“Who needs a nebula when you have a star?”
God Emperor Leto Atreides II sat in his sand cabin correcting the urgent communiques he had drafted for House Conway. The work was draining but vital. He sat hunched forward; a heavy segmented mass surrounded his upper body, the first stages of his terrible metamorphosis into a great sand worm. Within his mind, his memories babbled. He had called upon his father, Paul Muad’dib Atreides – who had led the Fremen tribes to freedom and established a new empire just thirty years before, for advice on phrasing and workflow – with his help the task was already almost complete. Sometimes two heads were better than one.
Just as they were putting the finishing touches to the last edit Leto heard a ripple of disturbance pass through the multitude of his ancestral memories. He closed his eyes and entered what he and his father had always called The Innerworld.
Leto often enjoyed taking safaris into his Innerworld and the familiar heat of the African savannah greeted him once again as he blinked in the bright sunshine of his mind. P’Se-Ta, a distant ancestor from the Old Earth days was waiting there to greet him.
“Thank you for coming so quickly, Master Leto,” the tribesman called. He was missing several teeth and had a curved white bone stuck through his nose. Leto strode through the yellow grasses towards him.
“What is it old friend?” Leto asked, as he approached he saw tears running down the bone-nosed tribesman’s cheeks, “What is wrong?”
P’Se-Ta put his arms around Leto and sobbed, “My daughter is gone!”
A voice came from the shadows behind them, calm and collected, but commanding, Leto and P’Se-Ta turned to see the source of the voice. “Then we need to go find her,” said Leto’s father, Paul Muad’dib Atreides.
“In four-hundred-yards. Turn left.”
—Primitive Richessian Navigation Machine
“Gone?” said Leto, he and Paul were running now, through the landmarks of The Innerworld. “How can she go anywhere? This is all in my head, she is an ancestral memory – a memory-self passed down to me through you and all the ancestors before you.”
Paul looked at his son, “Son, your memories are genetic, you can’t forget them, they’re encoded into your DNA”
“Then where is P’Se-Ta the Old Earth African tribesman’s daughter?”
Paul looked grim, “Thing is, she ain’t the first to disappear. I’ve been trying to work it out for a while now.”
Leto stopped running in the middle of a forgotten city, “Disappear? There have been others? Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I had to be sure kid. It’s the ordinary people, hard working schlubs with boring lives, the ones that ain’t worth remembering.” Paul answered.
“Everyone’s worth remembering!” Leto shouted, “Nobody deserves to be forgotten. Those ‘hard working schlubs’, as you put it are human beings, their lives have value. Now are we going to find out what happened to P’Se-Ta’s daughter or not.”
Paul pulled up his collar and began to walk, “We should get moving.” He growled.
“It is sometimes dark inside dark cupboards”
—Loqu’d Innes; House Corrino Minister of Cupboards.
Paul Atreides and his son Leto raced though Leto’s Innerworld in search of clues to locate P’Se-Ta the African Tribesman’s daughter. They stopped outside the memory of a small run down cottage on Caladan’s Northern continent. Thick green and purple trees surrounded them.
“Why are we here?” Leto asked.
“A lead.” Paul replied. “Man called Yames Davidius – you might remember him.”
Leto shook with fear as he probed the dark dark places that this man represented. Davidius was what the ancient genealogists would call a ‘Gateway Ancestor’ beyond him was a whole new, previously unknown lineage.
Paul continued, “Some of the other memories said that he might have been the last person to see P’Se-Ta’s daughter. We should talk to him.”
“He’s not here,” Leto said, peering through the window. A runic wind-chime clinked in the breeze. Leto looked closer – he recognised those runes. A feeling of intense foreboding came over him.
“Look! Tracks!” Paul exclaimed. There were clear footprints leading into the dark forest, “Lets follow them!”
The two Atreides Emperors started walking, deeper into the forest of the Innerworld, and deeper into Leto’s ancestral memories, in search of P’Se-Ta the African tribesman’s daughter.
“It is often quite easy to find something unexpected.”
—Loqu’d Innes; Looking for Things in Strange Cupboards; Kaitain Press, 9709AG.
Leto and his father were walking through the seemingly endless forest of the Innerworld, when suddenly, “Stop!” Paul commanded with a harsh whisper, “Listen!”
A deep basso baritone laugh filled the forest of Leto’s Innerworld. Birds fluttered away. The sound sent a chill down Leto’s spine.
“You are trapped!” the Basso voice called out. Leto and Paul could not see it’s source, but they both had recognised its unmistakable flabby cadence immediately. “It is I, none other than Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, who have trapped you.”
