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The Lazarus Effect w-3

Frank Herbert

  The Lazarus Effect

  ( WorShip - 3 )

  Frank Herbert

  Bill Ransom

  The Lazarus Effect

  Frank Herbert

  Bill Ransom

  For Brian, Bruce and Penny. For all the years they tiptoed while their father was writing.

  Frank Herbert

  For all those healers who ease our suffering; for people who feed people, then ask them for virtue; for our friends - gratitude and affection.

  Bill Ransom


  The Histories assert that a binary system cannot support life. But we found life here on Pandora. Except for the kelp, it was antagonistic and deadly, but still it was life. Ship's judgment is upon us now because we wiped out the kelp and unbalanced this world. We few survivors are subject to the endless sea and the terrible vagaries of the two suns. That we survive at all on our fragile Clone-rafts is as much a curse as a victory. This is the time of madness.

  - Hali Ekel, the Journals

  Duque smelled burning flesh and scorched hair. He sniffed, sniffed again, and whined. His one good eye watered and pained him when he tried to knuckle it open. His mother was out. Out was a word he could say, like hot and Ma. He could not precisely identify the location and shape of out. He knew vaguely that his quarters were on a Clone-raft anchored off a black stone pinnacle, all that remained of Pandora's land surface.

  The burning smells were stronger now. They frightened him. Duque wondered if he should say something. Mostly, he did not talk; his nose got in the way. He could whistle through his nose, though, and his mother understood. She would whistle back. Between them, they understood more than a hundred whistle-words. Duque wriggled his forehead. This uncurled his thick, knobby nose and he whistled - tentative at first to see whether she was near.

  "Ma? Where are you, Ma?"

  He listened for the unmistakable scuff-slap, scuff-slap of her bare feet on the soft slick deck of the raft.

  Burning smells filled his nose and made him sneeze. He heard the slaps of many feet out in the corridor, more feet than he had ever before heard out there, but nothing he could identify as Ma. There was shouting now, words Duque did not know. He sucked in a deep breath and let go the loudest whistle he could muster. His thin ribs ached with it and the vibration made him dizzy.

  No one responded. The hatch beside him remained closed. No one plucked him out of his twisted covers and held him close.

  Despite the pain of the smoke, Duque peeled back his right eyelid with the two nubs on his right hand and saw that the room was dark except for a glow against the thin organics of the corridor wall. Dull orange light cast a frightening illumination over the deck. Acrid smoke hung like a cloud above him, tendrils of its oily blackness reaching downward toward his face. And now there were other sounds outside added to the shouting and the slap-slap of many feet. He heard big things dragging and bumping along his glowing wall. Terror held him curled into a silent lump under the covers of his bunk.

  The burning smells contained a steamy, bitter flavor - not quite the sticky-sweet of the time when the stove scorched their wall. He remembered the charred melt of organics opening a new passage between their room and the next one along the corridor. He had poked his head through the burned opening and whistled at their neighbors. The smells now were not the same, though, and the glowing wall did not melt away.

  A rumbling was added to the outside sounds. Like a pot boiling over on the stove, but his mother was not cooking. Besides, it was too loud for cooking, louder even than the other corridor noises. Now, there were screams nearby.

  Duque kicked off his covers and gasped when his bare feet touched the deck.


  Abruptly, the deck pitched, first backward and then forward. The motion lurched him face-first through the bulkhead. The hot organics of the wall stretched and parted for him like a cooked noodle. He knew he was on the outer deck but stumbling feet kept him too busy covering his head and body with his arms. He could not spare a hand to open his good eye. The hot deck burned his knees and elbows. Duque caught his breath in the sudden onslaught of pain and wrenched out another shrill whistle. Somebody stumbled against him. Hands reached under his armpits and lifted him clear of the scorched bubbly that had been the deck. Some of it came loose with him and stuck to his bare skin. Duque knew who held him by the jasmine smell of her hair - Ellie, the neighbor woman with the short, stubby legs and beautiful voice.

