Alexander Inheritance – Snippet 15

Alexander Inheritance – Snippet 15

“I’ve heard it. It sounds a little like Latin, but it’s hard to tell. Perhaps I should have said ‘it speaks no other civilized tongue.’ The point I was trying to make is that if we can get one of their magic slates, we can use it to learn their language.”

“Will the slates work for us?” Ptolemy asked.

“I asked about that, and if I understood the answer, they will for a time, if we are given the spell to unlock them. But they run out of life force and must be fed their vibrant force. They call it ‘e-lek-trik,’ I think, and it is made of the same stuff as lightning.”

Dinocrates, Crates and Thaïs all nodded in support. Some of the Greek philosophers had experimented with the same power. No one in the room knew the distinctions involved. The experiments they had read about had been with static electricity, and to a lesser extent with bioelectrical sources, like the electric eel. Direct current and alternating current would be new to them, but not completely unfamiliar.

“Then we should see about gaining one or more of the magic slates and some means of providing them with the ‘e-lek-trik,’ you mentioned,” Ptolemy told Atum, “and learn how they are fed. I hope it can be done like the experiments discussed in works, and doesn’t require sacrifices to their gods.

“What can you tell me about that other ship that arrived this morning?”

“I was on the Queen when it arrived,” Atum said. “It is a fuel ship, loaded with the refined naphtha they use to power the larger ship. That’s all I know, but I got the impression that Dag was less than pleased with the crew of the Reliance for some reason. He didn’t say why, and I didn’t want to ask.”

“Yet another reason we need one of those magic slates.”

“It won’t be cheap, Satrap. I bought one of their ‘flashlights,’ and it cost a thousand pounds of wheat. The ‘L-E-D flashlight’ is a relatively simple device, so Dag explained to me, and I saw the same thing in their gift shop.”

Ptolemy’s expression went dark, and Atum lost any urge to smile in response. “I will send messages to Memphis for more grain and foodstuffs,” Ptolemy said. “And I don’t doubt that I can handle the expenses. But I don’t like these merchants trying to bargain with me in my own harbor.” The satrap of Egypt grimaced, then continued. “In the meantime, get me a slate.”

* * *

Gorgias looked at Ptolemy as the others left the audience chamber. “It can be done, Satrap. I have been aboard the ship and seen both the strengths and weaknesses of it.”

“And what are they?”

“The great strength is simply the size of the thing. That, you can see from here. It would be a climb and we would take losses making it. The ship is like a mountain fortress.”

“And the weaknesses?”

“The people on board that ship are sheep for the shearing. Many of them are old, and all of them are fat. If there are two hundred soldiers among the five thousand people on that ship, I’ll eat the excess. That is the largest single weakness, but almost as great is the lack of weapons. They wear on their belts a device that is apparently something like a slingshot that throws a small oblong pellet. I doubt they would stand up against bows, even if they had a lot of them. And they don’t. They have twenty, perhaps twice that. I didn’t want to seem too curious, but they are, at the core, unarmed oldsters off on a jaunt.”

“What would be the best way to take the ship?”

“Subversion of the crew, I would think.” Gorgias considered. The crew were basically servants, though not slaves. Certainly not war captives. They were paid for their work and under normal circumstances could leave their service. But these weren’t normal circumstances, and Gorgias was convinced that the laws that held them in check had been left behind in that place or time they came from. Gorgias wasn’t convinced it was truly the future, though he was starting to think it might be. He brought himself back to the question. “Failing that, or perhaps in coordination with it, an attack by galleys, ropes and ladders thrown up to the ports to get our troops in. Once we are in, there won’t be much to it. But we will lose men getting in, possibly a lot of men.”

Ptolemy nodded, and then said, “Make your preparations, but quietly. And take no overt action until I tell you to.” There was a half-smile on the satrap’s face. “Such a ship is rulership of the Mediterranean Sea and all the lands surrounding it. If Alexander had had such a ship, he would have indeed ruled the world. And if Perdiccas owned it, I would be dead now. At the very least, we cannot allow it to fall to Antigonus or Seleucus. Attalus would be almost as bad. Hades, even old Antipater would be dangerous with such a weapon. If for no other reason than that Cassander might inherit it when the old man dies. Even Cassander would be brave from aboard such a ship.”

