|Part of the series on the|
Cancelled video games
The Emperor Worm is dead, and with it the diseased dreams of the Guild and Tleilaxu. But this attack was only part of a bigger, more horrific picture. Plans within plans within plans... Across the Imperium, the Tleilaxu have infiltrated many worlds, and they start to unleash their abominable strategy on the outlaying planets. The Guild want no part of this. Without an Empire, there is no profit or power for them. They wish to sue for peace and return to a profitable existence. The Tleilaxu have other ideas. It was their encouragement and insinuations that pushed the Guild towards their gamble for power. The Tleilaxu have used the Guild’s greed against them. As the Guild protest, the Tleilaxu reveal their treachery to their own allies. Ever since their partnership began, the Tleilaxu have been gradually spreading their shadowy tendrils throughout the Guilds organisation. Their sinister agents manipulated the Guild into trying to bring the Emperor Worm into being. It was just a tool for the Tleilaxu’s ultimate aim. At a signal, the Tleilaxu plan is triggered. The Guild realise too late that they have been overrun from within and will become assimilated into the mindless army of the Tleilaxu. Together these forces form what will be known in mankind’s history books as the Dark Alliance. This destructive force is lead by what the Tleilaxu call, The Mahai, the master of masters. This mysterious leader resides in an arcane palace on the planet of Tleilax and commands fanatical devotion from it’s millions of servants. The Tleilaxu's fanaticism and their hatred for the heresy of technology has driven them to a logical conclusion. The universe must be cleansed. Humanity must be purified. Man must be made to see the beauty of the Tleilaxu vision. Such purity. Salvation is only possible through the vats of the Tleilaxu. This is not just a mere struggle for power. It is the beginning of a Holy crusade!
The extent of the infestation is revealed. Hordes of Tleilaxu forces pour out of Guild Heighliners that have been allowed to dock at planets across the Empire. Defences are overwhelmed as these surprise attacks erupt on unsuspecting planets. The Imperium teeters on the brink of the abyss. For the 3 Great Houses this is a time of recovery after the losses suffered during the War of Assassins and the final battle against the Emperor Worm. None are strong enough to resist this new danger. The Sarduakar realise that the Dark Alliance threatens the very fabric of the Empire, an Empire that they have sworn to defend to the death. They must act immediately. Rather than choose a House to rule, as was done in the past, their candidate is to be a single man, beyond House rivalries, to unite the warring Houses against the common foe. They pick their most successful military strategist from the recent conflict on Arrakis and crown them as Emperor on the hell-world of Salusa Secundus. This new Emperor will lead the Imperial forces into the golden light and defend humanity from extinction.
The 3 Great Houses all react differently to this news. The Atreides commend the choice, the Ordos have reservations while the Baron is outraged! He makes his feelings known and a row erupts. Eventually he relents and the Ordos grudgingly agree also. It is only a temporary arrangement. It may have its advantages. All three houses send representatives to Secundus to discuss strategies, and also to make sure they don’t miss a trick!
In the Emperor’s new operations room, the assembled court stands in silence before a giant holographic star-chart, as the lights of the free planets wink off one by one. The only sound is from long-distance communications with the battling defenders, their transmissions cut off in a cacophony of screams and gunfire. Fear and anxiety shows on many pale faces. Plans are drawn hastily up. Yet, before any move can be made against the Tleilaxu, the Dark Alliance strikes against them. A black, poison knife thrust that inflicts a terrible blow onto the Imperial alliance. Assassination squads strike against the leaders of the three main Houses on their home planets!
