Sahara Greeks Part III. Chapter XV.

22 Mar

The expedition was ready for movement on time. Hermes learned of the plan by panaphone message. The leg of Atlas was healed sufficiently by now to permit him to travel on the desert. The two camions needed were obtained from Artemian merchants. A group of ten, including the Grions and Atlas, climbed into the vehicles immediately before dawn. Extra tanks filled with ammonia fuel were taken along. Specially tough gomma tires were mounted on all the wheels. Gasguns, repeaters, bludgeons, and billies were taken along, should they be needed.

Forming a convoy of two, the camions left Arethusa in an eastward direction. The sun rose, forming a coquelicot aurora of brilliant red and orange. Along the highway, the wind blew tumbling amaranth and desert grass. The two trucks made startling speed hurtling forward. There was no traffic out at this early hour. No one would witness the movement of this small caravan.

Atlas decided that he would be the driver of the second camion. Callisto sat to his right, her brother on the end of the wide front seat of the cab. Every person in the two carriers knew what their part was to be. There was no need for any words in this portion of the journey. Everyone realized how great were the hazards involved.

The convoy traversed an area of longitudinal sand dunes called seifs, then shifting barchans that indicated that their destination was near.

As the Light Institute became visible, the camions began to slow down.

At the same time, Hermes was walking according to plan to the main entrance by himself. The Phylax guards stationed there saw him approaching and then entered their small gatehouse.

The Director spoke to the unsuspecting duo manning the gate.

“I have received a message from Gamara that a shipment of photonic gear will be arriving this morning. You should expect it at any time. The team escorting it will have proper documents with them. Their immediate entrance into the Institute should not be unnecessarily delayed.”

“Even for ordinary inspection, sir?” said the chief guard.

“The shipment  has been vouched for over the ether,” said the Director. “No formalities will be needed, none at all.”

At that moment, the first camion drew up to the gate, the other one behind it.

The driver, dressed in Phylax chrome, climbed out and approached the guard shelter.

“I will take care of this,” said Hermes in a loud voice. “Start to open the barrier at once!”

Startled and stunned, none of the four Phylax members in the gatehouse made any move as the Director stepped over to where he knew the barrier control box lay and pressed the main lever.

“You should not have done that, sir,” trembled the main uniformed officer as the wooden pole began to go upward, producing an open way ahead for the two trucks.

At that point, the rear doors of the pair of vehicles opened, allowing the two teams of raiders in chrome Phylax garb to jump down to the ground.

The door to the guardhouse secured, two attackers surged in, surprising the overwhelmed men inside. These were speedily disarmed, then bound with manacles. Hermes climbed into the cab of the first camion. Under his direction, it was driven to the laboratory building where the scientists were waiting for their first realistic test out on the desert.

Emitting devices were loaded into the first camion and receiving ones into the second. This was accomplished silently, then a brief conference of sorts was held among the participants.

“We hurry back to Arethusa at once,” said Atlas as he faced Hermes. “You will be managing the transmission of transilient rays from a desert location. I shall go back with the Grions to the oasis basin. A general meeting of the Arethusa residents is being called for when we return there. At that assembly, the new lighting will be demonstrated for the residents to see. It will be unlike anything they have ever experienced before.”

Everyone except for Hermes climbed into the two cabs. Out of the Institute ground sped the two trucks at top speed, on their way to what they hoped would be the first public demonstration of the recently developed transilient form of light, able to flow through the most solid of objects and carry electrical power through space and objects.

A crowd had already gathered in front of the casino building. They had been informed by hectographed proclamations that a special event not described in any detail was set to occur that morning. A small platform had been brought from which the crowd could be addressed.

The two vehicles stopped in front of the ruins of the casino and the people inside all walked out into the open air.

Endymion Grion, known to everyone, was the speaker chosen to communicate with the citizens of the oasis. He climbed up onto the small rostrum and began to address those assembled there.


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