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

16 Mar

The central park on the fourth level of Gamara blazed with a devouring fire that destroyed whatever in its path was combustible. On all sides, apartment buildings went up in flames. The terrified residents, unable to use the vertical movers that lacked electric power, huddled together in the few untouched locations. These became fewer and fewer as the fire squads attacked with new igniting. Shouts of pain and terror were continuous. There seemed to be no relief or safety in the struggle for control of the vertical city.

In the eighth level headquarters of Astriom Lamps, Nessos conferred with the leaders of the Phylax. He had his hands full attempting to motivate them with his own high hopes for victory.

“The balance will turn against these fire-setters,” he insisted. “Perhaps not at this moment,but at some point there will occur a reversal of the momentum. Everything depends upon catching hold of matters at the right time. Persistence is the key to our success. Only if we hold tight can we end up victorious.”

No one else said anything, everything revolving around this particular leader on the side of authority and established order. He had made himself the mainspring of continuity and tradition. His goal was to restore stability to Gamara.

“We must go on as we are doing,” said Nessos in a metallic tone. “Our eyes must be hunting for the winning opportunity. It will come to us sooner or later. Patient persistence is necessary.”

Asriom leaned back in his swivel chair. He had become the strategist of the established forces and powers. If victory should come, there would be no civil government left, only the Phylax and himself.

Daybreak arrived with startling suddenness, surprising all four in the sedan. Hermes was first to catch sight of the Light Institute on the distant horizon. He informed the others that their trip was close to its end. A feeling of revulsion arose in him when he remembered the former Director, Hebe Triton, and her treatment of him and his work. Why had she grown so jealous of him? Envy was always self-destructive, he told himself.

All at once, he started to understand this nemesis of his in a new light. Strange impulses of an unconscious variety could lie behind jealousy. It struck him like a bolt from the blue. Could that be her motive, unrecognized by herself? Had there occurred a conversion of emotion into its direct opposite? wondered the physicist. That was a possible explanation for a series of negative actions by her. That might be it.

As they neared the front entrance of the compound, Hermes was seeing Hebe Triton in a quite new and different way. She was not what he had earlier supposed. Her innermost character was not the outward one that pretended to be the whole woman. It was the opposite.

A further possibility occurred to him. Was the electrification of Niobe Dosodor explicable as being connected to the tangled emotions of the Institute’s Director? Could she have been the person responsible for that horrid crime? Was she capable of such a brutal murder?

As the night guard waved the kiniton through the entrance gate, Hermes resolved to find out if there was any substance to his vague suspicions concerning Hebe. Was she a mistress of concealment and dissimulation with veiled passions underneath? Was her aggression a mask for unrecognized, hidden passion?

The phoreion came to a stop close to the living quarters of the staff.

A large female figure in white night-clothes approached the vehicle. Hermes had no doubt who it was, the person he had been trying to analyze.

Atlas pressed a lever that lowered the door window on his side. “I have brought the newly appointed Director,” said the driver. “He will immediately take charge of operation of the Light Institute. If you wish, Dr. Triton, employment as a researcher is available. There can be more safety for you here than in Gamara at present. Take my advice and remain as a scientific investigator. I am certain that Director Hermes Tmolos can make effective use of your talents and experience. That is the best alternative available for your personal future, believe me.”

Without saying a word, Hebe spun around and stalked back to the apartment structure. Something in her manner confirmed Hermes in his supposition about her. He promised himself to look for evidence of her connection to the murder of Niobe. But first he had to begin a new research project that he had in mind.

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