The Atriedes Duke Achillus strides through the rainswept courtyard of Castle Caladan on his way to his teenage daughter Athena’s room. His young son, Cassius, scared of the thunderstorms, sleeps in the Duke’s chambers. His wife, and mother to their children, tragically passed away giving birth to Cassius. The Duke passes a portrait of his beautiful wife as his footsteps echo in the empty corridors, lit only by the light from suspensor lamps. Athena has her mother’s eyes he thinks, glancing at the large painting. Athena Atreides is a strong willed and ferocious fighter, trained by the Fremen Fedaykinthemselves. She displays signs of strange abilities, and the Fremen believe that she may be a chosen one. She shows potential. Duke Achillus discovers face dancer assassins moving in on his beloved child. He alerts her and leaps into battle. A desperate struggle ensues and after a brief eternity, the young girl remains standing, a bloodied Krys knife in her trembling hand. But alas, the Duke fell to a blade in the back, and his daughter’s tears mix with his blood on the floor. If only she had the prescience to have foreseen this tragedy. The Mentat, Kalinar Koltrass urges her to take the Emperor’s offer for shelter on Salusa Secundus. Her safety is paramount. She refuses, wishing instead to stay and mourn with her people in this most grievous of times. Her mentors use the safety of her baby brother as a bargaining chip, and she finally relents and boards an ornithopter in a secret underground hangar. A smuggler frigate awaits at a safe location ready to take the entourage to where the Emperor now resides. She vows to return one day and give the Duke a burial worthy of his status.
The Harkonnen Baron, Gunseng, survives, but only just. He was shot with a dart infected with Contaminator poison. He would be a mindless warrior slave by now, were it not for his lightning reflexes and quick thinking. He saw the dart and stopped it before his face with his bare hand. He pulled out the dart and immediately cut off his own hand to stop the infection before it could taint his blood. An act which saved him, for the present at least. Some Contaminator poison is still in his blood and he must now spend his days inside an Ixian vat that struggles to contain the spreading poison. Disfigured by slow mutation, he is consumed with thoughts of personal revenge against the Tleilaxu. He will join with any force that will kill Tleilaxu while he prays for the cure to be found. While he is in the vat, he must pass some powers to his cousin Zaina. She is a massive, powerful woman, well versed in all the cruelties and brutalities needed to survive in the Harkonnen court. She speaks for the Baron and in time, begins to supersede him, drowning out his words as she speaks.
On the ice planet of Draconis IV, The Executrix fare badly. A face dancer carrying a bomb evades detection and detonates it in the High Council chambers. Only one member of the Executrix survives, and new members must desperately be sought from amongst the insidious ranks of the Ordos. Roma Atani, mentat to the Executrix survives the attack. Her loyalty is questioned. How was this incident allowed to happen? Why was security so lacking? Can a ghola born from the Tleilaxu’s dubious mentat experiments be trusted? There is no profit in executing an expensive product. She is removed from her duties and stationed with the palace guard.
These attacks are only a small cog in the clockwork though, designed to weaken the Houses by viciously stabbing at their very hearts. By showing that even the most powerful and protected are vulnerable, the Tleilaxu hope to spread fear and insecurity among the populaces, creating panic and chaos in turn. The wheels of the largest machine are then set in motion. Dark Alliance ships hang in orbit over the smoke-filled atmosphere of Geidi Prime. The shadows of Heighliners filled with monstrosities move menacingly over the lush green Atreides home world of Caladan and the eerie silent white and blue mountains of Draconis. Kaitan, the old Imperial capital planet, is also surrounded. The Imperial advisors, a Sardaukar military General called Gormire and a Bene Gesserit named Lady Rosenta Celeste, disagree over the course of action to take. General Gormire advises an advance to Kaitan to join up with a small outpost of Sarduakar there, while Lady Rosenta urges caution. They each try to impose their opinion, and the argument heats up. Both wish to serve the Emperor to their best ability, and this has made them competitive. The General goads the Bene Gesserit into using The Voice. She is sorely tempted. In regards to the Tleilaxu strategy, she suspects a trick; that the Dark Alliance ships are waiting for something. Her intuition is right. The Dark Alliance was trying to lure forces away from Salusa Secundus so an assault would be made easier. The Tleilaxu send in a strike force of assassins to infiltrate the Emperor’s palace in a bold and suicidal attempt on his life. General Gormire catches them in the act and kills them, but there is no time for reflection as the planetary alarms break into life, their wails echoing around the harsh jagged mountains of Salusa Secundus. The Tleilaxu are landing! From deep inside the planet, Sarduakar are awakened. Massive arsenals open up as the troops rush to their positions. Huge turrets load their magazines. The Sarduakar prepare to defend their home and their Emperor. The Tleilaxu have underestimated their opponents. Rather than a barely populated spartan world, they are landing on a place that has been turned into a fortress over many centuries. This is where the Sardaukar learned their trade. This is their own turf. The Tleilaxu landing frigates are shot down in droves while their troops are outmatched by the ferocity of the Sarduakar. They are driven off with heavy losses. There is no time for triumph. Even while the last Tleilaxu are being hunted down and killed, news comes in from the other Home worlds. The Tleilaxu fleets have succeeded in landing on all the major planets and heavy fighting is taking place. Athena Atreides cannot stand by while this atrocity takes place. She immediately sets off to return to the planet with her small bodyguard to save her people or die with them. Neither her guards nor her Mentat can persuade her against this course of action. Having failed to persuade her actions mean suicide, they then volunteer to accompany her back to Caladan as part of the forlorn relief force. Touched by their loyalty she angrily charges the Emperor to help her save the lives of her people.
