Alexander Inheritance – Snippet 12

Alexander Inheritance – Snippet 12

Chapter 4

Royal Lounge, Queen of the Sea

September 19

Al Wiley had barely gotten invited to this little dinner in the Royal Lounge.

Every ship that belonged to Royal Cruise Lines had a Royal Lounge, and they were always reserved for private parties. This one was one deck up from the pool deck, and you could see the swimmers from the windows. The windows were massive picture windows that went from floor to ceiling. At the moment, they were transparent but Al knew that they could be opaqued with the flip of a switch. There was a well-stocked bar next to the main doors and both a large conference table and a set of smaller tables where people could eat, drink or chat. The chairs were white naugahyde, but of good quality. The tables were plastic, but heavy and colored to resemble teak or other dark woods.

Al was miffed about the trouble he’d had getting this invitation. The captain was being unreasonable.

But he pulled himself up short. This situation was upsetting him more than he wanted to admit. The captain was being the captain. And, technically, at least until things got a bit more organized, the captain had a point. He was the one with a legal obligation to care for the passengers and crew. Al stood up as the locals in linen robes came sauntering into the room like a bunch of tribal chieftains decked out in native attire. Which, Al guessed, was what they were.

They were escorted by one of the ship’s officers…he thought it was Dan, no, something foreign…Dag, that was it. Right there on his nametag, Dag Jakobsen.

The guests were shown to seats and Captain Floden introduced everyone. Dinocrates of Rhodes was tall, a dignified looking man, going a bit gray at the temples and around the beard. Crates was shorter, balding, with bad teeth. Al had seen the Egyptian, Atum, before, though he hadn’t been introduced. The woman, Lateef, was apparently Atum’s wife and Al wasn’t sure why she was here.

The captain finished the introductions, and Marie Easley translated. At every name, the Greeks nodded their understanding till they got to Al. He listened carefully, but couldn’t follow. Then she said, “tribune.”

“What’s the problem, Professor Easley?” Al asked.

“They don’t have an equivalent title to congressman. The closest I was able to come was the Latin ‘tribune.'”

Al nodded. It made sense. But it also brought some potential problems forward in his mind. Al was a Republican, and that wasn’t just his party. He believed in representative government, not the right of kings. And these people, even the Romans, didn’t get that. Not in the modern sense, anyway. That could produce errors in judgment among them, but there was a more insidious danger if they were stuck here permanently. Al had no desire to live in a world where the citizenry were lorded over by the kings and captains of antiquity.

For the rest of the meeting, while Al listened and even participated, that thought was bouncing around his mind. They might be stuck here, not just for a time, but forever.

They talked about resupply. They talked about fuel and its availability. They talked about taxes and duties. And it was mentioned that signal fires had been used to transmit word of their arrival to Memphis and Ptolemy. The satrap of Egypt would know that they were here by now.

Then Dinocrates of Rhodes asked a question, and Marie translated. “Who owns the ship?”

“Royal Cruise Li — ” Captain Floden started to say, but Al interrupted.

“The people on board!”

“Congressman!” Captain Floden said.

Al said, “Wait, Captain, please. And listen. This is vital and it will affect all our dealings with these people. If the ship is owned by a company that will not exist for two thousand years, then it’s owned by no one, and is open to seizure. It’s in Egyptian territorial waters and, absent an owner, it is the property of the government of Egypt. Ptolemy. Don’t give them that opening.”

“He’s right,” Marie Easley said. “Captain, we can’t leave it the property of a future company licensed by a nation that itself doesn’t exist yet.”

“That doesn’t mean that it has become the property of everyone on board equally,” Captain Floden said. Then his lips twitched in a sort of half smile. “I didn’t expect such a communistic viewpoint coming from a Republican congressman.”

Al felt a grin twitching his own lips and, without hesitation, let it show. “We aren’t insane, whatever the liberal media has told you, Captain. And I didn’t say it was equally owned by everyone, but who owns how much and how it’s shared out is something for us to decide, not the locals.”

Captain Floden nodded. Professor Easley spoke in Greek, was questioned, and then spoke again.

She turned to them. “Well, now they understand why Congressman Wiley is here. Or at least they think they do. He is here as a representative of the owners of the ship.”

