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Harsh Truths and What They Cost

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Ghanima was so rarely without her twin, yet it was not fear that kept her at his side. Fear was something not truly known to the girl, nor did it arise at the odd discordant sound that now drew her away from the dead remnants of the botanical room. She had come to meditate , to help her mother guard her from the Other Memories once more. Sometimes such a thing was difficult to do, when her twin reinforced all that they each were.

The noises led her to a strange blue box that she had to cast through Other Memory to find a name for. It had appeared from time to time, long before the Machine Crusades, as a harbinger of change or salvation to humanity. Ghanima pulled away from the strongest of her ancestresses who could name it, out of caution of becoming an Abomination as her Aunt was becoming. The life of the Pre-Born was such that constant vigilance was necessary, even as the Other Memories provided skills beyond the years possessed.

The door opened, but no-one came out of the box, and the bold girl walked forward, peering into the structure she knew would be far larger on the inside. The air that emerged was thick, heavy with humidity, and harder for Ghanima to accept, making her long for her still suit to cut away the fluid choking her air.

"Doctor?" she called, too aware that the word she had used had not been spoken in countless centuries, that the inflection and accent was far too like the ancestress who had known the man who should be within.

"When... where?" The voice within did nothing to help the ancestress within her settle; it was different from any of the voices she had known. Ghanima frowned, but pressed forward, unflinching from the mystery. The blue box, TARDIS, she recalled, meant something was needed, or there was a threat. As neither she nor Leto had seen anything quite this soon, it was necessary to learn what the traveler knew.

"Arrakis. In the Regency of St. Alia the Knife," Ghanima said with a wry twist of her lips for the title bestowed upon her aunt. She drew her tunic up to shield her nose and mouth away from the moist air, and forged into the blue box.

The console looked nothing like her Other Memory said it ought to. Other than the vague layout of the console. Ghanima reached out with her senses, touching the living presence of the sentient machine, a concept that revolted and fascinated her in one breath. She focused then on the man on the floor. Like the console room, he did not match her Other Memory, but the voice had told her that he would not.

"You've changed again, Doctor."

"You know me?" The man in question shifted off the floor, where he had evidently collapsed at some point. His clothing fit him poorly, and from the ancestress's thoughts, it was likely that he had only recently changed. "Do I know me?"

"Likely not," the girl said crisply. "As I said..."

"Yes, yes, I have changed again." He then peered at her hard and long. "I don't know you. Do I?"

"No."

"Are you a psionic human?"

"Not in the manner you mean." Ghanima smiled, sharp and tight beneath her tunic and hand over her mouth. "I am Ghanima, of House Atreides." She felt the air equalizing, slowly, the moisture stolen by the still open doors. More water for Liet-Kynes' dream, she supposed, letting the tunic fall once the air was no longer drinkable. The Doctor was still staring at her, trying to make out the puzzle that she was. If she were more of a betting child, she would suppose he was focused intently on the mystery of her to avoid the repercussions of his ill-fitting clothing and what it meant.

"Arrakis, Arrakis...I know that....AHA! Oh that is just fantastic!" His tone was angry and hard, as he looked at the center console as if it had personally betrayed him. Ghanima caught the slight flicker of the light in the column at the middle of the console, before the Doctor cocked his head to one side. "Oh really! What if I didn't..." He cut off as the light pulsed hard, and he clutched at his temples, before laying his hand on the console and looking deeply apologetic. "I know, I know...yes, it will help." His tone was far more gentle as he communed with the sentient machine, to Ghanima's horrified interest.

"Have you discovered the reason for coming to my world?" Ghanima queried, drawing his attention back to her.

"What? Yes, oh yes. It seems you're to make a small trip with me," the Doctor said. "Brave enough, Ghani?"

"Only my brother may call me that," she said, hand pointedly sliding toward her crysknife.

"Pshaw, as you will. Coming?" He flashed her a bright, if falsely bold, smile.

Ghanima nodded; she was curious by nature, and despite the ancestress warning her in her mind, the girl decided she needed to know just why this traveler and his sentient machine had arrived, obviously still addled from a fresh regeneration.

"Then we're off! Back in a flash!"

The doors closed, the console lit up, and then the center column began its motion to indicate the TARDIS was on the move.

`~`~`~`~`

When the doors opened once more, Ghanima smelled the deep desert. She went to look, as the Doctor ducked into his wardrobe to change. The spread of sand was familiar, yet something felt askew to her. She supposed it was the lack of her brother, yet, he felt as if he were all around her. The TARDIS was sensibly landed on solid rock, but the sands were close. She had no still suit, yet the sands called to her, drawing the desert child onto them in a rhythmless walk that was first-nature to her.

