Jump to content

Family atomics


Anathema
 Share

Recommended Posts

I forgot if it was Dune or CoD, but it's mentioned in one of these books that a typical Landsraad family had enough atomic weapons to destroy 50 or so other families.

The Tupile planets mentioned in Messiah are carefully hidden by the Guild so that defeated families can have a safe sanctuary, presumably to prevent them from lashing out in a blaze of glory.

But here's the deal: how would one House attack another House's planet with these weapons? They'd have to rely on Guild transportation. But they're always aware of what they're transporting and presumably wouldn't cooperate with such a flagrant violation.

The only conceivable way left to use them against rival Houses would be as a quasi-defensive weapons, i.e. blow invading armies to oblivion once they set foot on your soil.

Am I missing something?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That's actually a great point, Anathema. Even if the 50 families you wanted to blow up were relatively close to your homeworld, it would still take (presumably) hundreds or thousands of years if you just launched the warheads at another planet, provided that they traveled at some appreciable fraction of the speed of light. In this situation, it's likely that either the war would be over or the families would have reconciled--Houses Atreides and Harkonnen notwithstanding--in the time it would take for the weapons to reach their targets.

With conventional or relativistic launch out of the question (and in the latter case, you wouldn't even need a warhead, the mass of the item alone would produce just as much, if not more kinetic energy), it stands to reason that either the Guild can be negotiated with in providing transport for your genocidal cargo, or the weapons are purely defensive. But there again, if the weapons are defensive, that flies in the face of the offensive implications of Herbert's original description, i.e., that the weapons could destroy "50 or so other families." Certainly, that struck me as evocative of the atmosphere of mutually assured destruction from the Cold War, which, if you were to recreate it in Dune, would require some form of rapid delivery mechanism for nuclear weapons. Perhaps this is actually the only situation in which the Guild is amenable to providing transport for atomics: they give the guy you're shooting at a fair chance to shoot back, perhaps timing deliveries such that they coincide--or, who knows, your weapons may even be traveling on the same Heighliner as the enemy's!

Barring some form of non-Guild, hillbilly-space folding mechanism that all Houses maintain (which, you would think, would be noticed quickly by the Guild and as a system of transportation, would be generally unreliable in any case), that's the only way I can see this working out.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Since it is mentioned in Dune that the Harkonnens would not have used a shield-lasgun reaction to attack the Atreides on Arrakis for fear of being mistaken for using atomics, I think it implies that there were, after all, ways of delivering atomic charges to other planets. Maybe the smugglers could, um, smuggle atomics?

After all, Guild Steersmen were limited in their prescience, so I think it was possible to transport certain things without the Guild knowing what it was. Otherwise bribes would do the trick.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As Wolf suggests I think the Guild can be bribed for almost any purpose, but the question wich follows if anyone would be able to afford it. OTOH the Harkonnens paid an absurd sum to transport huge armies, while you could probably cram all the atomics you need on a single frigate.

Since it is mentioned in Dune that the Harkonnens would not have used a shield-lasgun reaction to attack the Atreides on Arrakis for fear of being mistaken for using atomics, I think it implies that there were, after all, ways of delivering atomic charges to other planets. Maybe the smugglers could, um, smuggle atomics?

After all, Guild Steersmen were limited in their prescience, so I think it was possible to transport certain things without the Guild knowing what it was. Otherwise bribes would do the trick.

The smugglers are just as dependent on the Guild as everyone else, so that doesn't work. And Edric boasts in his conversation with the other conspirators that they always know what they're carrying, like they knew Idaho's corpse when it was moved from Arrakis.

Another explanation could be that frigates carry atomic weapons all the time, since "there might be non-human life out there, and we need to be ready to mess them up at all times" or something like that. A House could send a couple of frigates under the pretext of attacking with troops since the chance that a navigator "stumbles" upon the indirect consuequenses of providing them transport would be fairly small.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I believe there was some kind of contingency plan for the case in which a House used its atomics in violation of the Great Convention. In such case, the Landsraad had a legitimate right to retaliate in kind.

Another explanation could be that frigates carry atomic weapons all the time, since "there might be non-human life out there, and we need to be ready to mess them up at all times" or something like that. A House could send a couple of frigates under the pretext of attacking with troops since the chance that a navigator "stumbles" upon the indirect consuequenses of providing them transport would be fairly small.

