Chapter no 15


“Have you seen their bodies?” the Baron rumbled.

Nefud hesitated.


“M’Lord . . . they were seen to dive into a sandstorm . . . winds over eight hundred kilometers. Nothing survives such a storm, m’Lord. Nothing! One of our own craft was destroyed in the pursuit.”

The Baron stared at Nefud , noting the nervous twitch in the scissors line of the man’s jaw muscles, the way the chin moved as Nefud swallowed.

“You have seen the bodies?” the Baron asked.

“M’Lord – ”

“For what purpose do you come here rattling your armor?” the Baron roared. “To tell me a thing is certain when it is not? Do you think I’ll praise you for such stupidity, give you another promotion?”




Nefud ‘s face went bone pale.

Look at the chicken , the Baron thought. I am surrounded by such useless clods. If I scattered sand before this creature and told him it was grain, he’d peck at it .

“The man Idaho led us to them, then?” the Baron asked.

“Yes, m’Lord!”

Look how he blurts out his answer , the Baron thought. He said: “They were attempting to flee to the Fremen, eh?”

“Yes, m’Lord.”

“Is there more to this . . . report?”

“The Imperial Planetologist, Kynes, is involved, m’Lord. Idaho joined this Kynes under mysterious circumstances . . . I might even say suspicious circumstances.”


“They . . . ah, fled together to a place in the desert where it’s apparent the boy and his mother were hiding. In the excitement of the chase, several of our groups were caught in a lasgun-shield explosion.”

“How many did we lose?”

“I’m . . . ah, not sure yet, m’Lord.”

He’s lying , the Baron thought. It must’ve been pretty bad .

“The Imperial lackey, this Kynes,” the Baron said. “He was playing a double game, eh?”

“I’d stake my reputation on it, m’Lord.”

His reputation!

“Have the man killed,” the Baron said.

“M’Lord! Kynes is the Imperial Planetologist, His Majesty’s own serv – ”

“Make it look like an accident, then!”

“M’Lord, there were Sardaukar with our forces in the subjugation of this Fremen nest. They have Kynes in custody now.”

“Get him away from them. Say I wish to question him.”

“If they demur?”

“They will not if you handle it correctly.”

Nefud swallowed. “Yes, m’Lord.”

“The man must die,” the Baron rumbled. “He tried to help my enemies.”

Nefud shifted from one foot to the other.





“M’Lord, the Sardaukar have . . . two persons in custody who might be of interest to you. They’ve caught the Duke’s Master of Assassins.”

“Hawat? Thufir Hawat?”

“I’ve seen the captive myself, m’Lord. ‘Tis Hawat.”

“I’d not’ve believed it possible!”

“They say he was knocked out by a stunner, m’Lord. In the desert where he couldn’t use his shield. He’s virtually unharmed. If we can get our hands on him, he’ll provide great sport.”

“This is a Mentat you speak of,” the Baron growled. “One doesn’t waste a Mentat. Has he spoken? What does he say of his defeat? Could he know the extent of . . . but no.”

“He has spoken only enough, m’Lord, to reveal his belief that the Lady Jessica was his betrayer.”


The Baron sank back, thinking; then: “You’re sure? It’s the Lady Jessica who attracts his anger?”

“He said it in my presence, m’Lord.”

“Let him think she’s alive, then.”

“But, m’Lord – ”

“Be quiet. I wish Hawat treated kindly. He must be told nothing of the late Doctor Yueh, his true betrayer. Let it be said that Doctor Yueh died defending his Duke. In a way, this may even be true. We will, instead, feed his suspicions against the Lady Jessica.”

“M’Lord, I don’t – ”

“The way to control and direct a Mentat, Nefud , is through his information. False information – false results.”

“Yes, m’Lord, but . . . ”

“Is Hawat hungry? Thirsty?”

“M’Lord, Hawat’s still in the hands of the Sardaukar!”

“Yes. Indeed, yes. But the Sardaukar will be as anxious to get information from Hawat as I am. I’ve noticed a thing about our allies, Nefud . They’re not very devious . . .politically. I do believe this is a deliberate thing; the Emperor wants it that way. Yes. I do believe it. You will remind the Sardaukar commander of my renown at obtaining information from reluctant subjects.”

Nefud looked unhappy. “Yes, m’Lord.”

“You will tell the Sardaukar commander that I wish to question both Hawat and this Kynes at the same time, playing one off against the other. He can understand that much, I think.”

“Yes, m’Lord.”

“And once we have them in our hands . . . ” The Baron nodded.

