1 - Planning a Trap
Commander Oleg Tryan leaned back from his desk, pushed his chair back, and ran a hand through his hair. He exhaled loudly, stood up, made himself some of the strong, dark tea he liked, unbuttoned his tunic collar, and went and gazed out the window overlooking the Forest Preserve on Giedi Prime. He needed to think. He needed to come up with a solution for the problem that he was confronting, and absolutely nothing was showing itself.
Commander Tryan was forty-five standard years old. His hair was dark brown, with some traces of steel-grey. His neat moustache was the same. He was tall and rangy, standing erect at 1.9 meters. He was still trim, with very little fat, and weighed in at 90.7 kilograms. He had taken good care of himself.
He had been in the service of House Harkonnen ever since he was thirteen years old. The educational system on Geidi Prime screened all children when they were twelve years old. The screening decided how the child would be educated, what career they would pursue (what careers there were available on Giedi Prime,) and pretty much how they would spend the rest of their life. Oleg displayed higher than average intelligence.
He received a military education and was appointed a non-commissioned officer at age twenty. He entered the Harkonnen infantry, but very quickly moved to the signal corps and then into intelligence. He was commissioned a junior officer by age twenty-five and given more responsibility.
At age twenty-seven, the young officer was sent off-planet for the first time in his career. He traveled to Grumman, an ally of House Harkonnen. From Grumman, he was smuggled to Calladan, the ancestral home of House Atreides and mortal enemies to House Harkonnen. He had his eyes opened on Calladan.
Calladan, like Giedi Prime, was a poor planet. On Calladan, the people concentrated primarily on fishing and agriculture. On Giedi Prime, the people worked mostly in mining. Both populations were very poor, but there were some major differences.
House Atreides kept no slaves. House Harkonnen used slaves for the most difficult and dirty jobs in the mines. There were other differences as well. The feelings of oppression and hopelessness that existed on Giedi Prime were not present on Calladan. The people were poor, but there was a feeling that the Duke appreciated their hard work. Indeed, the Duke was often seen with and by the people. On Giedi Prime, the Baron rarely visited his people, preferring to let his subordinates take care of things. There was no roaming police force on Calladan, as there was on Giedi Prime. And Oleg did not see the fear in the people's eyes.
Oleg would cultivate a contact on Calladan, and over the next few years the two would exchange misinformation. Oleg, however, had a talent for weeding small and useful tidbits from his contact. He was promoted twice after his return and then reassigned to the frontier. It appeared that there was a small revolutionary movement simmering on Giedi Prime with the intent to kill the Baron. Oleg found the movement, but it did not impress him. It was nothing more then a small band of citizens, angry and frightened, doing some saber rattling. Oleg discreetly began to make it something more.
The reassignment to the Forest Preserve played right into Oleg's hands. He was out near the small villages and the mining camps, where the people were the most oppressed. In two years' time, he had a tidy little information network up and running. He had even made inroads into the slaves. He couldn't start an armed revolution; the people had no weapons and the penalty for possessing one was death. But he passed all sorts of useful information to House Atreides by way of the star port at Harko. Commander Oleg Tryan was laying the foundation for a sound organization.
And then came this silly assignment. Rabban, the Baron's nephew, liked to hunt for sport with some of his friends at the Forest Preserve. But they didn't hunt game. They hunted children, preferably between the ages of ten and eighteen, whose parents had been given slave or prison sentences by the courts. The children did not last long, either being killed by the hunters or dying of exposure. Indeed, some of the bodies were never found. When a child was committed to the preserve, it was given a tattoo with an identification number on the inside of its left arm. That way, when the child's body was found, he or she could be identified. But lately there had been a new and interesting twist to the "sport" at the preserve.
Some of the hunters had become the hunted. It was happening with greater frequency. Four men would go out and three would come back. One, or possibly more, of the children, were killing the hunters. The firearms would not be taken; they could be traced with the radio tap. But knives and clothing would always be taken. And when the slain hunter was found, there would be no trace of the killer except a few muddy footprints leading nowhere. Oleg's assignment was to find the hunter.
