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Chapter no 16

Dune

Idaho was with us in the vision , he remembered. But now Idaho is dead .

“Do you see a way to go?” Jessica asked, mistaking his hesitation.

“No,” he said, “But we’ll go anyway.”

He settled his shoulders more firmly in the pack, struck out up a sand-carved channel in the rock. The channel opened onto a moonlit floor of rock with benched ledges climbing away to the south.

Paul headed for the first ledge, clambered onto it. Jessica followed.

She noted presently how their passage became a matter of the immediate and particular – the sand pockets between rocks where their steps were slowed, the wind-carved ridge that cut their hands, the obstruction that forced a choice: Go over or go around? The terrain enforced its own rhythms. They spoke only when necessary and then with the hoarse voices of their exertion.

“Careful here – this ledge is slippery with sand.”

“Watch you don’t hit your head against this overhang.”

“Stay below this ridge; the moon’s at our backs and it’d show our movement to anyone out there.”

Paul stopped in a bight of rock, leaned the pack against a narrow ledge.

Jessica leaned beside him, thankful for the moment of rest. She heard Paul pulling at his stillsuit tube, sipped her own reclaimed water. It tasted brackish, and she remembered the waters of Caladan – a tall fountain enclosing a curve of sky, such a richness of moisture that it hadn’t been noticed for itself . . . only for its shape, or its reflection, or its sound as she stopped beside it.

To stop , she thought. To rest . . . truly rest .

It occurred to her that mercy was the ability to stop, if only for a moment. There was no mercy where there could be no stopping.

Paul pushed away from the rock ledge, turned, and climbed over a sloping surface. Jessica followed with a sigh.

They slid down onto a wide shelf that led around a sheer rock face. Again, they fell into the disjointed rhythm of movement across this broken land.

Jessica felt that the night was dominated by degrees of smallness in substances beneath their feet and hands – boulders or pea gravel or flaked rock or pea sand or sand itself or grit or dust or gossamer powder.

The powder clogged nose filters and had to be blown out. Pea sand and pea gravel rolled on a hard surface and could spill the unwary. Rock flakes cut.

And the omnipresent sand patches dragged against their feet.

Paul stopped abruptly on a rock shelf, steadied his mother as she stumbled into him.

He was pointing left and she looked along his arm to see that they stood atop a cliff with the desert stretched out like a static ocean some two hundred meters below. It lay there full of moon-silvered waves – shadows of angles that lapsed into curves and, in the distance, lifted to the misted gray blur of another escarpment.

“Open desert,” she said.

 

 

 

“A wide place to cross,” Paul said, and his voice was muffled by the filter trap across his face.

Jessica glanced left and right – nothing but sand below.

Paul stared straight ahead across the open dunes, watching the movement of shadows in the moon’s passage. “About three or four kilometers across,” he said.

” Worms ,” she said.

“Sure to be.”

She focused on her weariness, the muscle ache that dulled her senses. “Shall we rest and eat?”

Paul slipped out of the pack, sat down and leaned against it. Jessica supported herself by a hand on his shoulder as she sank to the rock beside him. She felt Paul turn as she settled herself, heard him scrabbling in the pack.

“Here,” he said.

His hand felt dry against hers as he pressed two energy capsules into her palm

She swallowed them with a grudging spit of water from her stillsuit tube.

“Drink all your water,” Paul said. “Axiom: the best place to conserve your water is in your body. It keeps your energy up. You’re stronger. Trust your stillsuit.”

She obeyed, drained her catchpockets, feeling energy return. She thought then how peaceful it was here in this moment of their tiredness, and she recalled once hearing the minstrel-warrior Gurney Halleck say, “Better a dry morsel and quietness therewith than a house full of sacrifice and strife.”

Jessica repeated the words to Paul.

 

 

 

“That was Gurney,” he said.

She caught the tone of his voice, the way he spoke as of someone dead, thought: And well poor Gurney might be dead . The Atreides forces were either dead or captive or lost like themselves in this waterless void.

