This article is part of the The Blue Stripe Logs series.
Wherein the Baron Makes His Wishes Known
Rekko gets the old hook.The Baron summons me to his palace as he always does, with a discordant blurt of horns and the implicit threat that if I'm not prompt the executioners will be. The giant mongoloid with the sledge spike is especially punctual. If I ever need something delivered at a very specific time and I don't mind it being hammered through a human brain then he is the perfect man for the job.
I arrive with Rekko as fast as is possible and we are rushed into a waiting area handsomely decorated in green tiles and columns wrapped with human skin. A little plaque informs me the nearest column is skin taken from the bodies of poets with poor rhyme schemes. It serves as a fine reminder never to try out your new material in front of the Baron.
Captain Nefud of the Baron's House guard steps inside the waiting area to notify us, in that distressingly calm voice he has, that the Baron wishes to have his arrangements freshened. I send Rekko in with a tray of golden Ixian roses. I am not surprised when Rekko does not return. This is why you have assistants.
When it is my turn I summon every ounce of my pitiful courage and composure and then I stride tentatively into the Baron's chamber. The Baron is still laughing at something and hovering beneath a stream of oil that is drizzling from the ceiling.
Feyd-Rautha and The Beast Rabban are also present, along with the Baron's twisted Mentat Piter De Vries, Nefud, and the Baron's personal physician. All of my favorite people in one room, it's like a surprise birthday party. With such a great bunch I am wondering where the party hats have gone to.
Poor Rekko is dead, face down in a pool of blood at the base of the flower planter. The Baron's heart plugs are always so dismally final. A plug makes you think you might be able to stick it back in like a cork, but it's actually more of a heart ripcord. Maybe the opposite of this, whatever sort of cord you can pull that makes certain your parachute does not open.
"Aaaah ha ha!" The Baron roars and continues spinning round and round in the air like a malevolent top.
The others, with the exception of Piter, laugh along with the Baron. I'm unwilling to commit to laughter so I select a very firm chuckle to insert myself gradually into the cacophony. When the mirth dies down to a low chortle the Baron turns his attention to me and hovers in my direction.
The Baron has always been a charmer. He uses hypnotic gas and nerve induction to charm."Sweet Eugene," he says and strokes my face. "Soon we will be leaving Giedi Prime for a world with untold riches. I wish for you to join us."
"Whatever my Baron wills," I bow my head.
"This is a very arid climate," the Baron spreads his fat arms, "it will be difficult for a florist to cultivate any sort of fauna."
He squeezes my cheeks.
"There is no rain there, Eugene. Tell me you are certain you can create the grandest arrangement of your career on this world and my fears will be allayed."
"It is a certainty, my Baron."
The Baron purses his lips and raises his eyebrows, but does not speak. I must think of something to say quickly.
"As certain as the ultimate destruction of the Atreides by your hand. As certain as...the..."
"Go on," the Baron smiles cruelly.
My eyes flick to Rekko's corpse as I imagine a similar fate for myself.
"My therapist put me on a new medication to deal with my anxiety," I stammer, "I think he put me on it so he can deal with his credit card bill."
The Baron frowns. It's so hot.
"I get agitated," I pluck at my shirt trying to cool off. "It's genetic. I think I inherited it from my father, along with my looks. I told my therapist I don't know which is worse."
"What is he doing, Piter?"
"I think the guy is trying to put his kids through college on my tab," the words keep coming unbidden. "He asks me to tell him how I feel. The last time he asked me that I held up my foot and told him I feel like his words should turn into orthopedic inserts for what I'm paying him. What? I've got fallen arches, come on."
"I believe he is doing shtick, my Baron," Piter answers.
"Make him stop," the Baron instructs his Mentat.
"That's what my wife said the last time she made love," I back away towards the door, "Only she was talking to a Tleilaxu assassin. And she was pointing at a picture of me!"
I backpedal into the waiting area. Piter follows, chasing me slowly all the way out of the palace as I continue to babble bad jokes. I am amazed when I step onto the street outside the palace and Piter turns back around and leaves me to live another day. I knew that guy was twisted, but this is ridiculous. Get it over with, please!
TOTAL WRECK - crazy-eyed hound is covered in cobwebs, has a vespiary on back, graffiti on side and savage thirst for boat fuel. Frankly, I'm in over my head. He's in room 115 at Motel 6, yours free. 555-2851
Yes, it's the perfect form for surviving a car crash. But it's also the perfect form for so much more, like surviving the trauma of reading any news headline in 2016.
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