Alexander Inheritance – Snippet 10

Alexander Inheritance – Snippet 10

He looked where the guard was looking and saw symbols like the ones in the dots lighting up in order. Again, his quick mind figured it out. There was a light moving along behind the strip of symbols, lighting each in turn as they moved. He could almost see the gears. He was familiar with gears. They were all the rage in Athens for astrological calculating devices.

* * *

That lasted till the doors opened and he was led into a room with leather-covered seats, more like thrones than the sort of stool Atum was used to. There he was introduced to an older woman named Marie Easley and a younger woman called Eleanor Kinney. The older woman spoke something approaching passable Macedonian Greek. She didn’t speak it well, and there was much too much of the Athenian about it to be proper Macedonian, but it was closer to understandable than the pidgin Greek he had heard up to now.

“Welcome. I am Marie Easley, a scholar of this time,” the woman said.

“Explain, please. You study the present? Recent history perhaps?”

“We are not of this time. We on this ship come from far in the future. We have learned a great deal and I am an historian, one who studies Ptolemaic Egypt.”

Atum didn’t believe her, but he couldn’t say that. For now at least, he was in these people’s power. So he leaned back in the seat and considered her words as though they were true. Ptolemaic Egypt? That would mean that Ptolemy would become pharaoh. Alexander’s empire would collapse. Or would it? Would Ptolemy become the next king of Alexander’s empire and move the capital to Egypt? That seemed possible, certainly. Even though Ptolemy protested his loyalty to Alexander’s heirs in every second sentence. “What is Ptolemaic Egypt to be, then?”

The scholar pursed her lips and tilted her head slightly. “We aren’t sure. The truth is, we don’t know how it happened that we came here, or really even what happened. We have no record of a ship such as this arriving off Alexandria at this time. I assure you, there would be such a record. And there are causes and effects, so we must assume that history will take a different path in this time than it did in our history. If that is not too confusing.”

“I think I understand, at least in a general way,” Atum said. “What happened with Ptolemy and the generals in your history is not necessarily what will happen now.”

“Yes, that’s the conclusion we have at least tentatively drawn. But what brings you to brave this ship? You said something about trade?”

“Yes. I assume you will need food and provisions. If you have goods or money, we can deal. I am a wheat merchant, and I buy from the farmers up the Nile and sell to the construction crews. I can arrange for grain to feed your rowers.”

“Rowers?” she asked.

Atum shrugged. “You must have something to propel your ship.” Seeing the confusion on her face, he rephrased the question. “Something to push the ship through the water.”

She turned to the young woman and spoke. The young woman wore her hair short, but not shaved with a wig as was sometimes done by women in Egypt. She had a heart-shaped face, with brown eyes and hair. The hair had blond streaks, bleached by the sun, Atum thought. The woman was attractive and the style made her more exotic than her features did. The woman spoke back to the scholar and they turned to a young man who seemed to be the chief of their guards. He took a device from his pocket and touched it, held it to the side of his head with one end next to his ear and the other near his mouth, then spoke and apparently listened. He pocketed the device and spoke to the women, all while Atum looked on and tried to understand what was going on.

Atum didn’t speak the language they were speaking, but he didn’t need to. He was good at reading people. It was a large part of his business. It was clear that the women were in charge in this room, but that the young Gaul was high in their trust. He had been asked about something and Atum, after his earlier experiences, guessed that the device he had used was some sort of a speaking horn. And he wanted one. As he watched, it seemed to Atum that they at least believed their tale of traveling through time. Either that, or they were much better liars than they seemed to be.

“We needed to speak to the captain of the ship,” the scholar explained. “The ship uses burning naphtha — or any liquid that will burn, for that matter — to push it through the water and to power many of our devices.” She pointed at the lights in the ceiling and then at the slates, like the one the young Gaul had presumably used to talk to the captain. “But we do need grain and other foodstuffs. Sheep, goats, pigs, cattle, fruits and vegetables.”

Then they got down to business. For the next hour, Atum dealt with Eleanor Kinney through the scholar. He guessed that Kinney was a skilled negotiator, and they had a series of goods brought in. Including account books, and a box of writing implements that the scribes in the royal palace would be lining up to buy at almost any price. Eleanor warned him that they would run out of ink eventually. It wouldn’t be soon, months of use, perhaps as long as a year. That would lower the price, but the “pens” would still be valuable, as would the very fine papyrus they used, neatly formed and lined.