“Gurney always had the right quotation,” Paul said. “I can hear him now: ‘And I will make the rivers dry, and sell the land into the hand of the wicked; and I will make the land waste, and all that is therein, by the hand of strangers.’ ”

Jessica closed her eyes, found herself moved close to tears by the pathos in her son’s voice.

Presently, Paul said: “How do you . . . feel?”

She recognized that his question was directed at her pregnancy, said: “Your sister won’t be born for many months yet. I still feel . . . physically adequate.”

And she thought: How stiffly formal I speak to my own son! Then, because it was the Bene Gesserit way to seek within for the answer to such an oddity, she searched and found the source of her formality: I’m afraid of my son; I fear his strangeness; I fear what he may see ahead of us, what he may tell me .

Paul pulled his hood down over his eyes, listened to the bug-hustling sounds of the night. His lungs were charged with his own silence. His nose itched. He rubbed it, removed the filter and grew conscious of the rich smell of cinnamon.

“There’s melange spice nearby,” he said.

An eider wind feathered Paul’s cheeks, ruffled the folds of his burnoose. But this wind carried no threat of storm; already he could sense the difference.

“Dawn soon,” he said.

Jessica nodded.

“There’s a way to get safely across that open sand,” Paul said. “The Fremen do it.”

“The worms?”

“If we were to plant a thumper from our Fremkit back in the rocks here,” Paul said. “It’d keep a worm occupied for a time.”

She glanced at the stretch of moonlighted desert between them and the other escarpment. “Four kilometers worth of time?”

“Perhaps. And if we crossed there making only natural sounds, the kind that don’t attract the worms . . . ”

Paul studied the open desert, questing in his prescient memory, probing the mysterious allusions to thumpers and maker hooks in the Fremkit manual that had come with their escape pack. He found it odd that all he sensed was pervasive terror at thought of the worms. He knew as though it lay just at the edge of his awareness that the worms were to be respected and not feared . . . if . . . if . . .

He shook his head.

“It’d have to be sounds without rhythm,” Jessica said.

 

 

 

“What? Oh. Yes. If we broke our steps . . . the sand itself must shift down at times. Worms can’t investigate every little sound. We should be fully rested before we try it, though.”

He looked across at that other rock wall, seeing the passage of time in the vertical moonshadows there. “It’ll be dawn within the hour.”

“Where’ll we spend the day?” she asked.

Paul turned left, pointed. “The cliff curves back north over there. You can see by the way it’s wind-cut that’s the windward face. There’ll be crevasses there, deep ones.”

“Had we better get started?” she asked.

He stood, helped her to her feet. “Are you rested enough for a climb down? I want to get as close as possible to the desert floor before we camp.”

“Enough.” She nodded for him to lead the way.

He hesitated, then lifted the pack, settled it onto his shoulders and turned along the cliff.

If only we had suspensors , Jessica thought. It’d be such a simple matter to jump down there. But perhaps suspensors are another thing to avoid in the open desert. Maybe they attract the worms the way a shield does .

They came to a series of shelves dropping down and, beyond them, saw a fissure with its ledge outlined by moonshadow leading along the vestibule.

Paul led the way down, moving cautiously but hurrying because it was obvious the moonlight could not last much longer. They wound down into a world of deeper and deeper shadows. Hints of rock shape climbed to the stars around them. The fissure narrowed to some ten meters’ width at the brink of a dim gray sandslope that slanted downward into darkness.

“Can we go down?” Jessica whispered.

“I think so.”

He tested the surface with one foot.

“We can slide down,” he said. “I’ll go first. Wait until you hear me stop.”

“Careful,” she said.

He stepped onto the slope and slid and slipped down its soft surface onto an almost level floor of packed sand. The place was deep within the rock walls.

There came the sound of sand sliding behind him. He tried to see up the slope in the darkness, was almost knocked over by the cascade. It trailed away to silence.

“Mother?” he said.

There was no answer.

“Mother?”

He dropped the pack, hurled himself up the slope, scrambling, digging, throwing sand like a wild man. “Mother!” he gasped. “Mother, where are you?”

 

 

 

Another cascade of sand swept down on him, burying him to the hips. He wrenched himself out of it.

