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OOC: It's Ekaterina, dammit! E - K - A - T - E - R - I - N - A! Not Ektennera, not Ekatanria! Jeez...

It's personally hers, but she herself is under control of the Moritani. That's how it works.

Twenty four hours pass. The rebels frantically attempt to evacuate whole cities of civilians in a day, and of course they have incredible difficulty. The industrial cities of the north, meanwhile, with Catrione foremost among them, launch their personell into the outer atmosphere of Athalon IV. The defensive craft of the planet, the 'floating fortresses' are turned around...

* * *

"The Duke is dead. Long live the Duke." Aleksandr said quietly. He watched Atilian's expression of disbelief freeze on his face. An eyelid twitched.

"You- wouldn't joke about this, would you?" Atilian finally asked, casting his eyes downwards.

"No." Aleksandr answered simply, shaking his head. It had been a rhetorical question anyway. "Would you like me to clear the room?" Atilian did not reply for a moment. Then he shook his head, getting up.

"Give me half an hour." He told his brother. "Half an hour alone. I'll make a formal statement then."

"I've had Aleron start composing one already." Aleksandr nodded, standing back as Atilian passed him. The guards around the room made to follow, but Atilian waved them away. Just as he was leaving, the new Duke turned back.

"Could you deal with all this, please?" He asked, indicating the desk of paperwork. Aleksandr nodded, and bowed. Atilian left.

'I wonder what he's thinking...' Aleksandr thought to himself, watching the Nokkars exchange worried looks.

"Sir?" Qapmoq queried.

"You'll see." Aleksandr said, sighing. He walked around the desk and slipped into Atilian's chair. "Where were you?" Qapmoq said nothing for a moment. His expression told Aleksandr that he clearly realised what was wrong. But he picked up the spice paper, and indicated the correct line.

"Right here, sir." He said clearly. Aleksandr read through the sheet.

'I should really be doing this...' He thought.

* * *

"Commence bombardment." Ekaterina ordered.

High above the planet, frigate doors opened. Gunports slid aside to reveal glinting cannons. The floating fortressses turned their full might on the equatorial region of Athalon IV, defenceless beneath.

The first silent shot, the first huge shell hurled toward Trebesia. Immediately followed by three more, and three times more. Three times over again the shells are fired from the cannons of the Trebesian armada, rocketing red-hot through the atmosphere and down onto the surface below. The first explosion is invisible from space, but the following twenty are not. Each shell holds nothing but simple explosives. Some contain nothing but jagged metal shards. Each is the size of an average ornithopter, fired at supersonic speed. Trebesia burns.

"Casualties are impossible to estimate at this point. The old capital is all but destroyed, with most of the surrounding jungle aflame." Rachael reported emotionlessly. She stood just behind Ekaterina, who was staring with barely-concealed awe and glee from one of the many observation platforms aboard the new flagship, Irios, named after Ekaterina's father. The equator of Athalon IV still looked almost green, but grey and black smoke was rapidly obscuring thousands of acres. Every so often, a gigantic column of flame would burst through, marking the detonation of an arms depot, or incendiary. Perhaps even a reduced stoneburner. Ekaterina did not know exactly how big these flames would have to be, to break through the smoke and be visible from orbit, but she figured that she didn't really need to.

"Ammunition?" She whispered.

"Plentiful, M'lady." Rachael reported. "However, most of Trebesia's ammunition supplies were used against the Sardaukar. This further depletion will mean a shortage that will last a decade at minimum. At current rates of production." She added with a smirk.

"And we all know what's going to happen to them after this." Ekaterina smiled in turn.

"Estimates based on Harkonnen figures suggest an efficiency rise of five hundred and twenty four percent following this display." Rachael nodded. "With the planned slavery and breeding programs, said shortage will be anulled in four years and barely tracable in six months."

"Now that's what I like to hear." Ekaterina grinned.

Time passes. Ekaterina watches for a further hour or so, before retiring to her quarters for a game. The ships and fortresses continue to shell their home planet, pulverising the cities into rubble. And not just the cities. Every square inch of land on the equatorial belt, and beyond, if it contains rebels, is targetted and bombed. [There were so many references to a large military in the previous thread, the irony here is just killing me. With laughter] Hours pass...

"M'lady, the captain wishes to speak to you." Rachael notified Ekaterina as the two women exited Ekaterina's 'fun room' aboard ship. Ekaterina wiped some blood from her face with a white cloth, looking bored.

"If it's about the low pain threshold of the men under his command then I've got some words to exchange with him too..." She muttered.

"Actually, Ma'am, it's about our mission." The Captain of the Irios stated bluntly, upon Ekaterina's arrival on the bridge. "We've been shelling the planet for six point four hours now, the cities will be destroyed. Shall we stop?"

"Stop? Stop?" Ekaterina scoffed. "Continue the shelling, captain. That whole belt of the planet is to be nothing but craters a mile deep when you are finished, do I make myself clear?"

"Crystal, Ma'am." The captain nodded, without a trace of shock or surprise. "Continue the shelling!"

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OOC:  ;D

The Bombing had taken up a fever pitch. Thankfully, we have hundreds upon thousands of feet of solid Iron imbued rock along with armor reinforced Plasteel and Plascrete protecting us. G'boath thought to himself. Unifortunately, the bombings were taking their toll. Pieces of the ceiling were sporadically becoming dislodged, so the lighter, screen sheilds had been activated.

Looking at his Chrono, the leader said "We can only take so much more of this. If they don't pull off soon, were sure to lose some of the bases." 

Standing next to his father, Atillian looked up took notice of a Nokker entering the room. The Ducial Guard handed Atillian a Large sword and saluting, stepped out. The weapon was the Ducial sword, passed down through the generations. Trebesian to Trebesian, it was well over 500 Generations old.

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[Ekaterinburg: The city was founded in 1723 by Vasily Tatischev and named after Saint Catherine, the namesake of tsar Peter the Great's wife Catherine (Yekaterina)...]

"Cease fire." Ekaterina ordered, quietly. The command was relayed at once by the captain, and spread throughout the fleet. Cannons fell still around Athalon IV, as the euatorial region lay in ruins beneath.

"Report." Ekaterina ordered.

"Shelling continued for fifteen consecutive hours, M'lady." Rachael stated. "All cities along the equator of Athalon IV are dust and rubble. Craters will be anywhere between a mile or two deep. Maybe deeper." She shrugged. "Any bunkers even deeper than that, or that have avoided the larger blasts, will be blocked from the surface by the weight of the wreckage and destroyed tunnels. Casualties will be in the tens of millions. A lesson well taught." She smiled.

"Perhaps the wretched population of this planet will get the hint, now." Ekaterina frowned, glaring at the smoke-covered line of Athalon IV's equator. "How will the rest of the planet react? Mentat projection."

"Two situations are likely to develop, with the higher probability going to the former." Rachael computed. "Most likely: The population will be effectively cowed, with only slight resistence in the southern polar region. Deprived of greater support and resources, however, this will be easily crushed. It may even be possible to simply leave this group to starve itself. Second situation: The massive damage caused to the planet's atmosphere and ecology will result in a global winter that will last for the forseeable future, killing all inhabitants. The third, least likely scenario, is that the population, desperate in the face of such atrocity, will rebel en masse. Given the measures that they can see we will take against them, this is unlikely. Also, M'lady, I would request that you refrain from calling me a 'mentat.'"

"Hmm." Ekaterina nodded. "Well, I have a few messages to give out, then. Have the captain take us back to Catrione."

Statement released to the people of Athalon IV:

As you can see, I am more than capable and willing to obliterate any that stand in my way. Do not make the mistake of thinking "Well, she can't kill all us." Because I can. If I have to, I will slaughter every inhabitant on this planet and go back to Grumman. Or maybe I'll just start again. In any case, travel from Athalon IV is now restricted to those with special visas from the palace.

E.M.

Message to Trebeis family:

Hope you like the recordings. Enjoy that wretched ball of dust, do.

Love, Ekaterina.

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Carth analised the latest developements: Duke Trebeis's death, the answers from Alexandr and the late Duke Trebeis, the bombing on Athalon IV.

Message to Duke Atilian Trebeis:

[hide]I am extremely sorry to hear of your father's death. He was a great man. Please tell me when the funerals will take place for I want to attend.

Condoleances,

Carth Bindar

[/hide]

After this Carth contacted the CHOAM and started the procedures for forming a Merchant Guild. The process of registering will take some time.

After a few moments after Carth concluded the contact with th CHOAM he called some aids into the room:

- There's something I have to ask of you. Apparently during the last war, an unit of Trebeis were lost. I want you to start searching for any survivors or bodies. NOW!

