors are voting."

"Only the Proctors?"

"Dar, did you really wave at Praska the other day and tell her it was good to be alive?"

"I did."

"What have you been doing?"

"Reassessing. No word yet from Dortujla?"

"You've asked that at least a dozen times today!" Bellonda gestured at the worktable. "You keep going back to Burzmali's last report from Lampadas. Something we've overlooked?"

"Why do our enemies hold fast on Gammu? Tell me, Mentat."

"I've insufficient data and you know it!"

"Burzmali was no Mentat but his picture of events has a persistent force, Bell. I tell myself, well, after all, he was the Bashar's favorite student. It's understandable that Burzmali would show characteristics of his teacher."

"Out with it, Dar. What do you see in Burzmali's report?"

"He fills in an empty picture. Not completely but... tantalizing the way he keeps referring to Gammu. Many economic forces have powerful connections there. Why are those threads not cut by our enemies?"

"They're in that same system, obviously."

"What if we mounted an all-out attack on Gammu?"

"No one wants to do business in violent surroundings. That what you're saying?"

"Partly. "

"Most parties to that economic system probably would want to move. Another planet, another subservient population."

"Why?"

"They could predict with more reliability. They would increase defenses, of course."

"This alliance we sense there, Bell, they would redouble their efforts to find and obliterate us."

"Certainly."

Bellonda's terse comment forced Odrade's thoughts outward. She lifted her gaze to the distant snow-tonsured mountains glimmering in starlight. Would attackers come from that direction?

The thrust of that thought might have dulled a lesser intellect. But Odrade needed no Litany Against Fear to remain clearheaded. She had a simpler formula.

Face your fears or they will climb over your back.

Her attitude was direct: The most terrifying things in the universe came from human minds. The nightmare (the white horse of Bene Gesserit extinction) possessed both mythic and reality forms. The hunter with the axe could strike mind or flesh. But you could not flee the terrors of the mind.

Face them then!

What did she confront in this darkness? Not that faceless hunter with her axe, not the drop into the unknown chasm (both visible to her bit of talent), but the very tangible Honored Matres and whoever supported them.

And I dare not use even my small prescience to guide us. I could lock our future into unchanging form. Muad'Dib and his Tyrant son did that and the Tyrant spent thirty five hundred years extricating us.

Moving lights in the middle distance caught her attention. Gardeners working late, still pruning the orchards as though those venerable trees would go on forever. Ventilators gave her a faint odor of smoke from fires where orchard trimmings were being burned. Very attentive to such details, the Bene Gesserit gardeners. Never leave deadwood around to attract parasites that might then take the next step into living trees. Clean and neat. Plan ahead. Maintain your habitat. This moment is part of forever.

Never leave deadwood around?

Was Gammu deadwood?

"What is it about orchards that fascinates you so much?" Bellonda wanted to know.

Odrade spoke without turning. "They restore me."

Only two nights ago she had gone walking out there, the weather cold and bracing, a touch of mist close to the ground. Her feet stirred leaves. Faint smell of compost where a sparse rain had settled in warmer low places. A rather attractive, marshy smell. Life in its usual ferment even at that level. Empty limbs above her stood out starkly against starlight. Depressing, really, when compared with springtime or harvest season. But beautiful in its flow. Life once more waiting for its call to action.

"Aren't you worried about the Proctors?" Bellonda asked.

"How will they vote, Bell?"

"It's very close."

"Will others follow them?"

"There's concern about your decisions. Consequences."

Bell was very good at that: a great deal of data in a few words. Most Bene Gesserit decisions moved through a triple maze: Effectiveness, Consequences and (most vital) Who Can Carry Out Orders? You matched deed and person with great care, precise attention to details. This had a heavy influence on Effectiveness and that, in turn, ruled Consequences. A good Mother Superior could wend her way through decision mazes in seconds. Liveliness in Central then. Eyes brightened. Word was passed that "She acted without hesitation." That created confidence among acolytes and other students. Reverend Mothers (Proctors especially) waited to assess Consequences.

Odrade spoke to her reflection in the window as much as to Bellonda. "Even Mother Superior must take her own time."

"But what has you in such turmoil?"

"Are you urging speed, Bell?"

Bellonda drew back in her chairdog as though Odrade had pushed her.

"Patience is extremely difficult in these times," Odrade said. "But choosing the right moment influences my choices."

"What do you intend with our new Teg? That's the question you must answer."

"If our enemies removed themselves from Gammu, where would they go, Bell?"

"You would attack them there?"

"Push them a bit."

Bellonda spoke softly. "That's a dangerous fire to feed."

"We need another bargaining chip."

"Honored Matres don't bargain!"

"But their associates do, I think. Would they remove themselves to... let us say, junction?"

"What is so interesting about junction?"

"Honored Matres are based there in force. And our beloved Bashar kept a memory-dossier of the place in his lovely Mentat mind. "

"Ohhhhhhh." It was as much a sigh as a word.

Tamalane entered then and demanded attention by standing silently until Odrade and Bellonda looked at her.

"The Proctors support Mother Superior." Tamalane held up a clawed finger. "By one vote!"

Odrade sighed. "Tell us, Tam, the Proctor I greeted in the hallway, Praska, how did she vote?"

"She voted for you."

Odrade aimed a tight smile at Bellonda. "Send out spies and agents, Bell. We must goad the hunters into meeting us on junction. "

Bell will deduce my plan by morning.

When Bellonda and Tamalane had gone, muttering to each other, worry in the sound of their voices, Odrade went out into the short corridor to her private quarters. The corridor was patrolled by its usual acolytes and Reverend Mother servitors. A few acolytes smiled at her. So word of the Proctors' vote had reached them. Another crisis passed.

Odrade went through her sitting room to her sleeping cell, where she stretched out on her cot fully clothed. One glowglobe bathed the room in pale yellow light. Her gaze went past the desert map to the Van Gogh painting in its protective frame and cover on the wall at the foot of her cot.

Cottages at Cordeville.

A better map than the one marking the growth of the desert, she thought. Remind me, Vincent, of where I came from and what I yet may do.

This day had drained her. She had gone beyond fatigue into a place where the mind caught itself in tight circles.

Responsibilities!

They hemmed her in and she knew she could be her most disagreeable self when beset by duties. Forced to expend energy just maintaining a semblance of calm demeanor. Bell saw this in me. It was maddening. The Sisterhood was cut off at every passage, made almost ineffectual.

She closed her eyes and tried to construct an image of an Honored Matre commander to address. Old... steeped in power. Sinewy. Strong and with that blinding speed they have. No face on her but the visualized body stood there in Odrade's mind.

Forming the words silently, Odrade spoke to the faceless Honored Matre.

"It is difficult for us to let you make your own mistakes. Teachers always find this hard. Yes, we consider ourselves teachers. We do not so much teach individuals as the species. We provide lessons for all. If you see the Tyrant in us, you are right."

The image in her mind made no reply.

How could teachers teach when they could not emerge from hiding? Burzmali dead, ghola Teg an unknown quantity. Odrade felt invisible pressures converging on Chapterhouse. No wonder Proctors voted. A web enclosed the Sisterhood. The strands held them tightly. And somewhere on that web, a faceless Honored Matre commander crouched.

Spider Queen.

Her presence was known by actions of her minions. A trap strand of her web trembled and attackers hurled themselves onto entangled victims, insanely violent, uncaring how many of their own died or how many they butchered.

Someone commanded the search: Spider Queen.

Is she sane by our standards? Into what awful perils have I sent Dortujla?

Honored Matres went beyond megalomania. They made the Tyrant appear a ridiculous pirate by comparison. Leto II, at least, had known what the Bene Gesserit knew: how to balance on the point of the sword, aware that you would be mortally cut when you slid from that position. The price you pay for seizing such power. Honored Matres ignored this inevitable fate, hewing and slashing around them like a giant in the throes of terrible hysteria.

Nothing ever before had opposed them successfully and they chose to respond now with the killing rage of berserkers. Hysteria by choice. Deliberate.

Because we left our Bashar on Dune to spend his pitiful force in a suicidal defense? No telling how many Honored Matres he killed. And Burzmali at the death of Lampadas. Surely, the hunters felt his sting. Not to mention Idaho-trained males we send out to pass along Honored Matre techniques of sexual enslavement. And to men!

Was that enough to bring such rage? Possibly. But what of the stories from Gammu? Did Teg display a new talent that terrified Honored Matres?

If we restore our Bashar's memories, we must watch him carefully.

Would a no-ship contain him?

What really made Honored Matres so reactive? They wanted blood. Never bring such people bad news. No wonder their minions behaved with frenzy. A powerful person in fright might kill the bearer of bad tidings. Bring no bad tidings. Better to die in battle.

Spider Queen's people went beyond arrogance. Far beyond. No censure possible. You might just as well berate a cow for eating grass. The cow would be justified in looking at you with its moon struck eyes, inquiring: "Isn't this what I'm supposed to do?"

Knowing probable consequences, why did we ignite them? We aren't like the person who hits out at a round gray object with a stick and finds that the object was a hornet's nest. We knew what we struck. Taraza's plan and none of us questioned.

The Sisterhood faced an enemy whose deliberate policy was hysterical violence. "We will run amok!"

And what would happen if Honored Matres met painful defeat? What would their hysteria become?

I fear it.

Did the Sisterhood dare feed this fire?

We must!

Spider Queen would redouble her efforts to find Chapterhouse. Violence would escalate to an even more repulsive stage. What then? Would Honored Matres suspect everyone and anyone of being sympathetic to the Bene Gesserit? Might they not turn against their own supporters? Did they contemplate being alone in a universe devoid of other sentient life? More likely this did not even enter their minds.

What do you look like, Spider Queen? How do you think?

Murbella said she did not know her supreme commander or even sub-commanders of her Hormu Order. But Murbella provided a suggestive description of a sub-commander's quarters. Informative. What does a person call home? Who does she keep close to share life's little homilies?

Most of us choose our companions and surroundings to reflect ourselves.

Murbella said: "One of her personal servants took me into the private area. Showing off, demonstrating that she had access to the sanctum. The public area was neat and clean but the private rooms were messy - clothing left where it had been dropped, unguent jars open, bed unmade, food drying in dishes on the floor. I asked why they had not cleaned up this mess. She said it was not her job. The one who cleaned was allowed into the quarters just before nightfall. "

Secret vulgarities.

Such a one would have a mind to match that private display.

Odrade's eyes snapped open. She focused on the Van Gogh painting. My choice. It put tensions on the long span of human history that Other Memory could not. You sent me a message, Vincent. And because of you, I will not cut off my ear... or send useless love messages to ones who do not care. That's the least I can do to honor you.

The sleeping cell had a familiar odor, peppery pungency of carnation. Odrade's favorite floral perfume. Attendants kept it here as a nasal background.

Once more, she closed her eyes and her thoughts snapped back to Spider Queen. Odrade felt this exercise creating another dimension to that faceless woman.

Murbella said an Honored Matre commander had but to give an order and anything she wanted was brought.

"Anything?"

Murbella described known instances: grossly distorted sexual partners, cloying sweetmeats, emotional orgies ignited by performances of extraordinary violence.

"They're always looking for extremes."

Reports of spies and agents fleshed out Murbella's semi-admiring accounts.

"Everyone says they have a right to rule."

Those women evolved from an autocratic bureaucracy.

Much evidence confirmed it. Murbella spoke of history lessons that said early Honored Matres conducted research to gain sexual dominance over their populations "when taxation became too threatening to those they governed."

A right to rule?

It did not appear to Odrade that these women insisted on such a right. No. They assumed that their rightness must never be questioned. Never! No decisions wrong. Disregard consequences. It never happened.

Odrade sat upright on her cot, knowing she had found the insight she sought.

Mistakes never happen.

That would require an extremely large bag of unconsciousness to contain it. Very tiny consciousness then peering out at a tumultuous universe they themselves created!

Ohhhh, lovely!

Odrade summoned her night attendant, a first-stage acolyte, and asked for melange tea containing a dangerous stimulant, something to help her delay the body's demands for sleep. But at a cost.

The acolyte hesitated before obeying. She returned in a moment with the mug steaming on a small tray.

Odrade had decided long ago that melange tea made with the deep cold water of Chapterhouse had a taste that worked its way into her psyche. The bitter stimulant deprived her of that refreshing taste and gnawed at her conscience. Word would go out from the ones who watched. Worry, worry, worry. Would Proctors take another vote?

She sipped slowly, giving the stimulant time to work. Condemned woman rejects last dinner. Sips tea.

Presently, she put aside the empty mug and called for warm clothing. "I'm going for a walk in the orchards." The night attendant made no comment. Everyone knew she often went walking there, even at night.

Within minutes she was in the narrow, link-fenced path to her favorite orchard, her way lighted by a miniglobe fixed on a short cord to her right shoulder. A small herd of the Sisterhood's black cattle came up to the fence beside Odrade and gazed at her as she passed. She looked at the wet muzzles, inhaled the rich smell of alfalfa in the steam of their breathing and paused. The cows sniffed and sensed the pheromone that told them to accept her. They went back to eating forage piled near the fence by herdsmen.

Turning her back on the cattle, Odrade looked at leafless trees across from the pasture. Her miniglobe drew a circle of yellow light that emphasized winter starkness.

Few understood why this place attracted her. It was not enough to say she found troubled thoughts soothed here. Even in winter, with frost crunching underfoot. This orchard was a hard-bought silence between storms. She extinguished her miniglobe and let her feet follow the familiar way in darkness. Occasionally, she glanced up at starlight defined by leafless branches. Storms. She felt one approaching that no meteorologist could anticipate. Storms beget storms. Rage begets rage. Revenge begets revenge. Wars beget wars.

The old Bashar had been a master at breaking those circles. Would his ghola still have that talent?

What a perilous gamble.

Odrade looked back at the cattle, a dark blob of movement and starlighted steam. They had herded close for warmth and she heard a familiar grinding as they chewed their cuds.

I must go south into the desert. Face to face with Sheeana there. The sandtrout thrive. Why are there no sandworms?