If her brother were here, she could not have gone far in time, as she knew the box could do. At least that was what she thought, until the Doctor came near her.

"This is Arrakis... or Rakis, as it is known in this time. This is what will pass, if all goes as it should."

"If? I thought you were explicitly not allowed to interfere in a culture." Ghanima turned to face him, the hot air searing at them both, a kiss of well-known family member for her, but blistering to the man with his new self still adjusting.

"I'm making an exception here," he said grimly. "See, I have this pesky fondness for your race, and the TARDIS seems to share it."

"And?" Ghanima glanced around. "This is not the future Liet-Kynes chose for us."

"Oh the planetologist. His dream will be there, for a time." The Doctor glanced out. "I'd best get back to the rock now."

Ghanima looked, seeing worm sign, and nodded. "It's not so far." She moved to join him, but he shook his head.

"You know me. Trust in this. Stay."

"I have no Maker hooks," she argued, but there was something in his eyes. Something that touched upon a Reverend Mother's prescience made her want to trust him. "My brother will hunt you down and take your water, should anything happen to me." She then turned to face the coming of Shai-Hulud.

The thought of fear did not cross her mind. She knew how to evade a coming worm if it was necessary, yet the Doctor did not feel it was. As Shai-Hulud rose from the sands, she prepared to dodge to one side, hand on her crysknife, in case she should need to mount and raise a scale to protect herself. It could be done, but Maker hooks were better for it.

Yet...the worm stopped and merely raised its body in full some thirty meters from her, weaving a hypnotic, sinuous pattern before crashing down to circle around her. The faint pressure of her brother's presence touched harder against her, pushing her Pre-Born senses to make a deduction she found impossible, but improbably true nonetheless.

"BROTHER!," she cried, falling to her knees in realization. He was there, and yet not, just as she felt him in at least five nearby points along the horizon. For a long moment in time, immeasurable for either twin, there was nothing but a strong rapport linking the kneeling girl in the sands to the great sandworm of Arrakis. The monstrous creature was at peace, in its own manner, the pearl of her brother's essence locked deep within but able to recognize the woman who had meant everything he ever truly cared for.

Shai-Hulud wove another dance before her, and Ghanima wondered at what had become of her brother, that she could feel him within the worms. With a solid, ground-shaking thump, the worm burrowed and left her there, shaken by what she had learned in this distant future. After a long moment, she rose, trudging back to the solid rock, and the faint shade offered by the TARDIS.

"Why?" Ghanima was quite aware of how open the question was, and for once in her life, was unsure which one she meant. Perhaps, this time, she meant all the permutations.

The Doctor frowned, then looked out into the cloudless blue sky. "There is a war. Was. Will be. All the same to me," he said. "Many worlds were lost. Humanity... stupid race that it can be, will be in danger of extinction, unless a certain path is followed."

"This one?" Ghanima probed, her too-wise mind fitting the pieces of her life against what she had been shown.

"The machines cannot win, Ghanima." He blanched to a bone pale color as that trod on his own raw senses.

"But why must it be Leto?" she asked, wishing to protect her twin, even as he would wish to protect her. Her mind flashed over the various things that set her apart from her brother. "He is more like our father. It must be Leto, must be the one who can see all places," she reasoned. "That is why it is Leto."

The Doctor met her Pre-Born eyes, then slowly nodded.

Ghanima took that in, used it to begin building the anchor points that Leto would need, working this against the foggy glimpses of the future they had already discussed. "Take me home." She had to be as strong as her mother, if Leto was to be her father all over again, dynamic and forcefully changing the order of all things.

"Right away," the Doctor promised, leading her back inside.

`~`~`~`~`

For some definitions of 'right away', the Doctor lived up to his word. Two of her own months had passed, letting her inwardly smile at being older than her twin, but the TARDIS occupied its first spot mere breaths after it had left to let Ghanima out. The child waited until the blue box and the traveler had gone, before turning her own attentions to the future, to her brother, and to the destiny awaiting them all.

"Ghanima?" It was Leto's voice, and that made her run to him, to catch his hands, and tell him what needed to be said. Of the worm-with-the-pearl-of-Leto, she would say nothing for now. But eventually the time would come, and she would reinforce the Golden Path in her own manner.

Leto needed the support, and she would not deny him it.