Mesage to Ekaterina:

[hide]You stupidity never stops to amaze me! If you kill all the people on Athalon IV who will you be ruling? And besides, doesn't ORBITAL BOMBARDAMENT stand in total disagreement with the Great Convention? As well as Nuclear Warfare? I wait the reaction of the Empire. Remember: orbital bombardament is AGAINST the Great Convention. How joyful! House Moritani will be OBLITERATED!

Your old friend,

Carth

[/hide]

Message to House Trebeis:

[hide]

The action perfomed by Ekaterina on Athalon IV violates the Great Convention. I'm sure you coulnd't have overlooked this, but it never hurts to point this out. You might gain Athalon back if you play your cards right. Even without any further bloodshed.

In the matter of the Suk doctor, well, as I understand the implant IS the best choise... well, if you hadn't already paid for the docteor you can call it off. If not, well, it wouldn't hurt to have one around. I wll gladly pay the other half.

Carth Bindar[/hide]

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Reply to Carth:

You seem to be mistaking me with someone who cares about the people she rules over. If I massacre everyone on Athalon, I'll just go back to Grumman. And if you weren't so dense yourself, you would remember that I am perfectly within my rights to bomb a planet from orbit, the Great Convention has little to say on the matter. Also, no nuclear warheads were used. Go scream into a jar, you pathetic little hunchback.

Love, Ekaterina.

P.S. Maverik and Sven say Hi. Or at least, I think that's what they're saying.

"Send scouts into the wasteland, I want accurate reports of the terrain there. Any activity is to be reported straight back. In code." Ekaterina ordered, standing once more in front of her map. Vail saluted, and bowed its exit from the room.

"M'lady." Rachael interjected before Ekaterina could continue. "We have reports from Arsunt. The old Duke is dead."

"Duke?" Ekaterina asked. "Duke? ... Oh, that Duke? Trebeis?" Rachael nodded. "Well... bother. I had rather hoped that he would at least see those recordings I sent him. What reports of the whelp?"

"None at this time, Ma'am." Rachael replied. "It's still too early to say what his next move will be."

"His hands should be full running Arrakis." Alacia mused.

"Nevertheless, that boy is far less stable than his father." Ekaterina muttered. "Have the fortresses repaired and restocked. You might also want to see about repairing the ones that the Sardaukar damaged."

"The planet cannot support that kind of work immediately, M'lady." Rachael said calmly, ticking a box." I would recommend finding another house to make a trade deal with, and using the money to speed development..."

[i keep meaning to post Aleksandr, and more of this, but running out of time. Will continue... later).

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OOC: I have nearly no time at all, and I have to post the funeral (Ugh).  :-

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So much had to be done. Blinded by grief, Atillian rushed through preperations. The Funeral was to take place in the City Center of Arakeen. The City still was marred by huge, ugily Defenses, Guns, walls. Left in place from the war. Still, it was the best place to hold the funeral. Usually, the Dukes of House Trebeis were cremated and their ashes cast into the winds from the summit of Mount Maryan. But seeing as House Trebeis was no longer of Athalon, that was quite impossible. The old Duke's Remains would stay in the posession of Atillian.

The main complacation arising in the planning, was the Military. The Ducial Guard, which is seperate from the Army, wanted to Lead the procession. However, The Army also wished the priviledge. It was finally decided that three Nokker Guardsman and three Eleit Army Troopers would share the job of carrying the Casket while the Entire Ducial Guard, including the new recruits and two thousand Army men would march in the Procession. Five hundred Ornithopters would Overfly during the services.

"And I still need a bloody speech" Atillian thought moodily. Finally sitting back at his desk, he began writing out several messages.

To Carth.

[hide]I thank you for you symphathy. The Funeral is to take place in three days. Oh, and your Suk Arrives with the next Highliner. My father already paid half of the fee, what is to be done with him is up to you, friend.

-A.T[/hide]

To Duke Paul Atreides.

[hide]I have recieved your message. I am glad you have agreed to renewing our allience. However, I am sad to say that my father has passed, finally succombing to injuries brought on by an assasination attempt. He deeply respected your father and family, and I beleive he even had the chance to meet you once or twice while visiting your father. I know that you surely have many duties to attend to as do I, I still would like to invite you to the services and afterward possibly a meeting with my brother and I.

Thank you for your time. -Duke Atillian Trebeis of Arrakis.[/hide]

To Relnev

[hide] Thank you, we agree to your allience. On a sadder note, I must report that my father has passed. I would be most grateful if you and Eamins could make the services. Afterward we can hold a meeting to discuss any plans neccisary for our allience.

Your Friend, Duke Atillian Trebeis of Arrakis.[/hide]

To Ekaterina Moratini.

[hide]Be Warned, my father was the only real restraining force in House Trebeis. Watch your actions, for I shall remember them the next time we meet.

Duke Atllian Trebeis of Arrakis.

P.S. Thank you for the recordings. Although we gathered that over ninty percent of our men were killed, we also managed to gain quite a handling on the capabilities of your defense fleet. Useful information, that.[/hide]

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Did anyone else ask to ally with me, or was that only Ex? I guess I'll post considering no one else seems to be rushing to it.

The funeral of the Trebeis leader could not have come at a worse time. In a day Paul would have to transport to an orbiting heighliner. His original feeling was that of neglect, rather being within the halls of his palace, rebuilding his empire.

Opposing him was his newly-arrived mentat. Taking little time to waste on memories and past habits, Thufir had immediately begun to address issues of Caladan. First on his agenda was reasserting the importance of attending the ceremony. Repeated thrashing at Paul

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Dressed in rags as befitting a man caught in several hundred explosions, the face dancer Vail stood on the rim of a large crater, peering in. It wore the guise of a handsome yet injured man, having given itself a few jagged shrapnel wounds before entering what had once been Trebesia. They would heal quickly enough. In fact, Vail was almost ignoring them as it peered around the crater with a pair of cracked oil lenses.

'Rubble... rubble... sub-craters with more rubble... shards, shrapnel... No bones. No survivors.' Satisfied that this particular crater was devoid of life, Vail moved on, jumping a small crevice that had probably formed the gap between two buildings.

The atmosphere was thick with dust and smoke. Fires still burned ferociously in those parts of the city that still had anything left to burn. Vail had discovered hundreds of charred corpses there, but no survivors. It had been circling the city for nearly a day now, climbing in and out of the craters, making its way to known buildings that might just have survived the blast. Checking the surrounding devestation for refugees. Thus far, it had found not a single survivor, or even a hint of one. The entire area had been either vaporised or crushed. Those parts that had been crushed were now burning. Time to move on...

* * *

"I tell you boys, it's good to see friendly faces." Ekaterina sighed happily, peeling skin from Maverik's forehead. There wasn't much left. She would have to get some grafted again. Maverik, for his part, seemed to be a state of hyper-consciousness brought on by the many drugs injected into his system to prevent him from ever sleeping. The pupil in his remaining eye was rapidly growing and shrinking in size.

"What with all the bombing, and Vail's latest report, it doesn't look like I'll be getting any new playthings." Ekaterina went on, rolling up the wad of flesh and gently placing it in Maverik's mouth. The man gave a halfhearted effort to spit it out, but was severely hindered by his broken jaw. Ekaterina held his mouth closed and ran her hand down his neck, triggering the swallowing mechanism. Maverik choked, but swallowed. "Good boy. So I ask you, what am I to do? Father darling is leaving me to do just as I want, but now that I've got an entire planet of people to murder, I just don't know where to begin! I feel like my idiot brother must have done when Ranith told him he was adopted." She looked aside at Sven, who was dangling from the ceiling in a very painful way. "Of course she was lying! That boy's a Moritani, genetically speaking at least..." She picked up a metal pole that had been heating in a brazier. The tip glowed red, and left black scorch marks as she trailed it across the bare flesh of Maverik's back. "And that's another thing. Aleksandr is a disgrace to my family, and almost a personal insult to myself. Why? Because I didn't kill him when I had the chance, stupid." She plunged the poker into something squishy. "So that's another issue, how to deal with Aleksandr? Which of course leads me to the whelp..." Putting the cooling poker back, she walked over to a rack of instruments.

"With his father's death, that one threatens to be an issue. You know he tried to lead the resistance here before he arrived on Arrakis? And now he has the temerity to send me a message..." She paused, putting a finger to her chin. "Needles or forks, needles or forks... Should I reply? Well yes, I should. And if that whelp tries to do anything, well..." she grinned. "I have several things that he does not. Foremost among these being family. Forks." She selected a two-pronged instrument. "I get the feeling that I should send Vail to take care of him, but right now I need Vail in the south." She debated taking out Maverik's eye, and decided against it. Instead, she stuck it through an open hole in his rabcage, and wiggled it about a bit. Maverik, for the first time in a week, screamed.