Leto stared at his father with eyes wide, “It’s the Baron Vladimir Harkonnen! He must have abducted P’Se-Ta the African tribesman’s daughter! Let’s get him!”
They ran out into a clearing and faced the great gross bulk of Baron Vladimir Harkonnen. “Now this is nice, a great big family re-union,” He rumbled. “You of course know now that I am your great-grandfather, dear Leto. You remember that I killed your grandfather, and possessed your aunt Alia. And now I will possess you.”
“You can’t!” Leto grinned defiantly, “I have made peace with my multitude.”
“Ah but what if I am your multitude?” It was the same rumbling basso voice, but this time it was behind them! ”Me, me, me, me, me,” It rumbled, all around them.
“Son,” Paul whispered as rumbling basso laughter multiplied to a great rumbling basso crescendo, “Run!”
As Leto turned to run, time slowed down. A wall of great big bloated Baron Harkonnens flew towards him and his father. A great dribbling mass incoming at a speed that even he could not manage in the real world, but this was the Innerworld, the place of memories. Laws of physics did not apply here.
Leto ran, the last thing he saw was his father being covered by the great wobbling bulk of a thousand Baron Harkonnens.
“Love is big”
Leto ran to the memories of his grandmother, Lady Jessica. “Thank god you made it Leto.” She sobbed as she embraced him.
He felt a hand on his shoulder, it was his grandfather Duke Leto Atreides, “Chin up lad, Paul is still alive, though quite what you two were doing walking down that line of memories, I don’t rightly know. Davidius’ line leads back to all sorts of dark places.”
“It was a trap, I should have seen it!” Leto exclaimed, “That branch of the family tree will be well defended. I simply won’t be able to access those memories! My father is as good as lost now.”
“There’s someone I want you to see,” Jessica said, wiping her face. “Come with me.”
“A man is as great as those he counts among his friends and followers.”
—T’weeter Mc’Shi’tti; Master Communicator.
“Lord Leto?” The woman blurted, surprised, as she opened the door.
She was small and a bit ugly; Leto barged past her. “I need your help Norma! Baron Harkonnen is taking over other memories in my Innerworld, when he takes over enough of them he will gain control of me – and now he has my father, as well as P’Se-Ta the African tribesman’s daughter.”
She opened her mouth but no sound came out. Gradually she drew herself together, “But I am just an simple spaceship designer and consort to Aurelius Venport with who I had five children, maybe he would be of more use to you?”
Leto drew closer to her, “You were more than that, you’re Norma Cenva.”
She pulled away, “You know I don’t remember any of that. I am just a memory self, residing in your Innerworld. I only remember up until the point of birth of my last child, through whom the memories of my life passed to you.”
“Well then remember! Remember!” Leto said.
“I can’t! It’s impossible!” She cried.
“You are her! You are… The Oracle!” Leto said.
“No!” she cried.
“Yes!” Leto said.
“No!… Whoever she was. I am not her. She was something else, a star burning so bright that all the universe could see her. I wish you luck and good fortune… but I cannot help you.” She brushed a hair from her face, “I’m sorry.”
She turned her back. Leto sighed, “No, I’m sorry. I should not have pushed you. Sometimes we have to fight our own battles. Alone.”
“In our darkest hour we have the least light.”
—Loqu’d Innes; Imperial Treatise on Cupboards.
The Barons had beaten Paul badly. His head was spinning and he was only semi-conscious of being dragged into a building he only vaguely recognised. Around the dark door he saw darkly carved runes. This memory place was thousands of years old.
One of the fat men glided over, “You resist? Why do you resist?”
Another one floated round, “Why prolapse the inevitable?” (K! Prolong? –B)
A third one rumbled, “There is no escape – this is an annex of memory accessible only through a single point. No one can save you now!”
The building shook, dust showered down on the assembled Barons and Paul, “Father!” A distant voice came.
“Quick! Man the defences!” A Baron cried, and they all buzzed around like fat hornets.
“Father!” It was Leto, some way distant “Can you hear me, we need to fight! Now!”
“Fight,” Paul growled groggily, he had no weapons and he was tied up with Ecazi Krimskell rope. He cleared his mind. This was the Innerworld, he existed only as a memory self within his son’s mind. Within his own memories were his own multitude, he dipped into them. Unarmed combat, he chased through his lineages, thinking, grasping at possibilities. He met a man, saw the man’s life, and in a split second, lived a lifetime on Old Earth in ancient China. As a child he scrubbed latrines and as an old man he enthralled a new generation with ancient tales. He was that man and he remembered.
He stood up. The Baron guarding him shouted something, but Paul didn’t hear.