“M’Lord, the Sardaukar will want an observer with you during any . . . questioning.”

“I’m sure we can produce an emergency to draw off any unwanted observers, Nefud .”




“I understand, m’Lord. That’s when Kynes can have his accident.”

“Both Kynes and Hawat will have accidents then, Nefud . But only Kynes will have a real accident. It’s Hawat I want. Yes. Ah, yes.”

Nefud blinked, swallowed. He appeared about to ask a question, but remained silent.

“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 – ”

“Don’t be dense, Nefud . The Duke almost killed me with that poison-capsule tooth. The gas he exhaled into my presence deprived me of my most valuable Mentat, Piter. I need a replacement.”



“But – ”

“You’re going to say Hawat’s completely loyal to the Atreides. True, but the Atreides are dead. We will woo him. He must be convinced he’s not to blame for the Duke’s demise. It was all the doing of that Bene Gesserit witch. He had an inferior master, one whose reason was clouded by emotion. Mentats admire the ability to calculate without emotion, Nefud . We will woo the formidable Thufir Hawat.”

“Woo him. Yes, m’Lord.”

“Hawat, unfortunately, had a master whose resources were poor, one who could not elevate a Mentat to the sublime peaks of reasoning that are a Mentat’s right. Hawat will see a certain element of truth in this. The Duke couldn’t afford the most efficient spies to provide his Mentat with the required information.” The Baron stared at Nefud . “Let us never deceive ourselves, Nefud . The truth is a powerful weapon. We know how we overwhelmed the Atreides. Hawat knows, too. We did it with wealth.”

“With wealth. Yes, m’Lord.”

“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 ?”

Nefud swallowed. “Yes, m’Lord.”

Then get busy. Find the Sardaukar commander and set things in motion.”

“At once, m’Lord.” Nefud bowed, turned, and hurried away.

Hawat by my side! the Baron thought. The Sardaukar will give him to me. If they suspect anything at all it’s that I wish to destroy the Mentat. And this suspicion I’ll confirm! The fools! One of the most formidable Mentats in all history, a Mentat trained to kill, and they’ll toss him to me like some silly toy to be broken. I will show them what use can be made of such a toy .

The Baron reached beneath a drapery beside his suspensor bed, pressed a button to summon his older nephew, Rabban. He sat back, smiling.

And all the Atreides dead!

The stupid guard captain had been right, of course. Certainly, nothing survived in the path of a sandblast storm on Arrakis. Not an ornithopter . . . or its occupants. The woman and the boy were dead. The bribes in the right places, the unthinkable expenditure to bring overwhelming military force down onto one planet . . . all the sly reports tailored for the Emperor’s ears alone, all the careful scheming were here at last coming to full fruition.

Power and fear – fear and power!

The Baron could see the path ahead of him. One day, a Harkonnen would be Emperor. Not himself, and no spawn of his loins. But a Harkonnen. Not this Rabban he’d summoned, of course. But Rabban’s younger brother, young Feyd-Rautha. There was a sharpness to the boy that the Baron enjoyed . . . a ferocity.

A lovely boy , the Baron thought. A year or two more – say, by the time he’s seventeen, I’ll know for certain whether he’s the tool that House Harkonnen requires to gain the throne.

“M’Lord Baron.”

The man who stood outside the doorfield of the Baron’s bedchamber was low built, gross of face and body, with the Harkonnen paternal line’s narrow-set eyes and bulge of shoulders. There was yet some rigidity in his fat, but it was obvious to the eye that he’d come one day to the portable suspensors for carrying his excess weight.

A muscle-minded tank-brain , the Baron thought. No Mentat, my nephew . . . not a Piter de Vries, but perhaps something more precisely devised for the task at hand. If I give him freedom to do it, he’ll grind over everything in his path. Oh, how he’ll be hated here on Arrakis!

“My dear Rabban,” the Baron said. He released the doorfield, but pointedly kept his body shield at full strength, knowing that the shimmer of it would be visible above the bedside glowglobe.

“You summoned me,” Rabban said. He stepped into the room, flicked a glance past the air disturbance of the body shield, searched for a suspensor chair, found none.




“Stand closer where I can see you easily,” the Baron said.

Rabban advanced another step, thinking that the damnable old man had deliberately removed all chairs, forcing a visitor to stand.

“The Atreides are dead,” the Baron said. “The last of them. That’s why I summoned you here to Arrakis. This planet is again yours.”

Rabban blinked. “But I thought you were going to advance Piter de Vries to the – ”

“Piter, too, is dead.”



