g in the blackness.
Jessica found Paul's hand, pulled him gently. "We must not get separated," she said.
He followed her across the first arrow, seeing it go black as they touched it. Another arrow beckoned ahead.
They crossed it, saw it extinguish itself, saw another arrow ahead.
They were running now.
Plans within plans within plans within plans, Jessica thought. Have we become part of someone else's plan now?
The arrows led them around turnings, past side openings only dimly sensed in the faint luminescence. Their way slanted downward for a time, then up, ever up. They came finally to steps, rounded a corner and were brought short by a glowing wall with a dark handle visible in its center.
Paul pressed the handle.
The wall swung away from them. Light flared to reveal a rock-hewn cavern with an ornithopter squatting in its center. A flat gray wall with a doorsign on it loomed beyond the aircraft.
"Where did Kynes go?" Jessica asked.
"He did what any good guerrilla leader would," Paul said. "He separated us into two parties and arranged that he couldn't reveal where we are if he's captured. He won't really know."
Paul drew her into the room, noting how their feet kicked up dust on the floor.
"No one's been here for a long time," he said.
"He seemed confident the Fremen could find us," she said.
"I share that confidence."
Paul released her hand, crossed to the ornithopter's left door, opened it, and secured his pack in the rear. "This ship's proximity masked," he said. "Instrument panel has remote door control, light control. Eighty years under the Harkonnens taught them to be thorough."
Jessica leaned against the craft's other side, catching her breath.
"The Harkonnens will have a covering force over this area," she said. "They're not stupid." She considered her direction sense, pointed right. "The storm we saw is that way."
Paul nodded, fighting an abrupt reluctance to move. He knew its cause, but found no help in the knowledge. Somewhere this night he had passed a decision-nexus into the deep unknown. He knew the time-area surrounding them, but the here-and-now existed as a place of mystery. It was as though he had seen himself from a distance go out of sight down into a valley. Of the countless paths up out of that valley, some might carry a Paul Atreides back into sight, but many would not.
"The longer we wait the better prepared they'll be," Jessica said.
"Get in and strap yourself down," he said.
He joined her in the ornithopter, still wrestling with the thought that this was blind ground, unseen in any prescient vision. And he realized with an abrupt sense of shock that he had been giving more and more reliance to prescient memory and it had weakened him for this particular emergency.
"If you rely only on your eyes, your other senses weaken." It was a Bene Gesserit axiom. He took it to himself now, promising never again to fall into that trap ... if he lived through this.
Paul fastened his safety harness, saw that his mother was secure, checked the aircraft. The wings were at full spread-rest, their delicate metal interleavings extended. He touched the retractor bar, watched the wings shorten for jet-boost take-off the way Gurney Halleck had taught him. The starter switch moved easily. Dials on the instrument panel came alive as the jetpods were armed. Turbines began their low hissing.
"Ready?" he asked.
He touched the remote control for lights.
Darkness blanketed them.
His hand was a shadow against the luminous dials as he tripped the remote door control. Grating sounded ahead of them. A cascade of sand swished away to silence. A dusty breeze touched Paul's cheeks. He closed his door, feeling the sudden pressure.
A wide patch of dust-blurred stars framed in angular darkness appeared where the door-wall had been. Starlight defined a shelf beyond, a suggestion of sand ripples.
Paul depressed the glowing action-sequence switch on his panel. The wings snapped back and down, hurling the 'thopter out of its nest. Power surged from the jetpods as the wings locked into lift attitude.
Jessica let her hands ride lightly on the dual controls, feeling the sureness of her son's movements. She was frightened, yet exhilarated. Now, Paul's training is our only hope, she thought. His youth and swiftness.
Paul fed more power to the jetpods. The 'thopter banked, sinking them into their seats as a dark wall lifted against the stars ahead. He gave the craft more wing, more power. Another burst of lifting wingbeats and they came out over rocks, silver-frosted angles and outcroppings in the starlight. The dust-reddened second moon showed itself above the horizon to their right, defining the ribbon trail of the storm.
Paul's hands danced over the controls. Wings snicked in to beetle stubs. G-force pulled at their flesh as the craft came around in a tight bank.
"Jetflares behind us!" Jessica said.
"I saw them."
He slammed the power arm forward.
