Alexander Inheritance – Snippet 34
“I think I’d better go have a talk with them, Captain Floden,” Marie said. “The Rhodians were the England of the eastern Med at this time. As in ‘Rhodes rules the waves.’ They probably have more in common with our modern form of government than the Athenians do.”
“Fine, Marie. After Mr. Lang has secured the prisoners on the Reliance, I will have him provide you with an escort and one of the converted life boats to go chat with the Roadies.”
It took time. There were a lot of troops on the decks of the Reliance, nearly two thousand before the shooting started and nearly fifteen hundred after it was all over. After twenty-five percent casualties, there was no organized resistance, but Daniel Lang was taking no chances on people going there. And rightly so. There were two more shooting incidents when individual mercenaries from Tyre went berserk.
It was just on three hours later and approaching noon, when Marie Easley, Daniel Lang, and Officer Arti Young boarded the converted lifeboat for the trip to the Rhodian ship. It was fancy and sleek, if smaller than the warships, a ship of diplomacy.
“We will need to go aboard,” Marie told Daniel. This was less from her reading than from discussions with Atum, Ptolemy, Dinocrates and other merchants and military officers after they arrived in Egypt. Refusing to board was both an admission that you were afraid and an insult to the integrity of the other ship or people. That was why Atum had been willing to board the Queen in the first place. On the other hand, taking guards was just prudence.
* * *
Once they boarded, they were met by Nauarch Demaratos, who informed them that the ship — he pointed at the Reliance — had been involved in an act of piracy in the very harbor of Rhodes and was therefore the property of Rhodes. And, while Rhodes and its people were thankful for the aid, that didn’t entitle them to seize the property of Rhodes.
“We have a prior claim. The ship was taken by an act of piracy a few days ago and we have been following it to get it back. Many of the crew are still alive and were taken prisoner by the pirates and the captain of the ship was killed only a short time before we arrived.”
“So you claim. But there is no evidence, and even were it true, it doesn’t change the fact that the ship was part of an invasion attempt, and someone has to pay for the deaths of our people killed in that attack.”
Marie was not just a scholar anymore. She had been, of necessity, involved in the negotiations in Alexandria everyday, ever since their arrival…and she had learned. This was a starting position of negotiation, but the negotiations were going to take some time.
* * *
Anders Dahl looked out the bridge windows, down at the Reliance and its still blood-soaked deck. “With Joe Kugan dead the Reliance is going to need a new captain.”
“You want it, Anders?”
“No, I do not, Captain. With all due respect to the Reliance and even considering the new circumstances, captain of an articulated tug barge is a demotion from staff captain on the Queen. I was thinking Elise.” Elise Beaulieu was the first officer navigation, which was the senior navigation watch stander. While not next in rank after the staff captain, it was the next in line ship’s command. And with the loss of navigational satellites, her training in navigation was even more vital. Both ships had radar and sonar, so with care were unlikely to run up on the rocks. They had radio communications and shared observations and could sometimes get directional fixes. But both ships would be using clocks, sextants and star sightings to determine their locations, along with inertial and magnetic compasses.
“I will pass, mon capitaine.” Though French, Elise spoke with very little accent unless she was upset. “I will stay here on this large ship, with good food, clean sheets, and laws against rape.”
Everyone turned to look at Adrian Scott, the second officer navigation. “Hey, wait a minute, Captain,” Adrian offered. “This is ancient Greece. I have more to worry about in the rape department than Elise does.”
“Don’t worry about it, Adrian,” Elise said. “You’re no Johnny Depp.”
“I do all right, Elise.”
“I know, Adrian. I just don’t understand why,” Elise said. Then she turned back to the captain. “Still, Captain, if someone is going to be sent off to be raped by barbarians, I vote for Adrian.”
“Gee, thanks,” Adrian said to general laughter.
The laughter might have had a slightly hysterical edge to it. The deck of the Reliance was still covered in blood and gore, and the captain they were getting ready to replace had been murdered earlier in the day.
“Well, Adrian, do you want it, or do we send out poor Doug?”