The Baron reactivated the doorfield, blanked it against all energy penetration.

“You finally tired of him, eh?” Rabban asked.

His voice fell flat and lifeless in the energy-blanketed room.

“I will say a thing to you just this once,” the Baron rumbled. “You insinuate that I obliterated Piter as one obliterates a trifle.” He snapped fat fingers. “Just like that, eh? I am not so stupid, Nephew. I will take it unkindly if ever again you suggest by word or action that I am so stupid.”

Fear showed in the squinting of Rabban’s eyes. He knew within certain limits how far the old Baron would go against family. Seldom to the point of death unless there were outrageous profit or provocation in it. But family punishments could be painful.

“Forgive me, m’Lord Baron,” Rabban said. He lowered his eyes as much to hide his own anger as to show subservience.

“You do not fool me, Rabban,” the Baron said.

Rabban kept his eyes lowered, swallowed.

“I make a point,” the Baron said. “Never obliterate a man unthinkingly, the way an entire fief might do it through some due process of law . Always do it for an overriding purpose – and know your purpose! ”

Anger spoke in Rabban: “But you obliterated the traitor, Yueh! I saw his body being carried out as I arrived last night.”

Rabban stared at his uncle, suddenly frightened by the sound of those words.

But the Baron smiled. “I’m very careful about dangerous weapons,” he said. “Doctor Yueh was a traitor. He gave me the Duke.” Strength poured into the Baron’s voice. “I suborned a doctor of the Suk School ! The Inner School ! You hear, boy? But that’s a wild sort of weapon to leave lying about. I didn’t obliterate him casually.”

“Does the Emperor know you suborned a Suk doctor?”

This was a penetrating question , the Baron thought. Have I misjudged this nephew?

“The Emperor doesn’t know it yet,” the Baron said. “But his Sardaukar are sure to report it to him. Before that happens, though, I’ll have my own report in his hands through CHOAM Company channels. I will explain that I luckily discovered a doctor who pretended to the conditioning. A false doctor, you understand? Since everyone knows you cannot counter the conditioning of a Suk School , this will be accepted.”

“Ah-h-h, I see,” Rabban murmured.

And the Baron thought: Indeed, I hope you do see. I hope you do see how vital it is that this remain secret . The Baron suddenly wondered at himself. Why did I do that? Why did I boast to this fool nephew of mine – the nephew I must use and discard? The Baron felt anger at himself. He felt betrayed.

“It must be kept secret,” Rabban said. “I understand.”

The Baron sighed. “I give you different instructions about Arrakis this time, Nephew. When last you ruled this place, I held you in strong rein. This time, I have only one requirement.”




“Have you any idea, Rabban, how much we spent to bring such military force to bear on the Atreides? Do you have even the first inkling of how much the Guild charges for military transport?”




“Expensive, eh?”


The Baron shot a fat arm toward Rabban. “If you squeeze Arrakis for every cent it can give us for sixty years, you’ll just barely repay us!”

Rabban opened his mouth, closed it without speaking.

“Expensive,” the Baron sneered. “The damnable Guild monopoly on space would’ve ruined us if I hadn’t planned for this expense long ago. You should know, Rabban, that we bore the entire brunt of it. We even paid for transport of the Sardaukar.”

And not for the first time, the Baron wondered if there ever would come a day when the Guild might be circumvented. They were insidious – bleeding off just enough to keep the host from objecting until they had you in their fist where they could force you to pay and pay and pay.

Always, the exorbitant demands rode upon military ventures. “Hazard rates,” the oily Guild agents explained. And for every agent you managed to insert as a watchdog in the Guild Bank structure, they put two agents into your system.


“Income then,” Rabban said.

The Baron lowered his arm, made a fist. “You must squeeze.”

“And I may do anything I wish as long as I squeeze?”


“The cannons you brought,” Rabban said. “Could I – ”

“I’m removing them,” the Baron said.

“But you – ”

“You won’t need such toys. They were a special innovation and are now useless. We need the metal. They cannot go against a shield, Rabban. They were merely the unexpected. It was predictable that the Duke’s men would retreat into cliff caves on this abominable planet. Our cannon merely sealed them in.”

“The Fremen don’t use shields.”

“You may keep some lasguns if you wish.”

“Yes, m ‘Lord. And I have a free hand.”

“As long as you squeeze.”

Rabban’s smile was gloating. “I understand perfectly, m’Lord.”