I'm not sure if I remember correctly, but doesn't the idea that atomics were kept for the case of encounter with hostile aliens come from the prequels (or maybe DE)?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, to make a comparison to another SciFi franchise--a relatively small (platoon-sized) corvette in Aliens possessed nuclear weapons, not because of their mission profile, but because it seemed to be standard equipment for Colonial Marines. To quote Pvt. Hudson, "We got knives, we got nukes, we got sharp sticks." They basically had access to everything, and I suppose it would be prudent for House militaries in Dune to equip their frigates similarly--with atomics, lasguns, etc. To make an argument for the other side, however, the absence of faster-than-light communications (well, besides Heighliner courier) alters the equation somewhat, and should a House equip a frigate and her crew with atomic weapons, then they are placing absolute trust in the Captain of said frigate to exercise the same degree of discretion that the feudal head would in the same place. There's no chance for real-time communications--of the kind that are necessary in split-second military decisions--nor is there any opportunity to confirm or abort such a strike once asked for or ordered. That alone, were I a feudal lord in this fantasy realm, would perhaps stop me from issuing every bum frigate captain a nuclear arsenal.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm not sure if the space battle akin to those in other futuristic sci-fi settings were possible in the in the Dune universe of Muad'Dib's time. Frigates were used for transportation, not combat, because all combat was confined to a planet's surface. I don't remember if anything was mentioned concerning alien encounter politics in the Imperium, but since nukes were generally a factor in the "mutually assured destruction" situation, I don't think frigates were equipped with nukes "just in case".

Besides, weren't the frigates Guild's property? They were useless without a Heighliner anyway.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm fairly certain I do remember (maybe in the appendices?) it being stated that all Guild ships were equipped with lasguns and shields "just in case" they ran into another life form.  I don't remember that being an excuse for keeping atomics though. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Now <b>that</b> will need a quote. ;)

In practical terms, wouldn't the only Guild ships really needing to be equipped with such "just in case" armament be those engaged in exploration of new systems?

This might be of some help re the "alien" question...

<i>CoD</i> (19:73):

Duncan felt his mentat awareness coruscate as it shot through memory data of itself, completely impervious to the passage of time. Arriving at the conviction that House Corrino would not risk an illegal atomic attack, he did this in flash-computation, the main decisional pathway, but he was perfectly aware of the elements which went into this conviction: The Imperium commanded as many nuclear and allied weapons as all the Great Houses combined. At least half the Great Houses would react without thinking if House Corrino broke the Convention. The Atreides off-planet retaliation system would be joined by overwhelming force, and no need to summon any of them. Fear would do the calling. Salusa Secundus and its allies would vanish in hot clouds. House Corrino would not risk such a holocaust. <b>They were undoubtedly sincere in subscribing to the argument that nuclear weapons were a reserve held for one purpose: defense of humankind should a threatening "other intelligence" ever be encountered.</b>

That the only passage I know of where intelligent aliens are even suggested in the originals.

(Bonus: the fact that the Great Houses still have their atomics at this time in <i>Children</i> means that the Winds crap about Alia repealing the Great Convention and confiscating atomics was just another example of how little grasp some people have of Duniverse details. :) )

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It sounds like this kind of nuclear apocalypse would happen fairly quickly were any house, even Corrino, to break the Convention. Does this in any way imply, or lead us to infer, that house arsenals are already stored aboard Heighliners? Or is there some rapid mechanism for deploying nuclear weapons vis-a-vis the Guild? I haven't read the books in ages, so I admit I don't have much to work with in this regard.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Likely I was misremembering the quote you posted, Sandchigger.

I searched through the new books and couldn't find anything in them, either. Could there be something in <i>The Dune Encyclopedia</i>?

It sounds like this kind of nuclear apocalypse would happen fairly quickly were any house, even Corrino, to break the Convention. Does this in any way imply, or lead us to infer, that house arsenals are already stored aboard Heighliners? Or is there some rapid mechanism for deploying nuclear weapons vis-a-vis the Guild? I haven't read the books in ages, so I admit I don't have much to work with in this regard.

