Sahara Light: a Novel. Part II. Chapter VII.

9 Mar

A chauffeur drove the long, luxury voiture alone by itself to the Light Institute in the distant desert. Nessos and Atlas made plans in the passenger compartment of the limousine. They spoke to each other as if they were partners in a secret conspiracy.

“I think we should, at the beginning, let her do most of the talking,” opined the publisher. “It is best we not try to propose anything until she finishes expressing her emotions concerning the physicist who came across Echolight in the course of major conflict with her. Our timing will be very important in determining the outcome we reach.”

Nessos fully agreed with such a strategy.

Once within the Institute compound, the vehicle was parked at the entrance to the laboratory and the passengers exited onto the hot sands. A secretarial aide greeted and led them to the central office, where Hebe awaited them. Atlas took charge of the exchange of introductions, then the Director asked the visitors to sit down across the desk from her.

“You can probably guess what business brought us here,” began Nessos. “The sensation caused by the new spectrum of light in Gamara has concentrated attention upon its discoverer. My friend here has interviewed the man for the public, but that can only find out so much about him and what he came upon out here in your facility. Both of us decided to travel this distance in order to learn more about what happened and why he left under a cloud. We are trying to map out his personality and his ultimate ambitions. Both of us have a need for a complete understanding of how the man thinks and acts, especially in a crisis. It is important that we find out what the truth about this person happens to be.”

The face of Hebe was by now red with blood flow. “Hermes is…difficult. I mean that he is hard to deal with under any circumstances. It was not easy to supervise him and what he was doing. He developed an unjustified idea that I was blocking his research program on colors. That was untrue. My purpose was to prevent him from monopolizing the equipment that we have here. I had to see that other sections of the Institute did not lack what they needed. I acted like a sort of referee, but he could not understand that.

“Today, he is surrounded by wild-eyed Apollonian fanatics and has given them use of the light he found while at our laboratory. He departed with devices that belonged here and made us give them up in exchange for payment from his allies. The results of his work with us are being misused and exploited by the cult he has joined up with. I foresee this leading to his eventual ruin as a scientist and a person. It will end up a tragedy.”

Her voice had turned unsteady and uneven as she finished speaking.

Atlas decided to ask the main question he had traveled to present. “It is important for us to find out his most intimate aims and dreams. What does he really want? My companion wishes to recruit him into working for his established lamp company as the chief of pioneering research, on the very edge of what remains unknown. But he has to know how to approach and convince this man in order to draw him away from his present ties to the Apollo movement.”

Hebe seemed to look away. “Hermes is almost a sleepwalker. It may be easier for outsiders to make sense of him than for himself. What is his final aim? One can only speculate. I have a feeling he wants his Echolight to touch all of our lives, both in the tower city and out here in the desert zone. That alone will satisfy his expansive mind: bringing about radical changes in the life of the Saharan Greeks and the entire planet. There are no practical limits to his dreams and ambitions, I fear.”

“That is an interesting view you have, Dr. Triton,” said Nessos. “I will put my cards on the table. My desire is to hire him to lead the research at Asrion Lamps. My colleagues idea seems the most attractive one to make him want to work for me and my company.” He turned his face toward Atlas, allowing him to speak in more detail.

“What if he were offered the chance to make Echolight a transilient form of energy, one that could be transmitted and received over a distance without interference? A force that could illuminate an entire community from elsewhere, but from a distance?”

Hebe looked at the news chief with her eyes enlarged with incredulity. But then she restored her mental equilibrium and gave a response to his proposal.

“Such a program has the potential to take him away from the Apollo zealots. I have never understood how they succeeded in making him trust them. Is he so great a believer in Apollo and the revival going on in Gamara? I have my doubts about the depth of his belief.”

Nessos decided to suggest a way forward. “Hermes Tmolos must have left some notes and papers behind. Could we have them? If we returned to Gamara with them they could be helpful in drawing up a plan to present to him.”

She had to think only a moment before giving her consent.

Soon the duo were riding back to the city with what they had come for. Atlas was already perusing the cellulose sheets they had obtained. He read aloud whatever appeared to give ammunition to the industrialist who had accompanied him. There was mention of luminous flux, enantiomorphosis, coherent antinodes, and other recondite subjects that neither traveler could define or understand.

“When shall I try to recruit the fellow?” asked Nessos as they neared the decks of the elevated city.

“At the right moment, when it comes, I can present your offer to him. He has come to trust me and my judgment. The conditions are growing better for us, I believe. The Apollo movement is close to going too far through its affiliation with ergati radical elements. We should act while conditions favor us.”

“I leave the decision as to timing in your hands, Atlas.”

The latter gladly accepted that task.

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