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

12 Mar

Atlas Cimera, a little out of breath, went into the antique shop’s rear door. Sitting in the office was Hermes, who asked him to sit down. Echo had gone out to buy foodstuffs at a neighborhood grocery still open. Once both men were seated, the news publisher explained why he had made the trip to see Hermes here.

“Mr. Asriom thinks you should leave for the Light Institute immediately. As I understand him, you must no longer have any association whatsoever with Apolloism and those in charge of its revival. For him, such a break is an essential. Without your Echolight, that you alone know how to produce and apply, these people will lose their great attraction, the novelty that draws so much of the lower level public to them. Your absence in the desert should put a crimp in this ergati trouble that has broken out. The central focus of dissatisfaction will have been removed from Gamara. The outcome, though, will indeed depend upon you and your immediate departure out of this endangered city.”

As he listened to this, Hermes thought of his personal relationships and obligations, primarily those that had connection with Echo Syrinx. Was he being asked to become a traitor to those who had become closest to him? He decided that he could not follow any such advice or commands from this important figure.

“As you and Mr. Asriom should understand, I cannot decide these matters quickly or all by myself. There are very strong bonds that prevent me from leaving Gamara overnight. There is one consultation in particular that I must make. Only then is a decision possible for me.”

Atlas Cimera gave him a blunt, forthright stare. His sharp mind told him what sort of relationship would be involved in keeping the scientist within the decks of Gamara.

“I shall tell Nessos that you are not ready to go and need time for consideration. He will not like that at all, I am sure. He will not be pleased. But there is nothing anyone can do to convince you what should be done.”

He rose and left without another word.

Nessos Asriom, the founder and organizer, gave the new protective force the name by which it was to go by: the Phylax. The armed corps was assigned the function of providing a final defense for the tower city. Its members came from the upper and middle classes of Gamara.They were business owners, merchants, shopkeepers, professionals, bank employees, white-collar workers, bureaucrats, teachers, and police officers. Small weapons were distributed to them from government reserves kept in case there should ever be an external war. The emergency of a general strike of the ergati created alarm and panic great enough to gain official approval for the new Phylax being hastily formed.

The lamp manufacturer descended down to ground level to take charge of the rapid arming and posting of armed units of citizens from the higher tiers at all entrances to the city. There was no question who would be in charge or give orders.

“We must be ready to oppose any attack,” repeated Nessos wherever he appeared as he inspected the points at which the defenders concentrated. Increasing numbers of inhabitants of the top and the middle levels arrived for possible combat with the raging strikers out on the sand farms.

“Each of us must be prepared to sacrifice his life,” shouted the industrial titan, taking the mantel of commander of the elite strata of Gamara. “This will be a bitter conflict for the survival of our city as we know it.”

Would the lines of defense hold? wondered everyone in the city. Or would the argati overwhelm those daring to oppose them?

Which side was going to emerge the winner?

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