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"I think a lot of kids whose mental growth outruns their maturity gravitate to science fiction."
- Dan Simmons

Stone Burner  
  Atomic weapon which burrows deep into a planet; its radiation also attacks selected nerve tissues.  

A soft hiss grew out of the other sounds, climbed to a roar while they still heard the sibilance. It picked up a terra-cotta glow that hid the stars, engulfed the moon.

Paul, knowing that sound and glow from the earliest nightmare glimpses of his vision, felt an odd sense of fulfillment. It went the way it must. "Stone burner!" someone screamed.

"Stone burner!" The cry was all around him.

"Stone burner... stone burner..."

Because it was required of him, Paul threw a protective arm across his face, dove for the low lip of a curb. It already was too late, of course.

Where Otheym's house had been there stood now a pillar of fire, a blinding jet roaring at the heavens. It gave off a dirty brilliance which threw into sharp relief every ballet movement of the fighting and fleeing men, the tipping retreat of ornithopters.

For every member of this frantic throng it was too late.

The ground grew hot beneath Paul. He heard the sound of running stop. Men threw themselves down all around him, every one of them aware that there was no point in running. The first damage had been done; and now they must wait out the extent of the stone burner's potency. The things's radiation, which no man could outrun, already had penetrated their flesh. The peculiar result of stone-burner radiation already was at work in them. What else this weapon might do now lay in the planning of the men who had used it, the men who had defied the Great Convention to use it.

From Dune Messiah, by Frank Herbert.
Published by Putnam in 1969
Additional resources -

Compare to planet buster from Assignment to Aldebaran (1953) by Kendall Foster Cressen and the Wunderland Treatymaker from Ringworld Engineers (1980) by Larry Niven.

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  More Ideas and Technology from Dune Messiah
  More Ideas and Technology by Frank Herbert
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