“What about Eumenes?”

“No. And not because he’s a Greek. He’s a good general and Alexander trusted him with reason. No, we are safe from…” Ptolemy stopped. “No. You’re right, Gorgias. Eumenes would be the greatest danger of all. Not because of his ambition, but because of his honor. He would try to impose Alexander’s empire on us all, out of loyalty to the Argead royal house. He would put demented Philip and baby Alexander on my throne.” Ptolemy shook his head. “No, we can’t allow that ship to run free.”

Queen of the Sea, Alexandria Harbor

September 21

“This is so cool,” fifteen-year-old Latisha Jones told her brother as they filed into the theater. The entertainment staff had decided to put on Egyptian Karaoke Night in the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. So far, all The Event that brought them here had done was extend their vacation. At least that’s what Latisha was telling herself just as hard as she could. It wasn’t that she was unaware of the danger they were all in, and the fact that they might never get home again. But she didn’t want to face it, not yet. Latisha was in denial, and had every intention of staying there till they got home.

Jason Jones tried to play along. Two years younger than his big sister, he was finding denial harder to achieve. Dad was a high school principal and this was the annual divorced-father-family-vacation. Since The Event, Dad had been spending almost all his time on the shipnet. He was trying to figure out what had happened and what they could do about it. Mom was back at home and Jason was wondering if he would ever see her again.

They filed into the theater, found their seats, and the lights came up to a black-haired guy in a campy Egyptian headdress and a skimpy costume.

“Under the circumstances we have decided that what is needed is a clear and exact description of Egypt at this time,” said the guy. Then he went into a lip-syncing of Steve Martin’s “King Tut.”

After King Tut came a woman singing “Cleopatra, Queen of Denial” and then a group of women doing “Walk Like an Egyptian.”

Overall, Jason didn’t think it was particularly funny, but Latisha seemed to be having a blast.

* * *

“How are the passengers reacting, Jane?” Lars Floden asked the hotel manager.

“Restive, Lars. The ship has a lot of entertainment venues, but they are not enough for everyone. It’s planned that much of the entertainment on these cruises will be shore excursions.”

“We can’t risk that sort of thing yet. I’m not even comfortable with the crew’s shore leave under Atum’s watchful eye. A bunch of Americans with, for the most part, very little in the way of experience with other cultures? That would be begging for incidents.”

“I’m not arguing, Captain. But we are going to have to come up with some sort of solution. The Queen is a big ship, but it’s not big enough for this many people to live on permanently. So the restiveness is only going to get worse. Right now, the main thing preventing riots is that everyone is terrified and intent on sticking together. Once they calm down a little, they are going to start demanding things.”

“They started that within minutes of the –”

“No, they didn’t. Sure, there were the ‘take us home,’ ‘you have to undo this’ types, but mostly people have stayed pretty calm. That’s going to change as it sinks in that they aren’t about to be beheaded by a bunch of barbarian Greeks, and they’ll start to wonder what they are going to do for the rest of their lives. This isn’t a stable situation, and I don’t see any way of making it into one.”

Lars nodded. He knew Jane was right. He just didn’t have a good answer. He had an answer: dump the passengers. That, at least, would work. But he couldn’t do that. He wouldn’t. He had a responsibility for everyone on board. In a way, he had even more of a responsibility to the passengers than to the crew. This needed a political solution and Lars wasn’t a politician.

However, Lars did have a politician on hand. As much as he didn’t care for Al Wiley and distrusted his judgment, he was going to have to call on his skills.


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20 Responses to Alexander Inheritance – Snippet 15

  1. Geoffrey Nichols says:

    Dear Captian Floden:
    Trade for seeds and breading animals and head for the Azores. It’s uninhabited and you can off load the passengers and crew without interference and setup a colony for long term survival.

    • Daryl Saal says:

      Excellent suggestion, but it would make for a boring book.

      • Geoffrey Nichols says:

        It would make a different book. Not necessarily a boring book. It could be written as an homage to Heinlein’s “Tunnel in the Sky”.

    • Ron says:

      Resources there are too limited. Azores are Volcanic meaning no copper,iron, etc that would hamper development. You could scrap from the ships only for so long before you run out of the limited of acytelene bottles and metal cutting saw blades.