Ten minutes in, Atum knew he wasn’t the only person in the room who could read people. The fact that the women were doing the dealing didn’t upset Atum. He was half-Egyptian after all. But it did make it clear these people weren’t Greeks. They appeared to be of every tribe imaginable — and some he had never imagined — but were all of one culture. Or seemed to be, at least.

He bought a backpack. What a useful device that! How odd that people who could come up with such devices would accept barbarian Gauls into their ranks! He sold, for a backpack full of pens and paper and five thousand “dollars” in ship’s credit, a ship’s boat full of wheat. This agreement was a bit of an experiment, both on his part and on theirs. It would take him a little time to find the resale price on the pens and paper, and they would need to examine the grain. It would give everyone a chance to judge the value of what they were buying and selling.

They showed him around the ship. He had a meal in one of the “restaurants,” and he looked around the shops. Then they reached the “casino.”

Atum didn’t lose his head. He was careful. But he did, gradually, gambling till dawn, lose three thousand of the five thousand “dollars” credit. He would win some, lose some, win some more. It was great fun and very exciting, if a little overwhelming with the noise and the lights. He realized that the wrong person could lose a kingdom in a night in this room. Or, if the gods were smiling, win one.

Alexandria

September 19

The next morning as the sun came up, an exhausted Atum boarded the boat he had promised to fill with grain. It was a small ship almost the size of his family’s galley, and escorted Atum’s galley back to the docks. The small ship had no rowers, but it was obvious to Atum that it could have made circles around his galley if it had chosen to. Atum was on the small ship and found it comfortable, if noisy.

“How is it powered?” he asked in Greek and got no response other than pointing at ears and shaking heads. He pulled out the tablet and pencil he had bought at one of the great ship’s “gift shops” and wrote in Greek.

He passed the tablet over to the young man in the white clothing and the peculiar hat that was called a “uniform,” and watched as that man pulled out one of the magical “electronic devices” they had and tapped it with his fingers. Atum was almost getting used to that, and this Dag seemed a nice enough lad for a barbarian Gaul.

 

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49 Responses to Alexander Inheritance – Snippet 10

  1. Lyttenburgh says:

    ” He could almost see the gears. He was familiar with gears. They were all the rage in Athens for astrological calculating devices.”

    Again – sources? I call BS right now. No, we have no surce for “gears” or “engines” for “astrological calculating devices” in this era. Extrapolating from just Antikythera mechanism (late 2nd c. BC) to the era just after Alexander’s death is too much of a stretch.

    “The scholar pursed her lips and tilted her head slightly. “We aren’t sure….”

    That was a string of unnecessary and confusing information, that might do more harm than good. And no one told her to shut up!

    “It was clear that the women were in charge in this room, but that the young Gaul was high in their trust. “

    Why the Gaul? Why? What, you think there were no blonde Greeks or Thracians?

    • Ron says:

      I see your crusade for accuracy in science fiction continues keep fighting the good albeit pointless fight!

    • Johnny says:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antikythera_mechanism

      A bit after this time period, but it is pretty reasonable to expect predecessors.

      Also, they obviously didn’t speak Greek he wasn’t going to be Greek (not that he looked Greek AT ALL) and Thracians were redheads.

      Get informed, don’t troll to troll

      • Lyttenburgh says:

        “Also, they obviously didn’t speak Greek he wasn’t going to be Greek (not that he looked Greek AT ALL) and Thracians were redheads. “

        Not only redheads. Lots of people ’round the Med had blondes.

        • Johnny says:

          According to Greek sources at the time they were all redheads.

          Also, the dude was clearly not Thracian. All of the people on the boat are clearly not Thracian, who were basically half-barbarian hill bandits. Gauls were probably people that he knew were blonde and that he’d never seen before.

          • Lyttenburgh says:

            “According to Greek sources at the time they were all redheads.”

            If only we had other evidence, like archeology… Oh, wait a minute!

            BTW – don’t know about your creed, but in history we are not “Sola Scriptura”.

            “Also, the dude was clearly not Thracian. All of the people on the boat are clearly not Thracian, who were basically half-barbarian hill bandits. Gauls were probably people that he knew were blonde and that he’d never seen before.”