She spoke aloud to the cattle clustered by the fence: "Eat your grass. It's what you're supposed to do."

If a spying watchdog chanced on that remark, Odrade knew she would have serious explaining to do.

But I have seen through to the heart of our enemy this night. And I pity them.

***

To know a thing well, know its limits. Only when pushed beyond its tolerances will true nature be seen. (The Amtal Rule) Do not depend only on theory if your life is at stake.

- Bene Gesserit Commentary

Duncan Idaho stood almost in the center of the no-ship's practice floor and three paces from the ghola-child. Sophisticated training instruments were near at hand, some exhausting, some dangerous.

The child looked admiring and trusting this morning.

Do I understand him better because I, too, am a ghola? A questionable assumption. This one has been brought up in a way much different from the one they designed for me. Designed! The precise term.

The Sisterhood had copied as much of Teg's original childhood as possible. Even to an adoring younger companion standing in for the long-lost brother. And Odrade giving him the deep teaching! As Teg's birth-mother did.

Idaho remembered the aged Bashar whose cells had produced this child. A thoughtful man whose comments were to be heeded. With only a slight effort, Idaho recalled the man's manner and words:

"The true warrior often understands his enemy better than he understands his friends. A dangerous pitfall if you let understanding lead to sympathy as it will naturally do when left unguided."

Difficult to think of the mind behind those words as latent somewhere in this child. The Bashar had been so insightful, teaching about sympathies on that long-ago day in the Gammu Keep.

"Sympathy for the enemy - a weakness of police and armies alike. Most perilous are the unconscious sympathies directing you to preserve your enemy intact because the enemy is your justification for existence."

"Sir?"

How could that piping voice become the commanding tones of the old Bashar?

"What is it?"

"Why are you just standing there looking at me?"

"They called the Bashar 'Old Reliability.' Did you know that?"

"Yes, sir. I've studied the story of his life."

Was it "Young Reliability" now? Why did Odrade want his original memories restored so quickly?

"Because of the Bashar, the entire Sisterhood has been digging into Other Memory, revising their views of history. Did they tell you that?"

"No, sir. Is it important for me to know? Mother Superior said you would train my muscles."

"You liked to drink Danian Marinete, a very fine brandy, I recall. "

"I'm too young to drink, sir."

"You were a Mentat. Do you know what that means?"

"I'll know when you restore my memories, won't I?"

No respectful sir. Calling the teacher to task for unwanted delays.

Idaho smiled and got a grin in response. An engaging child. Easy to show him natural affection.

"Watch out for him," Odrade had said. "He's a charmer."

Idaho recalled Odrade's briefing before bringing the child.

"Since every individual is accountable ultimately to the self," she said, "the formation of that self demands our utmost care and attention. "

"Is that necessary with a ghola?"

They had been in Idaho's sitting room that night, Murbella a fascinated listener.

"He will remember everything you teach him."

"So we do a little editing of the original."

"Careful, Duncan! Give a bad time to an impressionable child, teach that child not to trust anyone, and you create a suicide - slow or fast suicide, doesn't make any difference."

"Are you forgetting that I knew the Bashar?"

"Don't you remember, Duncan, how it was before your memories were restored?"

"I knew the Bashar could do it and I thought of him as my salvation."

"And that's how he sees you. It's a special kind of trust."

"I'll treat him honestly."

"You may think you act from honesty but I advise you to look deeply into yourself every time you come face to face with his trust."

"And if I make a mistake?"

"We will correct it if possible." She glanced up at the comeyes and back to him.

"I know you'll be watching us!"

"Don't let it inhibit you. I'm not trying to make you self-conscious. Just cautious. And remember that my Sisterhood has efficient methods of healing."

"I'll be cautious."

"You might remember it was the Bashar who said: 'The ferocity we display to our foes is always tempered by the lesson we hope to teach.' "

"I can't think of him as a foe. The Bashar was one of the finest men I've ever known."

"Excellent. I place him in your hands."

And here the child was on the practice floor getting more than a little impatient with his teacher's hesitations.

"Sir, is this part of a lesson, just standing here? I know sometimes -"

"Be still."

Teg came to military attention. No one had taught him that. This was from his original memories. Idaho was suddenly fascinated by this glimpse of the Bashar.

They knew he would catch me this way!

Never underestimate Bene Gesserit persuasiveness. You could find yourself doing things for them without knowing pressures had been applied. Subtle and damnable! There were compensations, of course. You lived in interesting times, as the ancient curse had it. All in all, Idaho decided, he preferred interesting times, even these times.

He took a deep breath. "Restoring your original memories will cause pain - physical and mental. In some ways, the mental pains are worse. I am to prepare you for that."

Still at attention. No comment.

"We will begin without weapons, using an imaginary blade in your right hand. This is a variation on the 'five attitudes.' Each response arises before the need. Drop your arms to your sides and relax."

Moving behind Teg, Idaho grasped the child's right arm below the elbow and demonstrated the first movements.

"Each attacker is a feather floating on an infinite path. As the feather approaches, it is diverted and removed. Your response is like a puff of air blowing the feather away."

Idaho stepped aside and observed as Teg repeated the movements, correcting occasionally with a sharp blow to an offending muscle.

"Let your body do the learning!" When Teg asked why he did that.

In a rest period, Teg wanted to know what Idaho meant by "mental pains."

"You have ghola-imposed walls around your original memories. At the proper moment, some of those memories will come flooding back. Not all memories will be pleasant."

"Mother Superior says the Bashar restored your memories."

"Gods of the deep, child! Why do you keep saying 'the Bashar'? That was you!"

"But I don't know that yet."

"You present a special problem. For a ghola to reawaken, there should be memory of death. But the cells for you do not carry death memory."

"But the... Bashar is dead."

"The Bashar! Yes, he's dead. You must feel that where it hurts most and know that you are the Bashar."

"Can you really give me back that memory?"

"If you can stand the pain. Do you know what I said to you when you restored my memories? I said: 'Atreides! You're all so damned alike!' "

"You hated... me?"

"Yes, and you were disgusted with yourself for what you did to me. Does that give you any idea of what I must do?"

"Yes, sir." Very low.

"Mother Superior says I must not betray your trust... yet you betrayed my trust."

"But I restored your memories?"

"See how easy it is to think of yourself as Bashar? You were shocked. And yes, you restored my memories."

"That's all I want."

"So you say."

"Mother... Superior says you're a Mentat. Will that help... that I was a Mentat, too?"

"Logic says 'Yes.' But we Mentats have a saying, that logic moves blindly. And we're aware there's a logic that kicks you out of the nest into chaos."

"I know what chaos means!" Very proud of himself.

"So you think."

"And I trust you!"

"Listen to me! We are servants of the Bene Gesserit. Reverend Mothers did not build their order on trust."

"Shouldn't I trust Mother... Superior?"

"Within limits you will learn and appreciate. For now, I warn you the Bene Gesserit work under a system of organized distrust. Have they taught you about democracy?"

"Yes, sir. That's where you vote for -"

"That's where you distrust anyone with power over you! The Sisters know it well. Don't trust too much."

"Then I should not trust you, either?"

"The only trust you can place in me is that I will do my best to restore your original memories."

"Then I don't care how much it hurts." He looked up at the comeyes, knowledge of their purpose in his expression. "Do they mind that you say these things about them?"

"Their feelings don't concern a Mentat except as data."

"Does that mean fact?"

"Facts are fragile. A Mentat can get tangled in them. Too much reliable data. It's like diplomacy. You need a few good lies to get at your projections."

"I'm... confused." He used the word hesitantly, not sure it was what he meant.

"I said that once to Mother Superior. She said: 'I've been behaving badly.' "

"You're not supposed to... confuse me?"

"Unless it teaches." And when Teg still looked puzzled, Idaho said: "Let me tell you a story. "

Teg immediately sat on the floor, an action revealing that Odrade often used the same technique. Good. Teg already was receptive.

"In one of my lives I had a dog that hated clams," Idaho said.

"I've had clams. They come from the Great Sea."

"Yes, well, my dog hated clams because one of them had the temerity to spit in his eye. That stings. But even worse, it was an innocent hole in the sand that did the spitting. No clam visible."

"What'd your dog do?" Leaning forward, chin on fist.

"He dug up the offender and brought it to me." Idaho grinned. "Lesson one: Don't let the unknown spit in your eye."

Teg laughed and clapped his hands.

"But look at it from the dog's viewpoint. Go after the spitter! Then - glorious reward: Master is pleased."

"Did your dog dig more clams?"

"Every time we went to the beach. He went growling after spitters and Master took them away never to be seen again except as empty shells with bits of meat still clinging to the insides."

"You ate them."

"See it as the dog did. Spitters get their just punishment. He has a way to rid his world of offensive things and Master is pleased with him."

Teg demonstrated his brightness. "Do the Sisters think of us as dogs?"

"In a way. Never forget it. When you get back to your rooms, look up 'lese majeste.' It helps place our relationship to our Masters."

Teg looked up at the comeyes and back to Idaho but said nothing.

Idaho lifted his attention to the door behind Teg and said: "That story was for you, too."

Teg jumped to his feet, turning and expecting to see Mother Superior. But it was only Murbella.

She was leaning against the wall near the door.

"Bell won't like you talking about the Sisterhood that way," she said.

"Odrade told me I have a free hand." He looked at Teg. "We've wasted enough time on stories! Let me see if your body has learned anything."

An odd feeling of excitement had come over Murbella as she entered the training area and saw Duncan with the child. She watched for a time, aware that she was seeing him in a new and almost Bene Gesserit light. Mother Superior's briefing came out in Duncan's candor with Teg. Extremely odd sensation, this new awareness, as though she had come a full step away from her former associates. The feeling was poignant with loss.

Murbella found herself missing strange things in her former life. Not the hunting in the streets, seeking new males to captivate and bring under Honored Matre control. The powers that came from creating sexual addicts had lost their savor under Bene Gesserit teaching and her experiences with Duncan. She admitted to missing one element of that power, though: the sense of belonging to a force nothing could stop.

It was both abstract and specific. Not the recurrent conquests but the expectation of inevitable victory that came in part from the drug she shared with Honored Matre Sisters. As the need waned in the shift to melange, she saw the old addiction from a different perspective. Bene Gesserit chemists, tracing the adrenaline substitute from samples of her blood, held it ready if she required it. She knew she did not. Another withdrawal plagued her. Not the captivated males but the flow of them. Something within her said this was gone forever. She would never re-experience it. New knowledge had changed her past.

She had prowled the corridors between her quarters and the practice floor this morning, wanting to watch Duncan with the child, afraid her presence might interfere. This prowling was a thing she often did these days after the more strenuous of her morning lessons with a Reverend Mother teacher. Thoughts of Honored Matres were much with her at these times.

She could not escape this feeling of loss. It was an emptiness such that she wondered if anything could possibly fill it. The sensation was worse than that of growing old. Growing old as an Honored Matre had offered its compensations. Powers gathered in that Sisterhood had a tendency to grow rapidly with age. Not that. It was an absolute loss.

I have been defeated.

Honored Matres never contemplated defeat. Murbella felt herself forced to it. She knew Honored Matres were sometimes slain by enemies. Those enemies always paid. It was the law: whole planets blackened to get one offender.

Murbella knew Honored Matres hunted for Chapterhouse. As a matter of former loyalties, she was aware she should be assisting those hunters. The poignancy of her personal defeat lay in the fact that she did not want the Bene Gesserit to pay the remembered price.

The Bene Gesserit are too valuable.

They were infinitely valuable to Honored Matres. Murbella doubted that any other Honored Matre even suspected this.

Vanity.

That was the judgment she attached to her former Sisters. And to myself as I was. A terrible pride. It had grown out of being subjugated so many generations before they gained their own ascendancy. Murbella had tried to convey this to Odrade, recounting from history taught by Honored Matres.

"The slave makes an awful master," Odrade said.

There was an Honored Matre pattern, Murbella realized. She had accepted it once but now rejected it and could not give all of her reasons for this change.

I have grown out of those things. They would be childish to me now.

Duncan once more had stopped the practice session. Perspiration poured from both teacher and student. They stood panting, regaining breath, an odd exchange of looks between them. Conspiracy? The child looked strangely mature.

Murbella recalled Odrade's comment: "Maturity imposes its own behavior. One of our lessons - make those imperatives available to consciousness. Modify instincts."

They have modified me and will do so even more.

She could see the same thing at work in Duncan's behavior with the ghola-child.

"This is an activity that creates many stresses in the societies we influence," Odrade had said. "That forces us to constant adjustments."

But how can they adjust to my former Sisters?

Odrade revealed characteristic sangfroid when braced with this question.

"We face major adjustments because of our past activities. It was the same during the reign of the Tyrant."

Adjustments?

Duncan was talking to the child. Murbella moved closer to listen.

"You've been exposed to the story of Muad'Dib? Good. You're an Atreides and that includes flaws."

"Does that mean mistakes, sir?"

"You're damned right it does! Never choose a course just because it offers the opportunity for a dramatic gesture."

"Is that how I died?"

He has the child thinking of his former self in the first person.

"You be the judge. But it was always an Atreides weakness. Attractive things, gestures. Die on the horns of a great bull as Muad'Dib's grandfather did. A grand spectacle for his people. The stuff of stories for generations! You can even hear bits of it around after all of these eons."

"Mother Superior told me that story."

"Your birth-mother probably told it to you, too."

The child shuddered. "It gives me a funny feeling when you say birth-mother." Awe in his young voice.

"Funny feelings are one thing; this lesson is another. I'm talking about something with a persistent label: The Desian Gesture. It used to be Atreidesian but that's too cumbersome."

Once more the child touched that core of mature awareness. "Even a dog's life has its price."

Murbella caught her breath, glimpsing how it would be - an adult mind in that child's body. Disconcerting.

"Your birth-mother was Janet Roxbrough of the Lernaeus Roxbroughs," Idaho said. "She was Bene Gesserit. Your father was Loschy Teg, a CHOAM station factor. In a few minutes I'm going to show you the Bashar's favorite picture of his home on Lernaeus. I want you to keep it with you and study it. Think of it as your favorite place."