  "Duque," she said, "let's go find your ma."

  He heard something wrong in her voice. It rasped low in a dry throat and cracked when she spoke.

  "Ma," he said. He knuckled his eye open and saw a nightmare of movement and firelight.

  Ellie shouldered them through the crowd, saw that he was looking around and slapped his hand away. "Look later," she said. "Right now you hang on to my neck. Hold tight."

  After that one brief glimpse, there was no need to repeat the order. He clutched both arms around Ellie's neck. A small whimper escaped his throat. Ellie continued to push them through a crowd of people - voices all around saying words Duque did not understand. Movement against the others peeled away chunks of bubbly from his skin. It hurt.

  That one look at out remained indelibly in Duque's memory. Fire had been coming out of the dark water! It coiled up out of the water accompanied by that thick, boiling sound and the air was so full of steam that people were shadow clumps against the hot red glow of flames. Screams and shouts still sounded all around, causing Duque to hold even tighter to Ellie's neck. Chunks of the fire had rocketed into the sky high above their island. Duque did not understand this but he heard the fire crash and sizzle through the body of the island into the sea beneath.

  Why water burn? He knew the whistle-words but Ellie would not understand.

  The raft tipped sharply under Ellie and sent her sprawling beneath the trampling feet with Duque atop her shielded from the burning deck. Ellie cursed and gasped. More people fell around them. Duque felt Ellie sinking into the melting organics of the deck. She struggled at first, thrashing like a fresh-caught muree that his mother had put into his hands once before she cooked it. Ellie's twisting slowed and she began moaning low in her throat. Duque, still clutching Ellie's neck, felt hot bubbly against his hands and jerked them away. Ellie screamed. Duque tried to push himself away from her but the press of bodies all around prevented his escape. He felt the hair at the nape of his neck standing up. A questing whistle broke from his nose but there was no response.

  The deck tilted again and bodies rolled onto Duque. He felt hot flesh, some of it warm-wet. Ellie gasped once, very deep. The air changed. The people screaming, "Oh, no! Oh, no!" stopped screaming. Many people began coughing all around Duque. He coughed, too, choking on hot, thick dust. Someone nearby gasped: "I've got Vata. Help me. We must save her."

  Duque sensed a stillness in Ellie. She wasn't moaning anymore. He could not feel the rise and fall of her breathing. Duque opened his mouth and spoke the two words he knew best:

  "Ma. Hot, Ma. Ma."

  Someone right beside him said: "Who's that?"

  "Hot, Ma," Duque said.

  Hands touched him and hauled him away from Ellie. A voice next to his ear said: "It's a child. He's alive."

  "Bring him!" someone called between coughs. "We've got Vata."

  Duque felt himself passed from hand to hand through an opening into a dimly lighted place. His one good eye saw through a thinner dust haze the glitter of tiny lights, shiny surfaces and handles. He wondered if this could be the out where Ma went but there was no sign of Ma, only many people crowded into a small space. Someone directly in front of him held a large naked infant. He knew about infants because Ma sometim
es brought them from out and cared for them, cooing over them and letting Duque touch them and pet them. Infants were soft and nice. This infant looked larger than any Duque had ever seen but he knew she was only an infant - those fat features, that still face.

  The air pressure changed, popping in Duque's ears. Something began to hum. Just when Duque was deciding to come out of his fears and join in this warm closeness of flesh, three gigantic explosions shook all of them, sending their enclosed space tumbling.

  "Boom! Boom! Boom!" the explosions came one on top of the other.

  People began extricating themselves from the tumble of flesh. A foot touched Duque's face and was withdrawn.

  "Careful of the little ones," someone said.

  Strong hands lifted Duque and helped him open his eye. A pale masculine face peered at him - a wide face with deeply set brown eyes. The man spoke. "I've got the other one. He's no beauty but he's alive."

  "Here, give him to me," a woman said.

