Reverend Mother Mishka Adelle Luishenn stared moodily at the sight of Arrakis through the film projections against the walls of the Guild Highlighner. No one but a Bene Gesserit adept such as herself would be able to detect her anger, however, her body was still and serene and her face emotionless. Shael, her protégé, listened carefully to the instructions being given by the other Reverend Mother on board, Alleré Corsaint.
"As you should know, the desert is dwindling, taking the sandworms with it. With the worms, so goes the spice. Without spice, civilized life will collapse and we will all be at the mercy of those wretched Atreides." Alleré paused, inhaling deeply the scent of mélange, which wafted through the air from her cup of spice tea. "Even more at their mercy than we already are. Which is why it is imperative that we regain control of the bloodline and infiltrate the palace at Arakeen."
"Forgive me, Reverend Mother, if my questions are inappropriate," Shael replied, her violet eyes focused on her mentor. "But you speak these plans as if they are easily accomplished. How is it possible that the Regent would ever let us gain control of Muad'dib's bloodline? She cannot be tricked or persuaded. And don't we already have Bene Gesserits in the palace?"
"Yes, of course," Alleré put on a tone of impatience, but in actuality she was proud of her young charge for having the courage to voice her opinions and know the realities of a situation. "But Alia knows that certain power comes with allying herself with the Sisterhood. Her hold on power is fragile, at best. The Guild wants control of the spice again. The Corrino family and that shrew Wensicia and her bastard want to claim their right to the throne. Fremen rebels want to overthrow Atreides power and the changing of the desert. Alia doesn't have much choice."
"What do we have that she wants?" Shael asked. Alleré made a mental note to herself to have a long talk with the girl about her impertinence. Knowledge was important, but too much could be treacherous. Shael was a valuable tool, but a tool nonetheless, programmed to perform a specific job. The less she knew about the why and how, the better.
"Alia wants power in any form she can get it," Mishka turned from the window and faced her Sisters. "If the rumors are true, Alia has succumbed to Abomination. She no longer seeks to protect the twins but to supplant them. She works for herself not the Atreides. She will be easy to control."
"But there will still be the twins," Shael observed. "And the Lady Jessica will arrive in one week."
"The Lady Jessica," Mishka spat. "If only I could kill her with my bare hands. Do you see, you see what happens when you betray your destiny? When you are arrogant and take matters into your own hands?"
"We must not underestimate her," Alleré warned. "She may also be able to help her daughter reclaim herself." Mishka digested this while sipping her spice tea.
" What about Alia's daughter?" Shael asked. "You never mention her. What is she like?"
"That useless female?" Mishka scoffed. Her voice was brittle and hard, grown bitter from years on Wallach IX plotting the overthrow of the Atreides, which never came to fruition. "A useless waste of genetics. Not even fit for breeding. Who wants the chemicals and axlotl waters of the Tleilaxu cursing through their veins? That wench will be killed with little resistance," Mishka concluded with a wave of her hand.
"And we must kill her," Alleré agreed. "Or else there is the danger that Alia will marry her to Leto so she can maintain control and keep any outside houses from gaining power."
"I don't understand," Shael said, furrowing her brow. "If she is a weak link shouldn't we seek her out as a way in to the Atreides? Can't we easily use her?"
"Don't concern yourself with it," Alleré replied. She was younger than Mishka, though not quite as young as Shael. Even without her soft auburn hair and light grey eyes, she knew she had a seductive power beyond ordinary women. As a breeding mother for the Bene Gesserit, she had spent most of her time forming alliances and unions offworld, only returning to Wallach to give birth. She had delivered ten daughters to the Bene Gesserit thus far. With Gauis Helen Mohiam dead, she had become the leader of the Kwisatz Haderach project that had not been abandoned because of Paul Muad'dib. Alleré still dreamt of a superbeing that belonged to the Sisterhood and could overthrow this Atreides monopoly on spice. Muad'dib was dead. It was time for a new messiah. She believed her young pupil, Shael, was the key to the next generation.