Adrian looked over at Elise. “You sure? You deserve it, you know, and I don’t want to step on your toes.”
“I’m sure, Adrian,” Elise said.
“I’ll take it, Captain,” Adrian said. “We must protect Douglas here from the rapacious Greeks at all costs.”
Captain Floden nodded. “Thank you, Adrian. I hate putting you off the ship, but someone has to captain the Reliance. It’s bad enough that Dag and his people are sitting on Tyre while we negotiate with yet another group of rapacious Greeks.”
Young Alexander had not liked losing his chew toy. He screamed himself hoarse and managed to develop a cough.
Roxane heard about Keith buying materials for a poultice, and after consulting with Keith about it, Dag agreed with the queen that a blackmud poultice would be good for Alexander. Just make sure it was kept moist.
For the next three days, Dag and Roxane used the translation app on Dag’s phone to discuss politics and their situation, with Kleitos looking on. Dag was six foot two, with blond hair and blue eyes. He had a square jaw and was clean-shaven when he could manage it, and with the money he had made from the sale of the phone, he could manage it. To put it another way, he was a handsome young man and Roxane was an acknowledged beauty. Maybe not up to Helen of Troy, but only maybe. They played with the baby and talked.
* * *
“Should we put a stop to it?” Evgenij asked Kleitos.
“What difference does it make?” Kleitos shrugged. “You know she’s going to be married to whoever wins.”
“That or dead. Sure. But a little blond bastard might confuse things.”
“We won’t let it get that far. It’s not like they have time alone.”
“Might not be a bad thing at that,” Evgenij said. “Did you see the size of that ship? And it was just the fuel tender for the other. Those ships change things.”
“No. Men are men. Always will be. Things stay the same.”
Queen of the Sea, Rhodes Harbor
Captain Floden smiled at the new captain of the Reliance. “You’ll do fine, Adrian.”
“Not a problem, Captain. Reliance and Barge 14 together are as seaworthy as the Queen,” Adrian Scott, the new captain of the Reliance said, and it was almost true. The ATB was smaller than the Queen, but it locked up tighter. Fully battened down, Barge 14 was as watertight as a submarine and constituted a massive flotation device that would keep the tug part of the system protected from the worst of any storm. It wasn’t the ocean that worried Captain Floden. It was pirates.
“How about the crossbows? You have enough?”
“One for every man in the crew and another twenty in the arms locker,” Adrian said. This time his smile was a bit twisted. Adrian was getting the worst of the malcontents from the Queen. Only about three hundred of them, but the really bad ones. They would be in tents set up on the hull of Barge 14. Those people would not be armed, except during designated practice times. And the reason for that was neither Lars Floden nor Adrian Scott trusted them with weapons. They weren’t prisoners, not exactly, but the choice to travel on the ATB rather than the Queen hadn’t been entirely voluntary.
“Stay well away from land as much as you can and don’t put into shore till we reconnect,” Lars said, knowing even as he said it that Adrian knew it all perfectly well. “We’ll probably be stuck here until you’re past Gibraltar, then we have to go get Dag and his work crew. I don’t know how long that’s going to take.”
The phone rang and Roxane almost dropped it. She was playing chess against the computer and losing, not surprisingly. Dag had showed her the game only days ago. She barely knew how the pieces moved. It rang again and the little green symbol had a circle around it that was expanding. Roxane had been playing with the phone whenever it had enough charge since she had bought it, either using it as translator or playing games. She knew about tapping or swiping. She tried tapping first, then swiping. Swiping worked and a voice came over the phone. Not the voice she knew from the translation app, but a different one, speaking Dag’s English. Roxane had maybe ten words of English. She tried one. “Hello?”
“Hello,” then gibberish ending with “Dag Jakobsen” came over the phone.
“Roxane,” Roxane said. “Phone mine.”
Roxane turned to one of the Silver Shields who was always with her. “Find Dag and bring him.”
The Silver Shield nodded, but didn’t leave. Instead he gestured at another guard, who ran off in search of Dag.