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"I realized there was a heavy-duty change coming in biology, and I could write a really compelling novel about catastrophic evolution, punctuated equilibrium."
- Greg Bear

Residual Poison  
  A poison that, once administered, resides in the body; only regular intake of the antidote keeps the person alive.  

In the book, Baron Harkonnen obtains the services of Thufir Hawat, a Mentat and servant of his most bitter enemy. How can the Baron maintain the necessary control over Hawat?

"Hawat will be given both food and drink," the Baron said. "Treated with kindness, with sympathy. In his water you will administer the residual poison developed by the late Piter de Vries. And you will see that the antidote becomes a regular part of Hawat's diet from this point on . . . unless I say otherwise."

"The antidote, yes." Nefud shook his head. "But--"

..."You're going to say Hawat's completely loyal to the Atreides. True, but the Atreides are dead... We will woo Hawat," the Baron said. "We will hide him from the Sardaukar. And we will hold in reserve . . . the withdrawal of the antidote for the poison. There's no way of removing the residual poison. And, Nefud, Hawat need never suspect. The antidote will not betray itself to a poison snooper. Hawat can scan his food as he pleases and detect no trace of poison."

Nefud's eyes opened wide with understanding.

"The absence of a thing," the Baron said, "this can be as deadly as the presence. The absence of air, eh? The absence of water? The absence of anything else we're addicted to." The Baron nodded. "You understand me, Nefud?"

From Dune, by Frank Herbert.
Published by Putnam in 1965
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