Teg nodded but the expression on his face said he was afraid.

Was it possible the great Mentat Warrior had known fear? Murbella shook her head. She had an intellectual knowledge of what Duncan was doing but felt gaps in the accounts. This was something she might never experience. What would the feeling be - reawakening to new life with the memories of another lifetime intact? Much different from a Reverend Mother's Other Memory, she suspected.

"Mind at its beginning," Duncan called it. "Awakening of your True Self. I felt I had been plunged into a magic universe. My awareness was a circle and then a globe. Arbitrary forms became transient. The table was not a table. Then I fell into a trance - everything around me had a shimmering quality. Nothing was real. This passed and I felt I had lost the one reality. My table was a table once more. "

She had studied the Bene Gesserit manual "On Awakening a Ghola's Original Memories." Duncan was diverging from those instructions. Why?

He left the child and approached Murbella.

"I have to talk to Sheeana," he said as he passed her. "There's got to be a better way."

***

Ready comprehension is often a knee-jerk response and the most dangerous form of understanding. It blinks an opaque screen over your ability to learn. The judgmental precedents of law function that way, littering your path with dead ends. Be warned. Understand nothing. All comprehension is temporary.

- Mentat Fixe (adacto)

Idaho, seated alone at his console, encountered an entry he had stored in Shipsystems during his first days of confinement, and found himself dumped (he applied the word later) into attitudes and sensory awareness of that earlier time. It no longer was afternoon of a frustrating day in the no-ship. He was back there, stretched between then and now the way serial ghola lives linked this incarnation to his original birth.

Immediately, he saw what he had come to call "the net" and the elderly couple defined by criss-crossed lines, bodies visible through a shimmering of jeweled ropes - green, blue, gold, and a silver so brilliant it made his eyes ache.

He sensed godlike stability in these people, but something common about them. The word ordinary came to mind. The by-now-familiar garden landscape stretched out behind them: floral bushes (roses, he thought), rolling lawns, tall trees.

The couple stared back at him with an intensity that made Idaho feel naked.

New power in the vision! It no longer was confined to the Great Hold, an increasingly compulsive magnet drawing him down there so frequently he knew the watchdogs were alerted.

Is he another Kwisatz Haderach?

There was a level of suspicion the Bene Gesserit could achieve that would kill him if it grew. And they were watching him now! Questions, worried speculations. Despite this, he could not turn away from the vision.

Why did that elderly couple look so familiar? Someone from his past? Family?

Mentat riffling of his memories produced nothing to fit the speculation. Round faces. Abbreviated chins. Fat wrinkles at the jowls. Dark eyes. The net obscured their color. The woman wore a long blue and green dress that concealed her feet. A white apron stained with green covered the dress from ample bosom to just below her waist. Garden tools dangled from apron loops. She carried a trowel in her left hand. Her hair was gray. Wisps of it had escaped a confining green scarf and blew around her eyes, emphasizing laughter lines there. She appeared... grandmotherly.

The man suited her as though created by the same artist as a perfect match. Bib overalls over a mounded stomach. No hat. Those same dark eyes with reflections twinkling in them. A brush of close-cropped wiry gray hair.

He had the most benign expression Idaho had ever seen. Up-curved smile creases at the corners of his mouth. He held a small shovel in his left hand, and on his extended right palm he balanced what appeared to be a small metal ball. The ball emitted a piercing whistle that made Idaho clap his hands over his ears. This did not stop the sound. It faded away of itself. He lowered his hands.

Reassuring faces. That thought aroused Idaho's suspicions because now he recognized the familiarity. They looked somewhat like Face Dancers, even to the pug noses.

He leaned forward but the vision kept its distance. "Face Dancers," he whispered.

Net and elderly couple vanished.

They were replaced by Murbella in practice-floor leotards of glistening ebony. He had to reach out and touch her before he could believe she really stood there.

"Duncan? What is it? You're all sweaty."

"I... think it's something the damned Tleilaxu planted in me. I keep seeing... I think they're Face Dancers. They... they look at me and just now... a whistle. It hurt."

She glanced up at the comeyes but did not appear worried. This was something the Sisters could know without it presenting immediate dangers... except possibly to Scytale.

She sank to her haunches beside him and put a hand on his arm. "Something they did to your body in the tanks?"

"No!"

"But you said..."

"My body's not just a piece of new baggage for this trip. It has all of the chemistry and substance I ever had. It's my mind that's different."

That worried her. She knew the Bene Gesserit concern over wild talents. "Damn that Scytale!"

"I'll find it," he said.

He closed his eyes and heard Murbella stand. Her hand went away from his arm.

"Maybe you shouldn't do that, Duncan."

She sounded far away.

Memory. Where did they hide the secret thing? Deep in the original cells? Until this moment, he had thought of his memory as a Mentat tool. He could call up his own images from long-ago moments in front of mirrors. Close up, examining an age wrinkle. Looking at a woman behind him - two faces in the mirror and his face full of questions.

Faces. A succession of masks, different views of this person he called myself. Slightly imbalanced faces. Hair sometimes gray, sometimes the jet karakul of his current life. Sometimes humorous, sometimes grave and seeking inward for wisdom to meet a new day. Somewhere in all of that lay a consciousness that observed and deliberated. Someone who made choices. The Tleilaxu had tampered with that.

Idaho felt his blood pumping hard and knew danger was present. This was what he was intended to experience... but not by the Tleilaxu. He had been born with it.

This is what it means to be alive.

No memory from his other lives, nothing the Tleilaxu had done to him, none of that changed his deepest awareness one whit.

He opened his eyes. Murbella still stood near but her expression was veiled. So that's how she will look as a Reverend Mother.

He did not like this change in her.

"What happens if the Bene Gesserit fail?" he asked.

When she did not reply, he nodded. Yes. That's the worst assumption. The Sisterhood down history's sewerpipe. And you don't want that, my beloved.

He could see it in her face when she turned and left him.

Looking up at the comeyes, he said: "Dar. I must talk to you, Dar."

No response from any of the mechanisms around him. He had not expected one. Still, he knew he could talk to her and she would have to listen.

"I've been coining at our problem from the other direction," he said. And he imagined the busy whirring of recorders as they spun the sounds of his voice into ridulian crystals. "I've been getting into the minds of Honored Matres. I know I've done it. Murbella resonates."

That would alert them. He had an Honored Matre of his own. But had was not the proper word. He did not have Murbella. Not even in bed. They had each other. Matched the way those people in his vision appeared to be matched. Was that what he saw there? Two older people sexually trained by Honored Matres?

"I look at another issue now," he said. "How to overcome the Bene Gesserit."

That threw down the gauntlet.

"Episodes," he said. A word Odrade was fond of using.

"That's how we have to see what's happening to us. Little episodes. Even the worst-case assumption has to be screened against that background. The Scattering has a magnitude that dwarfs anything we do."

There! That demonstrated his value to the Sisters. It put Honored Matres in a better perspective. They were back here in the Old Empire. Fellow dwarves. He knew Odrade would see it. Bell would make her see it.

Somewhere out there in the Infinite Universe, a jury had brought in a verdict against Honored Matres. Law and its managers had not prevailed for the hunters. He suspected that his vision had shown him two of the jurors. And if they were Face Dancers, they were not Scytale's Face Dancers. Those two people behind the shimmering net belonged to no one but themselves.

***

Major flaws in government arise from a fear of making radical internal changes even though a need is clearly seen.

- Darwi Odrade

For Odrade, the first melange of the morning was always different. Her flesh responded like a starveling who clutched at sweet fruit. Then followed the slow, penetrating and painful restoration.

This was the fearful thing about melange addiction.

She stood at the window of her sleeping chamber waiting for the effect to run its course. Weather Control, she noted, had achieved another morning rain. The landscape was washed clean, everything immersed in a romantic haze, all edges blurred and reduced to essences like old memories. She opened the window. Damp cold air blew across her face, drawing recollections around her the way one put on a familiar garment.

She inhaled deeply. Smells after a rain! She remembered the essentials of life amplified and smoothed by falling water but these rains were different. They left a flinty aftersmell she could taste. Odrade did not like it. The message was not of things washed clean but of life resentful, wanting all rain stopped and locked away. This rain no longer gentled and brought fullness. It carried inescapable awareness of change.

Odrade closed the window. At once, she was back in the familiar odors of her quarters, and that constant smell of shere from the metering implants required of everyone who knew the location of Chapterhouse. She heard Streggi enter, the slip-slip sounds of the desert map being changed.

An efficient sound in Streggi's movements. Weeks of close association had confirmed Odrade's first judgment. Reliable. Not brilliant but supremely sensitive to Mother Superior's needs. Look how quietly she moved. Transfer Streggi's sensitivity to the needs of young Teg and they had his required height and mobility. A horse? Much more.

Odrade's melange assimilation reached its peak and subsided. Streggi's reflection in the window showed her waiting for assignment. She knew these moments were given over to the spice. At her stage, she would be looking forward to the day when she entered this mysterious enhancement.

I wish her well of it.

Most Reverend Mothers followed the teaching and seldom thought of their spice as addiction. Odrade knew it every morning for what it was. You took your spice during the day as your body demanded, following a pattern of early training: dosage minimal, just enough to whet the metabolic system and drive it into peak performance. Biological necessities meshed more smoothly with melange. Food tasted better. Barring accident or fatal assault, you lived much longer than you could without it. But you were addicted.

Her body restored, Odrade blinked and considered Streggi. Curiosity about the morning's long ritual was plain in her. Speaking to Streggi's reflection in the window, Odrade said: "Have you learned about melange withdrawal?"

"Yes, Mother Superior."

Despite warnings to keep awareness of addiction low key, it was never more than an eyeblink away from Odrade and she felt the accumulated resentments. Mental preparations as an acolyte (firmly impressed in the Agony) had been eroded by Other Memory and accumulations of time. The admonition: "Withdrawal removes an essential of your life and, if it occurs in late middle age, can kill you." How little that meant now.

"Withdrawal has intense meaning for me," Odrade said. "I am one of those for whom the morning melange is painful. I'm sure they told you this happens."

"I'm sorry, Mother Superior."

Odrade studied the map. It showed a longer finger of desert thrusting northward and a pronounced widening of drylands to the southeast of Central where Sheeana had her station. Presently, Odrade returned her attention to Streggi, who was watching Mother Superior with new interest.

Brought up short by thoughts of the spice's darker side!

"The uniqueness of melange is seldom considered in our age," Odrade said. "All of the old narcotics in which humans have indulged possess a remarkable factor in common - all except the spice. They all brought shorter life and pain."

"We were told, Mother Superior."

"But you probably were not told that a fact of governance could be obscured by our concern with Honored Matres. There's an energy greed in governments (yes, even in ours) that can dump you into a trap. If you serve me, you will feel it in your guts because every morning you will watch me suffer. Let knowledge of it sink into you, this deadly trap. Don't become uncaring pushers, caught in a system that displaces life with careless death as Honored Matres do. Remember: Acceptable narcotics can be taxed to pay salaries or otherwise create jobs for uncaring functionaries."

Streggi was puzzled. "But melange extends our lives, increases health and arouses appetites for -"

She was stopped by Odrade's scowl.

Right out of the Acolyte Manual!

"It has this other side, Streggi, and you see it in me. The Acolyte Manual does not lie. But melange is a narcotic and we are addicted. "

" I know it's not gentle with everyone, Mother Superior. But you said Honored Matres don't use it."

"The substitute they employ replaces melange with few benefits except to prevent withdrawal agonies and death. It is parallel addictive."

"And the captive?"

"Murbella used it and now she uses melange. They are interchangeable. Interesting?"

"I... suppose we will learn more of this. I notice, Mother Superior, that you never call them whores."

"As acolytes do? Ahh, Streggi, Bellonda has been a bad influence. Oh, I recognize the pressures." As Streggi started to protest. "Acolytes feel the threat. They look at Chapterhouse and think of it as their fortress for the long night of the whores."

"Something like that, Mother Superior." Extremely hesitant.

"Streggi, this planet is only another temporary place. Today we go south and impress that upon you. Find Tamalane, please, and tell her to make the arrangements we discussed for our visit to Sheeana. Speak to no one else about it."

"Yes, Mother Superior. Do you mean I will accompany you?"

"I want you by my side. Tell the one you are training that she now has full charge of my map."

As Streggi left, Odrade thought of Sheeana and Idaho. She wants to talk to him and he wants to talk to her.

Comeye analysis noted that these two sometimes conversed by hand-signals while hiding most of the movements with their bodies. It had the look of an old Atreides battle language. Odrade recognized some of it but not enough to determine content. Bellonda wanted an explanation from Sheeana. "Secrets!" Odrade was more cautious. "Let it go a bit. Perhaps something interesting will come of it."

What does Sheeana want?

Whatever Duncan had in mind it concerned Teg. Creating the pain required for Teg to recover his original memories went against Duncan's grain.

Odrade had noted this when she interrupted Duncan at his console yesterday.

"You're late, Dar." Not looking up from whatever it was he did there. Late? It was early evening.

He had been calling her Dar frequently for several years, a goad, a reminder that he resented his fishtank existence. The goad irritated Bellonda, who argued against "his damned familiarities." He called Bellonda "Bell," of course. Duncan was generous with his needle.

Remembering this, Odrade paused before entering her workroom. Duncan had slammed a fist onto the counter beside his console. "There's got to be a better way for Teg!"

A better way? What does he have in mind?

Movement down the corridor beyond the workroom brought her out of this reflection. Streggi returning from Tamalane. Streggi entered the Acolyte Ready Room. Giving the word to her replacement on the desert map.

A stack of Archival records waited on Odrade's table. Bellonda! Odrade stared at the pile. No matter how much she tried to delegate there was always this organized residue that her councillors insisted only Mother Superior could handle. Much of this new lot came from Bellonda's demand for "suggestions and analyses."

Odrade touched her console. "Bell!"

The voice of an Archives clerk responded: "Mother Superior?"

"Get Bell up here! I want her in front of me as fast as her fat legs can move!"