She’s been caught in the sandslide , he thought. Buried in it. I must be calm and work this out carefully. She won’t smother immediately. She’ll compose herself in bindu suspension to reduce her oxygen needs. She knows I’ll dig for her .

In the Bene Gesserit way she had taught him, Paul stilled the savage beating of his heart, set his mind as a blank slate upon which the past few moments could write themselves. Every partial shift and twist of the slide replayed itself in his memory, moving with an interior stateliness that contrasted with the fractional second of real time required for the total recall.

Presently, Paul moved slantwise up the slope, probing cautiously until he found the wall of the fissure, an outcurve of rock there. He began to dig, moving the sand with care not to dislodge another slide. A piece of fabric came under his hands. He followed it, found an arm. Gently, he traced the arm, exposed her face.

“Do you hear me?” he whispered.

No answer.

He dug faster, freed her shoulders. She was limp beneath his hands, but he detected a slow heartbeat.

Bindu suspension , he told himself.

He cleared the sand away to her waist, draped her arms over his shoulders and pulled downslope, slowly at first, then dragging her as fast as he could, feeling the sand give way above. Faster and faster he pulled her, gasping with the effort, fighting to keep his balance. He was out on the hard-packed floor of the fissure then, swinging her to his shoulder and breaking into a staggering run as the entire sandslope came down with a loud hiss that echoed and was magnified within the rock walls.

He stopped at the end of the fissure where it looked out on the desert’s marching dunes some thirty meters below. Gently, he lowered her to the sand, uttered the word to bring her out of the catalepsis.

She awakened slowly, taking deeper and deeper breaths.

“I knew you’d find me,” she whispered.

He looked back up the fissure. “It might have been kinder if I hadn’t.”

“Paul!”

“I lost the pack,” he said. “It’s buried under a hundred tons of sand . . . at least.”

“Everything?”

 

 

 

“The spare water, the stilltent – everything that counts.” He touched a pocket. “I still have the paracompass.” He fumbled at the waist sash. “Knife and binoculars. We can get a good look around the place where we’ll die.”

In that instant, the sun lifted above the horizon somewhere to the left beyond the end of the fissure. Colors blinked in the sand out on the open desert. A chorus of birds held forth their songs from hidden places among the rocks.

But Jessica had eyes only for the despair in Paul’s face. She edged her voice with scorn, said: “Is this the way you were taught?”

“Don’t you understand?” he asked. “Everything we need to survive in this place is under that sand.”

“You found me,” she said, and now her voice was soft, reasonable.

Paul squatted back on his heels.

Presently, he looked up the fissure at the new slope, studying it, marking the looseness of the sand.

“If we could immobilize a small area of that slope and the upper face of a hole dug into the sand, we might be able to put down a shaft to the pack. Water might do it, but we don’t have enough water for . . .” He broke off, then: “Foam.”

Jessica held herself to stillness lest she disturb the hyper-functioning of his mind.

Paul looked out at the open dunes, searching with his nostrils as well as his eyes, finding the direction and then centering his attention on a darkened patch of sand below them.

“Spice,” he said. “Its essence – highly alkaline. And I have the paracompass. Its power pack is acid-base.”

Jessica sat up straight against the rock.

Paul ignored her, leaped to his feet, and was off down the wind-compacted surface that spilled from the end of the fissure to the desert’s floor.

She watched the way he walked, breaking his stride – step . . . pause, step-step . . . slide . . . pause . . .

There was no rhythm to it that might tell a marauding worm something not of the desert moved here.

Paul reached the spice patch, shoveled a mound of it into a fold of his robe, returned to the fissure. He spilled the spice onto the sand in front of Jessica, squatted and began dismantling the paracompass, using the point of his knife. The compass face came off. He removed his sash, spread the compass parts on it, lifted out the power pack. The dial mechanism came out next, leaving an empty dished compartment in the instrument.

 

 

 

“You’ll need water,” Jessica said.

Paul took the catchtube from his neck, sucked up a mouthful, expelled it into the dished compartment.