"Ah, how I missed that sound... So how do I take care of Aleks? How do I deal with a potential threat from Arrakis? Probably Arsunt... I've pretty much dealt with my problems here. ... I feel like I'm missing something..." She pulled the fork out and pressed a prong to her lip, humming gently. "What could it be, what could it be...? Ah yes, of course." She smiled grimly. "Atreides, how could I forget?" She tossed the fork over her shoulder, and set to injecting Sven with treacle.

"Atreides, Atreides. I hear from Caelen that they've been wandering around Arrakis. And moping about Caladan, of course. Still, the rumours we pick up from that place..." She paused. "I think it might be beneficial if we were to forstall any hasty decisions."

Message to Duke Paul Atreides:

I won't lie to you. When I ruled Arrakis I did my best to exterminate any threat to my rule. My loyalty was to myself rather than the Baron Harkonnen, and I hope that you would appreciate that when I offer a pact of non-agression. I stress that this is not an alliance, but an agreement not to attack each other.

Ekaterina Moritani.

Reply to Trebeis:

What kind of idiot would fire shells like that at an invading armada, hmm? Go make some more snadcastles you twit. Like sandcastles, but stupider.

E.M.

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Despite the aura of sadness around the residence, Atillian let out a little giggle when he read Ekaterina's response. "My word, I truely wonder if she beleives herself to be an adult." Smiling, he broadcasted the message around the city, along with a comment of his own. "Citizens of Arrakis, This is the half-wit that we face! She is no more intelligent then a common infant."

Looking out the window, he called for Qapmoc. "Yes sir?" The man inquired. "I have been thinking. Aleksandr may not like it, but I believe it would be wise to place two of your best men as his guard. We may never know if his sister is going to make an attempt to finish him, and there are reports of her having a bit of a presence in Arsunt. We are still yet to deal with that." Nodding, Atillian continued. "You have your orders, guards for Aleksandr and have Arsunt neutralised." The Nokker nodded and left. Drawing the family sword, he eyed the blade and thought Yes, I would simply love to meet that brat Moratini in person again. I indeed would relish such an event

Message to Ekaterina

Your immiturity simply amazes me. Never the less, the people of Arrakeen got a bit of a laugh from your stupidity. Thank you for the free amusement.

-Duke Atillian Trebeis.

P.S. I look forward to seeing you in the Landstraad!

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Many men strong, the former desert fighters of House Atreides had been forgotted, assumed to be wiped by the Harkonnens, or more likely by the desert.  The body of their former leader, the most skilled Swordsmaster in the known Universe Duncan Idaho, had been buried in the desert, in a marked location where it was preserved should they ever find a way back to Caladan.  A few had considered being Smugglers, but Smugglers were widely distrusted amongst the Atreides for being untrustworthy, and so most of the original force had remained, albeit in hiding with friendly Fremen sietchs.

The Desert Fighters were under the leadership of a fighter known only as Archie,  because as an orphan, he knew nothing of his parents heritage, and so had no second name.  He had been found wandering a Guild Heighliner by Atreides troops, who took an instant liking to his quick wit, and his determination to learn.  Just before he was posted to Arrakis, he was under consideration to be sent to Ginaz for Swordsmaster training.  He had been appointed by Duncan as his 2IC, and now had taken over control of a fearsome bunch of fighters, more than equal to the Imperial Sardaukar.

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Not many miles away, in an outlying cavern, the remainder of House Huahin resided.  Their leader, the Archduke, had been killed, and his daughter, Belinda, was the new ruler, at the tender age of 19.  A low strength signal was sent out to all in the area, requesting urgent medical help for many heat exhausted troops, as well as a more secure hiding place.

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"Sir, we are receiving a request for help from House Huahin."

Archie looked puzzled, "House Huahin... I remember them being allies of ours, but they were only a small House and have no home planet thanks to Harkonnen brutality...what are they doing here?"

"If I recall correctly, they fled here in exile to fight against the Harkonnens, but alas, with the Emperor's help, it all went wrong."

"Any enemies of the Harkonnen are allies of ours.  Send a small party out to find out if their claim is genuine."

"Yes Sir!"

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As the Huahinian Guard made his patrol, he was surprised to see a group of men standing right behind him.  Realising it would be in vain, he dropped his Las Gun and raised his hands in the air.

"You have nothing to fear from me my friend, pick your gun back up."

"Wh..wh..who are you?"  The Guard looked stunned, as he had not expecting to see anyone all day.

"Troops, formerly under the leadership of Atreides Swordsmaster Duncan Idaho."

The Guard plucked up his courage at last, "My house was always an ally of House Atreides, and we are glad for your assistance."

"As are we for your assistance"

"What do you need from us?"

"Company..." the Desert Fighter smiled, "there aren't many friendly people on this planet."

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Reply:

'Immaturity,' whelp, not 'immiturity.' 'Landstraad indeed... Back to school with you.

E.M.

Arsunt. A minor city north of Arrakeen, or so it had once been. Now plated with the greatest defensive materials known to the Imperium, the city is a virtual fortress. Nobody gets in or out without the proper clearance. Shields ready to go up at a minute's notice, and the generators packed deep underground in several locations. A curfew is enforced at night, and there are rumours of screams filtering from the city's gaol...

"Just rumours, nothing more." Caelen Larva said in his simpering tone, wiping his forehead with a white hankerchief. Behind him, the Ixian training mek lay still. "The prison contains prisoners, nothing more. The Lady's fun rooms were in her residence, and are empty." He sniffed, and held the cloth to his nose. Across the room, Orianna Lyasma leaned against the wall in silent wonder.

She was trying to work out how a tiny, mouse-like man like Caelen could possibly be the assassin and swordsman that he was. Caelen was small, barely five feet tall. Possibly even less. He was pudgy and palid, and his skin seemed to exude grease. How he could lift a sword, let alone handle it with such obvious finesse, was something of a mystery to the desert-trained Orianna.

She took pride in her abilities. They had been hard won, during a decade or more of living with the fremen. She even carried a crysknife... And what had it left her? A gaunt, wiry woman with blue eyes who could kill almost anyone she encountered. A reasonable tradeoff, she considered.

"The Lady has sent word that we are to prepare for a possible strike against Arrakeen." She said at last, putting her questions regarding Caelen aside. "She plans for an assassination, rather than an open attack."

"Againt whom?" Cealen asked quietly.

"As if it weren't obvious." Orianna muttered.

"Whom?" Caelen repeated.

"Everyone important." Orianna hissed, "Aleksandr, Atilian, Aleron, Qapmoc, everyone!" Caelen walked over to a mirror, and began to comb his hair.

"I see." He siad. "This will not be possible in a single strike."

"No, we will have to prioritise." Orianna muttered. "And that means taking out anyone who could prove to be a threat."

"Of course, of course..." Caelen murmured. "But in the meantime, we have more important matters to consider. Now that the Sardaukar have left us, it is important to have the city well defended."

* * *

With thirty percent of the planet's population slain, Athalon IV is cowed by Ekaterina's fearsome temper. Her next move is to levy a heavy tax per head on the remaining citizens. All those who cannot pay the tax have everything they own confiscated by the government, and are sent to forced labour camps or factories to produce trade goods and equipment. On the high-powered merchants can afford the tax, and they are given special allowance in most cases anyway. As a result, over the next few weeks ninety percent of the remaining population will become slaves, owned either by Ekaterina or those wealthy enough to purchase them from her. Many acts of revenge are noted, such as men buying their old enemies and giving them the most menial tasks. People become property. Those that resist, and there are surprisingly few, are punished.

During this time, there is a vast increase in applicants to the military. Members of the Athalon armed forces are exempt from all but the lightest taxes, and gain special privileges for their status. Confiscated houses and estates are granted to many, several maintained by complimentary slave labour. The military are paid well, and as a result they do their job.

At Ekaterina's order, a new force is created to control the massive slave population. They are named the Guardians, and even in their first few days they are gathering strength. The foremen of the Guardians are recruited mostly from the prison population, and are placed under the command of Danaus Cassius. Brutish, thug-like men and women, they are the overseers and controllers of the pits and factories. Armed with inkvine whips ordered from Giedi Prime, they are Trebesians all; ruthlessly subduing their fellows. The upper echelons of the Guardians are especially recruited, from doctors, lawyers, chemists, or anyone with a sufficient degree of intelligence and sadism. Here are the organisers, the movers and shifters. Here are the people who create and moniter the breeding pens, who indoctrinate the slaves into loyalty and brainwashed submissiveness. Some sign up to protect themselves and their families, others through simple fear. Some enjoy this new social order, and take malicious delight in their newfound power.

