Alexander Inheritance – Snippet 25
Royal Palace, Alexandria
Ptolemy looked out at the ship and worried. He had been on board her several times now and everything about the thing screamed disaster waiting to happen. There was disaffection among the passengers and no weapons to speak of. Even if they made weapons, none of them knew how to use a sword or a pike. He doubted most of them could survive a tavern brawl, much less a real battle. There didn’t seem to be a real soldier on the ship, not any. Even their so-called “security forces” would faint like women if they faced a Macedonian phalanx.
But in the hands of a competent general with good troops, that ship could take and hold the coast of Egypt. And holding the coast, it would control all of Egypt. He turned back to Gorgias. “If you fail, I will deny you. Hang you myself, if need be.”
“Yes, Satrap. And if I succeed?”
“Carthage to the pillars of Hercules as your own satrapy.” He gave his general a hard look. “Don’t get greedy once you have the ship. I will have people watching you.”
Ptolemy asked, “How long?”
“Another week. We have the galleys ready, and the towers are half built.”
“They should have let me provide them with guards,” Ptolemy said and Gorgias was silent. Ptolemy knew that any troops he put on the ship would be his hands and control of the ship would be his, not Captain Floden’s. Still, it would have made things easier for everyone.
He looked over at his general. “Very well. I don’t want to see you until it’s over.”
* * *
Gorgias smiled as he left the royal apartments. In fact, he knew just who Ptolemy had watching him, and his watchers were going to have some very bad accidents once the Queen was his.
Roxane looked out the window at the Mediterranean Sea as Attalus discussed the options. Among the news that they had gotten from the future ship was the information that Attalus would lose to the Rhodians when he tried to gain control of Caria. Though, with the generals in disarray, the Rhodians might not be so quick to fight.
“We still need the link to Eumenes,” said Attalus’ sea commander, a Carthaginian named Metello. “And we should be able to take the Rhodians. It must have been bad luck in that other time. Assuming the tale of an alternate past where Antipater became regent is true and not just a clever ruse.” There was, in fact, almost no information about the fight between Attalus’ navy and the Rhodians, except for the fact that it was over Caria.
“Well, what makes you think we will have better luck this time?” Roxane asked the Carthaginian, ignoring the comment about it being a ruse.
“Attalus had better luck at Triparadisus,” Metello said. “The army is divided and the orders for his execution have been rescinded, at least for this army. The same for Eumenes and the rest. We’re still collecting more forces. We will have a bigger army.”
“Eumenes is not nearly so important now that the ship from the future is here,” Roxane said. “We need contact with them.”
“We need both,” Attalus said. “Metello, you go to the coast of Caria and be polite to — No. I will go to Caria. You will go to Alexandria. Stay out to sea, but send a boat into the harbor to make contact with the ship people. Polite contact.”
That made sense to Roxane, as she thought about it. Metello was a Carthaginian, and the Rhodians were supporting the other side in the conflict in Sicily. Metello wasn’t fond of the Rhodians, and the Greeks weren’t overly fond of Carthaginians in general. Metello was probably not the right man to negotiate with a Rhodian admiral. Still, Roxane was more interested in the Queen of the Sea. The knowledge of the future had already proven vital. More knowledge might well prove the difference between death and survival for her and her son. “I will go with Metello to visit the Queen of the Sea.”
“No! The risk is too great. I won’t put you in Ptolemy’s grasp again.”
“Why not? He wasn’t interested in keeping me last time he had me in his hands.”
“The only reason he let you go was that he wasn’t ready to try for the throne. I suspect that now he is. With the failure of Triparadisus leaving no clear successor to Alexander and no clear regent, Ptolemy will make his bid soon. I want you behind walls with an ocean between you and his army. It took Alexander himself over a year to take this island. You’re safe here.”
“No, I said. You have had your say and I listened, but I will not risk the heir or his mother in this.”
Roxane sat silent. She had lost the argument and she knew it. There had never been much chance that she would win it. She and Eurydice were still counters in the game of empire more than players, whatever Eurydice thought.
* * *
It took a couple more days, but soon enough Roxane stood on a balcony and watched two fleets leave. Then she turned, picked up her son, and went inside to wait.