House Harkonnen had been ordered to turn over control of Arrakis, and all spice production, to House Atreides by the Emperor. The change had taken place, but the Baron was not pleased. He was losing a great deal of income. Rabban rarely showed at the Forest Preserve; there was something big going on concerning the Arrakis issue and Rabban was involved with that. But some of his friends still showed up to hunt. They, unknowingly, would help Commander Tryan solve his problem. And with no Rabban poking his nose into the affair, Oleg had a free hand.
Oleg unbuttoned his tunic completely, sat down again behind his desk after refreshing his tea, and pushed a button. A dark-eyed brunette of average height and slim build entered the office and smiled. "Yes, Commander?"
Mira had been a baker in one of the villages near the Forest Preserve. She had passed the test to enter the Baron's service, and got hired as an administrator by Oleg. She was very smart and had a clear and cool mind, but women were definitely second-class citizens in House Harkonnen. Oleg's instinct told him that things did not quite square with Mira. He had done some background checking, but could find nothing definite. She did, however, appear to have all of the qualities of a Bene Gesserit adept. But Oleg was not sure if she was a renegade sister or a plant. The witches were very secretive, and no one really understood their motives. She was, however, very useful. And, like the Baron, Oleg did not waste talent.
"Mira, did you look at these folders? The Mentats picked these four, but I can't help but feel, in my gut, that it's this fifth one the Mentats dismissed," Oleg stated while pointing to a fifth folder.
"So you did have a Mentat assessment of the children," remarked Mira. "Rabban must think highly of you to allow access to Mentats. And they picked four?"
"Rabban is an idiot, all muscle and no brains," growled Oleg. "Yes, he did have a Mentat look at the thirty or so folders. But I keep thinking it is this fifth child, a boy, which the Mentat did not single out. My instinct says that the Mentat is wrong."
Mira knew about instinct. She was a Bene Gesserit adept and a plant. Her function was to keep an eye on Oleg. Her reports, sent at a regular basis to the Sisterhood, had opened their eyes to the fact the Oleg was building an active resistance. She also alerted the Sisterhood to the fact that Commander Tryan was exceptionally intelligent, a natural leader, and displayed the morals and ethics of House Atreides as opposed to House Harkonnen. He was a diamond in the rough.
"Perhaps, Commander, since you have so much freedom in this matter, it would be best if you investigated all five?" She raised an eyebrow and tilted her head to the right as she answered.
Oleg leaned back in his chair, folded his hands on his chest, and stared at the ceiling for a few minutes. Then he cleared his throat and spoke.
"I have a plan." Oleg spoke calmly. "Rabban is one cruel bastard. He would tell the children, before they were released into the preserve, that there was a sanctuary of sorts in the village. If they could escape and make it to the sanctuary, they would be set free. Of course, Mira, that was a complete fiction. Not only was there no sanctuary, but also escape would be almost impossible. And if a child did escape, they would be killed. But that was Rabban."
Mira moved to the desk and picked up the folder containing the information on the fifth child. She glanced through it quickly. "Commander, it says the boy was thirteen and his sister was ten when they were released into the Forest Preserve. That was five years ago. He would now be eighteen. He could be completely feral. Indeed, two years ago a party of Sardaukar went hunting, and none came back alive. He may be very dangerous indeed."
"Mira," said Oleg, looking at her and smiling, "if this boy or girl or whatever has survived and become a killer of that skill in five years, he is just what I need in my organization. I am willing to take the chance. Are you? Besides, I think that for him or her to survive in the preserve environment he must be both physically and mentally tough."
"Agreed," said Mira. "But you must be willing to accept the fact that you may not be able to civilize him or her."
"I'm willing to take the risk."
"Fair enough," answered Mira. "What is your plan?"
"It's pretty simple," explained Oleg. "We release about five new children into the preserve. We seed them with the legend of Sanctuary, although this time it will be embellished a bit. We keep them in the preserve for two weeks or so while we create an escape path. We can't make the escape path too easy, or our prey will suspect a trap. We invite a hunting party to draw the killer toward our escape path. I know some useless Bravos who will work nicely. And then we lead him right to our sanctuary. Then we see what happens."
"Easily done," remarked Mira. "What happens when you have this young man, for I strongly believe it is the boy as well, in your custody?"
"Then you take over," said the Commander, grinning slyly. "You, with your Bene Gesserit skills, are going to evaluate him!"
Mira smiled, turned on a heel, and left the office.