  Duque found himself pressed close to the infant. A woman's arms held them both, flesh to flesh, warmth to warmth. A sense of reassurance swept through Duque but it was cut off immediately when the woman spoke. He understood her words! He did not know how he understood but the meanings were there unfolding as her voice rumbled against his cheek pressed to her breast.

  "The whole island exploded," the woman said. "I saw it through the port."

  "We're well below the surface now," a man said. "But we can't stay long with this many people breathing our air."

  "We will pray to Rock," the woman said.

  "And to Ship," a man said.

  "To Rock and to Ship," they all agreed.

  Duque heard all of this from a distance as more understanding flooded his awareness. It was happening because his flesh touched the flesh of the infant! He knew the infant's name now.


  A beautiful name. The name brought with it a blossoming mindful of information, as though the knowledge had always been there, needing only Vata's name and her touch to spread it through his memory. Now, he was aware of out, all of it as known through human senses and kelp memories ... because Vata carried kelp genes in her human flesh. He remembered the place of the kelp deep under the sea, the tendrils clinging to precious rock. He remembered the minuscule islands that no longer existed because the kelp was gone and the sea fury had been unleashed. Kelp memories and human memories revealed wondrous things happening to Pandora now that waves could roam freely around this planet, which was really a distorted ball of solid matter submerged in an endless skin of water.

  Duque knew where he was, too: in a small submersible, which should have had a Lighter-Than-Air carrier attached to it.

  Out was a place of marvels.

  And all of this wondrous information had come to him directly from the mind of Vata because she had kelp genes, as did he. As did many of Pandora's surviving humans. Genes ... he knew about those marvels, too, because Vata's mind was a magic storehouse of such things, telling him about history and the Clone Wars and the death of all the kelp. He sensed a direct link between Vata and himself, which endured even when he pulled away from physical contact with her. Duque experienced a great thankfulness for this and tried to express his gratitude but Vata refused to respond. He understood then that Vata wanted the deep sea-quiet of her kelp memories. She wanted only the waiting. She did not want to deal with the things she had dumped onto him. She had dumped them, he realized, shedding these things like a painful skin. Duque felt a momentary pique at this realization but happiness returned immediately. He was the repository of such wonders!


  That's my department, he thought. I must be aware for both of us. I am the storage system, the Ox Gate, which only Vata can open.


  There were giants in the earth in those days.

  - Genesis, The Christian Book of the Dead

  22 Bunratti, 468.

  Why do I keep this journal? This is a strange hobby for the Chief Justice and Chairman of the Committee on Vital Forms. Do I hope that a historian will someday weave rich elaborations out of my poor scribblings? I can just see someone like Iz Bushka stumbling onto my journal many years from now, his mind crammed full of the preconceptions that block acceptance of the truly new. Would Bushka destroy my journal because it conflicted with his own theories? I think this may have happened with other historians in our past. Why else would Ship have forced us to start over? I'm convinced that this is what Ship has done.

  Oh, I believe in Ship. Let it be recorded here and now that Ward Keel believes in Ship. Ship is God and Ship brought us here to Pandora. This is our ultimate trial - sink or swim, in the most literal sense. Well ... almost. We Islanders mostly float. It's the Mermen who swim.

  What a perfect testing ground for humankind is this Pandora, and how aptly named. Not a shard of land left above its sea, which the kelp once subdued. Once a noble creature, intelligent, known to all creatures of this world as Avata, it is now simply kelp - thick, green and silent. Our ancestors destroyed Avata and we inherited a planetary sea.

  Have we humans ever done that before? Have we killed off the thing that subdues the deadliness in our lives? Somehow, I suspect we have. Else, why would Ship leave those hybernation tanks to tantalize us in orbit just beyond our reach? Our Chaplain/Psychiatrist shares this suspicion. As she says, "There is nothing new under the suns."

  I wonder why Ship's imprimatur always took the form of the eye within the pyramid?