“You understand nothing perfectly,” the Baron growled. “Let us have that clear at the outset. What you do understand is how to carry out my orders. Has it occurred to you, nephew, that there are at least five million persons on this planet?”

“Does m’Lord forget that I was his regent-siridar here before? And if m’Lord will forgive me, his estimate may be low. It’s difficult to count a population scattered among sinks and pans the way they are here. And when you consider the Fremen of – ”

“The Fremen aren’t worth considering!”

“Forgive me, m’Lord, but the Sardaukar believe otherwise.”

The Baron hesitated, staring at his nephew. “You know something?”

“M’Lord had retired when I arrived last night. I . . . ah, took the liberty of contacting some of my lieutenants from . . . ah, before. They’ve been acting as guides to the Sardaukar. They report that a Fremen band ambushed a Sardaukar force somewhere southeast of here and wiped it out.”

“Wiped out a Sardaukar force?”

“Yes, m’Lord.”


Rabban shrugged.

“Fremen defeating Sardaukar,” the Baron sneered.




“I repeat only what was reported to me,” Rabban said. “It is said this Fremen force already had captured the Duke’s redoubtable Thufir Hawat.”


The Baron nodded, smiling.

“I believe the report,” Rabban said. “You’ve no idea what a problem the Fremen were.”

“Perhaps, but these weren’t Fremen your lieutenants saw. They must’ve been Atreides men trained by Hawat and disguised as Fremen. It’s the only possible answer.”

Again, Rabban shrugged. “Well, the Sardaukar think they were Fremen. The Sardaukar already have launched a program to wipe out all Fremen.”


“But – ”

“It’ll keep the Sardaukar occupied. And we’ll soon have Hawat. I know it! I can feel it! Ah, this has been a day! The Sardaukar off hunting a few useless desert bands while we get the real prize!”

“M’Lord . . . ” Rabban hesitated, frowning. “I’ve always felt that we underestimated the Fremen, both in numbers and in – ”

“Ignore them, boy! They’re rabble. It’s the populous towns, cities, and villages that concern us. A great many people there, eh?”

“A great many, m’Lord.”

“They worry me, Rabban.”

“Worry you?”

“Oh . . . ninety per cent of them are of no concern. But there are always a few . . . Houses Minor and so on, people of ambition who might try a dangerous thing. If one of them should get off Arrakis with an unpleasant story about what happened here, I’d be most displeased. Have you any idea how displeased I’d be?”

Rabban swallowed.

“You must take immediate measures to hold a hostage from each House Minor,” the Baron said. “As far as anyone off Arrakis must learn, this was straightforward House-to-House battle. The Sardaukar had no part in it, you understand? The Duke was offered the usual quarter and exile, but he died in an unfortunate accident before he could accept. He was about to accept, though. That is the story. And any rumor that there were Sardaukar here, it must be laughed at.”

“As the Emperor wishes it,” Rabban said.

“As the Emperor wishes it.”

“What about the smugglers?”

“No one believes smugglers, Rabban. They are tolerated, but not believed. At any rate, you’ll be spreading some bribes in that quarter . . . and taking other measures which I’m sure you can think of.”

“Yes, m’Lord.”

“Two things from Arrakis, then, Rabban: income and a merciless fist. You must show no mercy here. Think of these clods as what they are – slaves envious of their masters and waiting only the opportunity to rebel. Not the slightest vestige of pity or mercy must you show them.”

“Can one exterminate an entire planet?” Rabban asked.

“Exterminate?” Surprise showed in the swift turning of the Baron’s head. “Who said anything about exterminating?”

“Well, I presumed you were going to bring in new stock and – ”

“I said squeeze . Nephew, not exterminate. Don’t waste the population, merely drive them into utter submission. You must be the carnivore, my boy.” He smiled, a baby’s expression in the dimple-fat face. “A carnivore never stops. Show no mercy. Never stop. Mercy is a chimera. It can be defeated by the stomach rumbling its hunger, by the throat crying its thirst. You must be always hungry and thirsty.” The Baron caressed his bulges beneath the suspensors. “Like me.”

“I see, m’Lord.”

Rabban swung his gaze left and right.




“It’s all clear then, Nephew?”

“Except for one thing. Uncle: the planetologist, Kynes.”

“Ah, yes, Kynes.”

“He’s the Emperor’s man, m’Lord. He can come and go as he pleases. And he’s very close to the Fremen . . . married one.”

“Kynes will be dead by tomorrow’s nightfall.”

“That’s dangerous work, Uncle, killing an Imperial servant.”

