Alexander Inheritance – Snippet 17
Royal Lounge, Queen of the Sea
The tension in the bright and airy room could be cut with a knife. Captain Floden was keeping his poker face on, but Staff Captain Dahl was visibly bristling. Marie Easley, Amanda noted with carefully hidden amusement, was unbothered and perhaps even unaware of the tension. She was busy with a slate, checking pronunciations and tweaking the Greek translation program. She had an ear bud in one ear and was apparently paying no attention at all to the looks she was getting from the crew and, for that matter, Congressman Wiley.
“If you don’t find us too distracting,” Captain Floden said, “we’d like to discuss the warning you decided to issue to the locals about upcoming political events.”
Marie looked up. “Why?”
“Because it might have interfered with our negotiations with the locals on any number of matters. We’re expecting a visit from Ptolemy later today, and we have no idea how he reacted to your news,” Staff Captain Dahl said, and Congressman Wiley — for once — nodded in agreement.
“What are you nodding about, Congressman?” Dahl said hotly. “You’ve been half a step from open mutiny for the last three days.”
“Anders, calmly, please,” Jane Carruthers said, then looked at Wiley. “Not that I don’t agree with him, Congressman.”
“Then you are mistaken, Ms. Carruthers. The passengers are concerned, and rightly so. We have no plan. We simply react. If Professor Easley is to be censured for not following the plan, then there ought to be a plan. Not that I think she should have blurted out the predictions like a seeress at Delphi. Certainly not without consultation. But how can we expect her to follow the playbook if there is no playbook?”
Marie was now looking back at the slate.
Captain Floden held up a hand. “Believe it or not, Congressman, I tend to agree with your complaints, though I don’t agree that they justify incitement to mutiny.” He turned to Marie. “Is that why you went ahead and told them, Marie? Because there was no plan?”
“Not at all, Captain. I said what I said after careful, if quick, consideration, based on my judgment. I am an American citizen, even if America is lost in a distant future that will probably not happen at all. No one on Earth, either in the time we left or in this one, has the right to tell me I may not speak my mind. Some may, at some point, have the power to do so, but they still won’t have the right.”
She turned to Congressman Wiley. “‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.’ My right to speak my mind is not yours to restrict, nor is my right to paint myself blue and worship sacred groves, should I choose to do so. Not yours, or all of Congress, or the captain and all his crew. And, Congressman, you have sworn an oath to defend that right of mine and all the others.”
Amanda wanted to cheer. She looked around the room to see consternation on all the faces there. Then Captain Floden spoke up. “No one is trying to restrict your rights, Marie. We are simply asking for a bit of restraint in…”
“Captain Floden, I am not impressed by sentences that contradict themselves. If you are trying to impose restraint, you’re trying to restrict. You can’t do the one without doing the other.” Marie took a deep breath. “Congressman Wiley is right that we need a plan, but the first thing we need to decide is are we to be free people or helots.”
“Or whats?” Amanda asked.
“The helots were the — no, still are — the slaves of the Spartans, though the status has probably changed by now, from outright slavery to something closer to serfdom. My point is that I am a free citizen, not a helot. I did not yell fire in a crowded theater, so I acted completely within my rights. I, at least, intend to remain a free citizen, and I expect my rights to be respected.”
“We take your point,” Jane Carruthers said soothingly.
“Yes, we do,” agreed Captain Floden. At least, he seemed to be agreeing, until he continued. “But we are in a ship at sea, under what must be considered emergency conditions.”
“First of all, Captain, I don’t concede that we are in a state of emergency. The word is quite specific. It refers to an immediate threat, not to a generally dangerous situation. But even if we were, absent me shouting fire in that crowded theater or somehow interfering with the crew delivering instructions to other passengers, you would still have no right to restrict my speech.”
Congressman Wiley held up a hand, like a student asking for attention. When Marie looked at him, he said, “I’m convinced, Professor. You had a perfect right to speak, whether it was wise or not. But having established that, what were you trying to accomplish?”
“Two things, Congressman Wiley,” Marie said. “First, I was proving my claims, and all our claims at the same time. An event that happened in our history hadn’t yet happened in this one, and I could tell them about it. If it happens as I said it would, or even if it just starts to happen as I said it would, if for instance Peithon and Arrhidaeus are forced to resign, we have proved that we know at least the outline of their future. Second, if my warning does affect the situation, if, for instance, having gotten word of Antipater’s trick, Eurydice manages to foil it, we will know that we can change history.
“But there was another reason. Antipater was a disaster as regent, and the generals, the successors to Alexander, were something of a disaster for the world. Almost any change would be a change for the better. There is a young woman with a mentally-challenged husband, and another with a two year old — or perhaps three by now — who, in the flow of time, would all die by murder. I was unwilling to sit by and let that happen without trying to change it.”
Amanda looked around the room. There were considering expressions on several of the faces.
Captain Floden gave a sharp nod. “I am Norwegian, but we also have those rights and I would be no happier to see them disappear than you would. We will be a free people, be assured of that. That still leaves two major questions. First, what are our plans? Second, how will we determine them? Congressman, I would hear your thoughts on the matter.”
“Elections will have to be held. An emergency committee could be established on an interim basis, but elections will have to be held as soon as we can manage. After that, it will be up to the elected body to determine policy.”
“I am leery of a majority trying to vote itself a free lunch,” Floden said. “I will not allow the expropriation of the Queen of the Sea by the passengers.”
And they got down to business. The meeting went on for hours and not much was actually settled. What was established were a set of basic principles under which they would build their government.
First, it was agreed that control of the Queen of the Sea would remain with the captain and crew of the Queen and control of the Reliance would remain with the captain and crew of the Reliance. However, it was also agreed, at least in principle, that all the transportees had a legitimate interest in both ships and their cargos. That, at the very least, the passengers could not be put off the ship without their consent.