Between them, the Military, Sepkul and Guardians are turning Athalon IV into a slave world.

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OOC:I am sorry I do not use a spell checker.  :P

Striding into Atillian's Office. Qapmoc and several more Nokker strode into the room. Looking slightly stressed, the Ducial Guard's leader slapped a roll of schematics and maps on the desk and said angrily "I would of assumed that the damn Corrino would of had cleared out the rest of their little fortress as they left. However, they obviously deemed it unneccisary!" Shocked at the men's abrupt entrance and Qapmoc's outburst. Atillian Quickly scanned the papers and said "These defenses, if activated would be nearly impervious to anything short of Atomics or a Las-beam. Rediculous, this is our planet for the time being and I will not have this obvious attempt of that Moratini brat to maintain a presence here succead. I want the city occupied. 10,000 men and 1,000 Ornithopters along with De-meks. If there is any sign of resistance, which  should not appear bearing in mind the compleate withdrawl of Harkonnen and Imperial forces... Set off stoneburners around the perimeter. The Sheilds can't protect whoever is inside from the heat and concussive force of the blasts." Saluting and turning, Qapmoq nodded to the men surrounding him and marched off, trailed by three Nokker Guardsman. Turning to the Giant of a man, Ducial Commander Senhica, formerly of the WTF and his companion, newly promoted Atfer Commander Flanken  He said "Senhica, organise the transportation of the De-meks and Atomics. Three Assault Frigates should be appropriate. Flanken, Gather the men and Ornithopters. We need 1000 Subfers and ten Wings of men and Ornithopters ready to depart in an hour. Make sure everything is done quietly as well. We don't need any hostiles knowing of our intent prematurely."

"What of you, sir?" Senhica inquired.

"I, accompanied by twenty of our Eleit Ducial units shall attempt to hunt down Ekaterina's agents. We have only rumours from the city, but that is enough to pin-point the problem."

Being buffeted by strong desert winds a Mark II Ornithopter, surrounded by over a thousand more craft, contained a lowly soldier, newly recruited and trained. He thought to himself Is this not a bit heavy handed for our ruler? What happened to the restraint formerly shown by the Trebesian family? But these were rediculous thoughts. A possible threat to the well being of the planet resided within those walls. No response was too heavy handed.

Several hours later, the city of Arsunt was surrounded by a bristling line of men and Meks. Shadows danced over the City and men surrounding it as a thousand aircraft circled, like Hawks ready to strike.

Picking up a Transmitter, Qapmoq boomed "This is Qapmoq, commander of the Trebesian military and Ducial guard. We are here to either peacefully occupy the city and or purge it of enemy prescence. If we are not allowed peaceful entrance, and the sheilds are raised... We shall preassure cook the entire city with Atomics. I suggest cooperation." The message was heard all through the city. Anyone who had a reciever recieved the message. A Trebesian Subfer of 100 men advanced towards the gates...

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OOC: Neither do I. :P

The large, imposing gates of the city open ponderously outwards, revealing a single young woman. She stumbles forward, blinking in the light. Squinting ahead, she is seen to make out the advancing forces. As the gates close behind her, she holds up her arms to show that she is harmless. It is clear to all that she has no hands. She trips, and falls forward onto her front. The gates of Arsunt slide protective plasteel shielding back into place.

The Trebesians continue to advance. Pulling herself up from the ground, the woman takes a moment to relocate them. Hesitantly, as though frightened, she begins to make her way away from the city.

"It's a trap." Qapmoq muttered, glaring at the barefooted woman through a pair of oil lenses.

"Not necessarily." Flanken replied, examining the same scene.

"Why else would that city send out a maimed woman?" Qapmoq asked angrily, taking his lenses away and gesturing toward the dark hulk that was Arsunt.

"To carry a message." Flanken replied, still watching the woman. "She has a message cylinder around her neck, don't you think that's worth noting?" Surprised, Qapmoq replaced his lenses.

"Hmph." He grunted. "Alright, have the subfer surround her. Utmost caution."

Already, the men in the subfer had realised that something was wrong with the woman. She did not shout, or make any gestures short of holding up her poorly-healed stumps. Her walking was erratic, stumbling to one side and then veering to the other. As they got closer, it became obvious that she was heavily drugged. The unit split into two halves, circling the woman, treating her as a potential threat. She responded by throwing open her arms and smiling widely. The action reveal, as some had suspected, that she had no tongue.

Following orders, two men seperated from the group and moved forward, weapons at the ready. The woman did not seem to appreciate their attire, and dribbled onto the sand. As they closed in, she merely tipped her head to one side. She made no move to resist as the message cylinder was taken from around her neck.

"Dictate the message." The orders crackled through to the men. One of them snapped open the cylinder, withdrawing the message inside.

"This city is the official embassy of Great House Moritani on Arrakis." He read slowly. "As such it is legally Grumman soil, or sand, and uninvited entry is prohibited. House Harkonnen has pulled out, but Arsunt is not defenceless. We remind House Trebeis that the use of atomics to force surrender is forbidden by the Great Convention. House B'ganne suffered the consequences of flaunting this noble statute; continuation in this vein will certainly ensure that House Trebeis suffers the same fate."

"Furthermore," he went on, "we remind the Trebesians that Arsunt is still very much a city, not a military base. It has many thousands of innocent citizens, all of whom will be in jeopardy should stoneburners be detonated. We suggest retreat." He turned the message over. "Wait, there's more on the other side. It says... 'Or else.' Or else what?"

* * *

"Detonate." Wordsworth ordered. He made the word last three seconds. In front of him, a technician pressed a button. Wordworth peered at the viewscreen. There was a slight delay... and then the woman exploded. Jagged shrapnel, sharp pieces of plasteel concealed beneath her clothing, flew in all directions. The surrounding men, those who were not engulfed by the explosion or the flames, were heavily hit by the razor missiles. Confused and disorientated, the unit blundered in the smoke for several seconds.

"Fire." The Elite Guard continued. The command was relayed to the gates, where a hail of missiles and lasgun shots were directed at the wounded unit. The Trebesians quickly organised a retreat, leaving the dead behind.

"Cease fire. Up shields." Both orders were carried out, and the plasteel shell of Arsunt was at once surrounded by a shimmering protective field. Wordsworth said nothing, but stared at the viewscreen.

* * *

"How many are there?" Caelen asked calmly, rubbing his sweaty hands together. Orianna sat opposite him, in a small antechamber of the fortress-barracks. She adjusted her stillsuit around her midriff.

"Just under ten thousand fighters, at the last count." She said distractedly, checking her weapons. "And here?"

"No Moritani personell, just co-opted citizens and leftover Harkonnens. About one thousand in all."

"Good thing you have me then." Orianna muttered.

"What are you going to do?" Caelen ignored the implication.

"Just what they did in Tsimpo. But better." Orianna told him, folding her hair back. "The fremen will take care of the invaders. You just deal with those giant mek things."

"And if they make good their atomics threat?" Caelen asked casually.

"I can find my way to safety." Orianna dismissed the issue. 'And I'm almost certain that you can too, you greasy ball of mucus.' She thought to herself. Finalising her stillsuit, she made for the door. "Just hold them out until I can get everything organised, Caelen."

"With pleasure, Orianna." The small man said to her retreating back.

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Shaking his head sadly, Qapmoq muttered "The laws of the great convention are quite useless if none are alive to prove that they have been broken." Nodding to a technical Officer, he gave the order.

Almost in perfect unison, half the Ornithopters quickly descended and landed. The entire line of Trebeis suddenly dissipated as the men jumped from their posistions and retreated to the awaiting Mark IIs. Meks thundered up the ramps of the Assault Frigates and the entire mass of aircraft launched up and away. Left in their place was a massive circle of trenches and holes, and further in was a circle of periodically placed crates. A small chrono on each slowly ticked down.

005

004

003

002

001

000 "Beep!"

A white hot concussive blast erupted toward the city as the Weapons detonated in unison. The Cooncussive blast was so extream that several Trebeis Ornithopters, trailing behind the rest were blown to bits. After a few moments, the sheild generators within the city finally shut down. The city was left a smoldering, blackened splotch on the rock. The Sands for a mile around had been turned to glass.

Standing on the crest of a Sand Dune, Orianna stared grimly at the destruction and quickly walked back to the rock outcropping jutting from the dune.

OOC: I assume that when you dictated the rules, you ment that weapons could only kill 200 {i]Each. Was I correct?