If this fails, that’s water wasted , Jessica thought. But it won’t matter then, anyway .

With his knife, Paul cut open the power pack, spilled its crystals into the water. They foamed slightly, subsided.

Jessica’s eyes caught motion above them. She looked up to see a line of hawks along the rim of the fissure. They perched there staring down at the open water.

Great Mother! she thought. They can sense water even at that distance!

Paul had the cover back on the paracompass, leaving off the reset button which gave a small hole into the liquid. Taking the reworked instrument in one hand, a handful of spice in the other, Paul went back up the fissure, studying the lay of the slope. His robe billowed gently without the sash to hold it. He waded part way up the slope, kicking off sand rivulets, spurts of dust.

Presently, he stopped, pressed a pinch of the spice into the paracompass, shook the instrument case.

Green foam boiled out of the hole where the reset button had been. Paul aimed it at the slope, spread a low dike there, began kicking away the sand beneath it, immobilizing the opened face with more foam.

Jessica moved to a position below him, called out: “May I help?”

“Come up and dig,” he said. “We’ve about three meters to go. It’s going to be a near thing.” As he spoke, the foam stopped billowing from the instrument.

“Quickly,” Paul said. “No telling how long this foam will hold the sand.”

Jessica scrambled up beside Paul as he sifted another pinch of spice into the hole, shook the paracompass case. Again, foam boiled from it.

As Paul directed the foam barrier, Jessica dug with her hands, hurling the sand down the slope. “How deep?” she panted.

“About three meters,” he said. “And I can only approximate the position. We may have to widen this hole.” He moved a step aside, slipping in loose sand. “Slant your digging backward. Don’t go straight down.”

Jessica obeyed.

Slowly, the hole went down, reaching a level even with the floor of the basin and still no sign of the pack.

Could I have miscalculated? Paul asked himself. I’m the one that panicked originally and caused this mistake. Has that warped my ability?

He looked at the paracompass. Less than two ounces of the acid infusion remained.

Jessica straightened in the hole, rubbed a foam-stained hand across her cheek. Her eyes met Paul’s.

“The upper face,” Paul said. “Gently, now.” He added another pinch of spice to the container, sent the foam boiling around Jessica’s hands as she began cutting a vertical face in the upper slant of the hole. On the second pass, her hands encountered something hard. Slowly, she worked out a length of strap with a plastic buckle.

“Don’t move any more of it,” Paul said and his voice was almost a whisper.

“We’re out of foam.”

Jessica held the strap in one hand, looked up at him.

 

 

 

Paul threw the empty paracompass down onto the floor of the basin, said: “Give me your other hand. Now listen carefully. I’m going to pull you to the side and downhill. Don’t let go of that strap. We won’t get much more spill from the top. This slope has stabilized itself. All I’m going to aim for is to keep your head free of the sand. Once that hole’s filled, we can dig you out and pull up the pack.”

“I understand,” she said.

“Ready?”

“Ready.” She tensed her fingers on the strap.

With one surge, Paul had her half out of the hole, holding her head up as the foam barrier gave way and sand spilled down. When it had subsided, Jessica remained buried to the waist, her left arm and shoulder still under the sand, her chin protected on a fold of Paul’s robe. Her shoulder ached from the strain put on it.

“I still have the strap,” she said.

Slowly, Paul worked his hand into the sand beside her, found the strap. “Together,” he said. “Steady pressure. We mustn’t break it.”

More sand spilled down as they worked the pack up. When the strap cleared the surface, Paul stopped, freed his mother from the sand. Together then they pulled the pack downslope and out of its trap.

In a few minutes they stood on the floor of the fissure holding the pack between them.

Paul looked at his mother. Foam stained her face, her robe. Sand was caked to her where the foam had dried. She looked as though she had been a target for balls of wet, green sand.

“You look a mess,” he said.

“You’re not so pretty yourself,” she said.

They started to laugh, then sobered.

“That shouldn’t have happened,” Paul said. “I was careless.”

She shrugged, feeling caked sand fall away from her robe.