It was less than a minute. Bellonda stood in front of the worktable like a chastened acolyte. They all knew that tone in Mother Superior's voice.

Odrade touched the stack on her table and jerked her hand back as though shocked. "What in the name of Shaitan is all of that?"

"We judged it significant."

"You think I have to see everything and anything? Where's the keynoting? This is sloppy work, Bell! I'm not stupid and neither are you. But this... in the face of this..."

"I delegate as much as -"

"Delegate? Look at this! Which must I see and which may I delegate? Not one keynote!"

"I'll see that it's corrected immediately."

"Indeed you will, Bell. Because Tam and I are going south today, an unannounced inspection tour and a visit with Sheeana. And while I'm gone, you will sit in my chair. See how you like this daily deluge!"

"Will you be out of touch?"

"I'll have a lightline and Ear-C at all times."

Bellonda breathed easier.

" I suggest, Bell, that you get back to Archives and put someone in charge who will take responsibility. I'm damned if you're not beginning to act like bureaucrats. Covering your asses!"

"Real boats rock, Dar."

Was that Bell attempting humor? All was not lost!

Odrade waved a hand over her projector and there was Tamalane in the Transport Hall. "Tam?"

"Yes?" Without turning from an assignment list.

"How soon can we leave?"

"About two hours."

"Call me when you're ready. Oh, and Streggi goes with us. Make room for her." Odrade blanked the projection before Tamalane could respond.

There were things she should be doing, Odrade knew. Tam and Bell were not the only sources of Mother Superior's concerns.

Sixteen planets remaining to us... and that includes Buzzell, definitely a place in peril. Only sixteen! She pushed that thought aside. No time for it.

Murbella. Should I call her and... No. That can wait. The new Board of Proctors? Let Bell deal with that. Community disbandings?

Siphoning personnel into a new Scattering had forced consolidations. Staying ahead of the desert! It was depressing and she did not feel she could face it today. I'm always fidgety before a trip.

Abruptly, Odrade fled the workroom and went stalking the corridors, looking into how her charges were performing, pausing in doorways, noting what the students read, how they behaved in their everlasting prana-bindu exercises.

"What are you reading there?" demanded of a young second-stage acolyte at a projector in a semi-darkened room.

"The diaries of Tolstoy, Mother Superior."

That knowing look in the acolyte's eyes said: "Do you have his words directly in Other Memory?" The question was right there on the edge of the girl's tongue! They were always trying such petty gambits when they caught her alone.

"Tolstoy was a family name!" Odrade snapped. "By your mention of diaries, I presume you refer to Count Leo Nikolayevich."

"Yes, Mother Superior." Abashedly aware of censure.

Softening, Odrade threw a quotation at the girl: " 'I am not a river, I am a net.' He spoke those words at Yasnaya Polyana when he was only twelve. You'll not find them in his diaries but they are probably the most significant words he ever uttered."

Odrade turned away before the acolyte could thank her. Always teaching!

She wandered down to the main kitchens then and inspected them, tracing inner edges of racked pots for grease, noting the cautious way even the teaching chef observed her progress.

The kitchen was steamy with good smells from lunch preparations. There was a restorative sound of chopping and stirring but the usual banter stopped at her entrance.

She went around the long counter with its busy cooks to the teaching chef's raised platform. He was a great beefy man with prominent cheekbones, his face as florid as the meats over which he ministered. Odrade had no doubts he was one of history's great chefs. His name suited him: Placido Salat. He was assured of a warm place in her thoughts for several reasons, including the fact that he had trained her personal chef. Important visitors in the days before Honored Matres had received a kitchen tour and a taste of specialties.

"May I introduce our senior chef, Placido Salat?"

His beef placido (lower case his choice) was the envy of many. Almost raw and served with an herbed and spicy mustard sauce that did not obscure the meat.

Odrade thought the dish too exotic but never judged it aloud.

When she had Salat's full attention (after a slight interruption to correct a sauce) Odrade said: "I'm hungry for something special, Placido."

He recognized the opening. This was how she always began a request for her "special dish."

"Perhaps an oyster stew," he suggested.

It's a dance, Odrade thought. They both knew what she wanted.

"Excellent!" she agreed and went into the required performance. "But it must be treated gently, Placido, the oysters not overcooked. Some of our own powdered dry celery in the broth."

"And perhaps a bit of paprika?"

"I always prefer it that way. Be extremely careful with the melange. A breath of it and no more."

"Of course, Mother Superior!" Eyes rolling in horror at the thought he might use too much melange. "So easy for the spice to dominate."

"Cook the oysters in clam nectar, Placido. I would prefer you watch over them yourself, stirring gently until the edges of the oysters just start to curl."

"Not a second longer, Mother Superior."

"Heat some quite creamy milk on the side. Don't boil it!"

Placido displayed astonishment that she might suspect him of boiling the milk for her oyster stew.

"A small pat of butter in the serving bowl," Odrade said. "Pour the combined broth over it."

"No sherry?"

"How glad I am that you are taking personal charge of my special dish, Placido. I forgot the sherry." (Mother Superior never forgot anything and they all knew it but this was a required step in the dance.) "Three ounces of sherry in the cooking broth," he said.

"Heat it to get rid of the alcohol."

"Of course! But we must not bruise the flavors. Would you like croutons or saltines?"

"Croutons, please."

Seated at an alcove table, Odrade ate two bowls of oyster stew, remembering how Sea Child had savored it. Papa had introduced her to this dish when she was barely capable of conveying spoon to mouth. He had made the stew himself, his own specialty. Odrade had taught it to Salat.

She complimented Salat on the wine.

"I particularly enjoyed your choice of a chablis for accompaniment."

"A flinty chablis with a sharp edge on it, Mother Superior. One of our better vintages. It sets off the oyster flavors admirably."

Tamalane found her in the alcove. They always knew where to find Mother Superior when they wanted her.

"We are ready." Was that displeasure on Tam's face?

"Where will we stop tonight?"

"Eldio."

Odrade smiled. She liked Eldio.

Tam catering to me because I'm in a critical mood? Perhaps we have the makings of a small diversion.

Following Tamalane to the transport docks, Odrade thought how characteristic it was that the older woman preferred to travel by tube. Surface trips annoyed her. "Who wants to waste time at my age?"

Odrade disliked tubes for personal transport. You were so closed in and helpless! She preferred surface or air and used tubes only when speed was urgent. She had no hesitation about using smaller tubes for chits and notes. Notes don't care just as long as they get there.

This thought always made her conscious of the network that adjusted to her movements wherever she went.

Somewhere in the heart of things (there was always a "heart of things") an automated system routed communications and made sure (most of the time) that important missives arrived where addressed.

When Private Dispatch (they all called it PD) was not needed, stat or viz was available along scrambled sorters and lightlines. Off-planet was another matter, especially in these hunted times. Safest to send a Reverend Mother with memorized message or distrans implant. Every messenger took heavier doses of shere these days. T-probes could read even a dead mind not guarded by shere. Every off-planet message was encrypted but an enemy might hit on the one-time cover concealing it. Great risk off-planet. Perhaps that was why the Rabbi remained silent.

Now why am I thinking such things at this moment?

"No word yet from Dortujla?" she asked as Tamalane prepared to enter the Dispatch roundelay where the others in their party waited. So many people. Why so many?

Odrade saw Streggi up ahead at the edge of the dock talking to a Communications acolyte. There were at least six other people from Communications nearby.

Tamalane turned in obvious pique. "Dortujla! We have all said we will notify you the instant we hear!"

"I was just asking, Tam. Just asking."

Meekly, Odrade followed Tamalane into Dispatch. I should put a monitor on my mind and question everything that rises there. Mental intrusions always had good reason behind them. That was the Bene Gesserit way, as Bellonda often reminded her.

Odrade felt surprise at herself then, realizing she was more than a little sick of Bene Gesserit ways.

Let Bell worry about such things for a change!

This was a time for floating free, for responding like a will o' the wisp to the currents moving around her.

Sea Child knew about currents.

***

Time does not count itself. You have only to look at a circle and this is apparent.

- Leto II (The Tyrant)

"Look! Look what we have come to!" the Rabbi wailed. He sat cross-legged on the cold curved floor with his shawl pulled up over his head and almost concealing his face.

The room around him was gloomy and resonating with small machinery sounds that made him feel weak. If those sounds should stop!

Rebecca stood in front of him, hands on her hips, a look of weary frustration on her face.

"Do not stand there like that!" the Rabbi commanded. He peered up at her from beneath the shawl.

"If you despair, then are we not lost?" she asked.

The sound of her voice angered him and he was a moment putting this unwanted emotion aside.

She dares to instruct me? But was it not said by wiser men that knowledge can come from a weed? A great shuddering sigh shook him and he dropped the shawl to his shoulders. Rebecca helped him stand.

"A no-chamber," the Rabbi muttered. "In here, we hide from..." His gaze searched upward at a dark ceiling. "Better left unspoken even here."

"We hide from the unspeakable," Rebecca said.

"The door cannot even be left open at Passover," he said. "How will the Stranger enter?"

"Some strangers we do not want," she said.

"Rebecca." He bowed his head. "You are more than a trial and a problem. This little cell of Secret Israel shares your exile because we understand that -"

"Stop saying that! You understand nothing of what has happened to me. My problem?" She leaned close to him. "It is to remain human while in contact with all of those past lives."

The Rabbi recoiled.

"So you are no longer one of us? Are you a Bene Gesserit then?"

"You will know when I'm Bene Gesserit. You will see me looking at myself as I look at myself."

His brows drew down in a scowl. "What are you saying?"

"What does a mirror look at, Rabbi?"

"Hmmmmph! Riddles now." But a faint smile twitched at his mouth. A look of determination returned to his eyes. He stared around him at the room. There were eight of them here - more than this space should hold. A no-chamber! It had been assembled painstakingly with smuggled bits and pieces. So small. Twelve and a half meters long. He had measured it himself. A shape like an ancient barrel laid on its side, oval in cross section and with half-globe closures at the ends. The ceiling was no more than a meter above his head. The widest point here at the center was only five meters and the curve of floor and ceiling made it seem even narrower. Dried food and recycled water. That was what they must live on and for how long? One SY maybe if they were not found. He did not trust the security of this device. Those peculiar sounds in the machinery.

It had been late in the day when they crept into this hole. Darkness up there now for sure. And where were the rest of his people? Fled to whatever sanctuary they could find, drawing on old debts and honorable commitments for past services. Some would survive. Perhaps they would survive better than this remnant in here.

The entrance to the no-chamber lay concealed beneath an ash pit with a free-standing chimney beside it. The reinforcing metal of the chimney contained threads of ridulian crystal to relay exterior scenes into this place. Ashes! The room still smelled of burned things and it already had begun to take on a sewer stink from the small recycling chamber. What a euphemism for a toilet!

Someone came up behind the Rabbi. "The searchers are leaving. Lucky we were warned in time."

It was Joshua, the one who had built this chamber. He was a short, slender man with a sharply triangular face narrowing to a thin chin. Dark hair swept over his broad forehead. He had widely spaced brown eyes that looked out at his world with a brooding inwardness the Rabbi did not trust. He looks too young to know so much about these things.

"So they are leaving," the Rabbi said. "They will be back. You will not think us lucky then."

"They will not guess we hid so near the farm," Rebecca said. "The searchers were mostly looting."

"Listen to the Bene Gesserit," the Rabbi said.

"Rabbi." What a chiding sound in Joshua's voice! "Have I not heard you say many times that the blessed ones are they who hide the flaws of others even from themselves?"

"Everybody's a teacher now!" the Rabbi said. "But who can tell us what will happen next?"

He had to admit the truth of Joshua's words, though. It is the anguish of our flight that troubles me. Our little diaspora. But we do not scatter from Babylon. We hide in a... a cyclone cellar!

This thought restored him. Cyclones pass.

"Who is in charge of the food?" he asked. "We must ration ourselves from the start."

Rebecca heaved a sigh of relief. The Rabbi was at his worst in the wide oscillations - too emotional or too intellectual. He had himself in hand once more. He would become intellectual next. That would have to be dampened, too. Bene Gesserit awareness gave her a new view of the people around her. Our Jewish susceptibility. Look at the intellectuals!

It was a thought peculiar to the Sisterhood. The drawbacks of anyone placing considerable reliance on intellectual achievements were large. She could not deny all of that evidence from the Lampadas horde. Speaker paraded it for her whenever she wavered.

Rebecca had come almost to enjoy the pursuit of memory fancies, as she thought of them. Knowing earlier times forced her to deny her own earlier times. She had been required to believe so many things she now knew were nonsense. Myths and chimera, impulses of extremely childish behavior.

"Our gods should mature as we mature."

Rebecca suppressed a smile. Speaker did that to her often - a little nudge in the ribs from someone who knew you would appreciate it.

Joshua had gone back to his instruments. She saw that someone was reviewing the catalogue of food stores. The Rabbi watched this with his normal intensity. Others had rolled themselves into blankets and were sleeping on the cots in the darkened end of the chamber. Seeing all of this, Rebecca knew what her function must be. Keep us from boredom.

"The games master?"

Unless you have something better to suggest, don't try to tell me about my own people, Speaker.

Whatever else she might say about these inner conversations, there was no doubt that all of the pieces were connected - the past with this room, this room with her projections of consequences. And that was a great gift from the Bene Gesserit. Do not think of "The Future." Predestination? Then what happens to the freedom you are given at birth?

Rebecca looked at her own birth in a new light. It had embarked her on movement toward an unknown destiny. Fraught with unseen perils and joys. So they had come around a bend in the river and found attackers. The next bend might reveal a cataract or a stretch of peaceful beauty. And here lay the magical enticement of prescience, the lure to which Muad'Dib and his Tyrant son had succumbed. The oracle knows what is to come! The horde of Lampadas had taught her not to seek oracles. The known could beleaguer her more than the unknown. The sweetness of the new lay in its surprises. Could the Rabbi see it?

"Who will tell us what happens next?" he asks.

