Alexander Inheritance – Snippet 26
* * *
“Alert! Riot on the Promenade Deck!” came over the speakers.
Daniel Lang ran for the elevators, cursing Al Wiley under his breath. The congressman had promised to keep a lid on things. He’d been campaigning for an American colony since they got to Alexandria. At this point, Daniel would be just as happy to put the passengers off the Queen, but you didn’t just drop a colony. It needed support. People needed housing and weapons, seeds and plows, fishing boats and more weapons. And, so far, there was damn little of any of that.
By the time Daniel Lang got there, closely followed by Dag, Lorraine Hebert and Chris Louie had almost restored order, and Congressman Wiley was trying to help them calm things down.
“It wasn’t the congressman’s fault,” Lorraine said in her Cajun-accented English. “He was trying to keep things cool. It was the counter-demonstration by the Jerusalemites.”
The Jerusalemites were a coalition faction made up of the “Clear the way for Christ” people and the group of Jews who wanted to discover the true Judaism of the Second Temple before it was lost. That group was headed by Rabbi Benyamin Abrahamson, who had seemed a perfectly reasonable sort till he had met Atum’s guard commander and the two had gotten into an argument about what was and was not in the Torah and what was meant by it. For instance ṭoṭafot, according to the guard commander, simply meant armor, though it was often inscribed with holy script for added safety. Now Abrahamson had to see for himself.
The Jerusalemites wanted a colony, but they wanted to put it in Israel, at Ashdod. And they didn’t seem the least concerned that there were already people living there and the local Jews were a bunch of mercenaries. No. They wanted to use the Queen as a permanent fort to keep the locals in line while they did their religious thing.
“We’re trying, people,” Al Wiley was saying, “but two colonies would mean almost twice as much work. And each colony, being smaller, would be at greater risk. There is no oil to feed the Queen’s engines in Israel and the oil in the rest of the Middle East is, for the most part, both deeper and farther from shore.”
“The Queen has flex fuel engines!” shouted one of the Jerusalemites. “She’ll burn alcohol.”
“Yes, she would. If we had the distilled alcohol she needed. But all the beer in Egypt wouldn’t be enough. Even if we could distill it, which we can’t.”
That wasn’t entirely true. There was a whole lot of beer in Egypt. But it was damn sure true that they couldn’t distill enough to keep the Queen’s tanks full. Alcohol wasn’t as energy dense as oil and it took more of it — almost twice as much — to get the same amount of power out of the engines. Among other things, that would decrease the Queen’s range. Not that that mattered to the Jerusalemites. They didn’t want the Queen to move, except to Ashdod.
Once the incipient riot had been quelled for the moment Daniel moved over to Wiley. “Congressman, we have to put a stop to this sort of thing.”
“The only thing that will put a stop to it is setting up a colony and giving these people room to breathe, Mr. Lang.”
* * *
Marie Easley didn’t even look up when the alert came through. She was in a private room off the forward internet cafe, working with Cathy Joe Chohan on adjustments to the translation app that the ship had a license on. It was voice to voice, but the Greek it started out speaking was twenty-first-century Greek, not third-century-BCE Greek. Pronunciations, however, were the least of the problems. This time’s Greek didn’t have words for a lot of the concepts that twenty-first-century English had. In this case, the water pump. Even Archimedes and his screw was a hundred years in the future. What they used in the here-and-now were buckets. Often buckets mounted on wheels and other quite ingenious rigs. But still they were moving water one bucketful at a time. Crates had been entranced by the notion of a water pump. Now they were working on flow rate and one of Eleanor Kinney’s people was trying to get them to buy a low-temperature steam engine to power the pumps. Or a windmill. Or anything at all except slaves on bicycles.
The locals weren’t willing to spring for the steam engine, though. Slaves were cheaper. At least, in the short run. The slaves who were carrying the buckets and treading on the treadwheel that lifted the buckets were already paid for and they were going to have to be fed anyway. The steam engine would be a new expense and the fuel to power it another.
Eleanor Kinney’s assistant purser’s suggestion that they manumit the slaves didn’t go over well. It was hard enough just getting them to buy the pumps and the pipes to get the water up to a water tank.
Royal Lounge, Queen of the Sea
“When can we go to America?” Al Wiley asked the captain. “This ship is a powder keg and it’s getting worse. Most of these people are working people. They have spent their lives working. A vacation is one thing. Sitting in a stateroom that is about the size of a prison cell with nothing to do is something else.”