"Senhica." Qapmoc said, gesturing for the giant. Pointing down at the wreckage of the city, he said "That, is why the Trebeis have never used sheilds to protect an entire city. You never know when someone is going to have the balls to do that or fire a las-gun at the damn thing." Nodding, Senhica turned to look back out the view-port No survivors to testify against us, and since we used stoneburners, no evidence of that type of weapon being used. This will all be filed as a routiene supression of a quarallous city. Their routenue of craft flying off, Flanken wondered who would explain the to the public.

"Citizens of Arrakis! As you know, Arsunt has long been the last refuge of those who would de-stabalise our way of life. This shall no longer be the case." Atillian said, standing on a balcony overhanging a city square. "Today, ten thousand of our men went to peacefully occupy the city and see that all enemy were removed. However, when a Subfer of our Troopers approached the gates. They were tricked and mowed down. Those poor men were our Brothers, Fathers, Uncles, Sisters, Mothers, Aunts.... And they were killed by a cowardly enemy. So we retaliated with the full power of our Airforce. Before the enemy could raise the sheilds, we commenced a full-scale bombardment of the city with high-yeild bombs and missiles. The city is no more a threat, Nor a city at all. Thankfully the populace was small and mostly Harkonnen Symphasisors." With the mention of 'Harkonnen' a loud hiss erupted from the crowd. "Due to the flight of most of the population during the repression of the city by Ekaterina." Again, the crowd hissed. Drawing and raising the Trebesian family Sword, he continued "We have fought, and we have vanquished our Foe! This is due to the dedication of our Army, and all of you!" He said, pointing at the crowd. With this, ten thousand men marched in. All were still in full battle dress. Clomping past the people of Arrakeen in lock step, quite noticable to the crowd were the slightly darker faces of the natives. Then, five hundred Mark II's screeched overhead and ten De-meks shuddered by. It was a military spectical the Emperor would of shed a tear for. Once more raising his sword, Atillian boomed "Long live the fighters! Arrakis no longer be an object, tossed from house to house by the Corrino!" The Crowd let out a deafening cheer.

"Well, that was quite a spectical." Qapmoc said. "I've never seen somene bend peoples emotions like that before. The Recruitment centers are flooded."

"Thats what I hoped." Atillian said, while seeming to sink deeper in his chair. The event had wiped out the last of his energy resurves- which he had been running on for the past week. "We have truely made something special out of a bad thing." {i] I wonder how long it will take for the witch to hear of this. He shuddered to think of what she might do to Athalon's Population in retaliation.

Time until compleation of Military Production Facilitys. -90% at 5% per turn.

Weapon production. -compleate.

Ornithopter Production. (1000) -compleate.

New recruit training. (50,000) -compleate.

Nokker Graduation (5,000) -compleate.

New recruits (15,000 with more signing up) Training at 500 per turn.

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OOC: I assume that when you dictated the rules, you ment that weapons could only kill 200 {i]Each. Was I correct?

Well... technically yes, in that the wording of the rule implies that a single weapon with a casualty number of more than two hundred is forbidden. The point of the rule, on the other hand, is to prevent mass deaths by nuclear, chemical or biological means (In the last thread I had the Ixians fashion Ekaterina a virulent plague with an especially high casualty rate, made to survive only the particular enviroment of Arrakis. You have no idea how much I've been wanting to use it). This is a sticky situation, and I'm prepared to let it go only because it is more or less the result I anticipated anyway, albeit taking a far shorter time. I do feel that I should point out that the shields were actually up at the end of my post, and that landing ornithopters on them would have been a tad silly.

So yeah, I'm not happy with this, but I'll let it go.

"He was quite incorrect, there were hardly any Harkonnen sympathisers left in Arsunt. Not that anyone will be listening to me." Orianna shrugged, aware of the fact that her companions would probably rather not be listening to her either. "There were the several thousands of citizens, all quite subdued and terrified of course. They certainly had no fondness for Harkonnen, or Moritani. Then there was you lot, who were only there because of a man who is now dead."

"Watch your tongue, kalbat." One of the men growled. Orianna ignored him, concentrating on her musings.

"And it was by no means a small population. After all, we had a lockdown, didn't we? And of course I don't think there will be a single family on the planet who didn't have a relative of some sort in the city. If there were no hypocracy on this world, there would be a public outcry. As it is, the people are too dim to notice when their grandmother dies, so distracted they are by flashy uniforms and a shiny sword." She sniffed. "And now you've lost about nine thousand fighters. Dear dear, and your leader too."

"You will speak no ill of Seth Dinsar." Another fremen warned.

"You wouldn't say that if you knew the truth about him." Orianna replied, with a nod to the speaker.

"I will hear none of your lies." The man turned away.

"You will, though you might not want to." Orianna continued quickly, "He sabotaged the Council of Naibs, for starters. He gave the co-ordinates to the Huahin so that she would wipe out his rivals for him. He also bargained for a face dancer, didn't that strike you as odd?"

"Your tongue is sullied by the words you utter, as it has ever been." The first speaker hissed. "We will believe no more of your falsehood, treacherous whore. Now that our leader is no more, the thing will be killed. Our alliance with your mistress is no more."

"I think you will find that Evander has more up its sleeves than you might suspect." Orianna said smugly, though even as she did so she noticed yet another rip in her stillsuit. "And you are free to disbelieve me of course. I am, as has been recited so many tedious times, a traitor to everything you stand for, and still am. But one has to wonder, how could anyone have known those exact co-ordinates? They were top-secret, even to your own people. And to use such extreme measures on what appeared to be a small camp..."

"Enough!" One of the men started forward, one hand on the hilt of his knife. "I will not draw this blade but to kill you, traitoress."

"Sit down, Eyun, and stop bluffing. We both know that I am capable of slaying you." Orianna dismissed the man. "On to more important matters. As I am sure you will be overjoyed to hear, I am not leaving the planet." A dark silence greeted this announcement. "You never know when someone like me will come in handy. And call me suspicious, but I just don't trust you people any more. You will escort me to Tsimpo. From there I can make my own arrangements."

"There is nothing for you here. You should leave." A new member of the party spoke up for the first time.

"I have an employer still." Orianna replied. "And I have a few loose ends to wrap up. Take me to Tsimpo."

* * *

"Hmmmm." The man known as Wordsworth droned, peered at the cracked and non-functional viewscreen. His heavy-lidded eyes blinked slowly, and he stood upright once more. The sagging ceiling now brushed the top of his balding head, and he made a note to support it later. Looking down, as slowly as ever, he spent several seconds examining the hilt of his sword, protruding from the back of the technician who had manned this console. He carefully withdrew the blade, and set to cleaning it.

In front of him, the bodies of three technicians were slumped over their posts, bleeding into defunct equipment. All had been stabbed from behind. Elsewhere in the complex, a good forty or so other bodies could be found in similar circumstances, though most of them had actually died in falling masonry. Wordsworth had been most thorough. He always was. The only survivor of his purge stood hesitantly at the door, cringing.

His name, apparantly, was Kostya. A young soldier, who had been relieving himself when the blast had shattered the buildings above and killed almost all of his comrades. He was, of all the personell in the base, the only one to have suffered no injuries at all. It was for this sole reason that Wordsworth had spared him, and this had been made more than clear.

"You, aaare. Uuusefull tooo me, onnly aaass. Lonnggg. Aas youu aarrre, phyyysicalyy... capabllle." The stick-like fighter had droned, having just killed a man who had become pinned under a collapsed section of the roof. Kostya did not yet know what his purpose was - he suspected it was to be killed later, more slowly - and he trembled in the presence of the unassuming assassin.

Wordsworth was not much to look at. A tall, sallow-skinned man with a freakishly long face, he wore an expression of permanent dreary disinterest, his heavy eyelids only occasionally taking a minute to slide down his eyeballs and back up again. He did everything slowly. He moved slowly, he spoke slowly. He thought slowly. And yet somehow, his long, slow strides kept him apace with Kostya's own, more frantic steps. His thinking, despite the time it took to enunciate, was analytical and accurate. And when he fought, despite the slow, curving movements of his dance-like technique, he could amazingly deflect every strike. His hair was still black with no traces of grey, but his bald top indicated that he was not as young as he used to be. Indeed, his true age was very difficult to guess.

And now he was cleaning his sword, after systematically killing all but one of the people under his command...

"Yyoouu willl... maaiintaaainn the, baackup. Generrratooors." Kostya jumped at the command from the assassin. "O-o-once this. Baaase iis, fuunctionnnall oonncce. Morre. Yoouu wwiilll traaansfer... aall offf the boddies to the. Freeeezers. Wwe shall. Surrvive. Aand be fouund." He sheathed his sword. The implications were more than clear.

