The Planetologist grinned at his son. "It's some sort of automated system--I don't know what controls I bumped into, but this pod just might lift itself out in less than an hour." He turned back to his instruments. "It gave me time to collate all our new data into a single storage--"
Liet grabbed his father by the shoulder and pulled him from the controls. He slammed his hands down on the emergency cutoff switch, and the suspensors faded.
Confused, Kynes tried to protest, but his son urged him toward the open hatch.
"Get out, now! Run as fast as you can toward the rocks."
Liet's nostrils flared in angry exasperation. "Suspensors operate on a Holtzman field, just like shields. You know what happens when you activate a personal shield out in the open sand ?"
"The suspensors are working again?" Kynes blinked, then his eyes lit up as he understood. "Ah! A worm comes.
"A worm always comes. Now run!"
The elder Kynes staggered out of the hatch and dropped to the sand. He recovered his balance and oriented himself in the glaring sun. Seeing the cliff line Liet had indicated, a kilometer away, he trudged off in a jerky, mismatched walk, stepping, sliding, pausing, hopping forward in a complicated dance. The young Fremen dropped out of the hatch and followed along, as they made their way toward the safety of rocks.
Before long, they heard a hissing, rolling sound from behind. Liet glanced over his shoulder, then pushed his father over a dune crest. "Faster. I don't know how much time we'll have." They increased their pace. Pardot stumbled, got back up.
Ripples arrowed across the sands directly toward the half-buried pod. Toward them. Dunes lurched, rolled, then flattened with the inexorable tunneling of a deep worm rising to the surface.
"Run with your very soul!" They sprinted toward the cliffs, crossed a dune crest, slid down, then surged forward again, the soft sand pulling at their feet. Liet's spirits rose when he saw the safety of rocks less than a hundred meters away.
The hissing grew louder as the giant worm picked up speed. The ground beneath their boots trembled.
Finally, Kynes reached the first boulders and clutched them like an anchor, panting and wheezing. Liet pushed him farther, though, onto the slopes, to be sure the monster could not rise from the sand and strike them.
Minutes later, sitting on a ledge, wordless as they sucked hot air through their nostrils to catch their breath, Pardot Kynes and his son stared back to watch a churning whirlpool form around the half-buried weather pod. In the loosening powder, as the viscosity of the stirred sand changed, the pod shifted and began to sink.
The heart of the whirlpool rose up in a cavernous scooped mouth. The desert monster swallowed the offending vessel along with tons of sand, forcing all the debris down into a gullet lined with crystal teeth. The worm sank back into the arid depths, then Liet watched the ripples of its passage, slower now, returning into the empty basin....
In the pounding silence that followed, Pardot Kynes did not look exhilarated from his near brush with death. Instead, he appeared dejected. "We lost all that data." The Planetologist heaved a deep breath. "I could have used our readings to understand those storms better."
Liet reached inside a front pocket of his stillsuit and held up the old-style datapack he had snatched from the pod's instrument panel. "Even while watching out for our lives--I can still pay attention to research."
Kynes beamed with fatherly pride.
Under the desert sun, they hiked up the rugged path to the safety of the sietch.
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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