Alexander Inheritance – Snippet 27

Alexander Inheritance – Snippet 27

Chapter 9

Bridge, Queen of the Sea

October 15

It was midnight when Apprentice Deck Officer Doug Warren came on watch. Adrian Scott filled him in. Not much out of the ordinary had happened. “They finished up the day’s loading of supplies about sunset, and traffic in the harbor has been fairly light except for a small fleet of triremes that’s headed to Carthage. Dinocrates says it’s some sort of ‘show the flag’ mission.” Adrian waved a hand at the radar screen. “We’re tracking them to try and calibrate the radar for the local’s ships.”

Doug nodded. Ships were small and the ocean was big. Even back in the twenty-first century when the small craft carried radar reflectors to make it easy to see them, they got missed a lot.

Two hours later, Doug yawned and sipped his coffee as he noted the change in direction of the radar blips that represented the fleet of triremes. The radar reflection from the wooden ships was very weak, so the computer was augmenting the signal and filtering. They didn’t appear dim on the display, but the databox made it clear just how weak the return signal was.

Doug took another sip of the coffee. Sort of coffee. Doug, the captain said, liked a little coffee in his cream. Doug was a stocky lad to begin with, and the rich, sweet brew was probably not helping. But the bridge crew still got coffee, even if it was a restricted resource now.

It was a little after two AM. He had the triremes on radar as they made the turn. They were…he checked his radar readings…they were 3.4 knots out to the west northwest.

It was the dark of the night and there was a light mist. To the locals, it must be pitch black. It was a good thing the Queen had plenty of sea room. Doug wasn’t frightened, or even worried. He was just mildly curious, but kept the radar focused on the triremes. By about four in the morning, it was starting to get a little weird. They were less than a knot from the Queen, so they ought to be able to see her lights. It looked like the triremes were shifting course to intercept. He reported it to Julio on the Reliance. It was standard practice to share observations.


4:32 AM

Dag rubbed his eyes. The ship was moving. That was wrong. The Queen shouldn’t be moving. Then he remembered he wasn’t on the Queen. He was on the Reliance. He had been in charge of a work party that was helping set up the toilets for the tents they set up on the deck of the Reliance. Because they would be back at it early in the morning, they had stayed the night. It was then that Dag’s sleep-fogged brain finally snapped to the fact that the Reliance shouldn’t be moving either.

Dag got up and headed for the pilot house. It took him two minutes to get there and by then the Reliance was a hundred feet from the Queen and turning away.

“I don’t take orders from you, you little asshole!” Kugan was in a shouting match with Doug Warren on the Queen.

“What’s going on, Captain?” Dag asked.

Kugan whirled on Dag. “Those ships you told me not to worry about? They are headed right for us. A dozen galleys, with some sort of rigging on them. My guess is scaling ladders. And they sailed out, and came around to come at us from seaward, so they could get the Reliance even if they didn’t get the Queen.”

“Let me talk to Doug, please, Captain,” Dag said. He had told Joe Kugan that the ships were on their way to Carthage, just as he had been told they were when the Queen’s bridge watch saw them leave.

“Go for it. Maybe you can pound some sense into the stupid dick.”

“What have you got, Doug?” Dag asked.

“Eleven galleys, triremes. They sailed out of harbor for about three knots, then turned around, and headed back. I don’t think it’s anything important. Maybe they forgot something. And they will come pretty close, but they aren’t headed right for us. I think they’re using the Queen as a lighthouse. There was no reason for Captain Kugan to panic.”

Dag’s common sense and his education were screaming at each other too. His education said this was impossible and Ptolemy would know that there was no way any ship from Alexandria could attack the Queen. It would be suicide. His common sense and experience with these people was screaming just as loudly that this was an attack. It couldn’t be anything else, and the locals were all total nut job tough SOBs who would kill you over a penny in the street.

It was a short fight. Dag had been dealing with the locals since they got to Alexandria. “On my authority, Doug, wake Captain Floden and Daniel Lang.” He turned to Captain Kugan. “The cannon will be armed, Captain. The safest place for the Reliance is tucked in close to the Queen.”

“Bullshit, Dag,” Kugan said. “The safest place for my ship is out of the line of fire. Besides, it’s too late anyway.” He pointed at a screen. It was showing a feed from the radar on the Queen. Two of the galleys had shifted course and were following the Reliance.

“Captain Kugan, I’ve seen those suckers move. They can get up to fifteen knots in a sprint.”

“Which is why we’re running at full power. I’m just hoping we can keep ahead of them long enough to wear out the rowers.”

“You’d be safer back with the Queen.”

Kugan looked at him, and Dag could see the fear on the man’s face. But all Kugan did was shake his head.

* * *

Daniel Lang and Captain Floden reached the bridge at almost the same time. The captain got a quick report and waved at the comm rating. “All hail channel.” Then he picked up the mike. “All hands, prepare for boarding from seaside. Man the steam cannons. All watches to stations.”

“When do we act, Captain? We don’t have proof they are attacking till they do something, and by then it’s going to be hard for steam cannon to depress enough to hit them.”

