WHEN THE SANDSTORM came howling up from south, Pardot Kynes was more interested in taking meteorological readings than in seeking safety. His son Liet--only twelve years old, but raised in the harsh ways of the desert--ran an appraising eye over the ancient weather pod they had found in the abandoned botanical testing station. He was not confident the machine would function at all.
Then Liet gazed back across the sea of dunes toward the approaching tempest. "The wind of the demon in the open desert. Hulasikali Wala."
"Coriolis storm," Kynes corrected, using a scientific term instead of the Fremen one his son had selected. "Winds across the open flatlands are amplified by the planet's revolutionary motion. Gusts can reach speeds up to seven hundred kilometers per hour."
As his father talked, the young man busied himself sealing the egg-shaped weather pod, checking the vent closures, the heavy doorway hatch, the stored emergency supplies. He ignored their signal generator and distress beacon; the static from the sandstorm would rip any transmissions to electromagnetic shreds.
In pampered societies Liet would have been considered a boy, but life among the hard-edged Fremen had given him a tightly coiled adulthood that few others achieved even at twice his age. He was better equipped to handle an emergency than his father.
The elder Kynes scratched his sandy-gray beard. "A good storm like this can stretch across four degrees of latitude." He powered up the dim screens of the pod's analytical devices. "It lifts particles to an altitude of two thousand meters and suspends them in the atmosphere, so that long after the storm passes, dust continues to fall from the sky."
Liet gave the hatch lock a final tug, satisfied that it would hold against the storm. "The Fremen call that EI-Sayal, the 'rain of sand.'"
"One day when you become Planetologist, you'll need to use more technical language," Pardot Kynes said in a professorial tone. "We still send the Emperor occasional reports, though not as often as I should. I doubt he ever reads them." He tapped one of the instruments. "Ah, I believe the atmospheric front is almost upon us."
Liet removed a porthole cover to see the oncoming wall of white, tan, and static. "A Planetologist must use his eyes, as well as scientific language. Just look out the window, Father."
Kynes grinned at his son. "It's time to raise the pod." Operating long-dormant controls, he managed to get the dual bank of suspensor engines functioning. The pod tugged against gravity, heaving itself off the ground.
The mouth of the storm lunged toward them, and Liet closed the cover plate, hoping the ancient meteorological apparatus would hold together. He trusted his father's intuition to a certain extent, but not his practicality.
The egg-shaped pod rose smoothly on suspensors, buffeted by precursor breezes. "Ah, there we are," Kynes said. "Now our work begins--"
The storm hit them like a blunt club, and vaulted them high into the maelstrom.
THE POD'S ANCIENT SUSPENSORS hummed against the Coriolis howl like a nest of angry wasps. The meteorological vessel bounced on swirling currents of air, a steel-walled balloon. Wind-borne dust scoured the hull.
"This reminds me of the aurora storms I saw on Salusa Secundus," Kynes mused. "Amazing things--very colorful and very dangerous. The hammer-wind can come up from out of nowhere and crush you flat. You wouldn't want to be caught outside."
"I don't want to be outside in this one, either," Liet said.
Stressed inward, one of the side plates buckled; air stole through the breach with a thin shriek. Liet lurched across the deck toward the leak. He'd kept the repair kit and foam sealant close at hand, certain the decrepit pod would rupture. "We are held in the hand of God, and could be crushed at any moment."
Excerpted from Dune: House Harkonnen by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson Copyright© 2000 by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson. Excerpted by permission of Spectra, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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