Saharan Light Part I. Chapter III.

1 Mar

Saturday, the day of the party on multitiered Gamara, was uncommonly hot.

The kiniton of the physicist sped over the dromic highway. At first, it was the only vehicle from one horizon to the other. But then other traffic began to appear, growing more frequent as Hermes entered the zone of farming in sand.

Large plots of cultivated cactus lined both sides of the ruler straight roadway. Vehicles passed in both directions now. This was the area of enormous grain agrochtima, dry crop farms of plantation size worked by servile day laborers. Large photonic lamps mounted on metal and concrete towers glowed with artificial light that controlled the many processes of photosynthesis going on the cropland below. Aerostats moved across the sky with their photonic mechanisms.

Fields appeared with sitari sand wheat, then came dry rice crops that looked like some kind of prairie grass. Orchards with small trees stretched toward the bright sky. These included the beloved chourmadia sand date. Cypress and palm trees shaded the blazing ground, tall guardians of the orchard pathways.

Calampaki stalks of dryland maize rose along the track of a monorail line that carried agricultural workers who lived on the lower tiers of Gamara. Huge barns stretched on both sides of the road. Gardens of marouli lettuce, fasoli beans, and a variety of desert vegetables rolled by on both sides. A multitude of arid and semi-arid crops presented themselves to anyone passing by.

Hermes could see giant arotic mechanisms plowing and cultivating the sand, as well as laborers working with their hands and simple antique tools. Some were cutting delicate desert wheat in the way their ancestors did ages before in the original Greek homeland about the Aegean Sea.

Ahead of him, the eight decks of modern Gamara loomed like a soaring tower wrapped in a film of foggy heat. The vertical city was the opposite of the searing desert. This ladder to the sky grew taller and larger as the kiniton approached it. This was quite a strange metropolis, the majority of whose population consisted of desert farm workers who moved back-and-forth between the city and the desert.

From all directions, underground tunnels brought precious water from the deep aquifers of the region to teeming Gamara, its decks thickly populated.

Hermes turned his mind to the good time he was going to enjoy with genial companions on an upper, elite level of the great and ancient city. Till then, he planned to spend some hours at one of the many phototheaters where virtual dramas were projected by light onto nano-fiber glass screens. That promised to be interesting and entertaining.

Parking his kiniton in an underground garage on the periphery, he rode a vertical mover up to the eighth deck, past the lower level neighborhoods that had always been slums. The address was a luxury module facing the desert to the east. Up here perched those who had money, power, and social prestige.

Cadmus himself opened the door on the first ring of the musical chimes set off by the wide welcome rug all visitors had to stand on before entering.

“Come in!” the developer laughed warmly. “I am awfully glad to see you are here, my good man.”

As Hermes entered the spacious luxury unit, the host for the evening closed the door.

“Follow me,” said Cadmus. “With your arrival, all the guests are present.”

The two walked to the end of the central corridor, into a cozy closed porch overlooking the outer sands. Hermes was reminded of how crowded the lower tiers had to be in order to furnish such quantities of space up above for the favored types like the host.

The physicist from the desert stared through the wrap-around window of the veranda. Dark desert night had already fallen on the fields of teff in the distance. The view was a strangely powerful one.

“Hello, Hermes,” called out Echo Syrinx. “I’m so glad to see you. How was your trip here?”

He recognized who it was instantly, even before turning in her direction.

“It was interesting and went by fast. The view of the desert at night from here is breathtaking.” Hermes pointed with his right arm toward the almost invisible silex window.

“I must introduce you to our friends who are already here,” said Cadmus, guiding his guest toward the other end of the long porch.

A dark-skinned woman whose hair was shiny raven stood next to a pale little man with bushy silver locks.

“This is Niobe Dosodor,” smiled the developer. “She runs a small shop and she deals in early Greek antiquities of the Migration Age.”

The brunette extended her right hand. As Hermes took it in his, he noticed a dreamy, distant quality in her dark nut-brown eyes.

Cadmus again spoke. “And this is my own older brother, Ganymede. He is one of the best-known painters in Gamara.”

The artist, lean and nervous, shook hands indifferently with the desert physicist.

“I’ll get a drink for Hermes,” said the host, leaving the couple he had just introduced to each other.

The wan, tired looking painter was the first to say something.

“My brother told me your specialty is the study of color in light,” he rasped in a sandy voice.

