Edric was a Navigator, Fourth Class, in the Spacing Guild. That was the highest rank for a navigator. He had spent over 95% of his life in space, floating in a tank of spice liquid saturated with oxygen. That had been his home. It had been his job to navigate a Spacing Guild heighliner through space, from one planet to another, from one star system to another, across the galaxy. Once smaller ships were tethered and secured inside the hold of a heighliner, the steersmen would maneuver the big vessel to the desired point. Then, Edric, using the Holtzman Generator, would “fold space,” taking the heighliner to its destination. It was an art form, practiced only by the most skilled.
He had no biorhythms. His life rhythms were dictated by the Universe. He moved and rocked in time and space to the music of the stars, and the nebulae, and the gas clouds.
A navigator rarely came down to a planet. The gravity would crush him. When they did come down, they were in a special tank, similar to the tank on the heighliner. But navigators hated to come to a planet. They felt confined and restricted. Only in space did they feel free, letting their minds flow around and through the universe. Only then did they feel at peace.
“Have you folded space?” one of the steersman asked, reverence in his tone.
Edric coughed. When he answered, his voice would come from a speaker atop the tank. “I have folded space. I have been to Arrakis, and Salusa Secundus, and Ix. And now I am here.”
“And what did you see?” another steersman asked.
Edric did not actually “see” anything. He sensed, using the third “eye” he had in his mind. “On Arrakis, the God Emperor rules supreme and controls all of the spice. On Salusa Secundus, House Corrino continues to degenerate and grow weaker. And on Ix, there are many machines. A great many machines.”
“Including navigation machines?” a third steersman asked.
“Including navigation machines,” Edric answered. Next, he experienced a fit of coughing. After it ended, he continued. “Their development is secretly fueled by the God Emperor. When the spice ends, he will have a replacement for us.” And he had another coughing fit.
Edric was having trouble breathing. He was gasping and wheezing, despite the fact that the spice solution that suspended him was saturated in oxygen. He knew his time was coming. His time to die. He wanted to die in space, in the wide, open freedom of deep space, piloting a frigate or heighliner. But that was not possible. On a ship, his death would pollute the spice supply that was shared with the other navigators, and could kill them as well. So, navigators were brought to Junction to die, in the confines of a chamber, staring at their beloved stars.
"You will be missed, Edric." A steersman placed this thought out for all to hear.
Edric tried to laugh, but could not. He was to weak. He responded.
"By the Bene Gesserit? Or House Atreides?" Here he tried to laugh again. "I hardly think so. No, my friends, only you, who have shared my mind, will miss me. And not for long. For I will be replaced. The Tlielaxieu already have another Edric, grown from my cells, ready to replace me."
None replied to that. They watched as Edric took a deep breath, gazed at the stars, and then slowly sank to the bottom of the chamber. His lidless eyes remained open. Guild security moved in, setting the chamber afire. That spice, now contaminated, could never be used again. Everyone waited until the fire burnt itself out, and then they headed back to their quarters.
At another part of Junction, a chamber containing a new Edric was being loaded aboard a shuttle, to be taken to an orbiting heighliner.