"You know your part to play, young one," She said, touching Shael's soft cheek. The girl nodded. She wasn't really that young. Shael was twenty-eight, but Bene Gesserit muscle and body control made her barely appear older than fifteen.
"I know," She answered. "Seduce Leto Atreides and conceive a son."
"It won't be easy," Mishka warned. Inwardly she smirked at the irony of the situation, that the Sisterhood would again be dependent on a child of a Bene Gesserit and Leto Atreides. She only hoped her Shael would make the right decisions and not defect like the Lady Jessica.
"Shael, you should resume your studies", Alleré said, her tone making it obvious that the meeting was over, and that she wanted Shael to leave so that more complex and secret plans could be discussed between her and Mishka.
"Yes, Reverend Mother." Shael curtsied respectfully and left the room.
"She is too sentimental," Mishka surmised thoughtfully. "She probably won't survive this." Alleré shook her head, grimacing.
"I hate to waste such a valuable tool," she said. "But she has to be the one."
"She isn't so valuable," Mishka argued. The Reverend Mother was fond of the girl, but dismayed by her stubborn naivete and unruly emotions. Leto will know our plans. If she succeeds it won't be based on her merit, but the choices he will have and what he knows must occur." Alleré nodded, careful not to contradict the older, more volatile Reverend Mother. She regretted the sacrifice of such a beautiful, intelligent girl. Alleré was only a few years older than Shael but had been key in her growth and development. With the universe in disarray and the Sisters scrambling to protect their right to the spice, it had been up to Alleré to train Shael, and be like an older sister to her. All in preparation for this assignment.
"She will fall in love with Leto," Alleré predicted with a sigh. "He is young and attractive, and powerful. We will either lose her to him, or have to be rid of her somehow after the child is born."
"It will make our plans run all the more smoothly if she develops an attachment," Mishka stated confidently. "All we need is Leto's child. Then we can kill off the Atreides one by one like the vermin they are." Alleré stared out at the vast desert of Arrakis and shuddered. This planet was the curse of all civilization. Sometimes she wanted to damn the spice and see it be torn apart into pieces and lost forever to the abyss of space.
She would have to satisfy herself by destroying those that controlled it.
Leto Atreides II laid against the cold floor of Sietch Tabr, gazing up through a split in the rocks at the Guild Hieghliner preparing to depart for Dune.
"We are not what they will expect," his sister Ghanima observed. Leto laughed lightly, inhaling the scent of mélange and grinning at his sister. They were fifteen and months away from claiming the throne away from the regency of their aunt, Alia.
"What should they expect? How can anyone predict the pre-born?" He threw a handful of pebbles against the stone walls. "We need to be one step ahead of them. We know what they want. A Bene Gesserit product on the throne."
"But one that is also Atreides," Ghanima added. "They could never expect to overthrow us completely. There are too many loyal subjects, there is too much that has happened…" Her voice trailed off, leading into memory and then returned. "They will try to use one of us to create a hybrid child."
"You, me, or Alia," Leto agreed. "Ariana's blood is contaminated by their views. They would never want the danger of putting someone with Tleilaxu blood in power."
"Alia is increasingly erratic," Ghanima pointed out. "She may be easier to manipulate."
"But we are the direct line." Leto rubbed his chin. "Either way, they are coming, sister, and will be staying. Alia will let them because she is grasping for power any way she can get it.. They will try to get to me through sex, by bringing some attractive Bene Gesserit trained to be seductive. They will try to create friction between us and convince Alia that we are possessed." Ghanima digested this.
"That seems too simple," she said. "Sex as a weapon. Surely they know you cannot be so easily fooled by seduction and physical beauty."
"It's deceptively simple," Leto disagreed. "To lull me into a false security. Make me feel like I have them figured out. Then they will change the game. Remember, in some ways we want the same things. An Atreides heir. But one more connected to the other realms of power. A cessation of the Jihad and the wars fighting across the universe. We don't need to be mortal enemies. We can use them as they will use us."