The backup generators, though not capable of powering the city's shields, were there for just this sort of emergency. Concealed deep underground in the rock, the complex was built to withstand a siege. Now, with all of the exits blocked by several tonnes of rock and debris, it would have to for some time. And if Kostya didn't prove to be useful, he knew exactly what his fate would be. He shuddered to think of the fates that the bodies in the freezers would, eventually, meet.

Wordsworth, for his part, was preparing for a forseeable future of writing his autobiography.

* * *

'How very, very undignified.' Caelen Larva thought to himself. The mask of pain having long since faded into vague numbness, the assassin was rather put out to discover that he was unable to move his arms. Or his legs. In fact, his body was completely non-functional. 'Thank goodness I thought to close my eyes before dying, it's so much more comfortable' Caelen thought to himself. He tried to snigger, but all that emerged was a weak rasp. Ah, so the lungs were giving out first. Made sense. Or did not? Caelen could tell that he was not thinking as clearly as he should be, but the matter did not seem important.

He could not see, but that was because he had his eye closed. Perfect sense. He didn't really want to open them. He'd only have to see rock, or ash, or nothing at all, and that would be terrible. Best to remain blissfully ignorant. He was also aware that he could not hear anything, though he could sense distant vibrations, as of heavy footsteps on loose rocks. He was rather pleased with that analogy, and made a note to write it down once he regained the use of his hands.

Ah yes, his hands. He was pretty certain that one of them had been crushed beyond all recognition, as the pain had exploded there second, after his head. He was still getting dull pain from that area, which probably indicated that it was healing too slowly.  Caelen made another note to get a replacement, and then realised that he had forgotten what the first note had been. The thought upset him, and he spent a brief few moments raging against the universe in general, letting out all the stress, fury and passion that he had kept bottled up for most of his lifetime. Then, having exhausted the last of his body's draining energy, Caelen Larva experienced a moment of utter bliss where he was convined that everything was right, and the universe had listened. His last thought an ecstatic one, he finally slipped into a coma, and died a few minutes later.

* * *

Ekaterina's response, when she hears of this, will be written in the next post. As it is, I stayed up until 4am to write this, so you'd better appreciate it!

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Relnev walked among the production floors of a Research and Development plant not too far from the Council building from which Relnev governed.  Both constructs were a far cry from the palace, but Relnev was content; he had spent a lot of time at Outpost 9 on Arrakis, and this could be considered luxury in comparison.

Construction machinery sparked and whirred away on the production lines below, with several, seemingly random open areas dotted around the factory floor, where various researchers and scientists tinkered with a new device.

More than likely to be for military use Relnev mused.  After hearing of the brutal efficiency with which Ekaterina had carried out her threat, there was no doubt in his mind about the actions that needed to be taken.

"Genocide on a planetery level," he had said in the meeting a few hours ago.  "Never before has someone skipped so glibly along the lines drawn by the Great Convention."

It was then that the reports from Arrakis had come in.

"I wouldn't be so sure, sir." Eemins had said, removing a printout from a slit in the meeting room wall.  The other council members waited in silence while Relnev read the summarised report.

"Now our allies are killing civilians?" he had said.  The council had expected outrage at the total obliteration of Arsunt, despite the links it had with House Moritani; there were, after all, innocent people killed.

"The reports indicate that the entire city was bombed to ashes," Eemins elaborated.  "Though one would think that Arsunt's defences were better than that."

"It is of little consequence how it happened, Eemins," Relnev had said.  "The point is, what does the Emperor plan to do about Houses Moritani and Trebeis?  With any luck, we can try and get the Imperial forces to easy on Aleksandr and Atilian, and..."

"The Emperor is doing nothing, sir." Eemins interrupted, silencing Relnev.  It was soon after that he had ordered military production to be increased.

A buzzer sounding across the factory brought Relnev back to the present; it seemed as though one of the new solider equipment prototypes was ready for testing.  Sure enough, a crane began to move across the ceiling towards the blinking red light that identified the source of the noise.  Peering over the balcony, Relnev identified the prototype in question to be one of the several models of "jetpack" they were testing.  Highly manouverable and easy to master; those were the requirements.  With the finest technology in the Imperium, there was no doubting that these criteria would be met.

The entire factory building was built in close proximity to the Council headquarters for a reason; here was the place where all of the really important projects were being developed.  Most of the 'less important' projects - meaning non-military - were being outsourced to other production centres.  This one (referred to simply as 'The Plant') was being annexed by military specialists, with all of Ix's greatest minds being drafted into making the most efficient weapons, enhancements and defences possible.

Several hours later, and Relnev had decided to have his dinner in the cafeteria at The Plant.  This drew several strange looks from many of the workers; even the highest ranking researchers were inclined to raise an eyebrow.  Eemins walked in and sat down across the table from the Chancellor.

"Keeping an eye on things, are we?" Eemins asked, hoping that the Chancellor was in the mood for some informal conversation.

"Something like that," Relnev replied.  "The Great Convention isn't the bastion of defence it used to be."

"Neither of the two Houses have actually broken the Convention, sir," Eemins pointed out, taking a bowl of fruit from a passing cafeteria food cart as it stopped near their table.

"You know as well as I that this will not be the case for long," Relnev grumbled.  "And what then?  Will the Emperor continue to procrastinate and make excuses, while the Imperium descends into chaos?"

"We are far from chaos, sir," Eemins said, chewing on a local delicacy.

"Are we, Eemins?" the Chancellor replied.  "What began with the betrayal of House Atreides on Arrakis has grown, like a vast, festering wound!  Can you not see where this is leading to?"

"I am not blessed with prescience, Chancellor," Eemins jested, trying to cheer his superior up.

"Cursed, you mean," Relnev said.

"Sorry?"

"Never mind."

Message to All Houses Major:

The Ix, being dissatisfied with the recent actions of the Emperor, have decided that complacency towards the growing threat of House Moritani can no longer be accepted on our part.  As such, we formally declare a cease of all supplies of Ixian equipment, maintenance, scientists and other services provided by us, to House Moritani, and any and all Houses or bodies found to be supporting them.

Further to this, we shall be offering a 10% discount on said products and services to any and all Houses or bodies who openly declare an alliance with the Ix.  This declaration, of course, will be reciprocated in kind.  For further information, please feel free to contact me, or one of my aides.

Chanceller Relnev of the Ixian Council.

Message to House Trebeis:

[hide]While we cannot ignore or condone the action of destroying Arsunt, we recognise that there was a need for such an event.  There may have been a better resolution, but the situation in the Imperium has changed.  I trust you have received my other message; the one sent to all Houses?  This, of course, only applies to you in the latter instance; though due to our strong ties, we are offering a discount of 40% on the conditions that you openly declare an alliance with us, and contact us before embarking on any massive military action (like Arsunt).

I await your favourable reply.

Chancellor Relnev of the Ixian Council.[/hide]

Message to House Atreides:

[hide]Due to the abominable actions of House Harkonnen towards yourselves, the Ix are prepared to offer an increased discount of 20%, should you agree to the terms set out in the previously broadcast message.  I feel an alliance of our forces would be beneficial, and serve as a strong reminder of the decency that still lives on in the Imperium.

Regards,

Chancellor Relnev of the Ixian Council.[/hide]

Message to Ekaterina Moritani:

[hide]Let's play a game, shall we?  I've made the first move... let's see that Moritani cunning of yours give me more reason to rally the Imperium against you and your House.

Chancellor Relnev of the Ixian Council.[/hide]

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OOC: The sheilds were activated around the city. The men that the 'Thopters landed to pick up were in the desert surrounding the city.  :P

"These new men are amazingly tough!" Said Qapmoc, walking among the ranks of new men. "And so many!" Thankfully, the equipment crisis had been aborted as the new Production Facilities had been compleated. "They certainly seem to enjoy their new status as well." Senhica said "They have been strutting around town in their new Trebesian regalia, they love the transition from rags to military  Finery."

"Indeed" Qapmoc replied, looking down a list of statistics. The display had spurred great growth in the amount of enlistments. People all over the planet had responded to the holos of the spectical by rushing to the Trebesian Stronghold of Arrakeen and joining up. Appearantly the notion of a freed Arakkis apealed greatly to the tired, city dwellers. Of course, new circumstance required new innovation. To improve the training regiment, a system was initiated. A so to speak "Trickle down" regiment. The Ducial Guard was trained by the Veteren Nokker Guardsman and Ginaz sword masters and in turn trained the Regular army men. It worked perfectly.

The time ticked by until the Funeral. Oddly, aleksandr had remained locked up in his quarters. No one to leave him company except the Elete Ducial Guardsman and his assistant. Atillian was worried about him.

