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

16 Mar

Nightfall was less than an hour away when Atlas Cimera and his three companions made their way out of the shadows of the beton tunnel. The editor pointed to a xyloid shed. Hermes, right behind him, nodded. this was where the Chronia News vehicle was stored. The group of four, with Ganymede at the rear, hurried in that direction.

Surprisingly, there was no one anywhere about.

Atlas, reaching a side door, waved the others inside the structure. A vapor lamp went on as soon as he entered. The sleek maroon sedan would provide a comfortable ride across the desert. Echo and Ganymede were directed into the rear compartment. Hermes sat beside the driver’s seat in front.

Seemingly out of nowhere, a loud voice cracked the air. “Stop! What are you people doing in there?”

Instantly, Cimera drew a keycard from his suit pocket and shoved it into a dashboard slot. In a flash, the phoreion came to life with a whirling noise from its ammonium engine. “Hold tight!” screamed the publisher as the motorcar moved into gear.

A touch of a button beside the steerer caused the front sliding door of the shed to be lifted up. Even before it was fully raised, the kiniton was in forward movement. The acceleration of the vehicle was startlingly smooth.

Hermes and his fellow passengers caught sight of half a dozen Archers of Apollo gingerly approaching the shed from both sides. Fortunately, they were still at a distance as the sedan sped away.

All the passengers began to feel safer once the shed was far behind. Sighs of relaxing rose from both the back and front seats.

As Atlas drove onto a trunk road, he spoke to the others.

“We are well on our way. I aim to move at top velocity. We have succeeded in making our escape from the besieged city.”

No ceremonies were performed at the Apolleon that evening.

Everyone connected to it was too busy in defending the third tier from enemy assaults from higher up in the tower city. The ferocity of the armed Phylax could not have been anticipated. Ianon Iatus and Cadmus Megaras had expected easy victory due to the advantage of surprise, not the stiff resistance and constant counterattacks from the upper section of Gamara. Though electricity had been cut off to every level above the third, emergency batteries and generators came into action in service to the middle class and the monied elite.

Nessos Asriom proved himself a sharper military commander than anyone on either side expected. Quick sorties into lower areas, then sudden withdrawal continued hour after hour. The Archers of Apollo were astounded by the nimble movements of their swiftly mobilized foes. This was a type of resistance they were not ready to fight.

Ianon and Cadmus stared at their maps, both of them tired and worried. The former was the one who voiced the conclusion that they both shared.

“We have to destroy them completely. No holds bared, that is the only possible strategy. We have to teach them a lesson never to be forgotten. No other alternative remains.”

Cadmus appeared depressed and crestfallen. “How?” was all he was able to say.

“Fire,” whispered his fellow leader. “The Archers must set fires that can burn out those fighting against us.”

“But that will lead to a multiplication of casualties!” objected Cadmus.

“So be it,” huffed Ianon. “It is they who have forced our hand.”

A select squad of incendiaries was soon summoned and dispatched into the upper resisting tiers of troubled Gamara.

The hurtling vehicle felt as if it was making no progress. Is this an endless journey? wondered every single passenger aboard. Ganymede could not keep quiet, but meditated aloud in a vague, rambling manner.

“First came the spectacular discovery, then these sour and bitter results. Always, the inevitable let-down. The new light inspired the masses, but now they are destroying the foundations of society and culture. An eternal, unending cycle of soaring, then a falling and collapse. Is that our fate as human beings? A futile circle, back and forth, up and down? There is no sign it will ever finish, is there?”

Echo interrupted with a thought of her own.

“That is life, both for individuals and populations. For me, for you, Gany. For all of us in this phoreion. That is the universal situation, without exception. The truth is awful and hard to accept. But our lives go on within an eternal cycle, a kind of rotation. It never comes to an end.”

“You two are becoming overly philosophical,” countered the driver, Atlas Cimera. “Keep your mental focus on particulars and specifics, not generalities. That’s the way a newsman like me gets through the day.”

Silence fell over the passengers. Hermes had kept quiet, for he was planning how to manage the experimentation meant to produce transilient light at the Institute they were traveling to.

Science, not abstract speculation, interested him. Consequences had to take care of themselves.

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