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

19 Mar

The Prostagor traveled to the Light Institute in a convoy of twelve motorcars. Nessos himself rode in a heavy luxuriant. Most of his entourage consisted of Phylax bodyguards. A flunky was sent in to notify the Director of the dictator’s arrival.

Hermes, fearing what might happen, went to the entrance gate to give the great visitor a welcome and a greeting.

As Asriom climbed out of the stretch amaxa, he informed the scientist that he planned to make a complete inspection of the facility. “I want you to be my guide, Dr. Tmolos. My goal is to have a look at everything of promise or importance in the laboratories that you manage. My interest in your research work is limitless.”

With inner loathing of the powerholder, Hermes led the way for the dictator’s personal party. “Let me begin with the light divagators,” said the Director in a quiet, humble tone.

The tour was over in less than fifteen minutes. It covered all the major aspects of research investigations going on. Hermes provided a general, superficial description of what was going on.

“I want to talk with you in your office,” said Nessos in the form of a request. “Just the two of us alone, with no one else present.”

As soon as the pair were seated there, the dictator began making threats that focused on the future well-being of Echo Syrinx.

“Her fine looks will not continue as they are if you fail my hopes, if you disappoint me. Do you understand what I mean?”

Hermes said nothing, not moving a muscle or giving any sign.

“Listen to what I plan to do,” continued Asriom. “Until you provide me transilient light, I shall travel to this place each week. My aim will be to stay abreast of every single development that may occur here. Nothing must escape my eyes. This indicates how seriously I take the business of perfecting a process of transillumination through material objects.”

Allowing the scientist no chance to reply to him, the ruler rose and swiftly departed. He was soon hurrying back to the city he had conquered and transformed.

Hermes sat in thought. What was he going to do now? If only he could contact Atlas Cimera and ask him for advice, he might be able to decide on his future actions.

The attackers arrived by kiniton and on foot. Most of them wore ordinary field clothes, but the leaders had on the chrome uniforms of the Phylax. They burst through the doors of the casino hall, herding outside all the patrons, dealers, and employees.

Then a special demolition squad went to work, armed with adzes, axes, and sledgehammers. First the tables were hit, then gambling wheels and paraphernalia were smashed. Nothing of the slightest value was left whole.

When the vandals were done, little but trash remained of the business based on chance.

Endymion, having witnessed enough, left through the rear door facing the oasis basin. What could he do? Nothing, at the moment. That was plainly evident to him.

All this loss was a result of refusing to augment the payments being extorted from him. A lesson was meant for all the merchants and entrepreneurs of Arethusa. In the future, no one would dare to disobey demands made upon them by officials of Gamara and its dictatorship.

The sun had set in the west, but an effulgent glow remained in the motionless reflections visible in the oasis basin. It gave an eerie illumination to the surrounding area. The desert appeared to be enchanted. It presented a dreamy, fantastic landscape of sand.

Quick steps took Endymion home before he realized where he was. His mind was abstracted, for he now had to tell his sister about the collapse of his gambling enterprise. She was not in the front parlor, the dining room, or the kitchen. He found her in the spare room, talking to her bedridden hunting student, Atlas Cimera. The two looked up at him as he appeared at the entrance.

“I have some very bad news, Callisto,” he began, his face wrinkled with care and concern for her. “The guards of the dictator have carried out orders to punish me for refusing to bow to extortion. They have destroyed the casino and put it out of business. They burst in with hatchets and axes. When they were finished, everything was smashed and broken. It was a tragic scene that no one should ever have to see. We have been left in ruins.”

His sister rose from the chair she was in.

“There must be something,” she gasped. “Something to be done.”

“Our trade and business is ruined. It cannot be rebuilt, not under the regime currently in power and ruling in Gamara. We are helpless, Callisto. There will be few resources left to us. We will be in terrible circumstances now.”

The sister started to make a strange, snarling sound. It seemed to the astounded Atlas to come from deep in her throat, as if it were visceral.

“Revenge,” she thundered almost incoherently. “Revenge of the turnskins. The vengeance of Artemis herself.”

Her brother lifted his fingers to his mouth, signaling to her to say no more. He motioned to her to leave the room along with him. They could talk freely out of the presence of a third party.

When they had left, Atlas sank into a thick cloud of bafflement and confusion.

What had Callisto been thinking of when she spoke in rage? Why had she referred to the ancient goddess Artemis, the twin sister of Apollo? And what was a turnskin? he asked himself in wonder.

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