“I’ll put up the tent,” he said. “Better slip off that robe and shake it out.” He turned away, taking the pack.

Jessica nodded, suddenly too tired to answer.

“There’s anchor holes in the rock,” Paul said. “Someone’s tented here before.”

Why not? she thought as she brushed at her robe. This was a likely place – deep in rock walls and facing another cliff some four kilometers away – far enough above the desert to avoid worms but close enough for easy access before a crossing.

She turned, seeing that Paul had the tent up, its rib-domed hemisphere blending with the rock walls of the fissure. Paul stepped past her, lifting his binoculars. He adjusted their internal pressure with a quick twist, focused the oil lenses on the other cliff lifting golden tan in morning light across open sand.

 

 

 

Jessica watched as he studied that apocalyptic landscape, his eyes probing into sand rivers and canyons.

“There are growing things over there,” he said.

Jessica found the spare binoculars in the pack beside the tent, moved up beside Paul.

“There,” he said, holding the binoculars with one hand and pointing with the other.

She looked where he pointed.

“Saguaro,” she said. “Scrawny stuff.”

“There may be people nearby,” Paul said.

“That could be the remains of a botanical testing station,” she warned.

“This is pretty far south into the desert,” he said. He lowered his binoculars, rubbed beneath his filter baffle, feeling how dry and chapped his lips were, sensing the dusty taste of thirst in his mouth. “This has the feeling of a Fremen place,” he said.

“Are we certain the Fremen will be friendly?” she asked.

“Kynes promised their help.”

But there’s desperation in the people of this desert , she thought. I felt some of it myself today. Desperate people might kill us for our water .

She closed her eyes and, against this wasteland, conjured in her mind a scene from Caladan. There had been a vacation trip once on Caladan – she and the Duke Leto, before Paul’s birth. They’d flown over the southern jungles, above the weed-wild shouting leaves and rice paddies of the deltas. And they had seen the ant lines in the greenery – man-gangs carrying their loads on suspensor-buoyed shoulder poles. And in the sea reaches there’d been the white petals of trimaran dhows.

All of it gone.

Jessica opened her eyes to the desert stillness, to the mounting warmth of the day. Restless heat devils were beginning to set the air aquiver out on the open sand. The other rock face across from them was like a thing seen through cheap glass.

A spill of sand spread its brief curtain across the open end of the fissure. The sand hissed down, loosed by puffs of morning breeze, by the hawks that were beginning to lift away from the clifftop. When the sandfall was gone, she still heard it hissing. It grew louder, a sound that once heard, was never forgotten.

“Worm,” Paul whispered.

It came from their right with an uncaring majesty that could not be ignored. A twisting burrow-mound of sand cut through the dunes within their field of vision. The mound lifted in front, dusting away like a bow wave in water. Then it was gone, coursing off to the left.

The sound diminished, died.

 

 

 

“I’ve seen space frigates that were smaller,” Paul whispered.

She nodded, continuing to stare across the desert. Where the worm had passed there remained that tantalizing gap. It flowed bitterly endless before them, beckoning beneath its horizontal collapse of skyline.

“When we’ve rested,” Jessica said, “we should continue with your lessons.”

He suppressed a sudden anger, said: “Mother, don’t you think we could do without . . .”

“Today you panicked,” she said. “You know your mind and bindu-nervature perhaps better than I do, but you’ve much yet to learn about your body’s prana-musculature. The body does things of itself sometimes, Paul, and I can teach you about this. You must learn to control every muscle, every fiber of your body. You need review of the hands. We’ll start with finger muscles, palm tendons, and tip sensitivity.” She turned away. “Come, into the tent, now.”

He flexed the fingers of his left hand, watching her crawl through the sphincter valve, knowing that he could not deflect her from this determination . . . that he must agree.

Whatever has been done to me, I’ve been a party to it , he thought.

Review of the hand!

He looked at his hand. How inadequate it appeared when measured against such creatures as that worm.

We came from Caladan  – a paradise world for our form of life. There existed no need on Caladan to build a physical paradise or a paradise of the mind  – we could see the actuality all around us. And the price we paid was the price men have always paid for achieving a paradise in this life  – we went soft, we lost our edge.

