Alexander Inheritance – Snippet 28

Alexander Inheritance – Snippet 28

There was apparently not a consensus among the passengers about whether the Queen should shoot.

There was motion on several of the galleys, and a shout hard to hear in the distance. Four of the rigs on the galleys went into action, flinging burning jars of something. None came near the guns, but one reached the Promenade Deck and two hit windows below the Promenade Deck. The windows both cracked, but neither broke. However, the passengers watching from the Hoi Polloi Lounge got a much closer view of the fight than they were expecting.

The results of the one jar that reached the Promenade Deck were much more serious. Twelve people hit, with everything from minor burns to two who were burned to death, and one who went over the side on fire.

As soon as that report came, Captain Floden lost all interest in waiting. “Sink those bastards, Lang. Sink every last one of them.”

* * *

“About damn time,” Romi Clarke muttered when they got the orders. He’d been wanting to shoot this thing since they built it. He took careful aim, using the camera’s rangefinder and the little program that adjusted the sights automatically based on range and input windage. Then he pointed the camera at the sucker banging the drum and fired.

As it turned out, either the programming was off or he had guessed wrong about the wind. The wide-angle camera recorded the round hitting the water forty feet to the right of his target. The shot didn’t even hit an oar.

Romi adjusted and fired a burst of five. The “potato gun” used steam to propel a heavy object down a four foot long barrel and fired a forty millimeter round that weighed about half a kilogram. They had a muzzle velocity of three hundred meters per second. It took the bullets a second and three quarters to reach the target and the first burst didn’t seem to do much. It had hit the trireme but the ship hadn’t slowed. So Romi tried again, raking his fire from one end of the ship to the other.

* * *

When a one pound lead bullet hits a thin piece of wood, it doesn’t slow much. And if the wood is thin enough, all it does is poke a hole. That was what had happened to the first five-round burst. They had poked five neat holes in the bottom of the galley. The displaced water from their exiting the boat had actually done more damage.

The longer burst hit the rowers on the port side of the galley. The same one pound round that went through the boat’s planking like it was paper, went through the chests of men like they were so many watermelons. Then it went on through the man behind, and the man behind him. The steam cannon weren’t silent, but they weren’t all that loud either. Besides, the pop pop pop of the cannon was over well before the men started to die.

Captain Heron saw the slaughterhouse that the port side of his ship had become and turned away from the battle. He didn’t have a lot of choice. He had lost a third of his rowers on the port side, and the rest were trying to get away from the bloodbath.

Gorgias didn’t see what had happened to the lead galley. He did hear the screaming but he ignored it. Screams, cries of rage and fury — those were inevitable in a battle. Gorgias was an experienced Macedonian soldier. He had been in battle many times and was not a man to run from a fight. He gave orders to speed up the beat. The remaining triremes raced for the big ship as though their life depended on it.

* * *

“Get us moving, Elise,” Captain Floden said. “I don’t want to be a sitting target if any of those triremes get through.”

The huge ship started to move. They had been anchored with plenty of sea room, as much for the comfort of the locals as because they needed it. Now they moved landward to keep sea room from the attackers. And they continued firing the steam cannon.

Two more ships pulled away from the fight after being raked by the stern port steam cannon. But the sonar was showing shallowing. And another, if smaller, volley of Greek fire was flung at them.

“Enough,” Captain Floden said. “Reverse engines, Elise. Run over those idiots.”

The engines on the Queen of the Sea ran generators which, in turn, powered huge electric motors located in turnable nacelles. This allowed the Queen to travel forward, backward, or at need, sideways. But even so, it didn’t happen immediately. The Queen was a massive ship. Even though they had barely started moving, it took them a minute to slow and reverse. But Elise Beaulieu, First Officer Navigation, was a skilled ship handler and no more pleased to be the recipient of Greek fire than her captain.

It took Gorgias a bit too long to realise what was happening. When the Queen started slowing, he thought he had won. He was unable to give up that belief in time to dodge. His flagship was run over by a 150,000 ton cruise ship traveling backwards at four knots.

* * *

Gorgias leapt over the side just as the Queen’s stern contacted the flagship’s port quarter. He was a good swimmer and thought he had a chance. He hit the water hard and had both the wind and the sense knocked out of him for a few moments. He managed not to inhale the water. His fingers worked desperately at the leather straps holding his armor on, and piece by sodden piece, he got it off. By that time he was deep in the water. Deep enough that the water pressed on his chest, making his lungs feel even emptier than they really were.

He swam desperately for the surface, but he was disoriented and confused by oxygen deprivation. He had to breathe, but he couldn’t.

It didn’t really matter. Though he would never know it, Elise Beaulieu had shifted the nacelles and an Olympic swimmer in top form couldn’t have competed with the riptides produced by those massive props. Gorgias never saw the propeller blade larger than he was turning at full speed.

It squashed him like a grape.

