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

16 Mar

Cadmus sat sleeping in a chair, his head and arms resting on a small writing-table on the mezzanine of the Apollean. Ianon approached slowly and shook him awake with gentle motion of his arms.

“What is it?” asked the developer, rubbing his waking eyes. “Has anything happened on the battle line up there?”

“That’s why I need your attention. Yes, we now enjoy control of level four. The Archers just put an end to the last of the resistance there. All our armed opponents have been killed, captured, or else have escaped upward. They fought hard, but were finally beaten. The defeat they suffered is unquestioned. But the damage caused by our incendiaries is substantial. The civil population on that tier suffered physical and economic losses of incalculable dimensions. Our victory there was not a cheap or easy one.”

“What comes next?” asked Cadmus, rising from his chair.

“We are holding about half of the city now. The upper reaches are isolated and caught in an inescapable trap. Attacks on the fifth floor have begun. It promises to be the same story over again. Flame will be shot at the centers of opposition to our forward forces. No mercy is to be shown our armed enemies. This is war and must be treated as such.”

“The casualty rate is high?” asked Cadmus with a grim expression on his face.

“On both sides,” replied his partner in revolution.

The other remembered his brother. “Is there any information about Gany?” he inquired.

Ianon frowned. “There is nothing about either him or Echo. Both of them have disappeared. No one knows their fate. They are gone and there is no evidence to indicate what happened.”

“When this war is finished,” said Cadmus with a moan, “we may discover their dead bodies.”

The two moved over to the map table to view and study the changes in the battle line up above them.

Atlas and Ganymede were assigned a double room, while Echo and Hermes each occupied a separate single bed chamber. But the scientist decided not to seek rest or sleep. He found a hardwood chair, placed it in the corridor near the room of Echo, and sat down there as a bodyguard for the woman he loved.

He felt rather than knew the amount of danger to her might originate from Hebe Triton and her mad subconscious.

Although his eyes and mind both ached, he refused to sleep. He had to remain awake and aware of his surroundings. Echo could not be left unprotected this night. There was an unseen danger lurking about, the scientist sensed.

If Hebe had used electricity to murder Niobe, misjudging her relationship to him, what might she do to Echo, a genuine potential target of envy?

Somehow, the ex-Director may have mistaken the original Pythoness for the woman he was in love with. Why not? At first glance, it could have seemed a reasonable assumption.

Hermes thought of all the false signs that Hebe might have misread. His complicated thought nearly diverted his attention from the sound of the opening outside door of the dormitory building. He jolted himself fully awake. It seemed that someone was slowly entering the long corridor. Was it the woman with the unhealthy obsession that centered on him?

His eyes soon confirmed this speculation.

Hebe did not, at first, catch sight of him. But when she did, her face and body seemed to turn to ice. She and Hermes gazed at each other in tense silence, as if neither of them dared speak.

What did the eyes of Hermes tell her? Did she realize that what she had done to Niobe in Gamara was known to him? Did she recognize the fact that further concealment had become impossible? Was she there to do him harm?

All at once, the exhausted scientist rose from the chair and stepped toward her. But then he came to a sudden halt and spoke.

“When were you last in Gamara?” he demanded in a stern voice. “Did you happen to look for me at the antique store where the Pythoness lived?”

There was no need for any verbal response from her. The twisting ugliness on the woman’s face was confession enough for him. It could only be an acknowledgement of guilt from a murderer. She was the active culprit.

What will Hebe now do or say to me? Hermes asked himself. He had no idea what was going to happen next in such a dangerous situation.

Before he realized it, though, she was gone.

Her unnatural behavior had confirmed his judgment of what she had done.

What was he to do about this fiendish person? he asked himself countless times before he fell asleep.

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