"But they will try to kill Ariana to be rid of complications," Ghanima said. "And Jessica as well."
"Which we cannot let happen," Leto said. "They will all have a part to play before this is over. They are all part of our destiny."
Ariana Atreides studied her face in the circular mirror hanging above her desk searching for the telltale Atreides facial features. She had neither the hawk-like facial structure or the aquiline nose of Duke Leto Atreides I. She did have the Lady Jessica's wide, sensuous lips and dark bronze hair, but she looked more like her father than any Atreides. Her father's genetics shone through her, but no one knew where his lineage led.
Ariana sighed, thinking of the three hour Council meeting she had just sat through. Alia's priests and the naibs disputed when the title of emperor should be handed to Leto, whether at sixteen he was old enough to take on the responsibility. Who he should take for a wife, or at least a concubine. She had listened to Stilgar speak angrily about the disintegration of the desert and probable extinction of the sandworms.
Don't they see we need to learn to live without spice! Ariana raged inwardly. Don't they see that any civilization built on the existence of one product can never flourish? We need to prepare to be without mélange!
She thought about what she wanted. Power, not for the sake of power, but because she feared what Leto would do when he became emperor. He frightened her, with what he knew. Even for a pre-born he was unique in his knowledge of ancestors and times past. He also attracted her, with his cold calculating intelligence and reckless bravery. When she saw him, her skin cried out for him to take her as his concubine.
I want to bear Leto's child, Ariana let herself admit. Not only based on her infatuation, but it would cement her place in the Atreides lineage. She would no longer be the forgotten abomination, the half-human offspring of the possessed, the imperfect heir. A child by Leto would guarantee the Atreides survival. In a way she could honor her mother and uphold Alia's importance, but still take the Holy Regent's powers away. She could prove that a ghola father did have his reasons for still being in the world.
Ariana had stayed at the palace in Arakeen most of her life, while Leto and Ghanima had primarily lived at Sietch Tabr. Ariana's eyes did not even bear the blue-in-blue of spice addiction, but were a rich brown.
That is one other reason the people distrust me, she thought. I'm not Fremen enough. But don't they see, I don't need to have all blue eyes and live in the sietch to be Fremen. I have a million Fremen ancestors within me. I remember the desert. I remember the years of Harkonnen oppression. I remember walking through the open bled in a stillsuit, calling for a worm. I have drunk the Water of Life. I have participated in the orgies. I have drunk the water from the death stills. I am Fremen. It is all within me.
"Ariana?" Her father's voice interrupted her thought. Duncan Idaho put a hand on his daughter's cheek, studying her face. "Are you all right?"
"Yes, Father," she answered.
"I hope you haven't taken to the spice trance like your mother," he said cautiously, but knowing instinctively that Ariana abhorred her mother's methods of prescience.
"No, Father." Impulsively, she hugged him, feeling affection for him wash across her. He was the only one she truly trusted, the only one who understood her. Her mother had never married him, holding out for a better political opportunity. At the moment she was in talks to marry Prince Farad'n of House Corrino. Rather than pass the opportunity of a profitable match with House Corrino to her daughter, she was considering it herself.
They wouldn't accept me anyway, Ariana thought bitterly. Not for the heir. Nor for any family's heir. Maybe some second son. But an heir needs pure, noble blood.
Duncan looked at his daughter, guessing the train of her thoughts. Would his original self have created this brilliant child? Would the first and true Duncan have loved Alia? Could he have stopped her from entering dark places and losing her hold on herself?
This Duncan felt lost and misplaced in this world. He had devoted his life to serving the Atreides only they didn't need anyone to protect them. Paul was gone, and not just him but the Paul of Duncan's memories. A sweet, curious boy who looked up to Duncan. In his wake he left children Duncan couldn't understand and a sister he loved but could not marry.
"We will prove our worth soon," Ariana said. "We will prove that we are true Atreides, and maybe something more as well."