            Or they could be Scythians. Or Galatians. Or Germans. Or Illyrians. Or Celts in general – not just “the Gauls”.

            • Johnny says:

              Lol. All are as far-fetched (or more) than “gaul”.
              Scythians were partially conquered by Persia and spoke indo-iranian language. They were at least familiar enough to not be these guys.
              Galatians? The landlocked hill tribe? Ehhhhh…. No, for the same reason as the Thracians.
              Illyrians? No. For the same reason as the Thracians.
              Celts in general? Was there even a concept as “celts in general” at the time?
              Germans? LOLOLOLOLOL! The name “German” wasn’t even attested until 100 years after this book is set!

              You’re just griping to gripe.

              • Lyttenburgh says:

                “Scythians were partially conquered by Persia and spoke indo-iranian language. “

                It’s been ages ago. The Greeks had colonies on the coast of the northern Black sea for centuries by now, i.e. the land of the Scytians. They looked kinda like that:

                http://www.realmofhistory.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/10-facts-scythians-warfare_2.jpg

              • Johnny says:

                The greeks had had Masillia for centuries as well, are you going to argue that the Gauls were hellenized?

              • Lyttenburgh says:

                “The greeks had had Masillia for centuries as well, are you going to argue that the Gauls were hellenized?”

                I’m going to point out that there were different tribes of the Celtic people, and that their grand migration to the Balkans began in V-IV cc. BC. By the early III c. BC. they would begin their invasions of Thrace, Macedonia and Greece.

                Greeks knew there were different tribes of them and were copable of differentiating them into separate tribes. They did not call them all “Gauls”, though.

    • Doug Lampert says:

      You’re doing it wrong. If you want to criticize the accuracy of a historical fiction, you don’t demand sources. You have to produce a source or other evidence that something is wrong. The authors are perfectly entitled to MAKE UP anything they like that doesn’t contradict known sources. They don’t need to provide sources for anything. It’s fiction.

      I largely agree with you on this one, the Greeks kept good records and we’ve done lots of archaeology of the period, I can’t find any source for gearing being used outside of China that early and if they were using gearing at this time in enough ways that a semi-random merchant knew about them then we’d probably know about it now. I don’t think gearing would come to mind at that time and place. And I’m perfectly willing to say so.

      But saying “sources?” is just being a jerk. It makes you sound wrong even when you’re right, because you are gratuitously trying to reverse the burden of proof. A simple flat statement that gears aren’t known to have been present in Europe till roughly 100 years later and that it’s very unlikely that they were present and prominent enough at the time of this story to be known to a non-specialist would be adequate to make your point.

      • Lyttenburgh says:

        “You’re doing it wrong. If you want to criticize the accuracy of a historical fiction, you don’t demand sources. You have to produce a source or other evidence that something is wrong. “

        Statement made without evidence should be, likewise, dismissed without evidence. We (i.e. people who actually study history, not a bunch of those who “heard something and it sound ABOUT RIGHT”) have no sources indicating something (in this case – super-duper mechanical marvels of 4 c. B.C.) to be true. We, as historians, have no right to make shit up.

        “The authors are perfectly entitled to MAKE UP anything they like that doesn’t contradict known sources. They don’t need to provide sources for anything. It’s fiction.”

        I’m perfectly fine with that. If they put “fantasy” in the genre.

        “But saying “sources?” is just being a jerk.”

        No. I’m a historian by trade and education. Saying “sources” is the most routine thing I do daily. Not my problem if some people (even the most of them) were skipping their history classes back then, or forgot everything said there and now going to belive some outlandish stuff.

    • Tim Helbing says:

      It’s not historical fiction, they don’t have to prove anything and can make up whatever they want. If this were an epic historical AU without ASBs dropping a 21st century cruise ship into the mix I’d be right there with you in wanting things to be accurate as possible while still telling a good story. But it isn’t and they have.

      I make no claims to being a professional historian, but history remains a favorite subject of mine. I can see how inaccuracies in fiction could drive one nuts, but what is the point of all this criticism? What is it you’re hoping to accomplish aside from motivating me to delurk and comment on your comment? :)

      If you’re just criticizing for the sake of it then I’ll shut up, but surely there must be a point to this quixotic crusade?