Well, I don't think there's much detail for any of us to work with. But wouldn't it be risky to place your atomics in the keeping of the Guild? Not to mention expensive. I agree some sort of "rapid deployment" set-up makes the most sense. (Who knows, the Guild might even give free or discounted passage to ships on their way to a reprisal. They do have a strong stake in the status quo, after all.)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's unbelievably risky. As if the Guild weren't already powerful enough with their absolute monopoly on interstellar travel. I don't want to blaspheme here, but I often wondered whether or not Herbert thought his political equation all the way through--for example, imagine if all airlines, shipping, and heavy rail were amalgamated into the same, non-transparent, extra-national entity. But beyond having your weapons present on Heighliners, armed, and ready to go at a moment's notice, I don't see how you could rapidly execute any sort of full-scale nuclear war. Certainly, Duncan's concern that "half the Great Houses would react without thinking" is pretty contingent on the Guild blindly participating in the destruction of their own species. One would think that the Guild has enough political capital to get away with not bathing half the human race in nuclear fire.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, "rapid" is relative, no? ;)

Unless you admit the "Holtzmann Wave" communications of the <i>Encyclopedia</i> (or the Navigator "mechanically-assisted telepathy" crap of McDune), all intersystem communication in the Duniverse has to move at Guild-speed. (Which in real terms is ridiculous multiples of c, ha ha.) It would have taken time for the news of an atomic attack to diffuse and for the Great Houses to mobilize, but probably it wasn't so much the speed of the response as its overwhelming magnitude and inevitability.

The Guild is all about profit, and they're not going to do anything to seriously damage that or risk their own survival, so I think maybe you're envisioning a larger scale or theatre of events than would have been involved. Since the books mention fifty planetary bases, maybe that's a good rough figure for an average Great House. Even assuming that a Convention retaliation required taking them all out, is 50 planets really that big a sacrifice out of hundreds of thousands of worlds? Especially for "encouraging the others"?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, I was attempting to reconcile the aura of mutually assured destruction provided by Duncan's opinion with the practical limits of the universe that Herbert created. You're right; a conflict between Great Houses and Great Houses only is probably not going to result in the deaths of a majority, or even a significant minority, of the human race. Perhaps there's something to be said for it resulting in the destruction of the significant minority of the human race that matters, but it's probably a toss-up as to whether or not the Guild would condone, tacitly or otherwise, such an event. A larger scale event is unlikely from two ends, 1, Great Houses aren't going to violate the Convention and risk annihilation simply to exterminate a number of worthless Houses Minor, and 2, the Guild probably wouldn't cooperate in a venture of pure mass murder. So, perhaps I'm wondering why a nuclear war between Houses didn't occur more often--certainly, I myself can imagine grander weapons than nuclear warheads, and I'm sure the year 10,191, post-Jihad, might have been an environment capable of realizing them--given that there's a certain ambiguity to the element of mutually-assured destruction. With the gap of "Guild time" between event and response, it's certainly possible that a House Minor or even a House Major might be obliterated to the man before anyone realized it happened--and before anyone could point, with certainty, to the culprit.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A brief suggestion:

If the guild is willing to cooperate in providing those who lost wars (even those who started and lost), as well as Atomic violators sanctuary, why wouldn't they allow transport of Atomics? It's just another violent payload.

Their only concern would be that it doesn't get set off on the heiliner, which I'm assuming they'd know about far enough beforehand to stop.

If one planet blows up... that's no concern of theirs as long as they recieved the transport fees. Then they can actually get more fees to transport the violators to Tupile (which I imagine is a cost to the tune of "give us all your worldly posessions, and we'll dump you somewhere safe").

If all planets are attacking all planets? That might rock the boat enough for them to do something about it, or if any of those weapons threatened spice production it would certainly gain their immediate attention as we know. But a couple of fuedal lords popping in frustration? Big whoop!

That leads me to a question though, which I find to be a bit more interesting: why would the guild let House Atreides transport THEIR family atomics to Arrakis? My only guess would be because they are theirs, and the guild would have "no right" to prevent them from keeping their atomics on their home world. But that more than anything would seem to be to be an actionthat the guild wouldn't appreciate since it places their lifestyles in harms way, especially since they know an attack was about to go down (one which might make a house which is about to be eliminated, feel that they would have no choice but to retaliate atomically)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That leads me to a question though, which I find to be a bit more interesting: why would the guild let House Atreides transport THEIR family atomics to Arrakis?

Somehow I don't remember this either.