“How do you think I’ve come this far this quickly?” the Baron demanded. His voice was low, charged with unspeakable adjectives. “Besides, you need never have feared Kynes would leave Arrakis. You’re forgetting that he’s addicted to the spice.”

“Of course!”

“Those who know will do nothing to endanger their supply,” the Baron said. “Kynes certainly must know.”

“I forgot, “Rabban said.

They stared at each other in silence.

Presently, the Baron said: “Incidentally, you will make my own supply one of your first concerns. I’ve quite a stockpile of private stuff, but that suicide raid by the Duke’s men got most of what we’d stored for sale.”

Rabban nodded. “Yes, m’Lord.”

The Baron brightened. “Now, tomorrow morning, you will assemble what remains of organization here and you’ll say to them: ‘Our Sublime Padishah Emperor has charged me to take possession of this planet and end all dispute.’ ”

“I understand, m’Lord.”

“This time, I’m sure you do. We will discuss it in more detail tomorrow. Now, leave me to finish my sleep.”

The Baron deactivated his doorfield, watched his nephew out of sight.

A tank-brain , the Baron thought. Muscle-minded tank-brain. They will be bloody pulp here when he’s through with them. Then, when I send in Feyd-Rautha to take the load off them, they’ll cheer their rescuer. Beloved Feyd-Rautha. Benign Feyd-Rautha, the compassionate one who saves them from a beast. Feyd-Rautha, a man to follow and die for. The boy will know by that time how to oppress with impunity. I’m sure he’s the one we need. He’ll learn. And such a lovely body. Really a lovely boy .

At the age of fifteen, he had already learned silence.

– from “A Child’s History of Muad’Dib” by the Princess Irulan

As Paul fought the ‘thopter’s controls, he grew aware that he was sorting out the interwoven storm forces, his more than Mentat awareness computing on the basis of fractional minutiae. He felt dust fronts, billowings, mixings of turbulence, an occasional vortex.

The cabin interior was an angry box lighted by the green radiance of instrument dials. The tan flow of dust outside appeared featureless, but his inner sense began to see through the curtain.

I must find the right vortex , he thought.

For a long time now he had sensed the storm’s power diminishing, but still it shook them. He waited out another turbulence.

The vortex began as an abrupt billowing that rattled the entire ship. Paul defied all fear to bank the ‘thopter left.

Jessica saw the maneuver on the attitude globe.

“Paul!” she screamed.

The vortex turned them, twisting, tipping. It lifted the ‘thopter like a chip on a geyser, spewed them up and out – a winged speck within a core of winding dust lighted by the second moon.




Paul looked down, saw the dust-defined pillar of hot wind that had disgorged them, saw the dying storm trailing away like a dry river into the desert – moon-gray motion growing smaller and smaller below as they rode the updraft.

“We’re out of it,” Jessica whispered.

Paul turned their craft away from the dust in swooping rhythm while he scanned the night sky.

“We’ve given them the slip,” he said.

Jessica felt her heart pounding. She forced herself to calmness, looked at the diminishing storm. Her time sense said they had ridden within that compounding of elemental forces almost four hours, but part of her mind computed the passage as a lifetime. She felt reborn.

It was like the litany , she thought. We faced it and did not resist. The storm passed through us and around us. It’s gone, but we remain .

“I don’t like the sound of our wing motion,” Paul said. “We suffered some damage in there.”

He felt the grating, injured flight through his hands on the controls. They were out of the storm, but still not out into the full view of his prescient vision. Yet, they had escaped, and Paul sensed himself trembling on the verge of a revelation.

He shivered.

The sensation was magnetic and terrifying, and he found himself caught on the question of what caused this trembling awareness. Part of it, he felt, was the spice-saturated diet of Arrakis. But he thought part of it could be the litany, as though the words had a power of their own.

“I shall not fear . . . ”

Cause and effect: he was alive despite malignant forces, and he felt himself poised on a brink of self-awareness that could not have been without the litany’s magic.

Words from the Orange Catholic Bible rang through his memory: “What senses do we lack that we cannot see or hear another world all around us? ”

“There’s rock all around,” Jessica said.

Paul focused on the ‘thopter’s launching, shook his head to clear it. He looked where his mother pointed, saw uplifting rock shapes black on the sand ahead and to the right. He felt wind around his ankles, a stirring of dust in the cabin. There was a hole somewhere, more of the storm’s doing.

“Better set us down on sand,” Jessica said. “The wings might not take full brake.”

He nodded toward a place ahead where sandblasted ridges lifted into moonlight above the dunes. “I’ll set us down near those rocks. Check your safety harness.”

