Alexander Inheritance – Snippet 16
* * *
At that moment, Al Wiley was having his own problems. “What can I do for you, Reverend Hewell?”
“We have to go to Judea. The Second Temple still stands and Jesus is coming. We must clear the way for him. Cleanse the temple and protect Judea from the Romans.”
“Reverend, that’s more than three hundred years from now. We are facing more urgent concerns.”
“You don’t understand, Congressman. Being a Mormon and all. It’s why God sent us here. We are to prepare Judea for the coming Christ.”
Al kept his politician’s smile, but it wasn’t easy. He tossed Amanda a look. Amanda shrugged at him behind Mr. Hewell’s back and Al knew what she meant. You had to take support where it was offered in politics. “I will take your points to the captain and speak for them. But right now, it’s not up to you, or me, or any of the passengers. It’s up to the captain. We are aboard a ship at sea, and the law is clear about that. Until some form of civil government is established, we won’t have a lot of say in what goes on.”
“That’s not right, Congressman. We’re Americans. I can’t abide dictatorships.”
“That’s a harsh way of putting it, Mr. Hewell, though I take your meaning. Still, any sort of change in government would need to be done civilly, through the electoral process.”
Once Hewell was gone, Amanda ushered in the next complainant. This one wanted the ship to go back out to sea and avoid contaminating the local culture with modernity. Al found he had more sympathy for Mr. Hewell. But he was polite, promised to bring the matter up with the captain, and repeated the spiel about it not being their choice until some form of civilian government was established.
“Boss,” Amanda said, “we’re pushing pretty close to mutiny.”
“I know, Amanda. But if it turns out to be a choice between mutiny and a permanent dictatorship, I’ll risk the mutiny.” Al threw up his hands in frustration. “Do you think I like this? I’d rather be back in Washington dealing with the Democrats, for the Lord’s sake.”
“I think Captain Floden has done a pretty good job, sir,” Amanda said.
“Captain Floden hasn’t yet made a decision or formed a plan,” Al said. “He’s just reacting. Marie Easley says the best place to go for food is Alexandria, so we go to Alexandria. Now we are resupplying. Fine, good enough, exactly what a pseudo-military bureaucrat ought to be doing. But Floden isn’t the man to set policy.”
“There really hasn’t been a lot of cause for Captain Floden to make long-term policy decisions. It’s only been a few days and we’ve had enough on our plate just dealing with the emergencies.”
“I know you’re right,” Al admitted. “And it may be that we got off on the wrong foot, but I just don’t trust his judgment.”
* * *
Eleanor Kinney was worrying over the same issue, but from a different angle. “We need something to sell, Professor.”
Marie Easley looked up from her computer screen. “Excuse me? I thought we had established a list of goods and services.”
“We did, and aside from the issues of space, it’s working for now. But this isn’t a cargo ship. It’s a cruise ship. It’s designed to carry people, and people are light cargo.”
“Light cargo? A human is mostly water. We aren’t that light.”
“We are when you figure one human in an eight by twelve by fourteen foot space, not to mention all the public spaces. We’re lighter than a cargo of feathers and a whole lot lighter than a cargo of grain. That’s why cruise ships are so much taller than cargo ships.”
Marie nodded. “Yes. I should have realized. Also the electricity, the L E D lights that have a very long life span, the plumbing and computers. Putting this ship to work as a cargo hauler would be a waste…”
Professor Easley trailed off and Eleanor was tempted to ask her what she was thinking. But she waited.
“A university,” Marie said. “Most especially a technical school that will have required courses in political philosophy. If they want to study electronics, fine. But they must also study the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. The thirteenth amendment and the reason for it.”
By now Eleanor had seen the slaves in Alexandria and the welts on backs and arms, the scars on faces and feet. Yes. The thirteenth amendment abolishing slavery was something these people needed to learn about.
It’s something they need shoved down their throats. Eleanor was shocked at how violent that thought was. There was a rage building in her that she hadn’t realized was there. A little Eleanor Kinney standing up next to Tony Curtis and shouting “I am Spartacus!” along with all the other slaves.
All of a sudden, she was worried. Because as strongly as she felt about it, she knew that they couldn’t fight the Civil War with five thousand people, most of them old farts on vacation. Al Wiley said he understood that, but she didn’t trust his judgment, not on this.
“I don’t trust his judgment,” Roxane said looking to the north, seeing in her mind’s eye the armies that were still days away. Antipater was closest but Antigonus was marching his army to Triparadisus too. She turned to her guard commander, Kleitos. “With Eurydice playing her games, Antigonus will push too hard out of anger and outrage. Ptolemy might have us killed for political reasons, but Antipater is likely to do it just because he’s offended or impatient.”
“Antipater isn’t any worse than Perdiccas,” Kleitos said. “He was going to marry Cleopatra and reach for the crown and you know it.”
“Maybe. But Cleopatra is thirty-six and if she isn’t past her child-bearing years, she will be soon enough. Besides, Perdiccas was made regent by Alexander and the partition at Babylon. That’s why Eumenes was loyal to him. The rest of the generals are vultures.”
“I know you like the Greek, but the Macedonians won’t follow him. I know. I’m a Macedonian.”
“And yet you are loyal to me, and my guard as much as my jailor, Kleitos.”
“I’m a man under orders, Roxane, and little Alexander is his father’s son. I owe him my loyalty, at least what loyalty I have left after all these years a soldier.”
Roxane laughed at that. Kleitos was a cynical man, and she knew that if the soldier was ordered to he would kill her and even little Alexander. But, still, a sort of affection had grown up between them. He was a nice man in his cynical way, even if he was a killer. Every man she had known in her life had been a killer, at least potentially. And most of them had been in fact. That was the world she lived in and the only one she knew. But she knew that world well. She knew how to play the game and how to hide. That was why she was worried now. Ptolemy had abandoned any thoughts of taking Alexander’s place. Roxane was confident of that, even though he had stolen Alexander’s body. Otherwise he wouldn’t have passed on the regency. With him gone, the greatest power among the generals was Antigonus One-eye or perhaps Seleucus. Before Eurydice’s machinations, Roxane would have thought that Peithon might have been the strongest, but the little minx had managed to force him and Arrhidaeus to resign as commanders of the army, leaving Seleucus as much in charge as anyone was.
Antipater was old and not that strong, but he might emerge as a candidate who was acceptable to the rest, since Peithon was so recently embarrassed by Eurydice. He was the likely choice, more for his weakness than for his strength. That was why Eurydice had been able to stop Ptolemy’s chosen surrogates.
Antipater was better than his son, Cassander, but he hated Eumenes because he was a Greek and didn’t like Roxane because she wasn’t a Macedonian. What Roxane was afraid of was that Antigonus might have her killed in a fit of rage before he realized it was a bad move politically. That was what had happened to Perdiccas when he had his brother murder Eurydice’s mother.
But it didn’t matter. She knew Kleitos. She even liked Kleitos. But Kleitos would kill her before he let her escape. Besides, where would she run to? That had always been the true stopping point of her thoughts in the past. No place to go, even if she did get away. But now there was a possibility. That great ship. But she knew almost nothing about it, only that it existed. Even its existence had freed her thoughts, though. What if the great ship did mean safety? What if it was peopled by an army of allies? What if it was Alexander coming back from the grave? Ptolemy had taken Alexander’s body to Egypt, after all.