Is that what you want, Rabbi? You will not like what you hear. I guarantee it. From the moment the oracle speaks your future becomes identical to your past. How you would wail in your boredom. Nothing new, not ever. Everything old in that one instant of revelation.

"But this is not what I wanted!" I can hear you saying it.

No brutality, no savagery, no quiet happiness nor exploding joy can come upon you unexpectedly. Like a runaway tube train in its wormhole, your life will speed through to its final moment of confrontation. Like a moth in the car you will beat your wings against the sides and ask Fate to let you out. "Let the tube undergo a magical change of direction. Let something new happen! Don't let the terrible things I have seen come to pass!"

Abruptly, she saw that this must have been Muad'Dib's travail. To whom had he uttered his prayers?

"Rebecca!" It was the Rabbi calling her.

She went to where he stood beside Joshua now, looking at the dark world outside of their chamber as it was revealed in the small projection above Joshua's instruments.

"There is a storm coming," the Rabbi said. "Joshua thinks it will make a cement of the ash pit."

"That is good," she said. "It is why we built here and left the cover off the pit when we entered."

"But how do we get out?"

"We have tools for that," she said. "And even without tools, there's always our hands."

***

A major concept guides the Missionaria Protectiva: Purposeful instruction of the masses. This is firmly seated in our belief that the aim of argument should be to change the nature of truth. In such matters, we prefer the use of power rather than force.

- The Coda

To Duncan Idaho, life in the no-ship had taken on the air of a peculiar game since the advent of his vision and insights into Honored Matre behavior. Entry of Teg into the game was a deceptive move, not just the introduction of another player.

He stood beside his console this morning and recognized elements in this game parallel to his own ghola childhood at the Bene Gesserit Keep on Gammu with the aging Bashar as weapons master-guardian.

Education. That had been a primary concern then as it was now. And the guards, mostly unobtrusive in the no-ship but always there as they had been on Gammu. Or their spy devices present, artfully camouflaged and blended into the decor. He had become an adept at evading them on Gammu. Here, with Sheeana's help, he had raised evasion to a fine art.

Activity around him was reduced to low background. Guards carried no weapons. But they were mostly Reverend Mothers with a few senior acolytes. They would not believe they needed weapons.

Some things in the no-ship contributed to an illusion of freedom, chiefly its size and complexity. The ship was large, how large he could not determine but he had access to many floors and to corridors that ran for more than a thousand paces.

Tubes and tunnels, access piping that conveyed him in suspensor pods, dropchutes and lifts, conventional hallways and wide corridors with hatches that hissed open at a touch (or remained sealed: Forbidden!) - all of it was a place to lock in memory, becoming there his own turf, private to him in a way far different from what it was to guards.

The energy required to bring the ship down to the planet and maintain it spoke of a major commitment. The Sisterhood could not count the cost in any ordinary way. The comptroller of the Bene Gesserit treasury did not deal merely in monetary counters. Not for them the Solar or comparable currencies. They banked on their people, on food, on payments due sometimes for millennia, payments often in kind - both materials and loyalties.

Pay up, Duncan! We're calling in your note!

This ship was not just a prison. He had considered several Mentat projections. Prime: it was a laboratory where Reverend Mothers sought a way to nullify a no-ship's ability to confuse human senses.

A no-ship gameboard - puzzle and warren. All to confine three prisoners? No. There had to be other reasons.

The game had secret rules, some he could only guess. But he had found it reassuring when Sheeana entered into the spirit of it. I knew she would have her own plans. Obvious when she began practicing Honored Matre techniques. Polishing my trainees!

Sheeana wanted intimate information about Murbella and much more - his memories of people he had known in his many lives, especially memories of the Tyrant.

And I want information about the Bene Gesserit.

The Sisterhood kept him in minimal activity. Frustrating him to increase Mentat abilities. He was not at the heart of that larger problem he sensed outside the ship. Tantalizing fragments came to him when Odrade gave him glimpses of their predicament through her questions.

Enough to offer new premises? Not without access to data that his console refused to display.

It was his problem, too, damn them! He was in a box within their box. All of them trapped.

Odrade had stood beside this console one afternoon a week ago and blandly assured him the Sisterhood's data sources were "opened wide" to him. Right there she had stood, her back to the counter, leaning on it casually, arms folded across her breast. Her resemblance to the adult Miles Teg was uncanny at times. Even to that need (was it a compulsion?) to stand while talking. She disliked chairdogs, too.

He knew he had an extremely loose comprehension of her motives and plans. But he didn't trust them. Not after Gammu.

Decoy and bait. That was how they had used him. He was lucky not to have gone the way of Dune - a dead husk. Used up by the Bene Gesserit.

When he fidgeted this way, Idaho preferred to slump into the chair at his console. Sometimes, he sat here for hours, immobile, his mind trying to encompass complexities of the ship's powerful data resources. The system could identify any human in it. So it has automatic monitors. It had to know who was speaking, making demands, assuming temporary command.

Flight circuits defy my attempts to break through the locks. Disconnected? That was what his guards said. But the ship's way of identifying who tapped the circuits - he knew his key lay there.

Would Sheeana help? It was a dangerous gamble to trust her too much. Sometimes when she watched him at his console he was reminded of Odrade. Sheeana was Odrade's student. That was a sobering memory.

What was their interest in how he used Shipsystems? As if he needed to ask!

During his third year here he had made the system hide data for him, doing this with his own keys. To thwart the prying comeyes, he hid his actions in plain sight. Obvious insertions for later retrieval but with an encrypted second message. Easy for a Mentat and useful mostly as a trick, exploring the potentials of Shipsystems. He had booby-trapped his data to a random dump without hope of recovery.

Bellonda suspected, but when she questioned him about it, he only smiled.

I hide my history, Bell. My serial lives as a ghola - all of them back to the original non-ghola. Intimate things I remember about those experiences: a dumping ground for poignant memories.

Sitting now at the console, he experienced mixed feelings. Confinement galled him. No matter the size and richness of his prison, it still was a prison. He had known for some time that he very likely could escape but Murbella and his increasing knowledge about their predicament held him. He felt as much a prisoner of his thoughts as of the elaborate system represented by guards and this monstrous device. The no-ship was a device, of course. A tool. A way to move unseen in a dangerous universe. A means of concealing yourself and your intentions even from prescient searchers.

With accumulated skills of many lifetimes, he looked on his surroundings through a screen of sophistication and naivete. Mentats cultivated naivete. Thinking you knew something was a sure way to blind yourself. It was not growing up that slowly applied brakes to learning (Mentats were taught) but an accumulation of "things I know."

New data sources the Sisterhood had opened to him (if he could rely on them) raised questions. How was opposition to Honored Matres organized in the Scattering? Obviously there were groups (he hesitated to call them powers) who hunted Honored Matres the way Honored Matres hunted the Bene Gesserit. Killed them, too, if you accepted Gammu evidence.

Futars and Handlers? He made a Mentat Projection: A Tleilaxu offshoot in the first Scattering had engaged in genetic manipulation. Those two he saw in his vision: were they the ones who created Futars? Could that couple be Face Dancers? Independent of Tleilaxu Masters? All was not singular in the Scattering.

Dammit! He needed access to more data, to potent sources. His present sources were not even remotely adequate. A tool of limited purpose, his console could be adapted to larger requirements but his adaptations limped. He needed to stride out as a Mentat!

I've been hobbled and that's a mistake. Doesn't Odrade trust me? She's an Atreides, damn her! She knows what I owe her family.

More than one lifetime and the debt never paid!

He knew he was fidgeting. Abruptly, his mind locked on that. Mentat fidgeting! A signal that he stood poised at the edge of breakthrough. A Prime Projection! Something they had not told him about Teg?

Questions! There were unasked questions lashing at him.

I need perspective! Not necessarily a matter of distance. You could gain perspective from within if your questions carried few distortions.

He sensed that somewhere in Bene Gesserit experiences (perhaps even in Bell's jealously guarded Archives) lay missing pieces. Bell should appreciate this! A fellow Mentat must know the excitement of this moment. His thoughts were like tesserae, most of the pieces at hand and ready to fit into a mosaic. It was not a matter of solutions.

He could hear his first Mentat teacher, the words rumbling in his mind: "Assemble your questions in counterpoise and toss your temporary data onto one side of the scales or the other. Solutions unbalance any situation. Imbalances reveal what you seek."

Yes! Achieving imbalances with sensitized questions was a Mentat's juggling act.

Something Murbella had said the night before - what? They had been in her bed. He recalled seeing the time projected on the ceiling: 9:47. And he had thought: That projection takes energy.

He could almost feel the flow of the ship's power, this giant enclosure cut out of Time. Frictionless machinery to create a mimetic presence no instrument could distinguish from natural background. Except for now when it was on standby, shielded not from eyes but from prescience.

Murbella beside him: another kind of power, both aware of the force trying to pull them together. The energy it took to suppress that mutual magnetism! Sexual attraction building and building and building.

Murbella talking. Yes, that was it. Oddly self-analytic. She approached her own life with a new maturity, a Bene Gesserit-heightened awareness and confidence that something of great strength grew in her.

Every time he recognized this Bene Gesserit change, he felt sad.

Nearer the day of our parting.

But Murbella was talking. "She (Odrade was often 'she') keeps asking me to assess my love for you."

Remembering this, Idaho allowed it to replay.

"She has tried the same approach with me."

"What do you say?"

"Odi et amo. Excrucior."

She lifted herself on one elbow and looked down at him. "What language is that?"

"A very old one Leto had me learn once."

"Translate." Peremptory. Her old Honored Matre self.

" 'I hate her and I love her. And I am racked.' "

"Do you really hate me?" Unbelieving.

"What I hate is being tied this way, not the master of my self."

"Would you leave me if you could?"

"I want the decision to recur moment by moment. I want control of it."

"It's a game where one of the pieces can't be moved."

There it was! Her words.

Remembering, Idaho felt no elation but as though his eyes had suddenly been opened after a long sleep. A game where one of the pieces can't be moved. Game. His view of the no-ship and what the Sisterhood did here.

There was more to the exchange.

"The ship is our own special school," Murbella said.

He could only agree. The Sisterhood reinforced his Mentat capacities to screen data and display what had not gone through. He sensed where this might lead and felt leaden fear.

"You clear the nerve passages. You block off distractions and useless mind-wanderings."

You redirected your responses into that dangerous mode every Mentat was warned to avoid. "You can lose yourself there."

Students were taken to see human vegetables, "failed Mentats," kept alive to demonstrate the peril.

How tempting, though. You could sense the power in that mode. Nothing hidden. All things known.

In the midst of that fear, Murbella turning toward him on the bed, he felt the sexual tensions become almost explosive.

Not yet. Not yet!

One of them had said something else. What? He had been thinking about the limits of logic as a tool to expose the Sisterhood's motives.

"Do you often try to analyze them?" Murbella asked.

Uncanny how she did that, addressing his unspoken thoughts. She denied she read minds. "I just read you, ghola mine. You are mine, you know."

"And vice versa. "

"Too true." Almost bantering but it covered something deeper and convoluted.

There was a pitfall in any analysis of human psyches and he said this. "Thinking you know why you behave as you do gives you all sorts of excuses for extraordinary behavior."

Excuses for extraordinary behavior! There was another piece in his mosaic. More of the game but these counters were guilt and blame.

Murbella's voice was almost musing. "I suppose you can rationalize almost anything by laying it on some trauma."

"Rationalize such things as burning entire planets?"

"There's a kind of brutal self-determination in that. She says making determined choices firms up the psyche and gives you a sense of identity you can rely on under stress. Do you agree, Mentat mine?"

"The Mentat is not yours." No force in his voice.

Murbella laughed and slumped back onto her pillow. "You know what the Sisters want of us, Mentat mine?"

"They want our children."

"Oh, much more than that. They want our willing participation in their dream."

Another piece of the mosaic!

But who other than a Bene Gesserit knew that dream? The Sisters were actresses, always performing, letting little that was real come through their masks. The real person was walled in and metered out as needed.

"Why does she keep that old painting?" Murbella asked.

Idaho felt his stomach muscles tighten. Odrade had brought him a holorecord of the painting she kept in her sleeping chamber. Cottages at Cordeville by Vincent Van Gogh. Awakening him in this bed at some witching hour of the night almost a month ago.

"You asked for my hold on humanity and here it is." Thrusting the holo in front of his sleep-fogged eyes. He sat up and stared at the thing, trying to comprehend. What was wrong with her? Odrade sounded so excited.

She left the holo in his hands while she turned on all of the lights, giving the room a sense of hard and immediate shapes, everything vaguely mechanical the way you would expect it in a no-ship. Where was Murbella? They had gone to sleep together.

He focused on the holo and it touched him in an unaccountable way, as though it linked him to Odrade. Her hold on her humanity? The holo felt cold to his hands. She took it from him and propped it on the side table where he stared at it while she found a chair and sat near his head. Sitting? Something compelled her to be near him!

"It was painted by a madman on Old Terra," she said, bringing her cheek close to his while both looked at the copy of the painting. "Look at it! An encapsulated human moment."

In a landscape? Yes, dammit. She was right.

He stared at the holo. Those marvelous colors! It was not just the colors. It was the totality.

"Most modern artists would laugh at the way he created that," Odrade said.

Couldn't she be silent while he looked at it?

"That was a human being as ultimate recorder," Odrade said. "The human hand, the human eye, the human essence brought to focus in the awareness of one person who tested the limits."

Tested the limits! More of the mosaic.

"Van Gogh did that with the most primitive materials and equipment." She sounded almost drunk. "Pigments a caveman would have recognized! Painted on a fabric he could have made with his own hands. He might have made the tools himself from fur and wild twigs."

She touched the surface of the holo, her finger placing a shadow across the tall trees. "The cultural level was crude by our standards, but see what he produced?"

Idaho felt he should say something but words would not come. Where was Murbella? Why wasn't she here?

Odrade pulled back and her next words burned themselves into him.

"That painting says you cannot suppress the wild thing, the uniqueness that will occur among humans no matter how much we try to avoid it."