– from “Muad’Dib: Conversations” by the Princess Irulan

“So you’re the great Gurney Halleck,” the man said.

Halleck stood staring across the round cavern office at the smuggler seated behind a metal desk. The man wore Fremen robes and had the half-tint blue eyes that told of off-planet foods in his diet. The office duplicated a space frigate’s master control center – communications and viewscreens along a thirty-degree arc of wall, remote arming and firing banks adjoining, and the desk formed as a wall projection – part of the remaining curve.

“I am Staban Tuek, son of Esmar Tuek,” the smuggler said.

“Then you’re the one I owe thanks for the help we’ve received,” Halleck said.

“Ah-h-h, gratitude,” the smuggler said. “Sit down.”

A ship-type bucket seat emerged from the wall beside the screens and Halleck sank onto it with a sigh, feeling his weariness. He could see his own reflection now in a dark surface beside the smuggler and scowled at the lines of fatigue in his lumpy face. The inkvine scar along his jaw writhed with the scowl.

 

 

 

Halleck turned from his reflection, stared at Tuek. He saw the family resemblance in the smuggler now – the father’s heavy, over-hanging eyebrows and rock planes of cheeks and nose.

“Your men tell me your father is dead, killed by the Harkonnens,” Halleck said.

“By the Harkonnens or by a traitor among your people,” Tuek said.

Anger overcame part of Halleck’s fatigue. He straightened, said: “Can you name the traitor?”

“We are not sure.”

“Thufir Hawat suspected the Lady Jessica.”

“Ah-h-h, the Bene Gesserit witch . . . perhaps. But Hawat is now a Harkonnen captive.”

“I heard,” Halleck took a deep breath. “It appears we’ve a deal more killing ahead of us.”

“We will do nothing to attract attention to us,” Tuek said.

Halleck stiffened. “But – ”

“You and those of your men we’ve saved are welcome to sanctuary among us,” Tuek said. “You speak of gratitude. Very well; work off your debt to us. We can always use good men. We’ll destroy you out of hand, though, if you make the slightest open move against the Harkonnens.”

“But they killed your father, man!”

“Perhaps. And if so, I’ll give you my father’s answer to those who act without thinking: ‘A stone is heavy and the sand is weighty; but a fool’s wrath is heavier than them both.’ ”

“You mean to do nothing about it, then?” Halleck sneered.

“You did not hear me say that. I merely say I will protect our contract with the Guild. The Guild requires that we play a circumspect game. There are other ways of destroying a foe.”

“Ah-h-h-h-h.”

“Ah, indeed. If you’ve a mind to seek out the witch, have at it. But I warn you that you’re probably too late . . .and we doubt she’s the one you want, any way.”

“Hawat made few mistakes.”

“He allowed himself to fall into Harkonnen hands.”

“You think he’s the traitor?”

Tuek shrugged. “This is academic. We think the witch is dead. At least the Harkonnens believe it.”

“You seem to know a great deal about the Harkonnens.”

“Hints and suggestions . . . rumors and hunches.”

“We are seventy-four men,” Halleck said. “If you seriously wish us to enlist with you, you must believe our Duke is dead.”

“His body has been seen.”

“And the boy, too – young Master Paul?” Halleck tried to swallow, found a lump in his throat.

“According to the last word we had, he was lost with his mother in a desert storm. Likely not even their bones will ever be found.”

“So the witch is dead then . . . all dead.”

Tuek nodded. “And Beast Rabban, so they say, will sit once more in the seat of power here on Dune.”

“The Count Rabban of Lankiveil?”

 

 

 

“Yes.”

It took Halleck a moment to put down the upsurge of rage that threatened to overcome him. He spoke with panting breath: “I’ve a score of my own against Rabban. I owe him for the lives of my family . . . ” He rubbed at the scar along his jaw. ” . . . and for this . . . ”

“One does not risk everything to settle a score prematurely,” Tuek said. He frowned, watching the play of muscles along Halleck’s jaw, the sudden withdrawal in the man’s shed-lidded eyes.