Their 'thopter leaped like a frightened animal, surged southwest toward the storm and the great curve of desert. In the near distance, Paul saw scattered shadows telling where the line of rocks ended, the basement complex sinking beneath the dunes. Beyond stretched moonlit fingernail shadows--dunes diminishing one into another.
And above the horizon climbed the flat immensity of the storm like a wall against the stars.
Something jarred the 'thopter.
"Shellburst!" Jessica gasped. "They're using some kind of projectile weapon."
She saw a sudden animal grin on Paul's face. "They seem to be avoiding their lasguns," he said.
"But we've no shields!"
"Do they know that?"
Again the 'thopter shuddered.
Paul twisted to peer back. "Only one of them appears to be fast enough to keep up with us."
He returned his attention to their course, watching the storm wall grow high in front of them. It loomed like a tangible solid.
"Projectile launchers, rockets, all the ancient weaponry--that's one thing we'll give the Fremen," Paul whispered.
"The storm," Jessica said. "Hadn't you better turn?"
"What about the ship behind us?"
"He's pulling up."
Paul stubbed the wings, banked hard left into the deceptively slow boiling of the storm wall, felt his cheeks pull in the G-force.
They appeared to glide into a slow clouding of dust that grew heavier and heavier until it blotted out the desert and the moon. The aircraft became a long, horizontal whisper of darkness lighted only by the green luminosity of the instrument panel.
Through Jessica's mind flashed all the warnings about such storms--that they cut metal like butter, etched flesh to bone and ate away the bones. She felt the buffeting of dust-blanketed wind. It twisted them as Paul fought the controls. She saw him chop the power, felt the ship buck. The metal around them hissed and trembled.
"Sand!" Jessica shouted.
She saw the negative shake of his head in the light from the panel. "Not much sand this high."
But she could feel them sinking deeper into the maelstrom.
Paul sent the wings to their full soaring length, heard them creak with the strain. He kept his eyes fixed on the instruments, gliding by instinct, fighting for altitude.
The sound of their passage diminished.
The 'thopter began rolling off to the left. Paul focused on the glowing globe within the attitude curve, fought his craft back to level flight.
Jessica had the eerie feeling that they were standing still, that all motion was external. A vague tan flowing against the windows, a rumbling hiss reminded her of the powers around them.
Winds to seven or eight hundred kilometers an hour, she thought. Adrenalin edginess gnawed at her. I must not fear, she told herself, mouthing the words of the Bene Gesserit litany. Fear is the mind-killer.
Slowly her long years of training prevailed.
"We have the tiger by the tail," Paul whispered. "We can't go down, can't land... and I don't think I can lift us out of this. We'll have to ride it out."
Calmness drained out of her. Jessica felt her teeth chattering, clamped them together. Then she heard Paul's voice, low and controlled, reciting the litany:
"Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past me I will turn to see fear's path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain."
What do you despise? By this are you truly known.
--from"Manual of Muad'Dib" by the Princess Irulan
"THEY ARE dead, Baron," said Iakin Nefud, the guard captain. "Both the woman and the boy are certainly dead."
The Baron Vladimir Harkonnen sat up in the sleep suspensors of his private quarters. Beyond these quarters and enclosing him like a multishelled egg stretched the space frigate he had grounded on Arrakis. Here in his quarters, though, the ship's harsh metal was disguised with draperies, with fabric paddings and rare art objects.
"It is a certainty," the guard captain said. "They are dead."
The Baron shifted his gross body in the suspensors, focused his attention on an ebaline statue of a leaping boy in a niche across the room. Sleep faded from him. He straightened the padded suspensor beneath the fat folds of his neck, stared across the single glowglobe of his bedchamber to the doorway where Captain Nefud stood blocked by the pentashield.
"They're certainly dead, Baron," the man repeated.
The Baron noted the trace of semuta dullness in Nefud's eyes. It was obvious the man had been deep within the drug's rapture when he received this report, and had stopped only to take the antidote before rushing here.
"I have a full report," Nefud said.
Let him sweat a little, the Baron thought. One must always keep the tools of statecraft sharp and ready. Power and fear--sharp and ready.
"Have you seen their bodies?" the Baron rumbled.
"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.
"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.
Look how he blurts out his answer, the Baron thought. He said: "They were attempting to flee to the Fremen, eh?"
"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."
"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."
"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."
"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."
"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