Queen of the Sea
“How’s it coming, Mom?” Josette Easley asked as she entered the corner that had been set aside for Marie Easley’s use in one of the ship’s internet cafes.
“Tediously. I hadn’t realized how much misinformation was in the electronic record. Britannica is as bad as Wikipedia. It’s not the outline that they get wrong, but the most recent studies are often missing and –” Marie stopped herself. That they could affect history had already been demonstrated. The butterfly effect — the unintentional effect of their mere presence, or the things they said and ideas they promulgated intentionally or not — was less fully confirmed, but seemed highly probable from the results her warnings had produced in Triparadisus. The exact nature of those results couldn’t be predicted in detail, but Marie believed strongly that more knowledge would, as a rule, produce better results than less knowledge. Based on that belief, she had been preparing a book on what was known about this period of history.
“Well, Doctor Miles has a section she wants you to include,” Josette said. “A basic outline of germ theory and how to clean wounds. Dag Jakobsen wants something on canning food and handling sewage.”
Marie considered. Adding the information was reasonable and made sense, but there were issues. Especially with Dag’s part. Canning and canned goods were a marketable product for the ship. She wouldn’t prevent Dag from making his own book, in fact she would help him later. But translating canning and sewage processing information was going to take time that she just didn’t have. The translation programs were adequate for conversational purposes, where confusion or mistranslation could be questioned and corrected. But a book took greater precision and understanding. That meant that Marie and a few Greek speakers were going to have to translate every word. And even the Greek speakers, like Panos Katsaros, spoke modern Greek, not Ptolemaic Macedonian Greek. On the other hand, leaving out Doctor Miles’ section on germ theory would be criminal. “We will include the doctor’s section if she can keep it short.”
* * *
“The steel team has made its first successful pour,” Dag reported to Eleanor Kinney. They were in her office and it was just her, Bernt Carlson and Dag, mostly because the chief engineer and all the other engineers were too busy with their work to get away for this meeting. Bernt Carlson was the ship safety officer and between them, he and Dag as environmental officer, were effectively OSHA for the ship, while Eleanor Kinney was the banker.
They were buying food and raw materials. Iron, copper, zinc, lead and other metals in ore form. Also wood, charcoal, hides and hooves, medicinal plants and other stuff. The Queen of the Seas had an impressive industrial capacity, but in the nature of things cruise liners don’t haul around a lot of raw materials.
Jackie Ward, the chief electrical engineer, with the help of a couple of retired engineers who were on the cruise and a team of engineering ratings, had come up with an induction furnace and blowers to turn iron ore and charcoal into steel. Well, they had come up with the designs, and as of about two hours ago had a small pilot plant running on the pool deck.
They also had a small plant that was — quietly and with no fanfare — starting to use the lead they were buying to make bullets for the steam cannons. But that production process was being done in a compartment, not out in the open where anyone could see it.
“We need more room,” Bernt said. “Putting a steel plant on the pool deck isn’t a good idea.”
It wasn’t a new complaint. Bernt had been making it almost since they arrived in Alexandria. The infrastructure for an industrial base was located on the Queen of the Sea, but it wasn’t readily transferable. They had the power lines and the electrical capacity to power a small city, but they couldn’t pull it out of the ship without effectively destroying the ship. That meant the factories and shops of their small city had to be located on the Queen. And there wasn’t enough room. It was an ongoing health and safety hazard for the workers and the passengers. It was also not something they could do anything about, and Eleanor Kinney was even more tired of hearing about it than Dag was.
“Rodriguez says they have another load of padded leather chairs,” Dag said quickly before it turned into yet another argument between Bernt and Eleanor.
The ship’s carpenter was turning out modern furniture for sale to the locals and daily maintenance was being pushed back. Several of the passengers were hired as extra hands for the carpentry shop, but there were only so many saws and planes and sanders.
Eleanor Kinney nodded at Dag, and made a note. “Good. Atum has a list of buyers for it, including His Nibs, who wants a lazyboy for the palace. Between that, the laundry, and other projects that the crew and passengers have started, we’ll be buying our food without eating more of our irreplaceable twenty-first century gear.”
“If we don’t kill people with the risks we’re…”
“Alert! Riot on the Promenade Deck!” came over the speakers.
Dag was up in a heartbeat. He ran for the elevators.