Meanwhile, on the Geidi Prime the Harkonnen royal palace complex is surrounded. The Baron demands rescue from this predicament. He orders atomics to be detonated on the Tleilaxu landing sites where his forces are still fighting in an attempt to save his position. His cousin Zaina is leading the resistance outside the palace. She is a fearsome sight, and the Baron cannot but admire her.
The Executrix have had their position overrun and are fleeing to a mountain stronghold. They warn that the Tleilaxu will soon track them down. It is clear that the new minds in the Executrix council are not fully melded together. Roma Atani becomes frustrated with their disagreements and calls for assistance. The Executrix put her in her place and tell her of her past; of what she is. She must now cope with this sudden shocking news while commanding the defence of the stronghold. From a bunker she watches the approaching Tleilaxu hordes through her oil-lenses. Masses of Contaminators and Leeches, along with other monstrosities are pouring across the snowy plains. Can she hear them calling her? Things look bleak through the lenses, but the Ordos leaders have an extra roll of the dice. The Speaker appears, and it’s body crackles with electricity. Roma watches in awe as it engages the first wave of the Tleilaxu menace...
The force on Kaitan is fighting hard. However, Lady Rosenta warns that transport in the form of the smuggler ships that have been made available cannot reach them in time. The forces on Kaitan are doomed. General Gormire’s son Tallem is the leader of the Sarduakar resistance. He wishes his father could see him now. The father he hardly knows. He vows to make sure he will be remembered as he gives the order to make a last stand against the oncoming onslaught.
The three Great House’s Homeworld’s are saved after heavy fighting but at a cost. There have been massive casualties for their respective populations. As they pick up the pieces their minds turn to those who hurt them in body and soul. They are eager for revenge. The target is clear.
Athena Atreides is now fuelled with battle lust and she decrees that she will chase the Tleilaxu scum to the very edges of the universe if necessary. She organises her forces and takes command of the smuggler frigate to use as her operations centre. No place will be safe for the Tleilaxu, she swears. Her loyal Mentat furrows his brow. This should not be the way.
Zaina Harkonnen returns victorious from battle and starts throwing her considerable weight around. The Baron feels he is being drowned out by his domineering cousin, and suggests she joins up with the Emperor’s strike squads. She readily agrees. She has always wanted to tour the universe. And having the excuse to hand out incredible pain onto the bodies of those who dare oppose the Harkonnen fills her giant muscular frame with glee.
Roma Atani leans over the communicator controls breathing heavily. Around her bodies both human and inhuman are spread with death upon their faces. If indeed they have faces. Her uniform is torn and she shivers with the combination of cold and fatigue. She flicks the communicator into life and a hologram of the Executrix appears before her. Roma tells of the Tleilaxu defeat, how The Speaker cut swathes through the enemy ranks. She asks how The Speaker became so powerful but is ordered to be silent. She hears a humming sound and turns to see The Speaker on its hoverboard behind her. The Executrix order it to join the Imperial attack squads and lead the Ordos forces. Let them see the power of the Ordos firsthand. If the Sardaukar can be impressed, many doors could open once the war is over...
