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Authors: Brian Herbert,Kevin J. Anderson

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BOOK: Sisterhood of Dune
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MANFORD TORONDO
, address to the Landsraad Hall

Normally, whenever Manford appeared before a crowd of loyal supporters on Lampadas, the cheers buffeted him like the winds of a cleansing storm. Today, however, when two bearers carried his palanquin into the Landsraad Hall on Salusa Secundus, the reception was much cooler.

The sergeant-at-arms announced him in a booming voice filled with pretentious formality, though surely everyone recognized the leader of the Butlerian movement. The responding applause from the nobles was polite and anticipatory, but not overwhelming, not ecstatic. Manford chose not to notice. Sitting on the palanquin, rather than on his Swordmaster’s shoulders, he straightened his back. His own shoulders were broad, his arm muscles well developed from compensating for the loss of his legs by using his arms to get about, and from regular, vigorous exercise. As the bearers carried him forward to the speaking podium, Anari Idaho walked alongside, an intimidating, protective presence.

Manford looked around the immense hall. The dizzying rows of seats looked like ripples that extended outward from a rock thrown into a placid pond. The benches held representatives from important planets and proxies from groups of lesser worlds, along with countless observers and functionaries, many of them bureaucrats. Emperor Salvador Corrino sat in his ornate box, attending the proceedings, although he appeared bored. His brother, Roderick, occupied the companion chair in the Emperor’s box, and he leaned over to say something to the balding Salvador. The two men didn’t seem to be paying much attention to him.

The bearers stopped when his palanquin was properly positioned in the amplification field. A brilliant light shone down on him, and he raised his face, basking in it, as if to receive a blessing from heaven.

The Speaker’s voice resounded, bringing him back to the matter at hand. “Manford Torondo, representative of the Butlerian movement, you have asked to address the Landsraad Council. Please state your business.”

Manford noted the many empty seats in the huge chamber. “Why are there so many absences? Was there no announcement of my appearance? Don’t you know that my words are vitally important?”

The Speaker seemed impatient. “There are always absences in our meetings, Leader Torondo. Nevertheless, we have a quorum.”

Manford drew a deep breath, let it out as a sigh. “I am sorry to see that the seats are not full. May I have a list of the attendees who are actually here?” He was really more interested in who had chosen
not
to attend.

“It is a matter of public record. Now, please state your business.”

Manford was taken aback by the man’s abruptness, but he dredged strength from the darkest corners of his heart and decided to be reasonable, for the moment.

He spoke as if to equals. “Very well. I come here to report on the good works of my followers, and to request a demonstration of unity. Butlerians continue to discover, and destroy, outposts and robot ships. While that is part of our legitimate work, those vessels are merely symbols of what the thinking machines did to us, remnants of the past. The real threat is more insidious … and you bring it upon yourselves.”

He twisted on the palanquin so that he could sweep a demonstrative arm around the Landsraad Hall. His bearers remained motionless, like statues. Anari stared at the audience.

“The main reason I have come here is because you need to be
reminded.
My people are prevalent throughout the Imperium, and I receive reports of how your planets have gone soft, how you make excuses and exceptions for your populations, how you pretend that centuries of oppression can be ignored after only a few decades.”

He heard muttering from the seated representatives. Emperor Salvador now perked up in his private box, paying close attention to him. Roderick Corrino looked deep in thought.

Manford continued, “You allow machines into your cities and homes. You tell yourselves the devices are harmless, that
this
little piece of technology can’t hurt anyone, or
that
convenient machine should be allowed, or
this
particular device is an exception. But have you all forgotten?” He raised his voice to a shout. “
Have you forgotten?
How many little steps does it take before you step over the brink? The enslavement of humanity did not happen overnight, but after a succession of bad decisions, as people put an increasing amount of trust in thinking machines.”

The legless man inhaled deeply. “Despite these errors, we defeated the evil machines, and now we again have our chance to march proudly down the right path. The
only
path. We dare not waste this opportunity, so I call upon you to follow us now! The Butlerians have found the true path that can keep us safe, and keep us
human.

“The mind of man is holy,” Anari murmured in benediction.