“That’s not too far off,” Al said.

“With all due respect, Congressman,” said Staff Captain Dahl, “you represent your district in Utah, not the people on this ship, many of whom aren’t even Americans and less than a hundred of whom are from Utah.”

“This isn’t the time, Staff Captain, but we need to have a meeting soon,” Al said.

Then they got back to business until the Greeks were taken off on a tour of the ship by Professor Easley and Dag.

* * *

“All right, Congressman,” Captain Floden asked after the Greeks had left the room, “what did you mean when you said you represented the passengers?”

“Yes,” Staff Captain Dahl said. “Who elected you?”

Al took a sip of ice water and carefully put the glass back on the table before he answered. “Staff Captain, as to who elected me, the people of the United States did. The chain of command runs from the president to the vice president to the Speaker of the House and President Pro Tem of the Senate, and then through all the members of the cabinet starting with the Secretary of State. If they’re all dead — or gone missing — then it goes down the congressional chain of seniority, to me. As it happens, I am three hundred fifty-seventh in the House. It matters for things like committee seats, which is why I know. For this ship, in these circumstances, I am the next in line for the presidency of the United States of America. And if you find that notion something between obscene and ridiculous, believe me, I am no more fond of it than you. But it’s true. There will need to be elections, but until they are held, I am the commander-in-chief of the citizens of the United States on this ship.”

“But we aren’t in the United States, Congressman. We weren’t in the United States when The Event happened. We weren’t even in her territorial waters.”

Al shrugged. Captain Floden had a point. “I agree that it’s a gray area, and I am not trying to usurp your authority, Captain. But, like it or not, it leaves me with a responsibility to the American citizens on this ship, and that’s the majority of the people here.”

“Does that make me the queen of England?” Jane Carruthers asked with a smile.

“I have no idea, Ms. Carruthers.” Al laughed. “I don’t know your relationship to the crown, or the relationship of the other British citizens on board.”

“I can’t let command of the Queen fall to an unqualified person or, especially, a group, just because they have the most votes,” Captain Floden said. “And I can’t run for election, either. I’d lose and that still wouldn’t make me unqualified to command this ship.”

“No, you’re right about that, Captain. Command of this ship, at least in the immediate sense, must remain with you and your staff.”

“In the immediate sense?” Dahl asked. “What other sense is there?”

“The long-term policy sense,” Al said. “If we are truly stuck in this time and it’s permanent, then we can’t stay on this ship having shrimp cocktails and weiners on a stick forever. We have to do something. Something beyond getting more shrimp and bread. The planning for that something can’t be the purview of one unelected man. It must represent the views of the majority of the people on the ship, passengers as well as crew.”

“How would you go about that, Congressman Wiley?” asked Jane Carruthers. “I’m not objecting. In fact, I rather agree with you, at least in principle. I just want to know how you plan to hold elections and what level of…well, civilian oversight…you’re looking to impose.”

“I don’t know yet, but we all need to be thinking about it.”

* * *

“I wish to see the movers,” Crates of Olynthus said yet again. Marie didn’t even need to translate it because Crates had made the same request every time they had gone anywhere on the ship. So far they had been to the casino, two restaurants, a stateroom, the Royal Duty Free Shop, the Coach shop, where Dinocrates had bought a leather jacket, a backpack, and boots. They’d just finished the visit to Guess, where Dinocrates bought a pair of blue jeans and a silk shirt, putting the whole thing on Atum’s ship account. Atum wasn’t looking very pleased, but he had nodded acquiescence. If Dinocrates kept this up, they would be owed another boatload of wheat.

Dag said in English, “We can take him to see the engines if you want, but there won’t be a lot to see. They are turbines and all the moving parts are covered.”

“Show him what you can, Dag,” Marie said. “Almost twenty-four hundred years later, this man’s name is still remembered. He’s the one who designed the sewer system for Alexandria.”

So they went down many decks, and Dag took them into the crew section where the passengers weren’t allowed, and showed them the engine rooms.

“But where are the machines you mentioned?” Crates asked.

“They are under the covers and behind the shields. Understand, we use great heat and spin the turbines very fast. So fast that even were there not shields, you couldn’t see the blades.”