Kaitan has fallen, with the Sarduakar defenders radioing out a final “Long live the Emperor” as they are overrun. The Imperial fleet with its Atreides, Harkonnen and Ordos allies moves into orbit over the planet. The Tleilaxu defences are heavy and well prepared, but as the leaders look down onto the surface of the now dead planet and remember their own destroyed home worlds, for once there is little dissent. Revenge is all that matters now. The Baron reminds his troops to show that the Harkonnen truly are the best power. They need no encouragement as they look across to where the Atreides soldiers glower back at them. The assault begins. Initial raids destroy the emplacements that threaten the landing sites. Then the Imperial forces, supported by the baying Harkonnen, attack the main defence line. Once the initial defence lines have been broken and the main force landed, the Imperials advance through the ruined city to find and destroy the sprawling Dark Alliance presence. The advisors agree amongst themselves that information is needed about the enemy’s motives. The Harkonnen are charged with capturing Tleilaxu representatives seen on the planet. At first the Baron is incensed that his bloodlust is to be thwarted and that prisoners must be taken. He rejects this out of hand until Athena Atreides reminds him that he will be in charge of the interrogation. While she says this with a hint of contempt, the Baron’s objections are silenced as he broods upon this with a feint smile playing across his lips. He leaves to prepare his instruments. The Dark Alliance base on Kaitan is huge. The Tleilaxu are planning to stay and colonise the old Imperial capital planet. It will become an icon of the Tleilaxu’s new universal order. Out with the old and in with the new. The Imperial General requests permission to lead the attacks on the surface. He resigns his position as an advisor to the Emperor. His reason is that his judgement will be clouded while those who murdered his son still walk and breathe. He must avenge his son personally. He puts on his power armour and descends to the planet. There he leads the attacks against the enemy, shouting battle cries of vengeance as he cuts through their ranks as though they were grass. The Tleilaxu on Kaitan are exterminated, save for the few captives taken by the Harkonnen. Among them is the highly ranked agent known as Cilix. Baron Gunseng leers over the table where Cilix is strapped. The Tleilaxu ambassador has suffered terrible tortures at the Baron’s hands and has told of plans to construct new weapons from the Emperor Worm’s DNA. A Tleilaxu force has been detached to recover samples already. With that news, Cilix recovers some of his defiance. He assures them of the triumph of the dark alliance and their eventual doom at Tleilaxu hands. He then tells the Baron to kill him and have done with it. At this the Baron laughs softly. What has happened so far was just an interrogation! A little light questioning! An entrée before the main course. The Baron’s pleasure has not yet started. He settles down for a long wait as various instruments are brought in. A whirring starts. Watching on viewscreens, Athena winces. An aide vomits. Even the Sarduakar, who have seen many bad things, narrow their eyes as the Baron’s chuckles mix with the hoarse gasps from Cilix. A Sardaukar captain eventually turns off the screen, head bowed. Still shaken by what they have seen, the various advisors and House representatives agree that the danger on Arrakis must take precedence over other operations. A crack force is sent to the planet to investigate and disrupt the Tleilaxu plans.
The Imperial troops drop onto the desert planet and make preparations to begin their sweeps of the areas identified as likely targets. As well as the decaying corpse of the Emperor Worm, the Guild’s old spaceport complex and the Sarduakar tombs, an old haunt of the Tleilaxu grave robbers, are to be investigated. There is an uneasy tension as Harkonnen, Ordos and Atreides soldiers ready themselves within sight of each other. The heat of the desert suns makes a few tempers boil and it takes the execution of a few over-loyal men to restore a thin order. The squads eventually set off on their respective missions. This time, the Tleilaxu are ready for them. Ambushes sprung from the depths of the desert have the Imperial troops fighting for their lives. Reinforcements from the fleet above are needed to escape the trap and crush the Dark Alliance forces. It is soon clear that the Imperial troops were too late. The Duke’s daughter has contacted Fremen who bring reports of villages being found picked clean of life with no tracks or any clue as to what has gone on. All traces of their inhabitants are non-existent. It is as though the wind spirited them away. Columns are sent into the desert to try and investigate this sinister mystery. A frantic report comes in of a nearby settlement under attack. At Athena’s command the Atreides forces rush to its aid, while the others continue on towards vague sources of energy detected in the desert. Each force is attacked by huge floating creatures that the Tleilaxu have developed. These massive creatures snatch up their victims and digest them. All seems lost as these enormous beasts decimate the Imperial troops, until Mentats discover the control signal emanating from the Dark Alliance Palace. Destroying this will mean that the Tleilaxu lose control of their creatures. All the Imperial firepower is poured into these structures. Their explosion causes the Tleilaxu to lose control of these dread beasts and they turn on their masters. The Dark Alliance’s forces are shredded by their own weapons and their adventure on Arrakis is ended.