* * *

The reason for Elise Beaulieu’s adjustment of thrust was because the trireme behind Gorgias’ was rowing with great desperation to try and get out of the way of the Queen of the Sea. But like Alice in Wonderland, running as fast as they could barely kept them in place, for the currents of the massive motors caught them and pulled them toward the big ship even as the motors of the big ship pushed it at them. The Queen backed over them to the noise of cracking timbers and screaming men. The heavy wooden ribs of the triremes broke like so many toothpicks, and men in those ships were masticated between the Queen and the unforgiving sea.

There were no survivors. Not off the flag ship trireme, or the two others that hadn’t been able to get out of the way in time. The rest ran for shore. Of the nine triremes that had actually taken part in the attack, four made it to shore. None made it without massive casualties.

The two that had peeled off to go after the Reliance had better luck. After an hour of rowing, they gave up the chase. The worst thing that happened to them was the crew of the Reliance leaning over the back rail, yelling taunts at them.

* * *

Sound carries over water, even for miles. Metello of Carthage, admiral of Attalus’ fleet, heard the battle. He heard the strange noises — to him — of the Reliance at full power forcing her way through the waves. He gave orders for the fleet, six triremes, to spread out and to douse all lights. And to row quietly. When he saw the lights from the Reliance, he ordered his trireme to get to that ship, but as it happened, he wasn’t the closest.

Closest was that idiot, Ithobaal. And Metello knew what that meant. The motherless jackal would try to claim the whole ship. Metello leaned over to the aulates, whose job it was to play the rhythm for the oarsmen and whispered to increase the pace. He would rather have Ithobaal get there first than have that monster of a ship warned.

* * *

The first Dag knew of the new trouble was when he heard a crashing sound on the port bow of Barge 14. He looked back and saw the black outline of a mast and rigging. The Reliance was attached, slotted into Barge 14. That was important because it meant that the people who were scrambling onto Barge 14 were going to have no difficulty reaching the Reliance.

 

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24 Responses to Alexander Inheritance – Snippet 28

  1. Randomiser says:

    Reliance doesn’t have any radar? The Captain decided not to watch it? Really?

    • Michael W Crichton says:

      The Captain had no experience in combat before tonight, and was focused on outrunning the threats he already knows about. For him to let his guard down after escaping them is perfectly realistic.

      • Ron says:

        Dag is either over on reliance to save the day or to become hostage that is pre established character, in terms of the novel. I outlined below several ways they could still win based out very standard modern maritime practices… slightly modified

    • Johnny says:

      I’ll admit to being a total neophyte on this subject, but would a trireme even be radar visible?

  2. Ron says:

    All isn’t lost, if they had happened upon the stern quietly and caught them unaware it could have been. Captain Kugan needs to go to full power turn to port and ride right over the bastard, then go into a Williamson turn (a figure eight designed to bring you back to your original position) to keep the others off him and sweep the sea with his spot lights for more targets. Dag needs start popping bastard that have made it on deck with his pistol long enough for some other crew to man the fire hoses and deck monitors (fire fighting water cannons mounted on the barge to spread foam or blast burning fuel off the deck with large volumes of water). Barring success with either of those options fall back inside the tug and secure the hatches and port hole covers and send a distress call to the queen. Integrated tug barges have their bridge in a higher superstructure than the average tug to see over the barge, meaning that the large bridge Windows are out of reach, if you secure the hatches and pot hole covers the boarder can only hammer away in vane until the queen arrives then they can surrender or die.

  3. VernonNemitz says:

    If someone launches Greek fire at the fuel barge, the result could be awesomely bad.

    • Ron says:

      in reality it would be a golden BB situation though given that they aren’t conducting fueling operations all the tanks on the barge are required to have an inert gas system to keep fumes in the tank out of the flammable range. Additional there are other fire prevention and fire fighting measures that would help protect it. In this novel it’s a very distinct possibility.

    • Tweeky says:

      Except this is almost a 1,000 years before Greek-fire was invented (It was invented by the Byzantine-empire).

      • Mike says:

        Well, we don’t really even know what the Byzantine Greek Fire actually was. But we do know that some kind of chemical accelerants were used by military forces in that region well before Alexander’s time.

        • Lyttenburgh says:

          ” But we do know that some kind of chemical accelerants were used by military forces in that region well before Alexander’s time.”

          *We* do? From what sources? Can you name them?

          The fact remains that the so-called “Greek Fire” was not mentioned before, well, it was first mentioned in early Byzantium sources. Don’t try to white wash yet another screw up by the authors.

      • Having a chunk of the late Byzantine navy show up would indeed be amusing, especially if they brought their capital with them.

  4. SJM says:

    What are Metello’s triremes doing out on the water at night in the first place?

  5. Lyttenburgh says:

    The most anticlimactic sea battle in the RoF-verse EVAH.

    Where is David Weber when you need him?

    Absolutely nothing breathtaking, interesting, bloodcurling etc, etc, happens here. No tension, no suspense, no climatic release of the fierce melee, no the dread of the thought that this might be a life or death battle. A perfect scene wasted with such glaring lack of talent.