“I remember Kung Fu.” Paul said.
The Baron was speechless for the split second before Paul tore apart his bindings and punched the fat lump with such force that it spun back and smashed through a wall.
Paul made good his escape and went to join the figure outside.
“Father,” Leto nodded.
“Son,” Paul replied.
“There’s more of them coming,” Leto said
“Harkonnens?” Paul asked.
“Thousands of ‘em,” Leto replied.
“Let’s make some bread!”
—Ci’abata the Baker before the Battle of Tirami’su
A wobbling line of grotesque shapes formed up along the top of the building that had contained Paul. Now from outside he recognised it – an ancient Muad’dru opera house that had stood on Caladan for thousands of years before Caladan was Caladan. He scanned the runes engraved into the upper portico – “Built in honour of those who fell in the conquest of Delta Pavonis” he translated.
“This is why the came after Yames Davidius,” Leto said, “The last of the Muad’dru.”
Opposite the building another line of flabby tyrants had formed.
“Son, you must leave, escape while you can. Don’t be foolish!” Paul said.
“I’m not running, father.” Leto replied, “And anyway, I think it’s too late for that.”
Another phalanx was forming up behind them. Suddenly all around a great horn sounded. The ground began to shake. A thousand suspensor globes hummed and the the earth creaked as the mass of the Barons lifted slowly into the air.
“You go left, I go right.” Leto whispered.
“Yes,” Paul replied, “And son?” Leto looked at him, “Good luck.”
The Barons charged, first a few, Paul dodged, and kicked. Leto punched one after another, the giant fleshy curving away first in one direction than another. The second wave was bigger, the sheer mass overwhelming Paul, a pile, more than fifty metres tall, towered on top of him. He heaved up, the pile toppled. Leto continued to fight, using his super speed to dodge in and out.
Paul used his newly remembered Kung Fu skills to devastating effect, Baron after wobbling Baron fell to his whirling limbs, “Hoooarrrgh!” He shouted defiantly, but his jubilation was cut short as a wall of Barons fell upon him.
Leto too quickly found himself in trouble, there were too many of them. He was pinned. Two held his arms, and two more held his legs, Two more strode up to him.
“I think I should consume him,” the first said.
“I agree, It’s not every day I get to eat an Emperor,” the second agreed.
The first chuckled a low rumbling basso chuckle, “And today I have both a starter and a main course.”
They were close now, very close. The first licked his lips, as did the second. “Say goodbye to this, young Leto. When you return to the real world, you won’t be you. You will be me. Think of the fun I will have. First, I think I will have to take care of that delicious sister of yours.”
Leto struggled, “Damn you! Damn you to hell!” The four Barons holding him down maintained their grip. The other loomed, Paul, also trapped yelled something indistinct.
“This! This is the end of the House of Atreides. I may have failed once, but not again!” The Barons laughed, not a chuckle, but a hearty booming laugh. The one nearest Leto stopped laughing and moved in for the final bite. “No man can stop me now, young Atreides!”
“No man!” A voice came, a woman’s voice.
A force sword poked out through the Baron’s chest. He looked down at the glowing blade, “Nooooooooo!” he screamed.
Suddenly the army of Barons began to glow brilliantly. “Noooooooooo!” they all screamed as they gradually faded, leaving only the dishevelled forms of the memories they had possessed.
Leto stood, standing over a groggy little girl who now lay where once a Baron stood, was Norma Cenva. He features glowed radiantly, her golden hair rustling in the gentle Caladanian breeze. The dark clouds were clearing and a pastel sunrise emerged from behind them
“Sometimes, when you open a cupboard, you forget what you were looking for.”
—Loqu’d Innes; Ammendment to the Imperial Treatise on Cupboards.
Paul joined them, he helped the little girl to her feet, glancing at Norma, but remaining silent.
Paul knelt, “Hey kid. We should get you back to your P’Se-Ta, you know sometimes dad’s get very worried about their children.” She smiled, then he asked, “I never asked your name. What is it?”
“My father is P’Se-Ta. I am Dilly, P’Se-Ta Dilly.” She took Paul’s hand and began to lead her back to the savannah and her father.
Leto looked at Norma, “Thank-you. How can I ever repay you?”
She smiled, “Forget me. The Oracle is me, but I am not the Oracle. I am Norma Cenva. Starship designer, mistress, mother. Remember me as those, and those alone.”
Leto blinked as he opened his eyes and emerged from the Innerworld, back into the humble surroundings of his sand cabin. It was dawn outside, the finished piles of of communiques still stacked neatly on the table beside him. The dream had been real, but it was fading. A single tear fizzed down his cheek. And it was gone.