  I began this journal simply as an account of my own stewardship on the Committee that determines which new life will be permitted to survive and perhaps breed. We mutants have a deep regard for the variations that the bioengineering of that brilliant madman, Jesus Lewis, set adrift in the human gene pool. From those incomplete records we still have, it's clear that human once had a much narrower definition. Mutant variations that we now accept without a passing glance were once cause for consternation, even death. As a Committeeman passing judgment on life, the question I always ask myself and try to answer with my poor understanding is: Will this new life, this infant, help us all survive? If there is the remotest chance that it will contribute to this thing we call human society I vote to let it live. And I have been rewarded time and again by that hidden genius in cruel form, that mind plus distorted body which enrich us all. I know I am correct in these decisions.

  But my journal has developed a tendency to wander. I have decided that I am secretly a philosopher. I want to know not only what, but why.

  In the long generations since that terrible night when the last of Pandora's true land-based islands exploded into molten lava, we have developed a peculiar social duality, which I am convinced could destroy us all. We Islanders, with our organic cities floating "willy-nilly" on the sea's surface, believe we have formed the perfect society. We care for each other, for the inner other that the skin (whatever shape or shade) protects. Then what is it about us that insists on saying "us" and "them"? Is there a viciousness buried in us? Will it explode us into violence against the excluded others?

  Oh, Islanders exclude; this cannot be denied. Our jokes betray us. Anti-Mermen jokes. "Merms," we call them. Or "pretties." And they call us "Mutes." It's a grunt word no matter how you sound it.

  We are jealous of Mermen. There it is. I have written it. Jealous. They have the freedom of all the land beneath the sea. Merman mechanization depends on a relatively uniform, traditional human body. Few Islanders can compete under middleclass conditions, so they occupy the top of Merman genius or the depths of its slums. Even so, Islanders who migrate down under are confined to Islander communities ... ghettos. Still the Islander idea of heaven is to pass for a pretty.

  Mermen repel the sea to survive. Their living space benefits from a kind of stability underfoot. Historically, I must admit, humans show a preference for a firm surface underfoot, air to breathe freely (although theirs is depressingly damp) and solid things all around. They produce an occasional webbed foot or
hand but that, too, was common all down the lineage of the species. Merman appearance is that of humans for as long as likenesses have been recorded; that much we can see for ourselves. Besides, Clone Wars happened. Our immediate ancestors wrote of this. Jesus Lewis did this to us. The visible evidence of other is inescapable.

  But I was writing about Merman nature. It is their self-proclaimed mission to restore the kelp. But will the kelp be conscious? Kelp once more lives in the sea. I have seen the effects in my lifetime and expect we've just about seen the last of wavewalls. Exposed land will surely follow. Yet, how does that subtract from this nature that I see in the Mermen?

  By bringing back the kelp, they seek to control the sea. That is the Merman nature: control.

  Islanders float with the waves and the winds and the currents. Mermen would control these forces and control us.

  Islanders bend with things that might otherwise overwhelm them. They are accustomed to change but grow tired of it. Mermen fight against certain kinds of change - and are growing tired of that.

  Now, I come to my view of what Ship did with us. I think it is the nature of our universe that life may encounter a force that could overwhelm it if life cannot bend. Mermen would break before such a force. Islanders bend and drift. I think we may prove the better survivors.


  We bear our original sin in our bodies and on our faces.

  - Simone Rocksack, Chaplain/Psychiatrist

  The cold slap of a sudden wave over the side snapped Queets Twisp full awake. He yawned, unkinked his overlong arms where they had tangled themselves in the tarp. He wiped the spray from his face with his shirtsleeve. Not yet full sunrise, he noted. The first thin feathers of dawn tickled the black belly of the horizon. No thunderheads cluttered the sky and his two squawks, their feathers preened and glistening, muttered contentedly on their tethers. He rubbed the circulation back into his long arms and felt in the bottom of the coracle for his tube of thick juice concentrates and proteins.