“Yes,” nodded the newcomer. “I’m a chromatologist.”

The sallow face showed a grin. “I also deal in light and colors,” mumbled Ganymede.

All three of them turned to Echo as she joined the little group.

“Gany is marvelously creative,” she grinned, “when he wants to be. But his talent always is in need of inspiration. The poor fellow hasn’t painted very much of late. He has been somewhat idle.”

“Unlucky Gany needs a new subject to work on,” remarked Niobe in a sad but mocking tone.

“A little bit of rest could help me see with new eyes,” grumbled the artist. “I was starting to paint the same scenes over and over. It is no good to copy yourself in continuous repetition. So, I am waiting to find something novel to inspire and enthuse me again. Then, everybody will be astounded at my amazing productivity. I can foresee that for sure.”

“That may take forever, Gany,” twitted Echo.

Niobe now intervened to change the subject to something different.

“Are you interested in Migration Age relics, Mr. Tmolos?”

“Call me Hermes,” he grinned. “Yes, especially pre-Migration objects from before the Dorian invasion of the homeland, if it actually happened the way that legend holds. I have deep interest in everything connected with our Greek ancestors and how and why they migrated into the Sahara. We are fortunate that those pioneers brought artifacts with them at the time. I am fascinated with what they were able to devise so many centuries ago in places far from here.”

Niobe looked at him admiringly. “I feel a kindred soul in you, Hermes,” she said as if trying to tempt him to pay special attention in her direction.

Cadmus then approached the group with a tray of drinks. “Let’s all sit down and enjoy some ouzo and mastika,” he proposed.

The entire company moved over to two long couches. Hermes sat down between his host and Echo. Ganymede and Niobe sat opposite them, a low antique wooden table between the two positions.

“We had a hard time in our office,” darkly frowned Cadmus. “The desert farmers haggle and argue without end. It’s terribly difficult to buy any land from them.” He turned to Hermes. “I own a large housing tract project out on the edge of the Gamara tower.”

“My brother wants everybody to get out of his way and run out into the open desert,” said Ganymede with a hint of irony. “He thinks that the life of our independent farmers will be made more pleasant farther out under the rays of Helios. He sees the solution to all their economic troubles in better photonic agriculture under the light projectors and the aerostats.”

“The Sahara Desert is enormous, nearly limitless,” said Cadmus directly to Hermes. “But our farmers are thick-headed, ignorant, and greedy. They have Gamara in a noose they refuse to loosen. No one else is allowed to use their small holdings for suburban development if they win their way.” He sighed for a second. “But soon all this resistance will have to change. I intend to push back their farms and build family houses around the city. They will have to obtain lands for farming further out. The land of the large plantations that use hired labor has to become theirs.”

“Who is going to be able to afford your cottages and bungalows in the desert?” asked the painter in a pointed manner. “Only people in business and commerce have enough money. They already occupy the top tiers of Gamara, don’t they?”

Niobe Dosodor intervened, averting greater argument between the brothers.

“Chronia, the telenews agency, carried a tough editorial last night against urban expansion and migration from the city tower into the desert. Did you catch it on telescreen, Dr. Tmolos?”

“Call me Hermes,” urged the latter. “No, I don’t have time to watch news. I am poorly informed on political and economic subjects.”

“Chronia is the voice of the small and middle farmers,” angrily growled Cadmus. “It attacks my plans to build outward and all who think and do business like me. Most of our politicians are either beholden to them for support or afraid to oppose their reactionary interests.”

Silence fell over the porch. It ended when Hermes turned to Ganymede and asked him a question.

“Why don’t you go into the dry desert to paint it, far beyond the farming zone. There is a lot out there for an artist to see and think about.”

The little man with the silver hair seemed to be falling into a trance. “Perhaps,” he mumbled. “It may, though, demand more patience than I possess.”

Niobe, specifically addressing the host, changed the subject to something else. “I thought we were all going out on the town tonight, Cadmus.”

“We are,” beamed the latter. “I made reservations down below at Niko’s. Our party can leave for there at any time we wish.”

Ganymede looked at Hermes. “My brother is planning to take us into a lower class slum tonight. Niko’s is a joint where adventurers go and congregate. Maybe I’ll be inspired to paint the dark, perilous existence of Gamara’s vile riffraff. At least it is always interesting at Niko’s,” he said with a smirk.

Within minutes, all of them left the luxury module on the top city deck.

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