The Imperial forces cannot savour their victory for long. Even as they are returning from Dune, they receive a desperate signal from Salusa Secundus. The Dark Alliance has attacked again. Using face dancers, they disarmed the planetary defence systems then landed their forces on the main starport. Tleilaxu raiders are discovered by Atreides security teams in the vaults under an ancient citadel known as Lion Keep, which is currently being used as a temporary home by the Atreides nobility. Cassius Atreides is here, guarded by a trusted Guard Captain called Lothar Gallen. Cassius sleeps with the naïve innocence of the child that he is. Kalinar Koltrass is informed of the Tleilaxu presence and thinks hard on what it could mean. Of course! In those musty tombs deep underground lie the preserved corpses of long-dead Sardaukar heroes. These dead warriors, who were the cream of the elite, are amongst the strongest and purest bloodlines. It must be these corpses that the Tleilaxu want. With their DNA, they could feasibly infuse a being with incredible power. It is probably gestating now inside their deepest laboratories! The forces in the citadel are resisting fiercely, but cannot hold out too long. Even now, more Tleilaxu reinforcements are travelling to the planet to launch the final attack and their extraction teams are preparing to go breach the defences to take the samples they have come for. The first Imperial units to arrive go into action immediately to stave off defeat and to allow the main Imperial forces to follow on. Athena Atreides leads a small force as it drops into the compound of the citadel itself to bolster the walls. Meanwhile, the Harkonnen and Ordos hold off the Tleilaxu forces and clear a place for the main Imperial force to land. As the sun sets, the Tleilaxu continue their attack. The Harkonnen and Ordos fight off Tleilaxu reinforcements while the Atreides remain trapped in that dreadful Keep, throughout the long, cold night. Nightmarish creatures hurl themselves out of the myriad shadows, and the black corridors echo with ghastly cries and the screams of the fallen.
As the sun rises slowly into the heavens the Imperial reinforcements arrive in the nick of time and sweep the Tleilaxu away. Athena Atreides stands exhausted on the battered battlements looking over the many corpses littering the landscape. She sighs, her heart heavy over the needless loss of life. Her Mentat gazes at her with admiration. She fought with a fire in her eyes, and her powers are growing. If the war can be won, Athena will make a magnificent leader, he thinks to himself. The Guard Captain, Lothar Gallen suddenly rushes up to her. He is pale and dirtied with dried blood. Bandages cover various wounds. He can barely bring himself to give the terrible tidings. Cassius is missing. Lothar is beside himself with grief. He fought through the night and fainted through exhaustion and blood loss. A Suk doctor found him a short while ago and revived him. He immediately searched for Cassius but to no avail. He has failed them. Athena cannot hold back her emotions and finally her resolve cracks. She drops to her knees and weeps into her hands. No words can soothe the burning pain.
In the Imperial throneroom the Emperor makes plans to attack the Tleilaxu homeworld directly, but is reminded of their strong, planetary defences, and the need for transportation there. A strategy is formed after more heated discussion. Intelligence reports tell of a Guild Heighliner near Arrakis. This is to be captured and used as Trojan horse for the Imperial army. Ordos and Atreides commandos are to sneak onto the massive ship in a stolen spice frigate, and proceed to overwhelm the navigator onboard and any Tleilaxu forces within. The plan is launched and once onboard the megalithic ship the elite soldiers start their assault. The navigator is surprised and destroyed in the control centre. Meanwhile, in the holds, the Ordos commandos uncover chambers filled with Tleilaxu. These elite soldiers face a fight for their lives as they are hunted around the echoing decks and corridors by nameless horrors and tentacled fiends. Cornered, the Ordos prove their worth and hold out until reinforcements arrive and eliminate the enemy. Now under Imperial command, the ship is loaded with the allied army and sent towards the fringes of the Tleilax system where danger and destiny await. Once through the shields, a small Imperial and Harkonnen infiltration squad proceed to take out the planetary defence systems and the way is open.
