Alexander Inheritance – Snippet 35

Posted on Categories 1632Snippet, Snippets

This book should be available now so this is the last snippet. Alexander Inheritance – Snippet 35 * * * Dag was showing Alexander how to make a paper airplane, or rather a papyrus airplane. He had just tossed the … Continue reading

This book should be available now so this is the last snippet.

Alexander Inheritance – Snippet 35

* * *

Dag was showing Alexander how to make a paper airplane, or rather a papyrus airplane. He had just tossed the airplane when the guard came in and it flew right past the startled man.

“Roxane wants you,” the guard said.

That phrase was familiar to Dag and he picked up Alexander — decked out in a black powder poultice — and headed for the queen’s sitting room. Dag now had a pouch at his waist with a grenade in it and a Zippo lighter loaded with lamp oil in his pocket.

When he got to the sitting room, Roxane held out the phone. “It talked English,” she said in Greek.

Dag walked across the sitting room and exchanged the toddler king for the phone and saw bars. He called up the phone function and found a recent call from the ship. He called back and got Captain Floden asking for a situation report. The conversation ended with, “We’ll be there in about three hours, Dag. Be ready.”

By that time, everyone was watching and apparently getting a bit impatient.

“The Queen of the Sea is coming to get us,” Dag said, looking around the room. There were half a dozen Silver Shields in the room, including Evgenij, who had apparently arrived just ahead of Dag.

“What about the fuel ship, the Reliance, you called it?” Kleitos asked, coming into the room.

“What about the Reliance?” Dag asked the phone.

“The Reliance is now in our hands,” Doug Warren explained. “Captain Scott has been given command and the remaining crew have agreed to the sale of the Reliance to the government of the ship people for a fee in ship’s dollars. It’s a pretty damn large fee, but not unreasonable, Ms. Kinney says. Dag, those steam guns are murder, absolute murder. You know how they talk about stuff being awash with blood? Well, the Reliance really was.”

Dag wished Doug were speaking Greek. It might persuade the locals to be reasonable. He looked over at Kleitos. Or…maybe not. If one thing more than any other had impressed him about the Macedonian mercenary, it was that he didn’t scare easily. That was actually something Dag liked about the man.

“They took it back from your pirates,” he told Kleitos.

“Not my pirates,” Kleitos said. “What happened to Metello?”

“What happened to Metello?” Dag asked the phone.

“That was kind of a mess, Dag,” Doug said. “The Rhodians wanted all this stuff in recompense for the Reliance being involved in attacking them. First they wanted the Reliance, then they wanted all sorts of promises about the Reliance and the Queen, then they wanted all the Macedonian troops as slaves, and on and on. Anyway, when Wiley heard about the slave part, he started screaming that he would not see free men made slaves. ‘It was hard enough to stand idly by while the horrible inequity was practiced.’ As though the captain would have done it anyway. And then…well, never mind. The captain finally had enough. He had Metello tried for piracy on the high seas and hung right in front of the Rhodies. And the passengers.”

“What did Wiley say to that?”

“Funny thing. He backed the captain right down the line. He’s still making speeches about it.”

Dag turned back to Kleitos. “My captain had him hung.”

“Your device said more than that.”

“Apparently, he did it right in front of the Rhodians. I’m not clear on the details, but they were making claims against the Reliance or something, and the captain decided to make a point.”

Dag was watching Kleitos as he spoke, and Kleitos was looking more grim at each word.

“The rest of the soldiers?” Kleitos asked.

Dag remembered Doug’s comment about awash with blood and started to feel a bit grim himself. But he passed on the question. “What about the rest of the pirates? I know they loaded up a bunch when they got here. You can’t have killed them all.”

“No. Mostly they decided that the soldiers were just following orders and not responsible. But there were a couple, the ones directly involved in killing Julio, that they hung. Most of the soldiers are on the Queen, disarmed and locked in, eight to a stateroom. The captain wants to put them off here, but not as slaves.”

Dag considered quickly. “What about the rest?”

“Dead,” Doug said. “Either in the fight or soon after. Like I said, those steam cannon are murder.”