Idaho tore his gaze away from the holo and looked at Odrade's lips when she spoke.

"Vincent told us something important about our fellows in the Scattering."

This long-dead painter? About the Scattering?

"They have done things out there and are doing things we cannot imagine. Wild things! The explosive size of that Scattered population insures it."

Murbella entered the room behind Odrade, belting a soft white robe, her feet bare. Her hair was damp from a shower. So that was where she had gone.

"Mother Superior?" Murbella's voice was sleepy.

Odrade spoke over her shoulder without fully turning. "Honored Matres think they can anticipate and control every wildness. What nonsense. They cannot even control it in themselves."

Murbella came around to the foot of the bed and stared questioningly at Idaho. "I seem to have come in on the middle of a conversation. "

"Balance, that's the key," Odrade said.

Idaho kept his attention on Mother Superior.

"Humans can balance on strange surfaces," Odrade said. "Even on unpredictable ones. It's called 'getting in tune.' Great musicians know it. Surfers I watched when I was a child on Gammu, they knew it. Some waves throw you but you're prepared for that. You climb back up and go at it once more."

For no reason he could explain, Idaho thought of another thing Odrade had said: "We have no attic storerooms. We recycle everything."

Recycle. Cycle. Pieces of the circle. Pieces of the mosaic.

He was random hunting and knew better. Not the Mentat way. Recycle, though - Other Memory was not an attic storeroom then but something they considered as recycling. It meant they used their past only to change it and renew it.

Getting in tune.

A strange allusion from someone who claimed she avoided music.

Remembering, he sensed his mental mosaic. It had become a jumble. Nothing fitted anywhere. Random pieces that probably did not go together at all.

But they did!

Mother Superior's voice continued in his memory. So there is more.

"People who know this go to the heart of it," Odrade said. "They warn that you cannot think about what you're doing. That's a sure way to fail. You just do it!"

Don't think. Do it. He sensed anarchy. Her words threw him back onto resources other than Mentat training.

Bene Gesserit trickery! She did this deliberately, knowing the effect. Where was the affection he sometimes felt radiating from her? Could she have concern for the well-being of someone she treated this way?

When Odrade left them (he barely noticed her departure), Murbella sat on the bed and straightened the robe around her knees.

Humans can balance on strange surfaces. Movement in his mind: the pieces of the mosaic trying to find relationships.

He felt a new surge in the universe. Those two strange people in his vision? They were part of it. He knew this without being able to say why. What was it the Bene Gesserit claimed? "We modify old fashions and old beliefs."

"Look at me!" Murbella said.

Voice? Not quite but now he was sure she tried it on and she had not told him they were training her in this witchery.

He saw the alien look in her green eyes that told him she was thinking about her former associates.

"Never try to be more clever than the Bene Gesserit, Duncan."

Speaking for the comeyes?

He could not be sure. It was the intelligence behind her eyes that gripped him these days. He could feel it growing there, as though her teachers blew into a balloon and Murbella's intellect expanded the way her abdomen expanded with new life.

Voice! What were they doing to her?

That was a stupid question. He knew what they were doing. They were taking her away from him, making a Sister of her. No longer my lover, my marvelous Murbella. A Reverend Mother then, remotely calculating in everything she did. A witch. Who could love a witch?

I could. And always will.

"They grab you from your blind side to use you for their own purposes," he said.

He could see his words take hold. She had awakened to this trap after the fact. The Bene Gesserit were so damnably clever! They had enticed her into their trap, giving her small glimpses of things as magnetic as the force binding her to him. It could only be an enraging realization to an Honored Matre.

We trap others! They do not trap us!

But this had been done by the Bene Gesserit. They were in a different category. Almost Sisters. Why deny it? And she wanted their abilities. She wanted out of this probation into the full teaching she could sense just beyond the ship's walls. Didn't she know why they still kept her on probation?

They know she still struggles in their trap.

Murbella slipped out of her robe and climbed into the bed beside him. Not touching. But keeping that armed sense of nearness between their bodies.

"They originally intended me to control Sheeana for them," he said.

"As you control me?"

"Do I control you?"

"Sometimes I think you're a comic, Duncan."

"If I can't laugh at myself I'm really lost."

"Laugh at your pretensions to humor, too?"

"Those first." He turned toward her and cupped her left breast in his hand, feeling the nipple harden under his palm. "Did you know I was never weaned?"

"Never in all of those..."

"Not once."

"I might have guessed." A smile formed fleetingly on her lips, and abruptly both of them were laughing, clutching each other, helpless with it. Presently, Murbella said, "Damn, damn, damn."

"Damn who?" as his laughter subsided and they pulled apart, forcing the separation.

"Not who, what. Damn fate!"

"I don't think fate cares."

"I love you and I'm not supposed to do that if I'm to be a proper Reverend Mother."

He hated these excursions so close to self-pity. Joke then! "You've never been a proper anything." He massaged the pregnant swelling of her abdomen.

"I am proper!"

"That's a word they left out when they made you."

She pushed his hand away and sat up to look down at him. "Reverend Mothers are never supposed to love."

"I know that." Did my anguish reveal itself?

She was too caught up in her own worries. "When I get to the Spice Agony..."

"Love! I don't like the idea of agony associated with you in any way."

"How can I avoid it? I'm already in the chute. Very soon they'll have me up to speed. I'll go very fast then."

He wanted to turn away but her eyes held him.

"Truly, Duncan. I can feel it. In a way, it's like pregnancy. There comes a point when it's too dangerous to abort. You must go through with it."

"So we love each other!" Forcing his thoughts away from one danger into another.

"And they forbid it."

He looked up at the comeyes. "The watchdogs are watching us and they have fangs."

"I know. I'm talking to them right now. My love for you is not a flaw. Their coldness is the flaw. They're just like Honored Matres!"

A game where one of the pieces can't be moved.

He wanted to shout it but listeners behind the comeyes would hear more than spoken words. Murbella was right. It was dangerous to think you could gull Reverend Mothers.

Something veiled in her eyes as she looked down at him. "How very strange you looked just then." He recognized the Reverend Mother she might become.

Veer away from that thought!

Thinking about the strangeness of his memories sometimes diverted her. She thought his previous incarnations made him somehow similar to a Reverend Mother.

"I've died so many times."

"You remember it?" The same question every time.

He shook his head, not daring to say anything more for the watchdogs to interpret.

Not the deaths and reawakenings.

Those became dulled by repetition. Sometimes he didn't even bother to put them into his secret data-dump. No... it was the unique encounters with other humans, the long collection of recognitions.

That was a thing Sheeana claimed she wanted from him. "Intimate trivia. It's the stuff all artists want."

Sheeana did not know what she asked. All of those living encounters had created new meanings. Patterns within patterns. Minuscule things gained a poignancy he despaired of sharing with anyone... even with Murbella.

The touch of a hand on my arm. A child's laughing face. The glitter in an attacker's eyes.

Mundane things without counting. A familiar voice saying: "I just want to put my feet up and collapse tonight. Don't ask me to move."

All had become part of him. They were bound into his character. Living had cemented them inextricably and he could not explain it to anyone.

Murbella spoke without looking at him. "There were many women in those lives of yours."

"I've never counted them."

"Did you love them?"

"They're dead, Murbella. All I can promise is that there are no jealous ghosts in my past."

Murbella extinguished the glowglobes. He closed his eyes and felt darkness close in as she crept into his arms. He held her tightly, knowing she needed it, but his mind rolled of its own volition.

An old memory produced a Mentat teacher's saying: "The greatest relevancy can become irrelevant in the space of a heartbeat. Mentats should look upon such moments with joy."

He felt no joy.

All of those serial lives continued within him in defiance of Mentat relevancies. A Mentat came at his universe fresh in each instant. Nothing old, nothing new, nothing set in ancient adhesives, nothing truly known. You were the net and you existed only to examine the catch.

What did not go through? How fine a mesh did I use on this lot?

That was the Mentat view. But there was no way the Tleilaxu could have included all of those ghola-Idaho cells to recreate him. There had to be gaps in their serial collection of his cells. He had identified many of those gaps.

But no gaps in my memory. I remember them all.

He was a network linked outside of Time. That is how I can see the people of that vision... the net. It was the only explanation Mentat awareness could provide and if the Sisterhood guessed, they would be terrified. No matter how many times he denied it, they would say: "Another Kwisatz Haderach! Kill him!"

So work for yourself, Mentat!

He knew he had most of the mosaic pieces but still they did not go together in that Ahh, hah! assembly of questions Mentats prized.

A game where one of the pieces can't be moved.

Excuses for extraordinary behavior.

"They want our willing participation in their dream."

Test the limits!

Humans can balance on strange surfaces.

Get in tune. Don't think. Do it.

***

The best art imitates life in a compelling way. If it imitates a dream, it must be a dream of life. Otherwise, there is no place where we can connect. Our plugs don't fit.

- Darwi Odrade

As they traveled south toward the desert in the early afternoon, Odrade found the countryside disturbingly changed from her previous inspection three months earlier. She felt vindicated in having chosen ground vehicles. Views framed by the thick plaz protecting them from the dust revealed more details at this level.

Much drier.

Her immediate party rode in a relatively light car - only fifteen passengers including the driver. Suspensors and sophisticated jet drive when they were not on ground-effect. Capable of a smooth three hundred klicks an hour on the glaze. Her escort (too large, thanks to an overzealous Tamalane) followed in a bus that also carried changes of clothing, foods and drinks for wayside stops.

Streggi, seated beside Odrade and behind the driver, said: "Could we not manage a small rain here, Mother Superior?"

Odrade's lips thinned. Silence was the best answer.

They had been late starting. All of them assembled on the loading dock and were ready to leave when a message came down from Bellonda. Another disaster report requiring Mother Superior's personal attention at the last minute!

It was one of those times when Odrade felt her only possible role was that of official interpreter. Walk to the edge of the stage and tell them what it meant: "Today, Sisters, we learned that Honored Matres have obliterated four more of our planets. We are that much smaller."

Only twelve planets left (including Buzzell) and the faceless hunter with the axe is that much closer.

Odrade felt the chasm yawning beneath her.

Bellonda had been ordered to contain this latest bad news until a more appropriate moment.

Odrade looked out the window beside her. What was an appropriate moment for such news?

They had been driving south a little more than three hours, the burner-glazed roadway like a green river ahead of them. This passage led them through hillsides of cork oaks that stretched out to ridge-enclosed horizons. The oaks had been allowed to grow gnomelike in less regimented plantations than orchards. There were meandering rows up the hills. The original plantation had been laid out on existing contours, semi-terraces now obscured by long brown grass.

"We grow truffles in there," Odrade said.

Streggi had more bad news. "I am told the truffles are in trouble, Mother Superior. Not enough rain."

No more truffles? Odrade hesitated on the edge of bringing a Communications acolyte from the rear and asking Weather if this dryness could be corrected.

She glanced back at her attendants. Three rows, four people in each row, specialists to extend her observational powers and carry out orders. And look at that bus following them! One of the larger such vehicles on Chapterhouse. Thirty meters long, at least! Crammed with people! Dust whirled across and around it.

Tamalane rode back there at Odrade's orders. Mother Superior could be peppery when aroused, everyone thought. Tam had brought too many people but Odrade had discovered it too late for changes.

"Not an inspection! A damned invasion!" Follow my lead, Tam. A little political drama. Make transition easier.

She returned her attention to the driver, only male in this car. Clairby, a vinegary little transport expert. Pinched-up face, skin the color of newly turned damp earth. Odrade's favorite driver. Fast, safe, and wary of limits in his machine.

They crested a hill and cork oaks thinned out, replaced ahead by fruit orchards surrounding a community.

Beautiful in this light, Odrade thought. Low buildings of white walls and orange-tiled roofs. An arch-shaded entrance street could be seen far down the slope and, in a line behind it, the tall central structure containing regional overview offices.

The sight reassured Odrade. The community had a glowing look softened by distance and a haze rising from its ring orchards. Branches still bare up here in this winter belt but surely capable of at least one more crop.

The Sisterhood demanded a certain beauty in its surroundings, she reminded herself. A cosseting that provided support for the senses without subtracting from needs of the stomach. Comfort where possible... but not too much!

Someone behind Odrade said: " I do believe some of those trees are starting to leaf."

Odrade took a more careful look. Yes! Tiny bits of green on dark boughs. Winter had slipped here. Weather Control, struggling to make seasonal shifts, could not prevent occasional mistakes. The expanding desert was creating higher temperatures too early here: odd warming patches that caused plants to leaf or bloom just in time for an abrupt frost. Die-back of plantations was becoming much too common.

A Field Advisor had dredged up the ancient term "Indian Summer" for a report illustrated by projections of an orchard in full blossom being assaulted by snow. Odrade had felt memory stirring at the advisor's words.

Indian Summer. How appropriate!

Her councillors sharing that little view of their planet's travail recognized the metaphor of a marauding freeze coming on the heels of inappropriate warmth: an unexpected revival of warm weather, a time when raiders could plague their neighbors.

Remembering, Odrade felt the chill of the hunter's axe. How soon? She dared not seek the answer. I'm not a Kwisatz Haderach!

Without turning, Odrade spoke to Streggi. "This place, Pondrille, have you ever been here?"

"It was not my postulant center, Mother Superior, but I presume it is similar."

Yes, these communities were much alike: mostly low structures set in garden plots and orchards, school centers for specific training. It was a screening system for prospective Sisters, the mesh finer the closer you got to Central.

Some of these communities such as Pondrille concentrated on toughening their charges. They sent women out for long hours every day to manual labor. Hands that grubbed in dirt and became stained with fruit seldom balked at muckier tasks later in life.

Now that they were out of the dust, Clairby opened the windows. Heat poured in! What was Weather doing?

Two buildings at the edge of Pondrille had been joined one story above the street, forming a long tunnel. All it needed, Odrade thought, was a portcullis to duplicate a town gate out of pre-space history. Armored knights would not find the dusky heat of this entry unfamiliar. It was defined in dark plastone, visually identical to stone. Comeye apertures overhead surely were places where guardians lay in wait.