“I know . . . I know.” Halleck took a deep breath.

“You and your men can work out your passage off Arrakis by serving with us. There are many places to – ”

“I release my men from any bond to me; they can choose for themselves. With Rabban here – I stay.”

“In your mood, I’m not sure we want you to stay.”

Halleck stared at the smuggler. “You doubt my word?”

“No-o-o . . . ”

“You’ve saved me from the Harkonnens. I gave loyalty to the Duke Leto for no greater reason. I’ll stay on Arrakis – with you . . . or with the Fremen.”

“Whether a thought is spoken or not it is a real thing and it has power,” Tuek said. “You might find the line between life and death among the Fremen to be too sharp and quick.”

Halleck closed his eyes briefly, feeling the weariness surge up in him. “Where is the Lord who led us through the land of deserts and of pits?” he murmured.

“Move slowly and the day of your revenge will come,” Tuek said. “Speed is a device of Shaitan. Cool your sorrow – we’ve the diversions for it; three things there are that ease the heart – water, green grass, and the beauty of woman.”

Halleck opened his eyes. “I would prefer the blood of Rabban Harkonnen flowing about my feet.” He stared at Tuek. “You think that day will come?”

“I have little to do with how you’ll meet tomorrow, Gurney Halleck. I can only help you meet today.”

“Then I’ll accept that help and stay until the day you tell me to revenge your father and all the others who – ”

“Listen to me, fighting man ,” Tuek said. He leaned forward over his desk, his shoulders level with his ears, eyes intent. The smuggler’s face was suddenly like weathered stone. “My father’s water – I’ll buy that back myself, with my own blade.”

Halleck stared back at Tuek. In that moment, the smuggler reminded him of Duke Leto: a leader of men, courageous, secure in his own position and his own course. He was like the Duke . . . before Arrakis.

“Do you wish my blade beside you?” Halleck asked.

Tuek sat back, relaxed, studying Halleck silently.

“Do you think of me as fighting man? ” Halleck pressed.

“You’re the only one of the Duke’s lieutenants to escape,” Tuek said. “Your enemy was overwhelming, yet you rolled with him . . . You defeated him the way we defeat Arrakis.”

“Eh?”

 

 

 

“We live on sufferance down here, Gurney Halleck,” Tuek said. “Arrakis is our enemy.”

“One enemy at a time, is that it?”

“That’s it.”

“Is that the way the Fremen make out?”

“Perhaps.”

“You said I might find life with the Fremen too tough. They live in the desert, in the open, is that why?”

“Who knows where the Fremen live? For us, the Central Plateau is a no-man’s land. But I wish to talk more about – ”

“I’m told that the Guild seldom routes spice lighters in over the desert,” Halleck said. “But there are rumors that you can see bits of greenery here and there if you know where to look.”

“Rumors!” Tuek sneered. “Do you wish to choose now between me and the Fremen? We have a measure of security, our own sietch carved out of the rock, our own hidden basins. We live the lives of civilized men. The Fremen are a few ragged bands that we use as spice-hunters.”

“But they can kill Harkonnens.”

“And do you wish to know the result? Even now they are being hunted down like animals – with lasguns, because they have no shields. They are being exterminated. Why? Because they killed Harkonnens.”

“Was it Harkonnens they killed?” Halleck asked.

“What do you mean?”

“Haven’t you heard that there may’ve been Sardaukar with the Harkonnens?”

“More rumors.”

 

 

 

“But a pogrom – that isn’t like the Harkonnens. A pogrom is wasteful.”

“I believe what I see with my own eyes,” Tuek said. “Make your choice, fighting man. Me or the Fremen. I will promise you sanctuary and a chance to draw the blood we both want. Be sure of that. The Fremen will offer you only the life of the hunted.”

Halleck hesitated, sensing wisdom and sympathy in Tuek’s words, yet troubled for no reason he could explain.

“Trust your own abilities,” Tuek said. “Whose decisions brought your force through the battle? Yours. Decide.”

“It must be,” Halleck said. “The Duke and his son are dead?”

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