“I’m not waiting. Weigh anchor just in case, but if those ships get within five hundred meters, we will open fire on them.”

“Captain, you have to at least warn them,” Doug Warren blurted, then blushed at Staff Captain Dahl’s look.

Daniel couldn’t help but sympathize with the kid. Doug Warren had never been shot at in anger, and he had a deep belief in fairness and the rule of law. Daniel agreed that the rules were what kept people civilized. That was why he was a cop. “He’s right, Captain.”

Captain Floden looked at them. “You have a good point, Doug, but my first concern must be the passengers and crew on this ship. We’ll use the loud hailer to warn them off. But if they don’t heed the warning, we will destroy those ships.”

Daniel looked at the comm rating. “Get Marie Easley up here to deliver that warning.”

* * *

General Gorgias watched the ship as they approached. It was still showing lights, but fewer than it had the first night it arrived. They were conserving the LED lights, not the electricity that powered them. Besides, at this time of night, they would mostly be asleep, and they were not soldiers, to wake ready to fight at the sergeant’s call. They were sheep who would spend hours bleating at each other before they worked themselves up to acting. Kugan was quicker to respond than Gorgias hoped, so that meant that both ships knew they were coming. Their best hope now was speed. He had to get his forces aboard both ships fast.

Then, on the night, there came a voice to frighten a god. At least in its volume. Gorgias knew that voice. It was the voice of the scholar, Marie Easley. “Go back! Any galley that approaches within three stadia of the Queen of the Sea without prior authorization will be sunk!” Marie was using Greek units of measurement since the metric system meant nothing to the people she was hailing. Three stadia was about five hundred and fifty meters.

Gorgias turned to the timekeeper. “Increase the rate. We want to get in fast.” Then he turned to the artillerists. “Load the catapult with jars of Greek fire. If they have some sort of weapon, we will need to silence them. It won’t damage that steel monster. Just clear the decks for our boarders.”

* * *

“They aren’t turning, Captain,” Daniel said.

“I can see that. Call the gunners and have them put a shot across their bows.”

The shot went out and made a splash about a hundred feet in front of the lead galley. By now, lights were coming on all over the ship. Passengers looked out their windows, and then headed for the Promenade Deck to see what was going on.


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26 Responses to Alexander Inheritance – Snippet 27

  1. VernonNemitz says:

    It might be nice to know how loud that “shot across the bow” was. If it was louder than the loud-hailer, some of the attackers’ enthusiasm might wane a bit.

    • Ron says:

      Probably not much louder than the loud-hailer and not the boom of a gun powder cannon. I mentioned last snippet that they should be making up some grenades for the boom and also for the concussive effects it’s going to take a lot to knock Veteran Macedonian off their game and that would certainly help.

  2. Ron says:

    open scaling ladders would be easily defeated by fire hoses, it the standard method of dealing somali pirates, and would probably be more affective without worrying about machine gun fire from the assaulting vessels. Greek fire would be problematic with the paints and modern polymer decking systems used they are flame retardant, but will go up if you douse them with an accelerant. it lend itself to the fire crews and the hoses being in the right position at the right time on off chance this captain (any non fictional captain would) hasn’t thought about using them in defense of the vessel.
    The guests heading for the promenade deck are in the running And sorely deserved Darwin Award.
    Also if a trireme is sucessful in coming along side the queen along side the queen the are other ways of spoofing the scaling ladders, one use the ships now thrusters and azipods to literally spin the ship at the trireme this would most like over turn the trireme in the question while making it impossible for others to do so. Also wait until the ladder is up then lower a life boat on top of it. In extremis you could even drop a life boat on an attacking trireme.
    I think that they may have gotten just enough of a warning to get lucky. I wouldn’t want to be husky Doug the watch officer after this battle, Rule #1 When in doubt called the master, and a fleet of warships altering course in your direction isn’t time for personal speculation it’s time to call.

    • Ron says:

      I let my excitement run away with me, and post before the coffee has truly penetrated way too often.

      Fire hoses could also be used to swamp the triremes.

      Speed, mobility, coordination could be key if they can get the vessels moving and can coordinate and cooperate which doesn’t seem to be on Kugan’s mind. If he can open up enough space to turn around and come at them head on he they aren’t prepared for the bow wave the reliance can generate probably enough to swamp or capsize them without actually ramming them. Similarly the Queen can generate a even greater one.

      • Richard H says:

        How likely is it that the Queen could just run the attacking triremes over? I know getting caught under a boat you are trying to climb onto is a concern at a smaller scale, especially when you’re going from another one that is bobbing up and down in the water. I could imagine the cruise ship being too vertical into the water or simply not being maneuverable enough for this to be a going concern, however.

        Also, how long would it take the Queen to hit its presumed 20+kt cruise speed? That seems like it could be a shock if they don’t get boarders on fast enough.