    I was hoping to root for the downtimers, as they are more sympathetic to me than a bunch of squabbling morons onboard, who can’t survive in real-life crisis situation (based on their actions and decisions seen so far) let alone in the past. Instead the authors decided to play favorites. A-okey. That’s what I expected them to do. After all, only Divine Intervention ™ could save a Ship of Fools of theirs. And it does. Constantly.

    Others already mentioned previous screw ups from the new batch of snippets but so far no one commented, that these ships, used by the Gorgias and pals, could not possibly be triremes. For the one – because it’s a Latin word. The Greeks called ships of this type triērēs. Second – by that time “triremes” were falling out of fashion, replaced by other type of much heavier vessels – pentērēs, or, for you Latin-lovers, quinqueremes

    Taken as whole – attacking a yuuuuuuuuuuuuge monster of a ship, no matter how seemingly defenseless and populated by a “sheeple” with a devil’s dozen of mid-tier rapidly falling out of fashion ships was a dumb move. Unless Ptolemy was playing some kind of N-dimensional chess and it was all some part of Da Kunnin’ Plan of his.

    Which I doubt. More likely – the authors screwed up. Again.

    P.S. And I KNEW that Reliance was a redshirt ship of the two. Told so in previous comments, in fact.

    • Geoffrey Nichols says:

      Actually trireme is an English word. It comes from the Latin trirēmis and means, “a galley with three banks of oars, one above the other, used mainly as a warship.” So using it in a novel written in English to refer to a triērēs is correct. But you are right about them “falling out of fashion, being replaced by other type of much heavier vessels before this time.”
      On the other hand, maybe Ptolemy did not want to hazard his front line ships in the attack. Using obsolete ships increases his deniability if the attack fails. He can say, “I didn’t authorize this attack. If I had we would have used my best ships.” Got to give the authors the benefit of the doubt.

      • Lyttenburgh says:

        “Actually trireme is an English word. It comes from the Latin trirēmis and means, “a galley with three banks of oars, one above the other, used mainly as a warship.” So using it in a novel written in English to refer to a triērēs is correct. “

        Then the novel must be consistent and don’t use ANY downtime terms, instead solely relying on the modern equivalents. Which is not the case.

        Next – the term “trireme” is used both in the direct speech of up-timers and downtimers, plus in the descriptions provided by the authors. Which is wrong – down timers should use their own words for things like that.

        Does it mean that I object to Gorgias being referred to as “general”? Absolutely! It’s a historical fiction. You are supposed to try harder and educate people, not treat them crap-chewing cattle.

        “On the other hand, maybe Ptolemy did not want to hazard his front line ships in the attack. “

        Once again – what’s the point of trying to do something such big and risky, but with the enormous potential should you succeed, in the most half-(or one quarter?)-assed manner?

    • Ron says:

      The battle isn’t quite over, and the first part went the only way it could without the down timers gaining total surprise. I agree that if I was ptolemy’s position I wouldn’t use my best ships in a forlorn hope that I was planning to disavow when its inevitably failed to take the queen. Even now if the do manage to take the reliance Ptolemy could still deny knowledge of the whole thing but say “hey I’m still in control your fuel supply, so let’s renegotiate”. I don’t think it’s going to come off like that. Ptolemy could also definitely be playing a longer con.

      • Lyttenburgh says:

        “The battle isn’t quite over”

        The battle IS over – Gorgias and his ships were dealt with, the survivors are trying to disengage. This new fleet commanded by Attalus flunky had its orders to do recon, not to engage in sea battle. So they will try to attack the Reliance, possibly grab several prisoners and then disengage to brag about loot to their boss.

        That’s it – the End.

        “I agree that if I was ptolemy’s position I wouldn’t use my best ships in a forlorn hope that I was planning to disavow when its inevitably failed to take the queen.”

        Do or do not – don’t try ;).If you really want to take over the up-time ship then you throw everything and a kitchen sink in the way of military resources. Or you don’t even try to. Are the authors claiming that Ptolemy is incompetent idiot who can allow to waste important resources AND the goodwill of potential allies?

        “Even now if the do manage to take the reliance”

        Only they won’t. It’s Attalus ships who are doing this right now.

        “Ptolemy could also definitely be playing a longer con.”

        Such as? No, please – I want to hear your theory!

        I opt for the most obvious and easiest answer – the authors screwed up.

  6. Randomiser says:

    “Next – the term “trireme” is used both in the direct speech of up-timers and downtimers, plus in the descriptions provided by the authors. Which is wrong – down timers should use their own words for things like that.” They are doing. The downtimers are using their own words for everything, but the authors are kindly translating them into English for the benefit of those of us that don’t read ancient Greek.

  7. Lyttenburgh says:

    “…but the authors are kindly translating them into English for the benefit of those of us that don’t read ancient Greek.”

    They are doing it in the most inconsistent way possible. Once again – why one time the provide the downtime word (e.g. “stadia”) and another time – use modern miles?

    • zakryerson says:

      Marie (?) who at the time _Di Not Know_ that an attack was planned _used a measure that the local would use!

      • Lyttenburgh says:

        If professor Easly used that term (“stadia”) for the locals to understand, why the locals don’t use it when they are speaking between themselves?

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