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

11 Mar

Knowing that the front door of the antique shop was kept locked all day and night, since no more business with the public was carried on, the pair of lovers went to the back alley to enter through the office, still in use by Niobe.

Hermes opened the xylic door for Echo and let her enter first.

Ceiling lamps lit the room and a buzzing noise came from the wall screen opposite the door. In an instant, both of them realized that there was something wrong here.

Echo stood petrified. Hermes, behind her, did the same. The telescreen covering the entire surface of one wall was still on, but there was no picture on it. Only a standing female body looked out. The face on it was that of the Pythoness.

Niobe was literally imprisoned in the fibers and fabric of the giant screen. It was her body that prevented any signal from outside becoming visible. She was entangled in the communication apparatus as if within a spider web.

A stony expression characterized her unmoving face. She seemed transfixed by a great galvanic shock. A lapidarian stillness surrounded this victim of electrocution who showed no sign of life. The sight was a frightening, ghastly one.

For a time, neither of the witnesses of the scene was able to speak or move.

At last, the dry voice of the physicist said something. “We must call the level’s police at once, Echo.”

She turned around to him. “Police?”

“A murder has been committed here. There has to be a thorough investigation by the authorities. Where is the phonic connector?”

The terrified Echo pointed to the corner desk. Hermes stepped over to it, saying “I will also contact Cadmus and Ganymede. They must know what has happened here. This is something horrible. It must be investigated at once.”

“What happened? What was it?” she asked as if in a nightmarish trance.

“Murder. This is nothing else but murder. We have to get to the bottom of it.”

“Who would do such a thing to Niobe? ” she sobbed, tears flowing out of control. “She was good to everyone. Who in Gamara would dare commit this crime? What could have been the motive behind it? I don’t understand this at all.”

Investigators from the city police carried out a formal probe, but came up with no conclusions about the unusual killing of the priestess of Apollo.

The corpse was finally taken to a ground level cinerator for disposal. Final rite of cremation occurred the next day and the remains buried in a fenced field of the desert called the ashery.

As Hermes and Echo returned from the ceremony, both of them noticed that Ganymede was in heated, argumentative conversation with his brother, Cadmus.

“Something has been done that Gany does not agree with,” said the developer’s secretary. “I think it has to do with the Archers of Apollo and Ianon Iatos. There are going to be some kind of changes there, that has been certain for some time now.”

Hermes had a thought. “Maybe they are involved with the replacement of Niobe as the priestess. Would you accept the position of Pythoness yourself, Echo?”

She furrowed her brow into ridges. “I never imagined that possible and I don’t see myself in that public role at all. It is not anything that I have ambition or desire for. No, I believe that they were discussing the possibility of a strike.”

“Strike?”

“A general rebellion, an insurrection by the ergati. That is something that Ianon has long planned and advocated. The time may still seem inappropriate for direct action to many people in our movement. But now opinions may have changed because of the crime against Niobe. It affects every person with any connection to the Apollo revival. We shall soon see whether a general strike on all the tiers of Gamara is going to come about as a response to the attack on the Pythoness of our movement.”

Hermes, deep in thought, made no reply to this.

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