He pointed to one of the guest seats. “Gilbertus Albans traveled here from the Mentat School on my own planet. He and his students have proved that we don’t need computers. Truly, the mind of man is holy!”

Seeming embarrassed to be singled out, the bespectacled Mentat headmaster rose to his feet reluctantly and spoke. “Yes, esteemed representatives. By careful application of our efforts, through practice and mental exercise, certain candidates have the ability to order their minds in the proper way. They can complete calculations and make detailed second- and third-order projections. A fully trained and qualified Mentat can perform the functions of a computer. Many of my graduates have already entered into service in noble households.”

Manford turned in the direction of the Imperial box. “Sister Dorotea from Rossak is one of several members of the Sisterhood who advises the Imperial Court. She can attest to this truth.”

A black-robed woman sitting near Emperor Salvador bowed her head, as the audience turned toward her. Salvador looked at Dorotea in surprise; apparently he had not expected to find a Butlerian sympathizer in his own court. The woman had done her work well, while concealing that detail.

The lanky Dorotea stood, continued to bow, and announced, “The purpose of our Sisterhood is to maximize human potential. Our own bodies are the greatest machines ever created. Through the application of physical and mental skills, we can develop and rely on our
humanity.
We have no need for machines.”

A gruff voice called out, booming across the great chamber. “So will you barbarians dispose of everything, then? Send us back to the Stone Age?”

All eyes turned toward the visitors’ gallery, and Manford frowned in disgust. With his cinnamon-colored hair and prominent mustache, Directeur Josef Venport was quite distinctive. The ambitious businessman was willing to adopt any form of technology he could turn to a profit.

Venport sniffed. “You would have us discard all medical advances? All transportation? All the hallmarks of human civilization? Look at you there, using an amplification field to deliver your words! You are inconsistent and hypocritical, Torondo—not to mention ignorant.”

“Please, we mustn’t take this to absurd lengths,” cried another man from the delegate stands. He was identified as Ptolemy, representative of the planet Zenith, a smallish man with a professorial demeanor. “On my world we have a collegial atmosphere and countless projects to use science for the benefit of humankind. Technology, like people, can be good or bad.”

“Technology is
not
like people.” Manford’s voice was cold and hard. “We know the evils of rampant science, discoveries that never should have been made. We know the pain and suffering that unfettered technology has caused our race. Look at the radioactive ruins of Earth and the destruction of Corrin, look at a thousand years of human enslavement by the cymeks and by Omnius.” He became quieter and more paternal, as well as more threatening. “Haven’t you learned your lesson? You are playing with fire.”

Directeur Venport called out sarcastically, “And you are trying to have us
undiscover
fire!” A mutter of uneasy laughter rippled across the audience.

Anari Idaho took offense, but Manford controlled his anger. He ignored Venport’s outburst and continued, “Many of you have made glib promises to shun technology, but as soon as our attention is diverted, you slip back to your conveniences. Know this and take caution: My Butlerians are watching.”

Sounding annoyed, Emperor Salvador spoke into his own amplifier. “This is an old argument, Leader Torondo, and it will not be settled today. The Landsraad has business to conduct. What exactly do you want here?”

“A vote,” he said. If this had been one of his rallies, the people would be screaming and weeping by now. “In fact, I
demand
a vote. Every representative must state publicly, on the record, whether or not he or she adheres to the principles taught by Rayna Butler. Will you follow the Butlerian guidelines and forever cast aside all advanced technology?”

He expected applause. Instead, the muttering from the stands rose to an uneasy rumble. Manford couldn’t understand why they would delay, or resist what they knew was right, but these rich, fat, and comfortable people would not give up the things that made their lives easier.

In the Imperial box, a concerned Roderick Corrino whispered to his brother, who also looked flustered. Gathering himself, Salvador announced, “This is an issue that must be discussed at great length. Each planetary representative or proxy has a right to speak, and each person should go back to his or her planet and determine the wishes of the populace.”

Manford said, “With a word, I can summon tens of thousands of my followers to fill the streets of Zimia, and command them to smash every piece of technology down to the smallest pocket watch. I would advise you not to stall.” A fearful susurration passed among the delegates. They were offended by his threat, but they knew full well that he could carry it out. “We cannot let a new age of thinking machines appear.”