“We could leave today if you want us to drop the passengers with nothing but the luggage they brought on the cruise.” Captain Floden waved a hand in apology. “I’m sorry, Congressman, but the issues and the time frame are the same as they were yesterday and the day before.” He turned to the staff captain. “Anders, where are we on the necessary equipment for the colony?”
Anders Dahl tapped an icon on his slate computer, calling up a spreadsheet. “Two hundred pounds of black powder and fifteen flintlock rifles that we’ve made since we got here. It’s a lot harder to make a rifle barrel than you might think. We’re doing better on the crossbows. We have forty of them and they are good, Captain. Their rate of fire sucks, but it’s still better than the flintlocks. They have spring steel bows and…Well, never mind. It’s still only forty for a colony of three thousand.”
Dag took a drink of the local beer. He knew the reasoning behind the colony size. Some of the passengers were simply too old for life in a colony. Some had skills that were vital to the ship, but not to a new colony that would have very limited electronics, at least at first. So it wouldn’t be all the passengers who were debarking. About half of the staff side crew was going to go with the colony. The rest were staying on board.
Dag looked out the big picture windows. There were a lot of people on the pool deck but they mostly weren’t swimming or laying out to get a tan. They were working at the induction furnace, or processing furs and fabrics from Alexandria.
The vacation was over, but there wasn’t enough room to do all the jobs that needed doing. Meanwhile, the locals were watching everything and word was spreading faster than he would have believed possible before The Event. He wondered if they had heard of crossbows in Tyre yet. If not, they would soon.
Roxanne looked out at the Mediterranean Sea as her personal attendant combed her long black hair. Roxane had been looking out to sea a lot since they got to Tyre. She had hoped that Attalus would be better than his brother-in-law Perdiccas, but the pressures of the situation seemed to be making him less stable rather than more. Besides, Attalus was on his way to the coast of Caria and Metello was on his way to Alexandria harbor, leaving her in the care of under officers, who saw her as a playing piece or a bit of loot. Even the Silver Shields who had taken over guarding her were more concerned with their pay than her safety.
One of the Silver Shields came in then. “Nedelko is here.”
Roxane turned away from the window in time to see the commander of the Greek forces in Tyre enter the room. “Well, Commander, what did you think of the drawings?” A couple of days before, a ship from Alexandria had arrived, carrying some sketches. There was a bow mounted on a cross piece, a gear with pedals and a chain that could fit over the gear to, as the notes said, “do useful work,” and a new sort of table called a desk that a chair could slide under to make it easier for scribes to work. Roxane barely got a look at them before Nedelko snatched them away to give to Tyrian craftsmen.
Nedelko stopped at her tone. Which was good. He needed to know that she wasn’t pleased. But he didn’t apologize, which wasn’t good. Instead he looked at her, then said, “I will bring them back, Your Majesty, once the craftsmen have had a chance to study them and make examples of what they show. My guess is that the new scribe’s table will be the most useful. I don’t see the advantage of tying a bow onto a stick. And keeping the bow bent can’t be good for it. The geared wheel is interesting, but slaves work fine and I’m not convinced that letting them lift a bucket with their feet instead of their hands will be any great advantage. The one-wheeled cart might be useful in certain very limited conditions — hard packed flat ground or paved streets, if the cobbles are even enough. But I don’t see what Crates is so excited about. I’m more concerned about Eurydice’s latest pronouncement. She’s claiming that Philip was the true heir to Alexander’s throne. And because Alexander IV wasn’t born when the crown passed, he couldn’t be the heir.”
“You must realize those proclamations are made under the eye of Antigonus One-eye.” Roxane grimaced. “Just as my proclamations are made under Attalus’ eye. You know he’s claiming Alexander is the only true heir, even if he hasn’t insisted that I sign a proclamation to that effect. At least not yet.”
She might have to, even if Attalus didn’t force her, just to counter Eurydice’s proclamation. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Sending Eurydice off with the other army provided additional security for them both. And it had worked fairly well, at least as far as Roxane was concerned. But there were unintended consequences. Aside from claiming that Philip III was the only true heir, the latest word received had Eurydice endorsing Antigonus One-eye as regent. Something that Roxane knew had to be under duress.
She changed the subject. “Where is Metello now?”
“Sailing. It will be another few days before he gets to Alexandria.”