Dag turned back to Kleitos and the rest. “A lot of your fellows were killed in the fighting. The rest will be returned after my companions and I have been freed. And, of course, the young king and the queen can come with us.” Dag wasn’t sure, then or ever, why he had said it. Something in Roxane’s expression, or maybe just something he wanted to be there. But the idea of sailing off on the Queen of the Sea, leaving her and little Alexander to the not-so-tender mercies of these hard men was more than he could face.

Right up to Dag’s mentioning Roxane and Alexander, Kleitos had been half nodding. But as soon as the suggestion about Roxane left Dag’s lips, his face changed.

“I have my orders,” Kleitos said. “Attalus doesn’t want Alexander to leave the island till he gets back.”

“I’m not leaving my son,” Roxane said instantly. Then she added to Kleitos, “But you have no authority to prevent me from leaving.”

Dag was looking around the room. The Silver Shields seemed of two minds about what to do. Then he saw Evgenij’s expression and somehow he knew. Evgenij was in on it with Kleitos. At any moment, he would give the order. Dag was sure. So sure that he turned away, put the phone in his pocket, and pulled the grenade out of its pouch. With his other hand, Dag reached into his pants pocket and pulled out the Zippo lighter.

“I have the money I was paid and Attalus’ orders. That’s all the authority I need,” Kleitos said. Then, apparently seeing Dag’s movement, “What are you doing?”

With a flick of his thumb, Dag opened the lighter and struck the flint. He turned back to Kleitos and lit the fuse. “Making a point.” Dag watched the fuse as it burned, then tossed the grenade. “Catch.”

As soon as the grenade was out of his hand, he turned, spread his arms wide, and pulled Roxane and Alexander to the floor behind the couch.

There was a pause and Dag though he hadn’t let the fuse burn down enough, that it was all going to end in disaster…then boom.

A boom and screaming. Dag stood up and looked around. Kleitos had been holding the grenade when it went off. He was dead and his right arm, the one that held the grenade, was gone to the elbow and shredded beyond that. Not that it mattered. The shrapnel, small bits of iron that were in the casing with the powder, had filled him with more holes than Dag could count. But the shock wave had probably killed him. There wasn’t that much bleeding.

Not from Kleitos, anyway. One of the Silver Shields had apparently stepped over to see what the grenade was. He was still bleeding and screaming. The rest of them were staring at the mess in a sort of shocked horror.

Then Evgenij looked over at Dag. “Stop!” Dag shouted. “That was what we could make in a few days while under guard. What do you think will come off the ship if you do us harm?”

Evgenij stopped and stared. By now the outer edge of the room was crowded with Silver Shields.

A voice from behind the Silver Shields came in “You want us to blow our way in, Mr. Jakobsen?”

“Hold what you got, Keith,” Dag shouted. Then to Evgenij, “Choose now, Commander, whose side are you on.”

Evgenij looked at Dag, then the mess on the floor. Then, oddly enough, he looked at Roxane and he wasn’t looking at her like his prisoner or his charge. He was looking to her for orders. Dag could see it in the old man’s expression. This was so far beyond his experience that a horse might as well have sung Pavarotti right there in the sitting room. Roxane might not be brave, but everyone knew that she was almost as smart as she was beautiful. Smart was clearly what was needed right now.

Roxane saw it too, and Dag wasn’t altogether pleased by the little smile that lit her face. It wasn’t a very nice smile. It was calculating. “The Silver Shields,” Roxane said, “are the royal bodyguards. They will remain loyal to me and my son.” A short pause. “Won’t you, Evgenij?”

“Yes, Your Highness.”

“Very well,” Dag said. “Now for the important question, Roxane. Are you and little Alexander staying here or coming with us?”

For just a moment, the queen mother of King Alexander IV, co-ruler of the Macedonian Empire, stood like a deer in headlights. Then that little smile came back. It was still small, and still calculating, but there was a little less frost in it. The hint of warmth that might be there, hidden under the habit of fear and caution. “We will go with the ship people. That is the wisest course.”

