V. Tom’s third term: The Harkonnen War
On turn 202, a rumor spread throughout Sergeybrinograd that Tom and Bruce were using their terms of service as the heads of House Atreides for some sort of bizarre internet contest sponsored by a grassroots movement of questionable repute called Kickstarter. House Harkonnen couldn’t be directly tied to the rumors. But when a city suddenly acquires a trait called “misinformation” that reduces production by 20% and causes unhappiness to four points of population, you can blame it on espionage. And where there’s espionage, House Harkonnen can’t be far behind.
This was the beginning of the Harkonnen Wars, a valiant period in Atreides history when Tom Chick demonstrated his considerable prowess as a cunning diplomat, an importer of fine luxury goods, a brilliant military leader familiar with the tenets of Civilization IV warfare, and a lover. On that last count, suffice to say Princess Irulan was often seen leaving the Atreides palace in Arrakeen during the early hours. The shrewd observer might note that she was in a disheveled state and often carrying her heels. That she would later agree to trades advantageous to House Atreides can’t have been a coincidence. I mean, who ever heard of just giving away techs like Protected Trade and Defensive Armaments?
It wasn’t until turn 214 that the cold war with the Harkonnens turned hot. Baron Harkonnen issued a declaration of war just as suspensor transports and their gunship escorts ferried an invasion force to Sergeybrinograd. Two bladesmen, a quad buggy, and a grenade trooper landed just outside Atreides second largest city, accompanied by a dreaded Maula mortar to shell the city’s defenses. Chick emptied Atreides coffers to call in heavy troopers from offworld. But these forces could do little more than fortify and await the Harkonnen assault that would follow the mortar’s relentless shelling. Meanwhile, the Harkonnen suspensor gunships began pillaging undefended Atreides spice harvesters. It looked like the only hope for House Atreides was to hold fast while the gunships shut down the Atreides economy.
These were dark days for House Atreides. But then something happened on turn 219. One of the captains from the units that would later be known as Chick’s Shield Fighters, an elite cadre with Ginaz training, recalls the morning of turn 219:
Well, it wasn’t really morning. It was more like one in the afternoon or so, because Chick is never up before noon. Our unit was just laying low in the bunker listening to the Maula mortar firing from outside the city. Back then, we were just sitting tight, with nothing to do but smoke spiked paintbrush glazed with spice honey and drink that Caladanian wine that was coming in from the new Bangazi landing stage. We were just partying and waiting to see what was going to happen next.
But then a royal shuttle comes in from Arrakeen and lands on one of the higher towers, out of reach of the mortar. Someone gets out, obviously someone from the palace because he had a whole mess of bodyguards and servants and whatnot. Anyways, this dude in a cape gets up on the parapet with a megaphone and starts trying to lead us all in a chant of We Will Rock You, you know, that song by Queen. We’d never heard it before, since this is Dune, not Earth. We had no idea what this guy was trying to do. He was trying to get us all to do that thing where you clap your hands over your head, but he was pretty much the only one doing it. My buddy Thurwatt hands me his lasgun’s viewfinder and says, ‘Hey, isn’t that President Chick up there?’ So I took a look, and sure enough, it was him, trying to do those lyrics, wearing his cape, clapping his hands over his head. He’d apparently just gotten the news about the Landsraad decision and was coming to tell us about it in person.
The Fremen had submitted a vote to the Landsraad to stop the Harkonnen/Atreides war. The vote had passed and the invading Harkonnen forces were immediately ejected from Atreides territory after only five turns of war. Chick would later claim credit for brokering the deal, but many historians believe the Fremen wanted the war stopped because they were in the final stages of conquering House Ecaz. Historians, man. Can’t those guys get real jobs or something?
Whatever the case, Chick promptly joined the war against Ecaz and spent the next 15 turns scurrying from besieged city to besieged city hoping to add a piece of the crumbling Ecaz territory to House Atreides. Again and again, Chick’s forces would arrive just as the Freman seized the city. But he finally succeeded on a remote rock outcropping to the west, where Ecaz’s last remaining city, Sukka Basin, had been stripped of its defenders by Fremen suspensor gunships. As Fremen ground forces on their sandworms raced across the sand toward Sukka Basin, Chick mustered a small invasion force on a single suspensor transport. By virtue of Sukka Basin’s proximity to Atreides borders, Chick captured that final city and officially eliminated House Ecaz. Chick immediately declared himself the conqueror of House Ecaz. Historians would compare this to a guy taking credit for opening a stuck jar after someone else loosened the lid. But what do they know?
Atreides score: 2404
Tom: 1602, Bruce: 802