Once again standing upon his raised Balcony, Atillian boomed "Citizens of Arrakis!" quickly, a small gathering appeared. "We have furthered ourselves once more! We are now to be official allies of the Ixians and honerable House Atreides!" The people replied with a resounding cheer.

Time until compleation of Military Production Facilitys. -Compleate.

Weapon and sheild production. -0% at 10% per turn due to new facilities.

New recruits (15,000 + 10,000 with more signing up) Training at 5000 per turn due to new methods.

Message to Relnev.

[hide]We agree to your terms and have made an official anouncement to the population of Arrakis. News will spread from there.

Taking advantage of your offer, we wish to contract a joint project for the construction of a superior Defense from orbiting enemys. We now rely only upon several of our Anti-orbital Cannons and several thousand Assault Frigates. We need something better. We also are in need of better production methods for construction of our De-meks. This however is a more sensitive project. If you and Eamins agree to attend the funeral of my father, said projects and pricing can be discussed in greater detail.

Thank you for your time, Duke Atillian Trebeis.[/hide]

Message to Seth Dinsdar.

[hide] despite your prior betrayels, I must suggest a truce between us. We have no intent to stay upon Arrakis, only until we regain control of our home. Then we will leave control of the planet to the citizen of Arrakis.

Duke Trebeis.

P.S. No matter what you thought, my father did respect you and your people.[/hide]

Message to Ekaterina.

[hide] And the peaces begin to fall into place. Your last refuge on Arrakis has been annhialated. I hope you enjoy the reports that will surely trickle in from your little party of assasins- and yes, I know about them. Intel reports that only one survived. That is just the beginning of my revenge for what you have done. It will not end until I personally have killed you.

Enjoy your time alive, Moritaini Brat for it shall soon end.

-Duke Atillian Trebeis of Arrakis.[/hide]

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"Eh, we'll have have to make do for the time being." Ekaterina shrugged, dismissing the Ixian message. "Richese will still service our technological needs at almost the same standard, and somewhat cheaper too. Besides, we still have the facilities here on Athalon. Even in this very city."

"There is, something else..." Rachael said hesitantly. Frowning, Ekaterina turned from her inspection of the chambers below her office. Rachael never allowed emotion to enter her voice. That she had faltered...

"What is it? Tell me!" She snapped, even more disturbed to see that her advisor was looking worried, to the point of fear. In her hand she held a roll of spice paper. "A message from Arrakis?"

"From Arsunt." Rachael nodded, still holding the paper at her side. Ekaterina waited for a split second.

"Well?" She asked, waving her hand impatiently. "If it's bad news get to it! Hurry up!"

"Ah, M'lady, you recall the time you suggested that Dune and Douglas restrain you if you were every angry enough to attack one of us?"

"This cannot be such a time."

"I believe it is. Mentat judgement."

"I-" Ekaterina paused. Weighing up the data from Rachael's reaction to the message, her own theories as to what it could contain, and Rachael's own certainty, she came to a decision. "Very well. Boys!" She snapped her fingers in the direction of her two personal bodyguards, Dune and Douglas Trilu. The twins, without hesitation, made their way over from the door of the room. Each took hold of one of Ekaterina's shoulders, and one of her arms. At the same time, they locked one leg each around her own. Not immobilised, but effectively prevented from attacking anyone, Ekaterina nodded to Rachael.

"To Lady Moritani." The mentat-ish woman began slowly. "Arsunt destroyed by low-yield atomics of House Trebeis. Caelen and Wordsworth both dead. Several hundred survivors, no functional group. I have gone to ground in Tsimpo awaiting further orders. Arsunt base is no more. O." Rachael looked up hesitantly. "Orianna survived." She added. She was disturbed to note that her mistress had allowed her head to fall forward, and her face was now hidden behind her dark hair. She was breathing heavily. "M'lady?"

"Bring me a slave." Ekaterina's voice hissed from beneath her hair. "A young man, bring him to me now!"

* * *

"I had not... expected such a move." Aleksandr sighed into his spice coffee, causing hot cinnamon smells to waft up his nose. He grasped the mug in both hands, looking out at the sunset. It was already growing cold in the night, and he shivered slightly. Coming out onto the balcony to join him, Aleron draped a blanket around Aleksandr's shoulders. The new Trebesian smiled gratefully, and shuffled over to make room for Aleron to sit next to him.

"What were you saying?" Aleron asked, inhaling his own coffee.

"It's not what I said, but what I think that worries me." Aleksandr muttered. He took a sip of his coffee. "I understand the need for Arsunt to be retaken, with its startport it would be all too easy for Ekaterina to smuggle her assassins onto the planet. But to take such measures, with thousands of civilians still inside the city..."

"You were reading the messages." Aleron stated.

"How could I not? Our office is flooded with them!" Aleksandr cried. Reaching into his pocket, he withdrew a scrap of spice paper. "See this one? It's from a girl called Miar. Her parents spent all their savings to smuggle her out of Arsunt when things got bad. They couldn't afford to go themselves. She's living with an aunt in the Central District now. Did you see what she wrote? 'My mummy and daddy were in the city you blew up. I hate you.' Do you know how that make me feel?" He stared at the letter, tears forming in his mismatched eyes. "She's only four years old! And she hates us! We've ruined her life! That's the kind of thing that Ek- Ek-" He started to choke on the sobs, and laid his coffee aside as he coughed heavily. Aleron took the letter from his unresisting hand, and patted him on the back gently. Gradually the coughs faded into quiet sobs. A sound behind them made Aleron turn his head suddenly. One of the Elite Guard was leaning through the doorway to the office beyond.

"Everything alright sir?" He asked in a low voice. Aleron nodded, and the man withdrew. Aleron turned back.

"It wasn't your fault, you know that." He said comfortingly, though he knew it would do little good.

"It might as well have been." Aleksandr said ruefully, sniffing. "That's not all either, not by a long way. I've read brothers who lost sisters, mothers who lost sons, I thought I'd left all this behind!" He shouted at the faint stars ahead.

"Shh, calm down." Aleron said quietly. He put his arm around Aleksandr's shoulders, holding him close while at the same time preventing further outbursts. Aleks, for his part, rested his head on Aleron's shoulder, still looking out at the shield wall, where the last of the sun's rays were fading.

"And as if that wasn't enough," he went on in a quieter voice, "there are the congratulatory messages. 'Nice job,' 'well done,' 'they got what they deserved,' 'Harkonnen scum,' how can these people celebrate such an event?" This was an obvious reference to the grand parade that Atilian had organised following the bombing. Aleron found himself stuck for a reply.

"..." He managed.

"Thounds of people, indiscriminantly slaughtered..." Aleksandr whispered. "I know that Arsunt was a threat, but does the end really justify the means? Was it worth it?" Aleron let the silence stretch as he mulled over his reply.

"You told me once that you would let a thousand murderers go free before executing one innocent man." He said at last, pulling his own blanket tighter around him. "You know that your sister is one of the greatest forces of harm in the Imperium, but when you had the chance you didn't kill her because she is your family. For right or wrong, your principles are noble and well-intentioned, and that can never be a bad thing. You are right to feel regret over the destruction."

* * *

The screams had stopped some time ago, but still Rachael waited nervously outside the door to her mistress' meeting room. Normally unflappable, the mysterious woman was biting her lip in unconscious worry, normally unthinkable. Dune and Douglas were as silent as ever, waiting one on either side of the door. They had obeyed their mistress' commands without question. Now they waited.

"Enter!" Ekaterina's voice came from the rooms beyond. Rachael was hesitant, but the twins lost no time in opening the door and quickly moving into the room. Rachael followed them slowly.

The chamber was literally plastered in flesh. The slave that had been left in the room with Ekaterina was, depending on your definition, either nowhere or everywhere to be seen. The windows and walls were not just splattered with blood, they were covered in it. Fragments of bone stuck to various parts of the room, and there wasn't a single whole organ to be seen. The room reeked of fresh blood, and in the middle of it stood Ekaterina. Drenched in gore from head to foot, she stood shivering in the centre of the devastation.

'With her bare hands...' Rachael noted. It was the first time she had ever seen her mistress act in such a way. Not even when she had lost Arrakis had she been so fearsome.

"Our reply to this act will come in time." Ekaterina said, her voice still trembling with the adrenalin in her blood. "In the meantime, we are to prepare. I have little doubt that the whelp will make a move on me in the not too distant future. ... What's that?" She moved a bloody lock of hair from her face to glare at another message cyliner in Rachael's hands.

"Ah... a message from the whelp." Rachael replied. Ekaterina paused, seeming to think again.

"Give it here." She said at last, stretching her hand for the message. Rachael complied, withdrawing quickly as her mistress snatched the cylinder from her. Ekaterina snapped the seal, and unfurled the paper. She glanced over it.