      • Lyttenburgh says:

        “It’s not historical fiction, they don’t have to prove anything and can make up whatever they want.”

        No, it’s alt-history sub-genre of the sci-fi. The one (ONE) fact of sci-fi (namely – the ship’s transporation through time and space) does not invalidate all other real facts. The laws of physicks are not changed in this new timeline, are they? So, why should anything else chage – like history and logic?

        ” I can see how inaccuracies in fiction could drive one nuts, but what is the point of all this criticism?

        It’s called “feedback”. It’s a way of saying “”try harder and do things better – you are not folling everyone” to the authors.

        “What is it you’re hoping to accomplish aside from motivating me to delurk and comment on your comment? :) “

        Even such little things count. Maybe – maybe! – enough people who find this new novel to be sub par will find their voice and state it, urging the authors to do something better in the future.

        And I’m not the only one who thinks so. Go to baen.com and read reviews. Most of the people give this book 3 out of 5 and they write why. Are all of these people also “trolls” just by not liking this book and stating their position?

        • Tim Helbing says:

          Not at all. I just don’t see this place as the right spot for it aside from perhaps letting others know they aren’t alone. Writing a review on Amazon or sending an email to Baen seems a more productive effort to me. Or at the bar site. Lord knows I complained about Weber’s most recent Honorverse book so I understand the frustration.

          No, it’s alt-history sub-genre of the sci-fi.

          Ah. There’s the distinction. I don’t consider this to be alternate history precisely because of that one event, to me this is fantasy. They might call it alt-history but to me that’s something like most of Harry Turtledove’s work, where one event played out differently and the world changed as a result.

          I think you’re on a damn fool idealistic crusade but I wish you luck.

  2. Mike Crichton says:

    I have a request for the site moderators: A better commenting system, with an option to block trolls. Disqus works quite nicely for that.

    • Tweeky says:

      I agree.

    • Lyttenburgh says:

      Once again – I’m not trolling. I’m just expressing my own opinion in accordance with the freedom of expression. I’m not spamming, not using my comments for commercial purporses like advertising, not spreading hate to the people.

      You, OTOH, are equally free to debate my points and proving me wrong. Can you do that?

      • Johnny says:

        You are trolling. You’re the special subset of trolls who are too stupid to realize they’re the jackwagon ruining discussions.

    • Daryl Saal says:

      I think the simple way to deal with this is to just respond to each other. Ignore his comments and him, then he will get bored and go off to annoy someone else.

  3. Brian J says:

    Yup, the words ‘sneering’, ‘obnoxious’, ‘supercilious’, ‘jerkacious’ (I just made that one up), and others come to mind when ‘L’ lowers the civility of the discourse on this site. This reply is NOT fiction.

    • Lyttenburgh says:

      “Yup, the words ‘sneering’, ‘obnoxious’, ‘supercilious’, ‘jerkacious’ (I just made that one up), and others come to mind when ‘L’ lowers the civility of the discourse on this site. This reply is NOT fiction.”

      No matter what words you substitute for the words “correct” and”right” it won’t change the essence of what I say.

      • Brian J says:

        You can be ‘correct’ and ‘right’, and still be all of the above. Guess you missed out on one important life lesson: it’s not What you say, it’s How you say it.

  4. Cobbler says:

    I gave up responding to Lyttenburgh a long time ago.

    “I’m a historian and you’re not, so of course I win,” got old.

    I think that’s called the argumentum ad verecundiam—the argument from authority.

    But I won’t guarantee it because, well, I’m not a historian.

    • Lyttenburgh says:

      “I gave up responding to Lyttenburgh a long time ago.

      “I’m a historian and you’re not, so of course I win,” got old. “

      No. I’fm all for educated and intellegent discussion, with people appealing to the facts and not their feelings, biases and fiction. I’m not claiming to be omniscient. As for now – I’m refreshing my knowledge about the era by reading and re-reading sources. Can so much be asked of other participants in commenting here?

  5. The antikythera mechanism surely did not appear de novo. There must have been an extended series of simpler instruments at an earlier date. As we have absolutely no evidence on where the mechanism came from intellectually, no other machines, the authors’ interpretation is entirely familiar with known historical facts.

    • Lyttenburgh says:

      Good! Now, please, provide a body of reference that “something like Antikythera machine” was in works centuries before. Not your thoughts – evidence.