  2. VernonNemitz says:

    Regarding experiments, it is my understanding that in that era, folks with wealth/power considered almost any sort of labor to be beneath them. As a result no experiments were done that could have proved or disproved various things that Aristotle and other philosophers claimed were true, about how the physical world worked. We know about Hero of Alexandria mostly because he was just about the only one in the entire culture who had both the means and the willingness to dabble. It is the general mindset of the powerful that prevented the necessary R&D that could have launched an Industrial Revolution in that era.

  3. Lyttenburgh says:

    “They call it ‘e-lek-trik,”

    Hellenized people not knowing Greek-derived word electricity. Actually – quite a norm for such novel.

    “Failing that, or perhaps in coordination with it, an attack by galleys, ropes and ladders thrown up to the ports to get our troops in. Once we are in, there won’t be much to it.”

    Do it. Gorgias – please, do it!

    ““This is so cool,” fifteen-year-old Latisha Jones told her brother as they filed into the theater. The entertainment staff had decided to put on Egyptian Karaoke Night in the Queen Elizabeth Theatre… “

    Sooo… Denial. Not self-organizing. Denial. Sheer stupidity of the shipfolk…

    • Ron says:

      Yes Georgia’s right over the stern of the reliance and you got the.m By the throat.

      Walk like an Egyptian? For real? them are sailing toward disaster at break neck speed.

    • John Cowan says:

      Sure, they would know the word ἤλεκτρον. Unfortunately for them, it means ‘amber’. Not helpful without lots of explanations.

      Hartman’s Law of Prescriptive Retaliation applies to history, not just languages.

      • Johnny says:

        I love how every time L is shut down by facts he ignores it, dusts himself off, and says “soon it will be a MWF day. Soon I can whine again!!!”

      • Lyttenburgh says:

        “Sure, they would know the word ἤλεκτρον. Unfortunately for them, it means ‘amber’. Not helpful without lots of explanations.”

        So they know the word – fact. They won’t spell it out like 5 y.o. And they know about (wait for it!) satic electricity.They are not idiots, downtimers.

        The word itself, most likely, is a borrowed word from Pheonicians (“elēkrŏn”), which meant for them “shining ligh”. No big step is required here to go from one to another and then to “electricity”.

        • Johnny says:

          Why do you think that our pronounciation of “electric” would be recognizable to them, at all, as a form of “ἤλεκτρον”?

          For one, vowels and consonants are not pronounced the same between languages – a good example is how soft the “d” is in Spanish compared to English, even though we think of it as the “Same” sound. For another, why would they remotely think that ANY of our words have Greek roots?

    • VernonNemitz says:

      “up to the ports”?? The ship’s portholes are almost certainly covered with glass, and will be a surprise to anyone not used to very very clear glass. While reflections off the glass are to be expected/seen, that doesn’t mean the locals will know that the portholes are closed to easy access.

      • Tweeky says:

        I hadn’t thought of that and all of the visitors to the ship should’ve been astounded by a) the quality of the glass and b) the shear quantity of the glass used.

  4. Daryl Saal says:

    When they realise that “That’s going to change as it sinks in that they aren’t about to be beheaded by a bunch of barbarian Greeks, and they’ll start to wonder what they are going to do for the rest of their lives. This isn’t a stable situation, and I don’t see any way of making it into one.” isn’t necessarily so, it will change back quickly, after an attack.

  5. Ron says:

    Wow that “entertainment” seems to fall some place between puerile and outright dangerous! They would be better served by presentations of historical information, briefings of what they have gleened from interacting with locals, and crew level vessel familiarization and safety training (beyond internationally required STCW basic safety training which happens prior to joining a ship and is renewed regularly) every crew member open joining the ship get s 32 hours of vessel specific safety training in their first two weeks aboard. That the pleasure cruise illusion is being maintained only gets more dangerous by the day.

  6. Are the ports actually glass or plexiglass? Can they be shuttered and dogged on the inside? How thick is the material, which presumably takes ocean waves without shattering?

  7. Acrylic. Also used in deep-diving submarine hulls. It can be sawed, but pounding on it may yield suboptimal results from the standpoint of a boarding party.

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