She obeyed, thinking: We’ve water and stillsuits. If we can find food, we can survive a long time on this desert. Fremen live here. What they can do we can do .

“Run for those rocks the instant we’re stopped,” Paul said. “I’ll take the pack.”

“Run for . . . ” She fell silent, nodded. ” Worms .”

“Our friends, the worms,” he corrected her. “They’ll get this ‘thopter. There’ll be no evidence of where we landed.”

How direct his thinking , she thought.




They glided lower . . . lower . . .

There came a rushing sense of motion to their passage – blurred shadows of dunes, rocks lifting like islands. The ‘thopter touched a dune top with a soft lurch, skipped a sand valley, touched another dune.

He’s killing our speed against the sand , Jessica thought, and permitted herself to admire his competence.

“Brace yourself!” Paul warned.

He pulled back on the wing brakes, gently at first, then harder and harder. He felt them cup the air, their aspect ratio dropping faster and faster. Wind screamed through the lapped coverts and primaries of the wings’ leaves.

Abruptly, with only the faintest lurch of warning, the left wing, weakened by the storm, twisted upward and in, slamming across the side of the ‘thopter. The craft skidded across a dune top, twisting to the left. It tumbled down the opposite face to bury its nose in the next dune amid a cascade of sand. They lay stopped on the broken wing side, the right wing pointing toward the stars.

Paul jerked off his safety harness, hurled himself upward across his mother, wrenching the door open. Sand poured around them into the cabin, bringing a dry smell of burned flint. He grabbed the pack from the rear, saw that his mother was free of her harness. She stepped up onto the side of the right-hand seat and out onto the ‘thopter’s metal skin. Paul followed, dragging the pack by its straps.

“Run!” he ordered.

He pointed up the dune face and beyond it where they could see a rock tower undercut by sandblast winds.

Jessica leaped off the ‘thopter and ran, scrambling and sliding up the dune. She heard Paul’s panting progress behind. They came out onto a sand ridge that curved away toward the rocks.

“Follow the ridge,” Paul ordered. “It’ll be faster.”

They slogged toward the rocks, sand gripping their feet.

A new sound began to impress itself on them: a muted whisper, a hissing, an abrasive slithering.

“Worm,” Paul said.

It grew louder.

“Faster!” Paul gasped.

The first rock shingle, like a beach slanting from the sand, lay no more than ten meters ahead when they heard metal crunch and shatter behind them.

Paul shifted his pack to his right arm, holding it by the straps. It slapped his side as he ran. He took his mother’s arm with his other hand. They scrambled onto the lifting rock, up a pebble-littered surface through a twisted, wind-carved channel. Breath came dry and gasping in their throats.

“I can’t run any farther,” Jessica panted.

Paul stopped, pressed her into a gut of rock, turned and looked down onto the desert. A mound-in-motion ran parallel to their rock island  – moonlit ripples, sand waves, a cresting burrow almost level with Paul’s eyes at a distance of about a kilometer. The flattened dunes of its track curved once – a short loop crossing the patch of desert where they had abandoned their wrecked ornithopter.

Where the worm had been there was no sign of the aircraft.




The burrow mound moved outward into the desert, coursed back across its own path, questing.

“It’s bigger than a Guild spaceship,” Paul whispered. “I was told worms grew large in the deep desert, but I didn’t realize . . . how big.”

“Nor I,” Jessica breathed.

Again, the thing turned out away from the rocks, sped now with a curving track toward the horizon. They listened until the sound of its passage was lost in gentle sand stirrings around them.

Paul took a deep breath, looked up at the moon-frosted escarpment, and quoted from the Kitab al-Ibar: “Travel by night and rest in black shade through the day.” He looked at his mother. “We still have a few hours of night. Can you go on?”

“In a moment.”

Paul stepped out onto the rock shingle, shouldered the pack and adjusted its straps. He stood a moment with a paracompass in his hands.

“Whenever you’re ready,” he said.

She pushed herself away from the rock, feeling her strength return. “Which direction?”

“Where this ridge leads.” He pointed.

“Deep into the desert,” she said.

“The Fremen desert,” Paul whispered.

And he paused, shaken by the remembered high relief imagery of a prescient vision he had experienced on Caladan. He had seen this desert. But the set of the vision had been subtly different, like an optical image that had disappeared into his consciousness, been absorbed by memory, and now failed of perfect registry when projected onto the real scene. The vision appeared to have shifted and approached him from a different angle while he remained motionless.

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