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When Jessica arrives on Arrakis, almost everyone kneels. The people who don't are arrested or killed by Gurney Hallrck and Stilgar's men.

What's happening here? Are people being punished for not being subservient enough, or is something else going on?

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It's not that they didn't kneel, it's that they were slow ("tardy") in doing so.

With significant pockets of tardiness, but still like one giant organism, the people sank to their knees. Even the official party complied.

Jessica had marked out the places of delay, and she knew that other eyes behind her and among her agents in the throng had memorized a temporary map with which to seek out the tardy.

With Jessica's Bene Gesserit senses (which, to some extent she's trained Gurney and his men) they're able to use this delay to detect those that didn't kneel out of love for the mother of their god, but rather because they were trying to stay invisible in a crowd of devotees. Those that then ran were obviously guilty of something and killed on the spot, and those that remained in place were arrested for interrogation.

Interestingly, the sweep captured two different sets of heretics. Some that were merely personal devotees of Alia and some that were part of a plot against the entire Atreides dynasty.

“Many of those we took were Alia’s people,” Halleck signaled, watching Jessica’s face as he spoke aloud, telling her the interrogation still continued.

“It was as you anticipated then,” Jessica replied, her fingers winking. She nodded and spoke an open reply: “I’ll expect a full report when you’re satisfied, Gurney.”

“Of course, My Lady,” he said, and his fingers continued: “There is another thing, quite disturbing. Under the deep drugs, some of our captives talked of Jacurutu and, as they spoke the name, they died.”

“A conditioned heart-stopper?” Jessica’s fingers asked. And she said: “Have you released any of the captives?”

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    " Those that then ran were obviously guilty of something and killed on the spot"... But they might have been guilty of shoplifting or something... I didn't see this kind of wanton cruelty from Jessica, Stilgar or Gurney Halleck before... Nov 13, 2022 at 14:06
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    Jessica, Stilgar, and Gurney Halleck are not nice people.
    – Lee Mosher
    Nov 13, 2022 at 14:09
  • @LeeMosher indeed the world they inhabit does not permit it. I often complain that e.g. the Game of Thrones characters are all horrible garbage people, but if I had to be a Westerosi noble I'd probably be a horrible garbage person too. Nov 13, 2022 at 15:43
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    @AmeetSharma - In the words of Judge Dredd, if they wanted to stay alive, they shouldn't have run
    – Valorum
    Nov 13, 2022 at 15:56
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    @InvisibleTrihedron - People with arthritic knees would have been swept up with the guilty, briefly interrogated and then released
    – Valorum
    Nov 13, 2022 at 19:12

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