        • Ron says:

          Not enough detail given on the relative postion of the Queen to be able answer all of it. Would depend on how fast they can get the anchor up which would vary on how much chain the had payed out. Generally you have at least one engine running another on call when at anchor, in case of a sudden shift of wind speed and or direction so that you can manta in your position. They may no be able to get away clean in four minutes (given Dag’s 15 knot sprint speed on the triremes) but they should be able to manuver at anchor and swing the stern about and knock into the triremes that get close. If things get really hairy the captain could always order the anchor be let go there is an emergency procedure that allows you knock a pin out and it releases the end of the anchor chain attached to the vessel, but then your short an anchor and a mile of chain. You do have another on but unless you can salvage it later your down a irreplaceable (in the short to intermediate term) piece of hardware. You probably saw below you would necessarily need to actually strike the triremes at speed just get close to swamp or capsize them with the vessels bow wave once under way.

      • Tweeky says:

        Both ships could pass within say five -ten feet of each Trireme so that they’d strike the oars splintering them and the whiplashing oar-handles would kill or severely injure the rowers causing panic.

  3. Mark L says:

    Is it worth pointing out the galley could not be one knot away? A knot is a nautical mile per hour. It is a measure of speed, not of distance.

  4. Geoffrey Nichols says:

    I find it difficult to believe that word of the attack preparation did not leak out to the Queen ahead of time. What was it, two weeks, to prepare the triremes with modifications. Rumors of something funny going on in the ship yard must have leaked through the works crews. It is in the interest of the merchants trading with the Queen to pass on rumors.

    While fire hoses may work, testing the guns under combat conditions and showing the big stick also has its advantages.

    • Doug Lampert says:

      Premodern armies leaked info like a sieve. Which means that your cover story is what you tell your own people. AKA, until the ships left port, almost everyone involved thought they were on a mission to Carthage.

      The potential leaks are thus limited to people involved in preparing boarding gear. And to be blunt, there’s no way they have adequate boarding gear on a trireme, they couldn’t stand the weight or remain stable with anything more than a simple ladder (later Roman Triremes had serious stability concerns from the corvus, a simple boarding bridge with a spike to anchor it to the target ship).

      We’re presumably looking at ~14 not excessively long ladders intended to reach the promenade deck rather than the main deck.

      • Geoffrey Nichols says:

        But you also need to train the sailors on how the erect the ladders, and train the troops on using them in an orderly manner. Fifty foot ladders going up in the shipyard are going to be seen by many people besides though preparing the gear.

    • Ron says:

      They should defend the vessel by all available means. Use the cannons of course but also use everything available once they get under the guns.

  5. Molotovs against galleys underneath are also amusing. Would need to be set up in advance.

  6. 190 proof rum also works.

  7. Tweeky says:

    “Gorgias turned to the timekeeper. “Increase the rate. We want to get in fast.” Then he turned to the artillerists. “Load the catapult with jars of Greek fire. If they have some sort of weapon, we will need to silence them. It won’t damage that steel monster. Just clear the decks for our boarders.””

    If I recall correctly Greek-fire was invented by the Byzantines which at this point in time is close to 1,000 years in the future.

    • Randomiser says:

      Quick Google search shows you are perfectly right. First possible mention is around 514AD and the finished article is generally credited to around 670AD. Fire pots, burning pitch etc have been used time out mind but suggesting Greek Fire (invented by the Byzantines not the Greeks) could be used in the 230’s BC, and as a standard means of attack, is a terrible anachronism and badly needs fixed.

  8. Randomiser says:

    I’m not quite sure how boarding from a galley worked, unless you rammed and went over the bow. How do you get close enough to jump over the space between the sides? Presumably if you could get close enough alongside, neither ship could use their oars and the vessels were effectively at rest with respect to each other. The Galleys after the Reliance may be able to sprint at 15 knots (really?) to approach but they sure can’t keep it up for long and I don’t see how they can board if the speed difference is anything more than, say, 5 knots, (the last thing Ptolemy wants is the Reliance damaged by ramming.) Reliance will not obligingly stop for them. OTOH if they get even half a dozen veterans aboard her it’s probably game over.

    If Queen of the Sea can get moving , even at 3 or 4 knots I can’t see how the Greeks could possibly keep those long ladders, or towers stable enough to board while, she is moving.

    Murphy has struck in the Bridge being manned by this dopey apprentice during the attack. However, not having a clear plan of action and rules of engagement laid down by the senior staff is yet another example of how ‘Fat and Happy’ QoS has been acting.

    • Ron says:

      Not enough detail on the boarding ladders They are probably stored In a nearly vertical position on the trireme but we haven’t be told whether they will lower forward or to the side both have there advantages and disadvantages. I doubt the the bronze Rams of on the triremes would penetrate either modern vessel even at 15 knots, that might dent the hull. I think it might even be more damaging to the trireme it self the energy of the impact would mostly likely be translated back through the keel could even break its back.

  9. Mike says:

    Probably by “less than a knot away” they meant “less than a nautical mile” away.

    I’m not involved in shipping, I’m in aviation. And we use “knots” and “nautical miles” too. We often call “nautical miles” just “miles” (which is confusing), but we never call them “knots”. “Knots” is only the term for “nautical miles per hour”. I assume mariners use the words similarly.

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