      • Randomiser says:

        Lyttenburgh
        You claim to be a professional historian (evidence? sources? :-) )
        Do you get published in journals writing in such an argumentative, arrogant, dismissive tone which shows such a lack of courtesy to those whom you are disagreeing with? I’m pretty sure you don’t, but I’m prepared to be proven wrong. (Oh, I see its your ‘trade’ not your ‘profession’ so maybe you’re not involved in academia)

        By the way, last I heard all fiction, not just fantasy, involves the author in making things up, though some people seem to have a hard time with that, witness the fuss over some of Dan Brown’s output.

        • Drak Bibliophile says:

          Dan Brown “makes things up” and then claims that what he wrote is historical fact.

          On the other hand, I do the intelligent thing and just don’t read his “works”.

          • Robert H. Woodman says:

            LOL!

          • Randomiser says:

            Drak, does Dan Brown actually claim that what he writes is historical fact? He obviously skates along the edges of doing so, or at least avoids saying loudly which bits are fiction, which is very effective marketing, but in the copy of The Da Vinci Code which I read he clearly said at the front that it was a work of fiction. The problem seems to arise when people recognise the characters are fictional but assume the background is intended to be factual.

            I eventually gave in and read a couple of his books to see what the fuss was about. They turned out to be pretty reasonable ‘page turners’ in the mode of ‘pulp fiction’. Of course the subject matter is not always in ‘the best possible taste’ and causes considerable offence.

            • Drak Bibliophile says:

              IIRC he has said “of course this is fiction” but also says “but it is based on True History”.

              Admittedly, there are plenty of idiots who applaud him for “writing True Hidden History”.

              Of course, he has said nothing against those idiots.

        • Lyttenburgh says:

          ” You claim to be a professional historian (evidence? sources? :-) )”

          You have all rights to doubt my claim. After all, I’m just a random voice in the Net. And, no, I’m not making my argument from the position of authority. I’m doing that by relying on facts. You can argue with my claim of being a historian – but can you really fight the facts that I present or demand?

          “Do you get published in journals writing in such an argumentative, arrogant, dismissive tone …”

          My academic tone is very scientifically boring. My points made with it are rather argumentative, like when I went against my senior prof, my mentor of sorts, who claimed that Socrates actually was a proponent of the pan-Hellenistic monarchy, a point against which I argued in my paper. We are still frindly and on good terms.

          “By the way, last I heard all fiction, not just fantasy, involves the author in making things up, though some people seem to have a hard time with that, witness the fuss over some of Dan Brown’s output.”

          Do they “make up” everything? Laws of nature and logic as well?

      • dave o says:

        Any educated person knows that the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. What we know about Greek technology is largely based on Archaeological evidence and not on texts. The fact that gears have not been discovered in this period proves absolutely nothing.

      • Lyttenburgh says:

        You claim to be a professional historian (evidence? sources? :-) )
        Do you get published in journals writing in such an argumentative, arrogant, dismissive tone which shows such a lack of courtesy to those whom you are disagreeing with? I’m pretty sure you don’t, but I’m prepared to be proven wrong

        So we cane to this, ultimately? Okay. Okay

        Should I understand that from now on only professionls will poscomments about history? Totatally demolishing our anonymity fur the trolls?

  6. The antikythera engine could not possibly have been the first machine of its sort. It is way too complicated. Also, while not good by modern standards, look at the quality of the gears. Consider the time needed to advance from medieval gear machines to decent clocks.

    • Lyttenburgh says:

      Again – find me evidence. That’ how history works. It’s a lot like crime investigation. You might know that the perp is guilty – but you still need evidence to build a case before the court. Othervise it’s not a justice, that’s lynching.

      Once again – do you have real evidence?

      • Johnny says:

        The evidence is the existence of the antikythera engine itself! History of this era is EXTREMELY incomplete, speculating that gears existed ~100 years before a device that was more complex than any made for the next 1700 years is not exactly going out on a limb. Such a small extrapolation for a fiction book is entirely acceptable.

        You’re good at being a nitpicking whiner but you’re pretty terrible at realizing what reasonable assumptions are, ESPECIALLY for a fiction novel.

  7. Robert Victoria says:

    Providing a modern casino, with uptime knowledge of statistics, cool.

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