"Bring me another slave." She hissed.

* * *

Some time later, a freshly bathed and calmed Ekaterina stood before a recording device. Clever use of mkaeup concealed the purple blotches on her face where blood vessels had burst, and she held a poker-straight expression as she addressed the lens.

"Governments of the Imperium." She stated formally. "Landsraad members and all factions, greetings. I, Ekaterina Moritani, make formal complaint against House Trebeis."

"Trebesian forces recently attacked and razed the Moritani embassy on Arrakis. As this embassy was officially Grumman soil, this is an act of war by the Trebesians. Not only was this act illegal and indefensible, but it was carried out with low yield atomics known as stoneburners. The evidence around the city will give clear indication of this, my sources inform me that the sand was turned to glass in the heat. The Trebesians were informed to leave the embassy alone, they clearly refused."

"I know that, despite my word, there will be those who doubt the authenticity of my claims. After all, it is well known that during my tenure on Arrakis I used explosives to destroy the city of Arrakeen. I am sure that rumours are already circulating of a horde of explosives in my embassy. In answer to that, I quote a message recieved from the Trebesian leader shortly after this disgusting breach of the law:

'And the peaces begin to fall into place. Your last refuge on Arrakis has been annhialated. I hope you enjoy the reports that will surely trickle in from your spies. Intel reports that only one survived. That is just the beginning of my revenge for what you have done. It will not end until I personally have killed you.

Enjoy your time alive, Moritaini Brat for it shall soon end.

-Duke Atillian Trebeis of Arrakis.'

"It is signed with the Duke's personal seal, there is no doubt of the message's authenticity. Not only does this admit to responsibility for the destruction of the embassy, but it also makes a personal threat on my life. This is not how official engagements are to be played, and I formally demand apology from House Trebeis and a payment of one hundred solaris per casualty of the unprovoked attack."

* * *

Message to House Atreides:

[hide]I have hit upon a concept that I believe we will both find agreeable. You have access to Ixian wares at far reduced prices, and you are also midway through a great military expansion, from what I can see. I have a proposition to make to you. Athalon is capable of producing weaponry and defences, but with Ixian aid, House Atreides will be far superior. This planet is, however, extremely rich in raw materials such as iron, coal, and various fuel sources. So; I wish to enter a trade deal where we supply raw materials to House Atreides to speed your buildup. In return, you make available to us the Ixian technology and some percentage of the goods you produce, namely weaponry and ships. I am prepared to negotiate terms and conditions, if you wish.

Singerely, E.M.

Postscript: One would wonder what such a large buildup might be for. House Atreides has been badly jilted by the empire, given my recent message to the Imperium, it may be that we can find some common ground...? [/hide]

* * *

"I will speak with Atilian soon. I fear that he may be forgetting the wisdom of his father." Aleksandr sighed,. His coffee was cold, and he poured it over the balcony, absently forgetting the waste of precious liquid.

"...You miss the old Duke." Aleron said gently.

"He was the reason I joined his house." Aleksandr replied, trying to keep his voice steady. "Noble, compassionate, intelligent, he exemplified a good leader."

"Atilian is young, and he was fighting on Athalon before his arrival." Aleron pointed out. "Perhaps he just needs to calm down and settle into his role."

"With my sister controlling his people? I doubt it." Aleksandr snorted. "If there is an oppertunity after the funeral, I will speak with him. Until then, I think it would be best if I stayed silent. I do not want ill feelings to marr the day of mourning."

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Feeling sick to my stomach...so I'll just post what I have so far, no additions coming.

The news of the recent stoneburner action raddled the Atreides household. What was nearly as gruesome was the impish response of the Emperor. Official reports stated weakly that they would abide by the terms of neutrality. Truly a mistake in the minds of many as the Emperor had made moves on less precedence in the past.

As a result, Thufir Hawat had reversed his opinion on the funeral. Through either his fear of the transitioned calculations, or one of losing yet another Duke, he had urged Paul to stay back.

Unfortunate as the event was, the Duke jumped at the opportunity. Besides, several diplomatic matters were at hand. The flagship Paul had ordered was commencing quite well. Sections were made piece-by-piece. In turn, the ship itself had not taken form, but the necessary building blocks were at hand.

Perhaps the most expensive issue was the shields. Typically large space crafts were equipped with nil-to-none. Costs were staggering for this venture, yet the stern economists under his leadership had somehow forged an agreement in cohesion with the already immense numbers of weapon orders. What occurred to him was they most likely brought the Ixian factor into play, and with their recent outings they loomed as a likely partner once more. Backing this were recent papers sent via messenger requesting an alliance.  Without even consulting his mentat, Paul had signed the papers.

The whole concept was very concrete as both Houses had been particularly fond of one another since his Grandfather

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OOC: I just realised that I am nearly the only person to of not posted Military statistics yet.  :O

93,000 Troops (38,000 Origional Trebesians)  1935 Nokker Guardsman, 2177 Ornithopters, 225 Trikes, 215 Quads, 57 De-meks and 11,972 Assorted Artillery & Anti Aircraft Pieces, 3,032 Assault Frigates, 6 Anti Orbital Weapons (two not in service). + (Classified) Atomics. SMALL ARMS & SHEILDS. On hand, there is currently enough to supply the booming growth of the military however in the future, the new Military Production plant will be called into play to supply the new men.

I'm still no where near the other Factions yet, Ekaterina especially (Her having appearently gained the trust of the Loyal Trebesian army and finding an impressive recruiting tool) but with the new production facilities, and Ixian aid, hopefully I'll catch up eventually.

I'm going to post a reply later.

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The replies from the Houses and factions of the Imperium were trickling in at a constant rate.  So far, there had not been one reply that did not indicate an alliance was either in place, or would be soon.  Sifting through the small pile on his desk, the Chancellor withdrew the two really important ones he'd just recently received; those from House Atreides and House Trebeis.

"An alliance with these two alone would be powerful enough to defeat Ekaterina," Relnev said to himself, looking over the equipment orders that had already been placed.  "But with all this support..."

Relnev smiled.  It wasn't an evil smile, or a knowing smile; it was the smile of someone who knows that things are going as they should.  Turning to his side, Relnev closed a small breifcase, and exited his office.  He was heading to the Starport... and Arrakis.

Message to House Atreides:

[hide]Acknowledged.  Construction has already begun, codenamed Project 1.  The Ornithopters shall be delivered by Heighliner to Caladan within the week.

The Ix look forward to a long and beneficial alliance with House Atreides.

Chancellor Relnev of the Ixian Council.[/hide]

Message to House Trebeis:

[hide]We have assigned Outpost 9 on Arrakis to construction of orbital defence platforms, codenamed Project 2.  With your house controlling spice production, and ourselves embargoing products and services to any entity that impedes us, the Guild are somewhat forced to willingly accept.  The first of these platforms will be ready for launching into orbit in a week's time.  We shall contact you when the time arrives.

As for the discussion regarding the De-Meks, we agree that it is a sensitive project.  Eemins and I shall return to Arrakis for the funeral of the late Duke, whereupon we shall talk in more detail.  We leave for Dune immediately.

Chancellor Relnev of the Ixian Council.[/hide]

Project 1: 3 Posts until completion.

Project 2: 5 Posts until completion.

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Message to Ekaterina.

Well, what do you know. It appears the Imperium is less than interested in your "Plight". See you soon you pathetic sadomasochist.

-Duke Atillian Trebeis of Arrakis.

Smiling, Atillian finished his letter and handed it to an aid to be sent on the Highliner. Which according to the orbiting Assault Frigates, had just arrived. Well, I best go and meet the Ixians.

Collecting Qapmoq and ten more Ducal Guardsman, They departed for the Starport in the Old Trebesian Compound.

"Hello Chancellor, Eamins." Atillian said, nodding to the two as they stepped off their Shuttle. "Traveling in a bit more luxury than before?" He continued, nodding at the well adorned Craft. "The perks of promotions I daresay." Relnev said. Then, looking at the Duke's Ornithopter said "Shall we get out of this heat?"

"Indeed" Atillian replied, and gestured for the Ixians to board. Eamins, busy examining the Ixian Goggles, Plustill suit and Shield worn by a Nokker had to be had to be asked again.

Upon reaching the Governor's residence, the Duke was hasty to lead them to his office. Entering, he quickly nodded to Qapmoq who proceeded to sweep the room for bugs. When he finished his task, Atillian turned to the Ixians and said "I am sure you are more than curious about our actions to Arsunt."

"Indeed, we were quite shocked by your move." Relnev said, taking one of the offered seats.

"That

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