“Well, what can I see?” The little balding man seemed pretty upset.

Dag thought about showing them the machine shop, and then remembered what Romi was doing in there. Instead, Dag took him to one of the monitors that could be used to see the props on the nacelles. The nacelles had cameras and lights. Looking at the monitors, you could see the props turning. As he showed Crates the moving propeller, he wondered how Romi was doing with the steam-powered guns.

* * *

Romi cursed and sucked on a skinned knuckle. “What you think, Marcus? Will the arrester valve hold pressure?”

“It should, Romi. It’s the rest of the rig that bothers me. It’s going to take a lot of steam pressure to run this thing.”

“We’ve got a lot of pressure. High pressure fire-fighting gear all over the ship. It takes a lot of pressure piping to run those, and we can use the spares to set up the feeds for the cannon.”

“You really think anyone would try to take the ship?”

Romi considered. “No. They may be primitive, but I doubt they’re idiots. They couldn’t even reach the deck without help and they know it, or should. It’s seventy-five feet from the sea to the Promenade Deck. Figure that even a tall ship for these people is maybe thirty feet up. That’s another forty-five feet. They might be able to get a rope up to the Promenade Deck, but then they spend ten minutes climbing rope ladders while we drop flower pots on their heads. And when the survivors get here, they are so tired that a ten-year-old with a belaying pin could beat the bunch of ’em.”

“So why are we…”

“Because officers are obsessive idiots in any century. At least, ours are.”

* * *

Dag showed the party into another part of the engine room and Panos Katsaros said something in Greek.

Once Panos had everyone’s attention, he asked, “What about some shore leave, Mr. Jakobsen?” Then more Greek, apparently translating for the locals.

Panos was a Greek lower deck sailor, an able seaman, whose job was engine wiper. He had also been an ongoing discipline problem. Nothing serious, but the man liked to party.

The room held one of the emergency backup generators and it was receiving standard maintenance. Crates started talking in Greek and Panos held up his hands and made a downward pushing gestures. Crates slowed down, and Panos started pointing at the components of the generator, the coiled wires and the drive shaft. Just the sort of thing that any industrial worker would know about the machines he used and worked on.

While Panos was impressing one of the great minds of ancient Greece with his knowledge, Atum spoke to Dag. “I can arrange something, Mr. Jakobsen. I know how to deal with sailors.”


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15 Responses to Alexander Inheritance – Snippet 12

  1. Tweeky says:

    It looks like this Panos character is going to cause problems in the future.

  2. Lyttenburgh says:

    “Al had no desire to live in a world where the citizenry were lorded over by the kings and captains of antiquity.”

    Only by suicide can he achieve his heart’s desire.

    “And I didn’t say it was equally owned by everyone, but who owns how much and how it’s shared out is something for us to decide, not the locals.””

    Club 250 v. 2.0 when?

    BTW – the characters appear even more silly and cardboard than usual here. The uptimers, I mean. The downtimers are barely shown at all. No longterm planning whatsoever. In Grantville they had the Provisional Commitee in power nearly from the get go. Here the people in charge went full “denial”. I know – horrible pun, given they ended up in Egypt anyway.

    Wiley will surely start throwing his political weight around – that’s what he can and allowed to do. No preparations before the talks – otherwise they won’t have this.

    But, most of all, even literally days after the “Event” we see no grassroots movement to do something about their present situation from the passeger. C’mon – they are people, not the cattle!

    Everything screams “It is getting to hit the fan”. And I have no sympathy for the shipfolks. At all.

    • Ron says:

      Romi has the right idea to a certain extent, direct assault would be extremely risky, however the reward would be great. We have yet to see any military locals who are going to be viewing the uptimers through their own preconceptions, as the uptimers have yet to give a demonstration of firearms they still see them as “odd clubs” won’t see any hard scarred veteran soldiers armed with weapons that the Alexander’s army would be concerned with, and they have a long history of victory. To a hardened veteran officer of that army’s the would seem a lot idiotic and a lot more like a bold challenge that would lead to supreme power and wealth worth the blood price to take it.

    • Jeff says:

      Grandville was a community though, these are a bunch of strangers. And while the crew is accustomed to working together, it’s under a top-down command structure.

