Alexander Inheritance – Snippet 05
Off Formentera Island
9:00 PM, September 15, 321 BCE
The voice over the loudspeakers was calm and matter-of-fact, as if the ship’s officer was simply reporting on the weather:
“Ladies and gentlemen, using astronomic instruments, we have determined the date. It is the year 321 Before the Common Era, and it is September fifteenth by our calendar. Also, we believe we are in the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Spain. We have no idea how this has happened, but the captain has decided that for all our safety, we need some sea room. We will be moving away from the docks to insure that boarding by the locals is more difficult.”
All around the ship everyone reacted individually, as their natures dictated. There were cases of panic, but more often than panic was disbelief. There was consternation and curiosity. The phones of passengers all over the ship were turned on and 321 BCE was looked up. Other people shrugged and went on with their gambling, shopping, dining, or other entertainments.
* * *
Jason Jones pulled out his cell phone and tried to call his mother. He got a “no signal” message. Then he tried to call his father, who was just five feet away, sitting on his bed with his laptop opened. Dad’s phone rang with the Lone Ranger theme and he looked over at Jason.
“I can’t get Mom,” Jason explained.
Dad’s face got a pinched look on it and Jason got even more scared. Almost in desperation Jason asked, “Dad, if I can’t get Mom, how come I can get you?”
“Good question!” Dad seemed relieved. “It could be that the phones are in range of each other. A cell phone is a small radio combined with a computer, and good ones like ours have the ability to talk directly back and forth if they are close enough. That’s how we can share photos when our phones get close to each other. But it might be the ship. I think the cell providers have restrictions built in. Let’s look it up.”
That was Dad’s answer to everything. “Let’s look it up.” Dad called up the ship specs and got a rate listing, a chart of how much cell calls, wifi, and internet cost per minute or megabyte. A couple of links below that was a description of how it worked. The Queen of the Sea was wired to a faretheewell, with hotspots and wired connections all through the ship. Those led to the ship’s Communications and Data Center. That, along with mirror sites and catching, constituted the ship’s cloud. All phone and internet access first went into the ship’s cloud. A phone call from one cell phone on the ship to another never left the ship’s cloud. But you still got charged for the call as though it were going through the satellite. That was even true on some of the ports, because the Queen of the Sea had its own cell tower, called a repeater. In fact, it had three. One forward, one amidships, and one near the stern. Each station had a satellite link, a cell repeater, ship-to-ship, and ship-to-shore radios. That gave the ship’s cloud considerable range, so if you were on an island excursion and called someone on the ship, it usually went through the ship’s cloud. The reason there were three was to ensure that there was adequate bandwidth, and as a safety feature, redundancy in case of accident. Finding all that out took time, and long before they finished, a history professor decided to take a hand.
* * *
In Stateroom 601, Marie Easley, a small woman with black hair and just a touch of gray, looked over at her daughter. Josette Easley was looking frightened. She was recently divorced and, as amicable as it had been, she needed to get away for a while. Marie got dragooned into accompanying Josette because she didn’t want to go alone. And now it looked like the trip was going to be a lot more life-changing than either of them had thought. Not that Marie hadn’t had enough life-changing since being widowed three years ago.
“Mom,” Josette asked, “what was going on in 321 BCE before the common era?”
It was a perfectly reasonable question, since Marie had a doctorate in history with a specialization in Ptolemaic Egypt.
“Well, Alexander is dead, and so is Aristotle. A shame, that. I would have liked to meet the philosopher.”
“Didn’t you ever listen to our discussions around the dinner table, Josette?” Marie grinned. “Alexander the Great may well have been the greatest man of his time, but almost anyone who comes down in the history books with ‘the Great’ attached to their name has piled up a very impressive body count. Alexander was certainly no exception. He was anything but a good man by any modern standard of ‘good.’ He and his cronies make the characters in Game of Thrones seem positively benign.”
She thought for a moment, her lips. “Well, Epicurus was alive — is alive, and I suspect I would like to meet him. Perhaps even more than Aristotle.”
“Do you think the captain and crew can get us back home?”
Marie considered. It seemed highly unlikely on the face of it. And if the captain and crew were unlikely to be able to do so, how likely was it that anything would take them home? There was a tightness around Marie’s abdomen as she considered the world they were now in and the possibility…no, face it squarely, Marie…the almost certainty that they were here permanently.
“No, dear, I don’t. Wait here. I need to speak to someone in the crew about this. There is information they are going to need and they are going to need it sooner rather than later.” Marie grabbed her laptop as she left the room and headed for the information desk.
* * *
The Help Desk was, unsurprisingly, swamped by people asking questions that the staff was in no position to answer. So Marie answered them. “No, Alexander the Great died two, possibly three, years ago in Babylon.”
“What about the Romans?”
“Rome owns a strip of the west coast of Italy, but not much more.” Marie stopped and thought. She wasn’t nearly as familiar with Rome in this period as she was with Greece and Egypt but, yes, this was the middle of the second Samnite War. She wasn’t sure, but she thought the battle of the Caudine Forks was either about to happen or was recent —
Never mind. “Rome is a republic of sorts, but it makes banana republics look good. Also, it doesn’t control enough territory to be of much use.”
A teenager was scrolling through his phone. “What about Carthage? Aren’t they the great sea power of the age?”
“Very little of Carthage is known. But, honestly, young man, most of what is known isn’t very complimentary. At this point, we are between the second and third of the Greek-Punic wars.”
By now there was a crowd around Marie, and the clerk at the Help Desk called her over and asked about her credentials.
* * *
“Captain, we’ve found an expert,” Jane Carruthers said. “Professor Marie Easley is a professor with a specialization in the history of Ptolemaic Egypt and we are in the time of the first Ptolemy.”
“Fine, Jane. Get her up here. We need to decide what to do, and soon.”
Jane knew that better than the captain did. Even though they were limiting portions now — which might cause resentment among the passengers and crew — they were going to run out of food in no more than a fortnight. They needed a supply base and they needed it now.
* * *
Jane escorted Marie toward the captain’s conference room, explaining the situation, what they knew of it, and what they needed.
“We need to go to Egypt,” Marie said, as soon as they’d entered the conference room. Everyone sitting at the table in the center looked at her.
“Please explain why,” said the man at the head of the table. He had a Scandinavian accent but it wasn’t pronounced. Marie wasn’t quite sure of the meaning of the various insignia on his uniform, but she thought this was the ship’s captain. Although she cautioned herself not to jump to conclusions. She might be influenced by the fact that he was distinguished-looking and rather handsome, in a late middle-aged sort of way — the way a ship’s captain was supposed to look.