Sahara Light: a Novel. Part I. Chapter VI.

2 Mar

Brilliant rays from the morning sun illuminated only the top and the sides of eight-decked Gamara. Light lamps continued shining inside the tiered city where shadows never vanished. The face of Apollo up in the Helios was never seen inside the structure, said the lower class inhabitants near the bottom. The sun was always absent there.

It was Heliosday, the end of the work week for the residents of the upper levels. But this was not a day of rest for the desert ergati. Siderodrome lines with red, blue, yellow, and green trains moved their loads of drowsy field workers out to the peripheral plantations beyond the sandfarmers small plots. Stoop labor was dumb, animal-like in nature. Burning light from the sky beat down on the men and women who were instruments of dry agriculture. The ergati received large doses of the quasiparticle radiation emitted by the large exitron projectors that rose over the cultivated fields. It had never been determined how hazardous the exposure was to ergati health. It had never been a subject of high priority to the corporate owners of the giant plantations.

One man, not a laborer himself, moved among the traveling workers this Heliosday morning. Ianon Iatus was a thin, slight figure in an orange-colored business suit. A green silex protective helmet covered his head. His ruddy face appeared pleasant and friendly, as did his manner.

What was he doing in the desert fields this Heliosday?

The blue-uniformed security guards of a plantation who surrounded him from all sides demanded he give them an answer to that very question.

“Who are you and what are you up to out here, so far from the city?” snarled the captain of the private unit.

Ianon kept mum, looking up into the bright yellowish blue sky.

“I’m asking you a question,” growled the chief guard. “Let me see your identification lamina, if you have one,” he demanded with stern metal in his voice.

The man in orange made no sound, no movement.

One of the guards spoke up on his own. “I think I know who this is,” he informed the captain of the small group.

The leader turned to him to hear what he had to say.

“He is a union organizer who comes from Gamara to agitate among the ergati. I’ve seen his face on the telescreen. It was reported that he intends to convince the laborers to join together and follow him. This fellow is a dangerous troublemaker, sir. He came out here to incite trouble.”

The captain faced Ianon once again. “Is that true?” he barked. “Are you a unionist?”

There was no reply, nor the slightest twitch or motion. It would have been of no use. No good came from answering such questions from plantation guards.

Ianon knew what was going to happen before the first blow struck him.

The captain hit him squarely on the jaw with a clenched fist.

One guard punched his right kidney, another the left one.

That Heliosday morning, Ianon Iatos received the worst beating of his twenty years experience as an agitator of desert workers.

His tormentors left him lying on the hard, glassy sand surface. He managed to stagger to the nearest siderdrome stop and waited there for a yellow train back to Gamara.

The muffled voice from the wall screen droned unintelligibly in the background. Cadmus and his guest from the desert were eating a late breakfast on the enclosed porch with the panoramic view of the Sahara.

“What do you think of last night’s entertainment?” asked the developer of the suburban zone. “Was it exciting enough for you?”

Hermes responded only with a broad, enigmatic smile.

“Your brother became quite excited about the popular beliefs and traditions of the mass of people who live in Gamara,” he said matter-of-factly. “Was he serious about a rebirth of the cult and worship of Apollo?”

“Why do you ask?” bristled Cadmus. “He is an artist and enjoys a certain license to say whatever occurs to his mind, either sober or not.”

“Gany was drunk last night?” asked a surprised Hermes.

Before he could give an answer, Cadmus turned up the audio control on his telescreen remote panel built into the eating table.

“An editorial is about to begin,” said the host. “The head of Chronia News, Atlas Cimera, is about to address his audience on the screen.”

Hermes fixed his sight on the image that filled the floor-to-ceiling lamina on the inner wall of the porch. A broad, magnified face, muscular and full of strength, appeared. His voice was a thick baritone.

“I have often spoken to you about the economic threat that hangs over Gamara and its desert territory. In recent centuries, we have maintained a balance, a kind of symbiosis, between industry and agriculture. The factories on our lower decks produce advanced lamps and illuminating gases that we export to our neighbors of North Africa and the European Union. Our desert foodstuffs have a world market eager to consume them. We produce a plentiful supply of food for our own population and the other cities of the Sahara that lag behind us in technology. Over the generations, we have created a sandfarming form of agriculture unlike any other on Earth. We are different, we are unique. Both our illumination industry and our desert cultivation are unsurpassed and unchallenged. They have always been interdependent.

“But now a danger hangs over this symbiotic relationship, threatening the inheritance we have enjoyed. Aren’t our farm workers well fed? Don’t they live a safe and comfortable life on their Gamara tiers? None would prefer to be elsewhere. They are the foundation of our economy. No machine can carry out the intricate, demanding tasks that they accomplish under the rays of burning Helios. They are happy, they are contented, and they dwell in safety in Gamara. None of them feel a need for radical changes. Neither do our industrial workers in the lamp factories of the lower decks. Nor our managers or the commercial class. All of these ways of life are satisfactory to those involved in them.

“Yet we have dangerous adventurists who propose that we spread our population out over the space of the desert. These speculators plan to settle and develop the zone immediately around the city tower, taking it out of the hands of our small sandfarmers as fast as they can buy it up. They never tell us, though, what are the technologies they intend to apply in order to make that possible.

“Empty promises are all we hear from that ilk. We have always been a society of urban dwellers. The desert is a place to work the sands for our food. Our industries belong in our city. We must not give up the balance and symbiosis of history for the sake of selfish, individual profit.

“Let us all resolve, therefore, to oppose such harebrained schemes. If we can deny support to these ideas, these swindlers will meet with the failure that they deserve. Thank you.”

The face disappeared from the wall screen and as regular programming resumed, Cadmus and Hermes looked at each other with blank stares.

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