      I do agree that people seem strangely blase about their predicament, but then for anyone who has read more than one Assiti Shards series, we’ve read it all before and it doesn’t get more interesting with repetition. So I don’t mind the book moving forward to the good parts, the politics and sociology and schizo-tech.

      • Ron says:

        The authors are writing about a very narrow selection of the ships officers thus far, Captain, Staff Captain, Enviromental… No mention yet of the Chief engineer, hotel director, executive chef, provisions master, chief housekeeper, cruise director, chief security, financial controller (purser), HR manager. For a short term solution The previously mention group of officers In total forms what’s generally called the steering committee that will meet together be sounding board to the Captain In their areas of expertise and when there are cross departmental issues they can be worked out to ensure smooth operations, inthe short term adding representatives from each bloc of passengers/crew (regional North and south America, Europe, Asia etc wouldn’t make that model too unwieldy. Long term would definitely take more short and most likely an election of some type.

  3. dave o says:

    It’s mentioned in the snippet, but I find it a lot odder that a Congressman from Utah of all places should be pushing the idea of commonwealth. So far as I know practically every Utah politician believes devoutly in libertarianism

    • Doug Lampert says:

      Libertarian theory requires private ownership of assets, and note that almost the first thing he does is insist that the ship is a common asset of those on board, not of a corporation not present. Dividing it up is something he’s willing to defer, but he can’t jump straight from his current situation to a libertarian situation without pausing in between to establish personal property, property ownership, and property rights.

      Establishing that the ship is the property of those present, not of a future corporation is step one for a libertarian, and for him.

      He’s also not willing to accept that the ship’s crew is in charge and that the passengers have no authority. Again, he needs to establish that, then he can worry about the details, and he’s more or less gotten the senior officers to agree with him that some sort of passenger representation/authority is needed.

      As something of a libertarian myself I’m not sure what else you expect him to do. Defend to the death the property rights of a non-existent corporation? Accept that a ship’s captain’s authority is unquestionable and that the ship’s officers own everything? Give everything to Ptolemy and let him decide what to do with it? Or argue that the ship is a common property and the passengers have rights, after which he can argue about organization and details of ownership.

      I don’t really see any other viable alternative, and of the above arguing that the ship is common property and the passengers have some right to a share is blatantly the best alternative for a libertarian.

      Part of the point Flint makes in these stories is that compared to almost any time in the past, almost all modern Americans have virtually identical political views (small town, people in a prison, people on a cruise ship, industrialist, unionist). The congressman doesn’t need to fight libertarian vs. socialist battles yet, he needs “this ship is not a dictatorship” and “us against rule by kings and tyrants” first.

      • dave o says:

        Believers in the Commonwealth are not Socialist. They are perfectly willing to see inequality of all sorts. What they insist on is that all the members of a society are tied together.

    • Ron says:

      Well in ordinary times he probably would be a lot more libertarian, but in extremis you go with what works situationally. The congressman is completely right about not giving the locals legal pretext to seize the ship. Ultimately they must hang together or be hung (enslaved) separately.

  4. Readers might consider, in another time line, someone borrowing the use of a ship’s ballroom and putting out an invitation to appear to current and prior service people (all nations) who would find appropraite the signs Marines, Navy, Army, Airforce, and Other. Other of course includes spooks, secret service, FBI, and the Spetznaz Colonel, while Navy happens to include the visiting PRC Admiral whose past expertise was teaching Chinese freighters in the Indian Ocean how to repel boarders, and the fellow from the Special Boat Service.

    • Ron says:

      Don’t stop with military skills do the same for professional skill sets, even hobby skill sets could be enormously helpful.

        • Ron says:

          Bet they would find at least a few doctors, nurses, paramedics, pharmacists (you would want to start an apprenticeship program) Then there would be engineers of various varieties, chemists not mention dozens of professional carpenters, plumbers, electricians, welders, mechanics, machinists. Even bankers and stoke brokers would be helpful they have already begun introducing Atrum to on board credit start introducing other modern banking and investment concepts. There’s a deep pool of people to draw skills from.

    • Ron says:

      The ships supply of modern materials is exhaustible and in order to survive long term they are going need to value adding economic with raw materials coming in innovative (for the period) quality goods going out.

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