In the Heighliner control room there is an eerie silence as the leaders of each respective force gaze at the planet spinning peacefully on the large viewscreen before them. Athena Atreides is here, stood nobly and dignified. Yet inside she is a volcano all ready to unleash its destruction. Next to her stands the imposing figure of General Gormire. His face shows no emotion. Behind them both The Speaker hovers and who knows what it sees? Roma Atani sits with her eyes closed tightly. The nearer the ship gets to Tleilax, the louder the voices become. Her head pounds through the noise in there. A door slides open and in thunders Zaina Harkonnen. She sees Athena and goes to draw her weapon. Several Sardaukar elite draw their weapons on her and she slowly backs down. General Gormire reminds them who the enemy is for now; they may continue this AFTER the threat has been averted. During this time Athena didn’t even turn to look at Zaina. She didn’t even blink once.
As they land, the Mentats bring disturbing news. A fresh invasion fleet is being amassed on the planets surface. It is imperative that these be prevented from taking off with their mysterious cargo. The Imperial forces land on the surface prepared for battle but unprepared for the horrors that they see. Human breeding farms and camps of prisoners ready for the vats, evil laboratories filled with hideous creations and experiments and temples dedicated to human sacrifice surround them. The final stage of the campaign has been reached. The Great Houses pool their atomics and in a strangely symbolic moment the leaders hand over the arming codes to the Emperor. These dreadful weapons will be placed in the main shaft leading down into the heart of the Tleilaxu planet. There they will detonate them deep in the centre of the world. The sounds of battle echo over the arcane landscape as each legion embarks on their respective missions. Athena’s powers are at their peak as she tears apart the city looking for her brother among the prisoners they rescue. Zaina Harkonnen happily smashes up an invasion fleet that was preparing to leave. With each kill she makes she gets more excited and frenzied, a maelstrom of pleasure and pain. For the Ordos, a frantic fight to knock out stubborn defences takes a turn for the worse when their commander turns on them! Roma Atani has given in to the voices. She is now home, and she must protect it. Troops loyal to her attack the Emperor’s men, but they are defeated after bitter combat. As the day ends the Imperial army stands on the brink of victory. The next morning however, as the forces begin their last drive they are confronted by the Mahai’s champion. The creature, known only as Nemesis, blocks the path to the palace where the Mahai watches the events unfurl with an unnatural icy calmness. His champion launches itself at the terrified enemies of its master and deadly combat soaks the ground with blood. While the beast is engaged, the Imperial troops continue moving the atomics towards the shaft. Within the shaft they discover a strange organic generator. The Bene Gesserit Lady Rosenta commands it be destroyed. With this gone Nemesis withers and dies. The allies storm the palace and within finally come face to face with the Mahai. It is the former Emperor! The Sardaukar are stunned with disbelief. It is discovered that this is the original prototype ghola made for the Ordos during the War of Assassins. It has ascended to become the chosen one of the Tleilaxu. Who better to lead a new order than the Emperor himself? The command is given to destroy this abomination but its poison words turn some of the Sardaukar against their own side. This is the Emperor we all loved! The man who we would lay our lives down for! The Mahai laughs as he watches brother fight brother in the great hall of the palace. He watches them with eyes as black as voids. Then, an explosion rocks the building and through the smoke and debris steps a hero. The Mahai smiles wickedly and taunts this puny human. How can he be challenged? He has been given new powers. And from where did he gain them? From the very son of Duke Achillus himself! Cassius Atreides! Both combatants stare across the broken pillars and bodies between them, then step towards each other...
Deep in the shaft the Atomics squad has reached it’s destination. At the Emperor’s command the atomic timers are set and the Imperial army begins its evacuation. As they reach the surface they see a figure stagger from the burning palace. It is the Emperor! But the flesh is falling off his body and he dissolves into a pool of dank liquid. Behind this stands the one who slew this vile creation, emotionless and silent. The Emperor’s forces take off in their frigates and fly clear of the evil planet. Sitting on his throne the new Emperor nods to a Sardaukar captain and with that tiny gesture, the world of Tleilax becomes just a word in the history books. The Dark Alliance is destroyed forever.
For the Empire this is a glorious moment. Many generations from now, songs will be sung, stories will be told and statues will remember those who sacrificed their lives, who defended humanity and restored a kind of peace across the great expanse of space. They will remember those who became Heroes.