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This book, like all our writing, owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to our brilliant wives, Jan Herbert and Rebecca Moesta. We would also like to dedicate this novel to two loved ones who passed away much too young, Bruce Herbert and Jonathan Cowan.
The person with the fewest accomplishments often boasts the loudest.
—CHOAM Analysis of Public Imperial Histories
He was far from home and did not want to be here, but when the Padishah Emperor invited all members of the Landsraad, Leto Atreides had to attend. He was the head of a House Major, the Duke of beautiful Caladan, and Shaddam’s distant cousin. His absence would have been noticed.
Fortunately, this trip did not require him to go to the gaudy, noisy capital world of Kaitain. The heart of the Imperium simply did not have room for the extravagant new memorial that the Emperor envisioned, so Shaddam had chosen a planet no one had ever heard of. He needed a place where his accomplishments could truly stand out, and Otorio served that purpose.
As the Guild Heighliner arrived over the new museum planet, Leto sat restlessly in the Atreides space yacht, which was carried aboard the gigantic Guild ship. A pilot and a few retainers accompanied him on the trip, but the Duke kept to himself inside his private stateroom. He had long, dark hair, piercing gray eyes, and an aquiline nose. His demeanor showed a confidence that would not be overshadowed by the spectacle of the new museum complex.
While the Heighliner orbited, smaller ships lined up to descend from the cavernous hold in an orderly fashion. Otorio was a formerly insignificant world that had fallen through the cracks, forgotten for centuries by travelers, businessmen, colonists, and Imperial auditors. Rustic, unsullied, and serene, it had been an isolated tide pool in the ocean of Imperial politics.
Now, though, the planet was home to a gigantic new complex celebrating ten millennia of House Corrino rule. The fact that Otorio held so little else of note meant that Shaddam’s congratulatory museum would stand out more prominently than anything on the entire world. Leto knew how the Emperor thought.
Many nobles would strive to catch the Emperor’s attention, to build on their wealth, to increase their influence or bring down rivals. Leto had no such agenda. He had his own significant holdings, a stable rule, and had already drawn the attention of Shaddam IV, good and bad, in prior encounters. Duke Leto had nothing to prove, but he would do his duty by attending.
So many nobles had made the Otorio pilgrimage to curry favor with the Emperor, it would take hours for all ships to disembark one at a time, and the Atreides yacht was by no means near the head of the line.
Since leaving Caladan, the Duke had tried to distract himself by working in his stateroom, studying records of the moonfish harvest, accounts of private boats lost in a recent typhoon, a glowing summary of his son Paul’s physical and mental training. The Heighliner had traveled from system to system, rounding up passengers from various planets, because there was no direct Spacing Guild route to an insignificant world like Otorio. Shaddam intended to change that.
While waiting, Leto activated the wallscreen to view the planet below. Veils of clouds daubed the atmosphere above oceans and green-and-brown landmasses. Shaddam’s massive new complex would have caused fundamental changes to the quiet world. Construction crews had swarmed Otorio, completely reworking the only large population center. Countless square kilometers were paved over. Monuments and statues sprang up like an algae bloom during a red tide: government complexes, civic centers, interactive displays, coliseums, and auditoriums. Expansive new performance stages could seat a hundred thousand people at a time on a world that, according to the census report Leto had read, previously had fewer than a million inhabitants.
His personal pilot buzzed across the yacht’s comm. “Our ship is now fourth in the queue, my Duke. We will be departing soon.” The man’s voice held a rural Caladan accent. Leto had chosen him along with a few local workers, who considered the assignment an adventure, and that warmed Leto’s heart. With few opportunities to travel off their homeworld, this was the trip of a lifetime for them.
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