“And I will not be bullied by a Neanderthal thug,” Venport bellowed, “even if he threatens to summon a mob of ignorant fools.”

“Please, this is nonsense! It’s a specious argument. We can discuss—” insisted Ptolemy from Zenith, still trying to negotiate in a reasonable tone. He was shouted down.

Roderick Corrino slipped away from the Emperor’s box. Salvador appeared panicked.

“I demand a vote,” Manford repeated. “Every representative here must state for the record whether their planet sides with human freedom or with eventual enslavement.”

“A point of order,” said one of the delegates who did not identify herself. “Manford Torondo is merely a guest speaker. He has no authority to make demands of this Landsraad meeting. He cannot call for a vote.”

Five people from the stands, official delegates of planets that were controlled by the Butlerians, stood up and shouted (exactly as instructed) to call for a formal vote. Manford had many allies, and he had planned ahead. “I think we’ve dispensed with your points of order. I will remain here all day if necessary. Well, Emperor Salvador? Will you call a vote?”

The balding leader of the Imperium clearly did not like to be forced into a corner. His face was red. He looked from side to side as if for advice, but Roderick wasn’t there. Sister Dorotea whispered to him, but he shook his head.

Shrill alarms ratcheted through the Landsraad Hall, causing a wave of panic. Roderick Corrino reappeared in the Imperial box, said something urgent to his brother, and then took the Emperor’s amplifier. “Ladies and gentlemen, we have just received a credible bomb threat. The Landsraad Hall may be in danger. Please evacuate as quickly as possible.”

The rush and rumble of voices grew louder. Delegates began to stream away from their seats, and pandemonium reigned as they escaped into the streets. Anari barked orders to Manford’s bearers, and they rushed from the Hall, whisking the legless man to safety.

Manford cried out, “But there must be a vote!”

The Swordmaster trotted beside him, always alert. “If there’s even a possibility that a bomb might explode, I must get you safely from this place. Now.”

Manford clenched his fists. Who would have threatened the Landsraad during his speech? Years ago, an assassin’s explosion had killed Rayna Butler and cost Manford his legs. He knew he had enemies, but this didn’t seem like their tactics.

“They will reschedule the meeting,” Anari said as they raced out the door. “You can address them another time.”

“I shall insist upon it.” Manford was so enraged that his body trembled. He was convinced that the timing of this “bomb threat” was all too convenient.

 

What one person sees as contributing to a loss of humanity, another might view as an improvement on the human condition.


NORMA CENVA
, Kolhar shipyards internal memo

After the turmoil and nonsense of the recent Landsraad League meeting, Josef Venport returned to the primary VenHold headquarters on Kolhar and continued to stew over what he had seen and heard. Manford Torondo and his barbarians wanted to seize the controls of the great ship of human civilization and crash it!

Legless “Half-Manford” was a bizarre spokesperson, but the odd man, along with Rayna Butler before him, and the revered Serena Butler preceding both of them, bore the mystique of martyrdom, which held a certain guilty attraction for some.

In establishing and expanding Venport Holdings, Josef and his predecessors strove to lay down a viable commercial network to raise the Imperium from the ashes after defeating Omnius. He wanted to lift humanity to the glorious heights they had been denied under the domination of thinking machines.

The Butlerians, on the other hand, wanted to drag populations into a dark swamp of hardship and ignorance. He had firmly, perhaps naïvely, believed that the Butlerian silliness would peter out in time, and he couldn’t fathom how the movement had gained so much momentum. He considered it a personal affront: Logic and progress should automatically trump superstition.

With all that on his mind, Josef was in a surly mood when he returned home, but his wife, Cioba, and six advisers met him as he disembarked at the spaceport, and he felt a sense of stability returning. She was a bastion of organization. Cioba, with her rigorous Sisterhood training, was a perfect match for him, helping to run the numerous components of Venport Holdings—both the public ones and the secret ones—like a well-choreographed dance.

BOOK: Sisterhood of Dune
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