In any case, the sense of the Great Convention was the following: no House attempted to use atomics to attack any other House. Even being suspected of using atomics was dangerous, as Jessica (?) suggested when saying that the Harkonnens would not set a timed lasgun to fire at the Arrakeen Palace's house shield, as they would not be able to prove afterwards that it was not an atomic charge.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Somehow I don't remember this either.

In any case, the sense of the Great Convention was the following: no House attempted to use atomics to attack any other House. Even being suspected of using atomics was dangerous, as Jessica (?) suggested when saying that the Harkonnens would not set a timed lasgun to fire at the Arrakeen Palace's house shield, as they would not be able to prove afterwards that it was not an atomic charge.

Of course the family atomics were transported to Arrakis.  One of the first things Paul asks about after surviving the attack is where his family atomics are and then he uses one of them to blow the hole in the shield wall....

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Right, but that was a decree of the Great Convention which was (as I understood it) an agreement between the Great Houses (including the ruling house), which the Guild operates completely outside of, and conceivably doesn't really give two poos about, as long as humanity suddently doesn't kiel over.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm not sure I entirely understood your post. If you mean that the Guild could sanction the transportation of atomic weaponry if bribed well, that is plausible. But the Guild was not to decide who used atomics against whom, and who be punished for what. The Houses themselves did not use atomics because that would mean severe trouble for them.

The Duke permitted himself a moment of grim satisfaction, looking at his son and thinking how penetrating, how truly educated that observation had been. He nodded. "The Harkonnens have been stockpiling for more than twenty years."

"They mean spice production to fail and you to be blamed."

"They wish the Atreides name to become unpopular," the Duke said. "Think of the Landsraad Houses that look to me for a certain amount of leadership - their unofficial spokesman. Think how they'd react if I were responsible for a serious reduction in their income. After all, one's own profits come first. The Great Convention be damned! You can't let someone pauperize you!" A harsh smile twisted the Duke's mouth. "They'd look the other way no matter what was done to me."

"Even if we were attacked with atomics?"

"Nothing that flagrant. No open defiance of the Convention. But almost anything else short of that... perhaps even dusting and a bit of soil poisoning."

Poking fun at him over the question of economics. He felt the sting of this as he turned at the end of his corridor and continued his exercise in a brisk walk back to his quarters. What glue had actually held the Old Empire together? Many things, some small and some large, but mostly economic. Lines of connection thought of often as conveniences. And what kept them from blasting one another out of existence? The Great Convention. "You blast anyone and we unite to blast you."

He stopped outside his door, brought up short by a thought.

Was that it? How could punishment be enough to stop the greedy powindah? Did it come down to a glue composed of intangibles? The censure of your peers? But what if your peers balked at no obscenity? You could do anything. And that said something about Honored Matres. It certainly did.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm not sure I entirely understood your post. If you mean that the Guild could sanction the transportation of atomic weaponry if bribed well, that is plausible. But the Guild was not to decide who used atomics against whom, and who be punished for what. The Houses themselves did not use atomics because that would mean severe trouble for them.

You did misunderstand the post. What I was indicating was just the opposite of what you thought I ment.

The Great Convention was between all Houses. The Guild was not a house, and therefore was not bound by the Great Convention. It had otherways of preventing agressions towards their way of life (i.e. you're planet bound if you make them not like you). So the Guild would not care if one house attacked the other with atomics. Thus they wouldn't care if they were transporting atomics, as long as those atomics we not used against the Guild.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The Guild was not a house, and therefore was not bound by the Great Convention. It had otherways of preventing agressions towards their way of life (i.e. you're planet bound if you make them not like you). So the Guild would not care if one house attacked the other with atomics. Thus they wouldn't care if they were transporting atomics, as long as those atomics we not used against the Guild.

Even though the Guild is not a House, and as such cannot act as a combatant in a War of Assassins, it does not mean that the Guild is somehow "outside" the whole political system of the Imperium. How can the Guild "not care", if the intended target is the ruling House, for example? Or a House with heavy influence in the Landsraad or CHOAM? Any large-scale offensive between the Houses can potentially threaten the political balance of the Imperium.

But the issue is not about the Guild "not caring", or about Houses attacking one another with atomics. It's about balancing the forces involved. Let's put it like this: family atomics were not a weapon in the first place, but a guarantor of a House's safety (given that everyone else followed the Great Convention). The real-world analogy is kinda obvious.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...