The long, shaded entry to the community was clean, she saw. Nostrils were seldom assailed by rot or other offensive odors in Bene Gesserit communities. No slums. Few cripples hobbling along the walks. Much healthy flesh. Good management took care to keep a healthy population happy.

We have our disabled, though. And not all of them physically disabled.

Clairby parked just within the exit from the shaded street and they emerged. Tamalane's bus pulled to a stop behind them.

Odrade had hoped the entry passage would provide relief from the heat but perversity of nature had made an oven of the place and the temperature actually increased here. She was glad to pass through into the clear light of the central square where sweat burning off her body provided a few seconds of coolness.

The illusion of relief passed abruptly as the sun scorched her head and shoulders. She was forced to call on metabolic control to adjust her body heat.

Water splashed in a reflecting circle at the central square, a careless display that soon would have to end.

Leave it for now. Morale!

She heard her companions following, the usual groans against "sitting too long in one position." A greeting delegation could be seen hurrying from the far side of the square. Odrade recognized Tsimpay, Pondrille's leader, in the van.

Mother Superior's attendants moved onto the blue tiles of the fountain plaza - all except Streggi, who stood at Odrade's shoulder. Tamalane's group, too, was attracted to splashing water. All part and parcel of a human dream so ancient it could never be completely discarded, Odrade thought.

Fertile fields and open water - clear, potable water you can dip your face into for thirst-quenching relief.

Indeed, some of her party were doing just that at the fountain. Their faces glistened with dampness.

The Pondrille delegation came to a stop near Odrade while still on the blue tiles of the fountain plaza. Tsimpay had brought three other Reverend Mothers and five older acolytes.

Near the Agony, all of those acolytes, Odrade observed. Showing their awareness of the trial in directness of gaze.

Tsimpay was someone Odrade saw infrequently at Central where she came sometimes as a teacher. She was looking fit: brown hair so dark it appeared reddish-black in this light. The narrow face was almost bleak in its austerity. Her features centered on all-blue eyes under heavy brows.

"We are glad to see you, Mother Superior." Sounded as though she meant it.

Odrade inclined her head, a minimal gesture. I hear you. Why are you so glad to see me?

Tsimpay understood. She gestured to a tall, hollow-cheeked Reverend Mother beside her. "You remember Fali, our Orchard Mistress? Fali has just been to me with a delegation of gardeners. A serious complaint."

Fali's weathered face looked a bit gray. Overworked? She had a thin mouth above a sharp chin. Dirt under her fingernails. Odrade noted it with approval. Not afraid to join in the grubbing.

Delegation of gardeners. So there was an escalation of complaints. Must have been serious. Not like Tsimpay to dump it on Mother Superior.

"Let's hear it," Odrade said.

With a glance at Tsimpay, Fali went through a detailed recital, even providing qualifications of delegation leaders. All of them good people, of course.

Odrade recognized the pattern. There had been conferences concerning this inevitable consequence, Tsimpay in attendance at some of them. How could you explain to your people that a distant sandworm (perhaps not even in existence yet) required this change? How could you explain to farmers that it was not a matter of "just a bit more rain" but went straight to the heart of the planet's total weather. More rain here could mean a diversion of high-altitude winds. That in its turn would change things elsewhere, cause moisture-laden siroccos where they would be not only upsetting but also dangerous. Too easy to bring on great tornadoes if you inserted the wrong conditions. A planet's weather was no simple thing to treat with easy adjustments. As I have sometimes demanded. Each time, there was a total equation to be scanned.

"The planet casts the final vote," Odrade said. It was an old reminder in the Sisterhood of human fallibility.

"Does Dune still have a vote?" Fali asked. More bitterness in the question than Odrade had anticipated.

"I feel the heat. We saw the leaves on your orchards as we arrived," Odrade said. I know what concerns you, Sister.

"We will lose part of the crop this year," Fali said. Accusation in her words: This is your fault!

"What did you tell your delegation?" Odrade asked.

"That the desert must grow and Weather no longer can make every adjustment we need."

Truth. The agreed response. Inadequate, as truth often was, but all they had now. Something would have to give soon. Meanwhile, more delegations and loss of crops.

"Will you take tea with us, Mother Superior?" Tsimpay, the diplomat, intervening. You see how it is escalating, Mother Superior? Fali will now go back to dealing with fruits and vegetables. Her proper place. Message delivered.

Streggi cleared her throat.

That damnable gesture will have to be suppressed! But the meaning was clear. Streggi had been put in charge of their schedule. We must be going.

"We got a late start," Odrade said. "We stopped only to stretch our legs and see if you have problems you cannot meet on your own."

"We can handle the gardeners, Mother Superior."

Tsimpay's brisk tone said much more and Odrade almost smiled.

Inspect if you wish, Mother Superior. Look anywhere. You will find Pondrille in Bene Gesserit order.

Odrade glanced at Tamalane's bus. Some of the people already were returning to the air-conditioned interior. Tamalane stood by the door, well within earshot.

"I hear good reports of you, Tsimpay," Odrade said. "You can do without our interference. I certainly don't want to intrude on you with an entourage that is far too large." This last loud enough that all would be certain to hear.

"Where will you spend the night, Mother Superior?"

"Eldio."

"I've not been down there for some time but I hear the sea is much smaller."

"Overflights confirm what you've heard. No need to warn them that we're coming, Tsimpay. They already know. We had to prepare them for this invasion."

Orchard Mistress Fali took a small step forward. "Mother Superior, if we could get just..."

"Tell your gardeners, Fali, that they have a choice. They can grumble and wait here until Honored Matres arrive to enslave them or they can elect to go Scattering."

Odrade returned to her car and sat, eyes closed, until she heard the doors sealed and they were well on their way. Presently, she opened her eyes. They already were out of Pondrille and onto the glassy lane through the southern ring orchards. There was charged silence behind her. Sisters were looking deeply into questions about Mother Superior's behavior back there. An unsatisfactory encounter. Acolytes naturally picked up the mood. Streggi looked glum.

This weather demanded notice. Words no longer could smooth over the complaints. Good days were measured by lower standards. Everyone knew the reason but changes remained a focal point. Visible. You could not complain about Mother Superior (not without good cause!) but you could grumble about the weather.

"Why did they have to make it so cold today? Why today when I have to be out in it? Quite warm when we came out but look at it now. And me without proper clothing!"

Streggi wanted to talk. Well, that's why I brought her. But she had become almost garrulous as enforced intimacy eroded her awe of Mother Superior.

"Mother Superior, I've been searching in my manuals for an explanation of -"

"Beware of manuals!" How many times in her life had she heard or spoken those words? "Manuals create habits."

Streggi had been lectured often about habits. The Bene Gesserit had them - those things the Folk preserved as "Typical of the Witches!" But patterns that allowed others to predict behavior, those must be carefully excised.

"Then why do we have manuals, Mother Superior?"

"We have them mainly to disprove them. The Coda is for novices and others in primary training."

"And the histories?"

"Never ignore the banality of recorded histories. As a Reverend Mother, you will relearn history in each new moment."

"Truth is an empty cup." Very proud of her remembered aphorism.

Odrade almost smiled.

Streggi is a jewel.

It was a cautioning thought. Some precious stones could be identified by their impurities. Experts mapped impurities within the stones. A secret fingerprint. People were like that. You often knew them by their defects. The glittering surface told you too little. Good identification required you to look deep inside and see the impurities. There was the gem quality of a total being. What would Van Gogh have been without impurities?

"It is comments of perceptive cynics, Streggi, things they say about history, that should be your guides before the Agony. Afterward, you will be your own cynic and you will discover your own values. For now, the histories reveal dates and tell you something occurred. Reverend Mothers search out the somethings and learn the prejudices of historians."

"That's all?" Deeply offended. Why did they waste my time that way?

"Many histories are largely worthless because prejudiced, written to please one powerful group or another. Wait for your eyes to be opened, my dear. We are the best historians. We were there."

"And my viewpoint will change daily?" Very introspective.

"That's a lesson the Bashar reminded us to keep fresh in our minds. The past must be reinterpreted by the present."

"I'm not sure I will enjoy that, Mother Superior. So many moral decisions."

Ahhhh, this jewel saw to the heart of it and spoke her mind like a true Bene Gesserit. There were brilliant facets among Streggi's impurities.

Odrade looked sideways at the pensive acolyte. Long ago, the Sisterhood had ruled that each Sister must make her own moral decisions. Never follow a leader without asking your own questions. That was why moral conditioning of the young took such high priority.

That is why we like to get our prospective Sisters so young. And it may be why a moral flaw has crept into Sheeana. We got her too late. What do she and Duncan talk about so secretly with their hands?

"Moral decisions are always easy to recognize," Odrade said. "They are where you abandon self-interest."

Streggi looked at Odrade with awe. "The courage it must take!"

"Not courage! Not even desperation. What we do is, in its most basic sense, natural. Things done because there is no other choice."

"Sometimes you make me feel ignorant, Mother Superior."

"Excellent! That's beginning wisdom. There are many kinds of ignorance, Streggi. The basest is to follow your own desires without examining them. Sometimes, we do it unconsciously. Hone your sensitivity. Be aware of what you do unconsciously. Always ask: 'When I did that, what was I trying to gain?' "

They crested the final hill before Eldio and Odrade welcomed a reflexive moment.

Someone behind her murmured, "There's the sea."

"Stop here," Odrade ordered as they neared a wide turnout at a curve overlooking the sea. Clairby knew the place and was prepared for it. Odrade often asked him to stop here. He brought them to a halt where she wanted. The car creaked as it settled. They heard the bus pull up behind, a loud voice back there calling on companions to "Look at that!"

Eldio lay off to Odrade's left far down there: delicate buildings, some raised off the ground on slender pipes, wind passing under and through them. This was far enough south and down off the heights where Central perched that it was much warmer. Small vertical-axis windmills, toys from this distance, whirled at the corners of Eldio's buildings to help power the community. Odrade pointed them out to Streggi.

"We thought of them as independence from bondage to a complex technology controlled by others."

As she spoke, Odrade shifted her attention to the right. The sea! It was a dreadfully condensed remnant of its once glorious expanse. Sea Child hated what she saw.

Warm vapor lifted from the sea. The dim purple of dry hills drew a blurred outline of horizon on the far side of the water. She saw that Weather had introduced a wind to disperse saturated air. The result was a choppy froth of waves beating against the shingle below this vantage.

There had been a string of fishing villages here, Odrade recalled. Now that the sea had receded, villages lay farther back up the slope. Once, the villages had been a colorful accent along the shore. Much of their population had been siphoned off in the new Scattering. People who remained had built a tram to get their boats to and from the water.

She approved of this and deplored it. Energy conservation. The whole situation struck her suddenly as grim - like one of those Old Empire geriatric installations where people waited around to die.

How long until these places die?

"The sea is so small!" It was a voice from the rear of the car. Odrade recognized it. An Archives clerk. One of Bell's damned spies.

Leaning forward, Odrade tapped Clairby on the shoulder. "Take us down to the near shore, that cove almost directly below us. I wish to swim in our sea, Clairby, while it still exists."

Streggi and two other acolytes joined her in the warm waters of the cove. The others walked along the shore or watched this odd scene from the car and bus.

Mother Superior swimming nude in the sea!

Odrade felt energizing water around her. Swimming was required because of command decisions she must make.

How much of this last great sea could they afford to maintain during these final days of their planet's temperate life? The desert was coming - total desert to match that of lost Dune. If the axe-bearer gives us time. The threat felt very close and the chasm deep. Damn this wild talent! Why do I have to know?

Slowly, Sea Child and wave motions restored her sense of balance. This body of water was a major complication - much more important than scattered small seas and lakes. Moisture lifted from here in significant amounts. Energy to charge unwanted deviations in Weather's barely controlled management. Yet, this sea still fed Chapterhouse. It was a communication and transport route. Sea carriers were cheapest. Energy costs must be balanced against other elements in her decision. But the sea would vanish. That was sure. Whole populations faced new displacements.

Sea Child's memories interfered. Nostalgia. It blocked paths of proper judgment. How fast must the sea go? That was the question. All of the inevitable relocations and resettlements waited on that decision.

Best it were done quickly. The pain banished into our past. Let us get on with it!

She swam to the shallows and looked up at a puzzled Tamalane. Tam's robed skirts were dark with splashings from an unexpected wave. Odrade lifted her head clear of the small surges.

"Tam! Eliminate the sea as fast as possible. Get Weather to plot a swift dehydration scheme. Food and Transport will have to be brought into it. I'll approve the final plan after our usual review."

Tamalane turned away without speaking. She beckoned appropriate Sisters to accompany her, glancing only once at Mother Superior as she did this. See! I was right to bring along the necessary cadre!

Odrade climbed from the water. Wet sand gritted under her feet. Soon, it will be dry sand. She dressed without bothering to towel herself. Clothing gripped her flesh uncomfortably but she ignored this, walking up the strand away from the others, not looking back at the sea.

Souvenirs of memory must be only that. Things to be taken up and fondled occasionally for evocation of past joys. No joy can be permanent. All is transient. "This, too, shall pass away" applies to all of our living universe.

Where the beach became loamy dirt and a few sparse plants, she turned finally and looked back at the sea she had just condemned.

Only life itself mattered, she told herself. And life could not endure without an ongoing thrust of procreation.

Survival. Our children must survive. The Bene Gesserit must survive!

No single child was more important than the totality. She accepted this, recognizing it as the species talking to her from her deepest self, the self she had first encountered as Sea Child.

Odrade allowed Sea Child one last sniff of salt air as they returned to their vehicles and prepared to drive into Eldio. She felt herself grow calm. That essential balance, once learned, did not require a sea to maintain it.

***

Uproot your questions from their ground and the dangling roots will be seen. More questions!

- Mentat Zensufi

Dama was in her element.

Spider Queen!

She liked the witches' title for her. This was the heart of her web, this new control center on junction. The exterior of the building still did not suit her. Too much Guild complacency in its design. Conservative. But the interior had begun to take on a familiarity that soothed her. She could almost imagine she had never left Dur, that there had been no Futars and the harrowing flight back into the Old Empire.

