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

22 Mar

The long, sleek catadromicon tore along the highway toward the Light Institute. Its speed rose to the maximum limit. Such swift movement was unprecedented on desert roads.

Nessos babbled on and on. Beside him, Echo kept her thoughts private. She had to listen to him as he revealed what was motivating him.

“I live only to bring improvements to the people of Gamara, all of them. The original idea for the invisible transmission of light was my own. I was the one who proposed it to Dr. Tmolos and sent him out here to find the technology to make it a reality. It takes my breath away to think of what I can do for Gamara with it. That is why the coming negotiation is going to be so important. Unless I can win control of this invention, nothing at all will come of it. I have to take the initiative as long as it remains available. That has become necessary. Direct action is what the situation calls for.”

Echo waited a time before responding to what he had told her.

“It is tragic that so much evil has resulted from the suppression of the general strike of the ergati. There is nothing left of the rebirth of the rising Apollo movement. Gamara will never be what she was a short time ago, or what she could have become were it not for the catastrophe suffered. The lives of everyone have been uprooted. The situation appears to grow worse every day. I see no hope unless some accommodation is made. If only something could be done this very day!”

The dictator grinned, thinking about how things appeared to be going his way.

The Grions sat in the cab of a camion less than a mile from the Light Institute. Endymion was constantly on the paraphone talking with recently organized units of Artemian believers. These were scattered over many locations in the desert and beginning to appear in Gamara. Many of the groups consisted of ergati in the tent settlements for refugees. Others were small farmers and planters. One important center of belief in Artemis was the gas-ship aerodrome on the periphery of Gamara. Many pilots and crew members had become adherents of the revived faith that was quickly growing and expanding.

The commander of the aviators had important news to divulge to Endymion Grion.

“Orders have been transmitted from the Prostagor that all our craft take to the air and fly to the Light Institute in the desert. We are to surround the place, cut off all roads to it, and isolate the facility. No one is to leave or enter without permission of Nessos Asriom, who is arriving there within the hour. We are to land in the desert soon after. Those are the commands given us by the holder of supreme power. Within minutes, our aerial craft will be taking off in flight.”

“What will you and the others do when you get to the Institute?” asked Endymion.

The answer came after a brief pause.

“I will depend on advice from those like you who evaluate the entire situation. We shall speak again then, sir.”

The exchange ended, the chief pilot breaking the connection.

Hermes waited in his laboratory office. A knock on the door signaled that the most powerful man in Gamara had arrived. He rose and opened the door. Asriom stood there by himself, dressed in a gleaming white uniform that he himself had designed.

“Where is Miss Echo Syrinx?” inquired the Director with anxiety evident in his faltering voice.

“She is in my vehicle, waiting to come out and meet with you again. Shall we begin our negotiating talks right away, at this time? I believe we must get down to business at once.”

Hermes invited him in. The Prostagor entered and took a chair. Once both men were seated and facing each other, the scientist began to speak.

“I don’t see how an agreement can be reached here. You claim total, complete power. That is not a condition that can be compromised or shared in any way. Either your wish or nothing, that is the only possible outcome. There can be nothing in-between. I am sorry, but that is the difficult truth.”

“That is not how I see the situation,” said the ruler. “Perhaps you could convince me to agree to your terms. Or I might prevail on you to become part of my system and structure of governing.”

“What?” wheezed Hermes Tmolos in surprise. “What are you saying?”

“I have found out about your feelings for the woman I have control of. What if I should release her to a new associate and deputy of mine? This person will be charge of all scientific research and development of light products. I believe that he shall one day be my successor in office. Would you accept such a future for yourself? I sincerely wish that you join me as my partner, closely associated with all my plans for the future of Gamara.”

Hermes looked at him with incredulity and was unable to give a reply at once. He gaped as if thunderstruck. Did Nessos consider him capable of such deceit and treachery toward his friends and allies? Was he supposed to change sides in order to advance his personal well-being?

In the back of his mind lay an urge to grab and pummel the dictator for the insult to his character and self-image.

“What do you say to my idea?” demanded the dictator with unconcealed impatience. A cynical smirk crossed his face.

Hermes, still mute, rose to his feet and came around his desk. But before he was able to attack his tempter, the office door flew open.

Endymion Grion stood there, beside a tall man in a flyer’s suit.

“We have liberated Miss Syrinx,” said the casino operator. “Here is the one who has turned the tables on the ex-tyrant sitting there. He has changed sides and now stands with us against tyranny.”

Nessos, seeing the air commander, realized that he was cornered and finished as dictator.

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