She stood in the open door of the Assembly Room looking out at the Botanical Garden. Logno waited four paces behind. Not too close behind me, Logno, or I shall have to kill you.

There was still dew on the lawn beyond the tiles where, when the sun had risen far enough, servants would distribute comfortable chairs and tables. She had ordered a sunny day and Weather had damned well better produce it. Logno's report was interesting. So the old witch had returned to Buzzell. And she was angry, too. Excellent. Obviously, she knew she was being watched and she had visited her supreme witch to ask for removal from Buzzell, for sanctuary. And she had been refused.

They don't care that we destroy their limbs just as long as the central body remains hidden.

Speaking over her shoulder to Logno, Dama said: "Bring that old witch to me. And all of her attendants."

As Logno turned to obey, Dama added: "And begin starving some Futars. I want them hungry."

"Yes, Dama."

Someone else moved into Logno's attendant position. Dama did not turn to identify the replacement. There were always enough aides to carry out necessary orders. One was much like another except in the matter of threat. Logno was a constant threat. Keeps me alert.

Dama inhaled deeply of the fresh air. It was going to be a good day precisely because that was what she desired. She gathered in her secret memories then and let them soothe her.

Guldur be blessed! We've found the place to rebuild our strength.

Consolidation of the Old Empire was proceeding as planned. There could not be many witches' nests left out there and, once that damnable Chapterhouse was found, the limbs could be destroyed at leisure.

Ix, now. There was a problem. Perhaps I should not have killed those two Ixian scientists yesterday.

But the fools had dared demand "more information" from her. Demanded! And after saying they still had no solution to rearming The Weapon. Of course, they did not know it was a weapon. Did they? She could not be sure. So it had been a good thing to kill those two after all. Teach them a lesson.

Bring us answers, not questions.

She liked the order she and her Sisters were creating in the Old Empire. There had been too much wandering about and too many different cultures, too many unstable religions.

Worship of Guldur will serve them as it serves us.

She felt no mystical affinity to her religion. It was a useful tool of power. The roots were well known: Leto II, the one those witches called "The Tyrant," and his father, Muad'Dib. Consummate power brokers, both of them. Lots of schismatic cells around but those could be weeded out. Keep the essence. It was a well-lubricated machine.

The tyranny of the minority cloaked in the mask of the majority.

That was what the witch Lucilla had recognized. No way to let her live after discovering she knew how to manipulate the masses. The witch nests would have to be found and burned. Lucilla's perceptiveness clearly was not an isolated example. Her actions betrayed the workings of a school. They taught this thing! Fools! You had to manage reality or things really got out of control.

Logno returned. Dama could always tell the sound of her footsteps. Furtive.

"The old witch will be brought from Buzzell," Logno said. "And her attendants."

"Don't forget about the Futars."

"I have given the orders, Dama."

Oily voice! You'd like to feed me to the herd, wouldn't you, Logno?

"And tighten up security on the cages, Logno. Three more of them escaped last night. They were wandering around in the garden when I awoke."

"I was told, Dama. More cage guards have been assigned."

"And don't tell me they're harmless without a Handler."

"I do not believe that, Dama."

And that's truth from her, for once. Futars terrify her. Good.

"I believe we have our power base, Logno." Dama turned, noting that Logno had encroached at least two millimeters into the danger zone. Logno saw it, too, and retreated. As close as you want in front where I can see you, Logno, but not behind my back.

Logno saw the orange blaze in Dama's eyes and almost knelt. Definite bending of the knees. "It is my eagerness to serve you, Dama!"

Your eagerness to replace me, Logno.

"What of that woman from Gammu? Odd name. What was it?"

"Rebecca, Dama. She and some of her companions have... ahhh, temporarily eluded us. We will find them. They cannot get off the planet."

"You think I should have kept her here, don't you?"

"It was wise to think of her as bait, Dama!"

"She's still bait. That witch we found on Gammu did not go to those people by accident."

"Yes, Dama."

Yes, Dama! But the subservient sound in Logno's voice was enjoyable. "Well, get on with it!"

Logno scurried away.

There were always those little cells of potential violence meeting secretly somewhere. Building up their mutual charges of hate, swarming out to disrupt the orderly lives around them. Someone always had to clean up after those disruptions. Dama sighed. Terror tactics were so... so temporary!

Success, that was the danger. It had cost them an empire. If you waved your success around like a banner someone always wanted to cut you down. Envy!

We will hold our success more cautiously this time.

She fell into a semi-reverie, still alert to the sounds behind her, but relishing the evidence of new victories that had been displayed to her this morning. She liked to roll the names of captive planets silently on her tongue.

Wallach, Kronin, Reenol, Ecaz, Bela Tegeuse, Gammu, Gamont, Niushe...

***

Humans are born with a susceptibility to that most persistent and debilitating disease of intellect: self-deception. The best of all possible worlds and the worst get their dramatic coloration from it. As nearly as we can determine, there is no natural immunity. Constant alertness is required.

- The Coda

With Odrade away from Central (and probably only for a short time) Bellonda knew swift action was required. That damned Mentat-ghola is too dangerous to live!

Mother Superior's party was barely out of sight into the lowering afternoon before Bellonda was on her way to the no-ship.

Not for Bellonda a thoughtful approach through ring orchards. She ordered space on a tube, windowless, automatic, and fast. Odrade, too, had observers who might send unwanted messages.

En route, Bellonda reviewed her assessment of Idaho's many lives, a record she had kept in Archives ready for quick retrieval. In the original and early gholas, his character had been dominated by impulsiveness. Quick to hate, quick to give loyalty. Later Idaho-gholas tempered this with cynicism but the underlying impulsiveness remained. The Tyrant had called it to action many times. Bellonda recognized a pattern.

He can be goaded by pride.

His long service to the Tyrant fascinated her. Not only had he been a Mentat several times but there was evidence he had been a Truthsayer in more than one incarnation.

Idaho's appearance reflected what she saw in her records. Interesting character lines, a look around the eyes and a set to his mouth that went with complex inner development.

Why would Odrade not accept the danger of this man? Bellonda had felt frequent misgivings when Odrade spoke of Idaho with such flaunting of her emotions.

"He thinks clearly and directly. There's a fastidious cleanliness about his mind. It's restorative. I like him and I know that's a trivial thing to influence my decisions."

She admits his influence!

Bellonda found Idaho alone and seated at his console. His attention was fixed on a linear display she recognized: the no-ship's operational schematics. He washed the projection when he saw her.

"Hello, Bell. Been expecting you."

He touched his console field and a door opened behind him. Young Teg entered and took up a position near Idaho, staring silently at Bellonda.

Idaho did not invite her to sit or find a chair for her, forcing her to bring one from his sleeping chamber and place it facing him. When she was seated, he turned a look of wary amusement on her.

Bellonda remained taken aback by his greeting. Why did he expect me?

He answered her unspoken question. "Dar projected earlier, told me she was off to see Sheeana. I knew you'd waste no time getting to me when she was gone."

Simple Mentat projection or... "She warned you!"

"Wrong."

"What secrets do you and Sheeana share?" Demanding.

"She uses me the way you want her to use me."

"The Missionaria!"

"Bell! Two Mentats together. Must we play these stupid games?"

Bellonda took a deep breath and sought Mentat mode. Not easy under these circumstances, that child staring at her, the amusement on Idaho's face. Was Odrade displaying an unsuspected slyness? Working against a Sister with this ghola?

Idaho relaxed when he saw Bene Gesserit intensity become that doubled focus of the Mentat. "I've known for a long time that you want me dead, Bell."

Yes... I have been readable in my fears.

It had been very close there, he thought. Bellonda had come to him with death in mind, a little drama to create "the necessity" all prepared. He entertained few illusions about his ability to match her in violence. But Bellonda-Mentat would observe before acting.

"It's disrespectful the way you use our first names," she said, goading.

"Different recognition, Bell. You're no longer Reverend Mother and I'm not 'the ghola.' Two human beings with common problems. Don't tell me you're unaware of this."

She glanced around his workroom. "If you expected me why didn't you have Murbella here?"

"Force her to kill you while protecting me?"

Bellonda assessed this. The damned Honored Matre probably could kill me, but then... "You sent her away to protect her."

"I've a better protector." He gestured at the child.

Teg? A protector? There were those stories from Gammu about him. Does Idaho know something?

She wanted to ask but did she dare risk diversion? Watchdogs must receive a clear scenario of danger.

"Him?"

"Would he serve the Bene Gesserit if he saw you kill me?"

When she did not answer, he said: "Put yourself in my place, Bell. I'm a Mentat caught not only in your trap but in that of the Honored Matres."

"Is that all you are, a Mentat?"

"No. I'm a Tleilaxu experiment but I don't see the future. I'm not a Kwisatz Haderach. I'm a Mentat with memories of many lives. You, with your Other Memories - think about the leverage that gives me."

While he was speaking, Teg came to lean against the console at Idaho's elbow. The boy's expression was one of curiosity but she saw no fear of her.

Idaho gestured at the projection focus over his head, silver motes dancing there ready to create their images. "A Mentat sees his relays producing discrepancies - winter scenes in summer, sunshine when his visitors have come through rain... Didn't you expect me to discount your little playlets?"

She heard Mentat summation. To that extent, they shared common teaching. She said: "You naturally told yourself not to minimize the Tao."

"I asked different questions. Things that happen together can have underground links. What is cause and effect when confronted with simultaneity?"

"You had good teachers."

"And not just in one life."

Teg leaned toward her. "Did you really come here to kill him?"

No sense lying. "I still think he is too dangerous." Let watchdogs argue that!

"But he's going to give me back my memories!"

"Dancers on a common floor, Bell," Idaho said. "Tao. We may not appear to dance together, may not use the same steps or rhythms but we are seen together."

She began to suspect where he might be leading and wondered if there might be another way to destroy him.

"I don't know what you're talking about," Teg said.

"Interesting coincidences," Idaho said.

Teg turned to Bellonda. "Maybe you would explain, please?"

"He's trying to tell me we need each other."

"Then why doesn't he say so?"

"It's more subtle than that, boy." And she thought: The record must show me warning Idaho. "The nose of the donkey doesn't cause the tail, Duncan, no matter how often you see the beast pass that thin vertical space limiting your view of it."

Idaho met Bellonda's fixed gaze. "Dar came here once with a sprig of apple blossoms, but my projection showed harvest time."

"It's riddles, isn't it!" Teg said, clapping his hands.

Bellonda recalled the record of that visit. Precise movements by Mother Superior. "You didn't suspect a hothouse?"

"Or that she just wanted to please me?"

"Am I supposed to guess?" Teg asked.

After a long silence, Mentat gaze locked to Mentat gaze, Idaho said: "There's anarchy behind my confinement, Bell. Disagreement in your highest councils."

"There can be deliberation and judgment even in anarchy," she said.

"You're a hypocrite, Bell!"

She drew back as though he had struck her, a purely involuntary movement that shocked her by the forced reaction. Voice? No... something reaching deeper. She was suddenly terrified of this man.

"I find it marvelous that a Mentat and a Reverend Mother could be such a hypocrite," he said.

Teg tugged at Idaho's arm. "Are you fighting?"

Idaho brushed the hand away. "Yes, we're fighting."

Bellonda could not tear her gaze from Idaho's. She wanted to turn and flee. What was he doing? This had gone completely awry!

"Hypocrites and criminals among you?" he asked.

Once more, Bellonda remembered the comeyes. He was playing not only her but the watchers as well! And doing it with exquisite care. She was suddenly filled with admiration for his performance but this did not allay her fear.

"I ask why your Sisters tolerate you?" His lips moved with such delicate precision! "Are you a necessary evil? A source of valuable data and, occasionally, good advice?"

She found her voice. "How dare you?" Guttural and containing all of her vaunted viciousness.

"It could be that you strengthen your Sisters." Voice flat, not changing tone in the slightest. "Weak links create places others must reinforce and that would strengthen those others."

Bellonda realized she was barely keeping her hold on Mentat mode. Could any of this be true? Was it possible Mother Superior saw her that way?

"You came with criminal disobedience in mind," he said. "All in the name of necessity! A little drama for the comeyes, proving you had no other choice."

She found his words restoring Mentat abilities. Did he do that knowingly? She was fascinated by the need to study his manner as well as his words. Did he really read her that well? The record of this encounter might be far more valuable than her little playlet. And the outcome no different!

"You think Mother Superior's wishes are law?" she asked.

"Do you really think me unobservant?" Waving a hand at Teg, who started to interrupt. "Bell! Be only a Mentat."

"I hear you." And so do many others!

"I'm deep into your problem."

"We've given you no problem!"

"But you have. You have, Bell. You're misers the way you parcel out the pieces but I see it."

Bellonda abruptly remembered Odrade saying: "I don't need a Mentat! I need an inventor."

"You... need... me," Idaho said. "Your problem is still in its shell but the meat's there and must be extracted."

"Why would we possibly need you?"

"You need my imagination, my inventiveness, things that kept me alive in the face of Leto's wrath."

"You've said he killed you so many times you lost count." Eat your own words, Mentat!

He gave her an exquisitely controlled smile, so precise that neither she nor the comeyes could mistake its intent. "But how can you trust me, Bell?"

He condemns himself!

"Without something new you're doomed," he said. "Only a matter of time and you all know it. Perhaps not this generation. Perhaps not even the next one. But inevitably."

Teg pulled sharply at Idaho's sleeve. "The Bashar could help, couldn't he?"

So the boy really listened. Idaho patted Teg's arm. "The Bashar's not enough." Then to Bellonda: "Underdogs together. Must we growl over the same bone?"

"You've said that before." And doubtless will say it again.

"Still Mentat?" he asked. "Then discard drama! Get the romantic haze off our problem."

Dar's the romantic! Not me!

"What's romantic," he asked, "about little pockets of Scattered Bene Gesserit waiting to be slaughtered?"

"You think none will escape?"

"You're seeding the universe with enemies," he said. "You're feeding Honored Matres!"