“Evgenij, have your people let mine through.” Dag gave the order now, confident that it would be obeyed. “I’m going to let the ship know what’s going on.”

 


Alexander Inheritance – Snippet 34

Posted on Categories 1632Snippet, Snippets

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 … Continue reading

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.”

Tyre

October 20

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

October 25

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.”

Tyre

October 27

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.

 


Alexander Inheritance – Snippet 33

Posted on Categories 1632Snippet, Snippets

Alexander Inheritance – Snippet 33 Chapter 11 Queen of the Sea October 20 Captain Lars Floden felt like a coward and a traitor as he turned the Queen to go after the Reliance. But he had a responsibility to the … Continue reading

Alexander Inheritance – Snippet 33

Chapter 11

Queen of the Sea

October 20

Captain Lars Floden felt like a coward and a traitor as he turned the Queen to go after the Reliance. But he had a responsibility to the passengers and crew of the Queen. They needed that fuel. They couldn’t afford the chance that some accident in the battle at Rhodes would leave the Reliance aflame and all her fuel up in smoke.

So he did what he had to, hating himself all the while. The Reliance left on the route to Rhodes almost twenty-four hours ago, which put the Queen well behind. It was going to be close, even with the Queen’s higher speed.

Reliance

October 21

Rhodes was in sight and the Reliance had clearly been seen. In the dawn’s early light, the Rhodians were putting to sea. Three triremes were heading out to meet them and Joe Kugan wondered where the rest were. Metello was sure there would be a bunch here.

“Run them down, Captain,” Metello said. “Steer straight for them. My men will deal with any of the crew that manage to board.”

Joe did as he was told. The Reliance, with Barge 14 attached, wasn’t exactly spry. She had powerful engines and controlled thrust, but a barge full of fuel wasn’t easy to shift. She was close to as fast as the triremes, but she couldn’t maneuver like they could.

So what followed was a slow-motion game of tag. The Reliance would head for a trireme, and the trireme would turn and race away, then try to come at the Reliance from the side or rear. One unfortunate trireme managed to close on the Reliance and found out what the backwash from eleven thousand horses did to the local currents. It survived but lost about half its oars, and was out of the fight for a while.

“Reliance, this is the Queen of the Sea. What are you doing?”

It blared over the speakers in the pilot house, and Metello went a little white. He had no idea what was said, but he had to know what it meant. Joe checked the radar and there it was, big as a mountain rising out of the southwestern sea. Still half an hour out, but coming on.

Joe still didn’t have much Greek and he wasn’t of a mind to try just now. He turned to Metello and said in English, “You’re toast, sucker!” Then he grinned like an idiot through his busted lip and missing teeth.

“Go there!” Metello pointed at the harbor, where until just a few years ago the Colossus of Rhodes had stood.

Joe started to comply. He was cowed by this bastard, as much as he hated to admit it. But an ATB the size of the Reliance doesn’t do anything fast. There was time for Joe to consider the consequences. He realized that if the Reliance grounded Barge 14, there would be no escape. In desperation, he hit the emergency stop, and the engines came to a stuttering halt.

Metello looked at Joe, and Joe looked back. Metello reached for his sword, and Joe lunged. He was desperate, but Metello was just that much faster, with reflexes honed by years of combat. Joe never laid a hand on him as Metello sidestepped and brought his kopis down on the back of Joe’s neck.

With the ship stopped, the Rhodians saw their chance and pulled alongside to board. But they didn’t have it all their own way. There were two thousand troops camped on Barge 14, and by now they were at least fairly familiar with the hardware that dotted the hull, making defensive works.

By the time the Queen of the Sea actually got there, the Rhodians had been pushed back to their ships, with considerable losses on both sides.

Queen of the Sea

October 21

“Are there any of our people in view?” Captain Floden asked Staff Captain Dahl.

“Not that I can see, Captain.”

“Fine, then. Clear that deck, but keep the muzzle velocity low. We don’t want any of our shells poking holes in the Reliance.” One of the nice things about a steam cannon is that, to an extent, it has a modifiable muzzle velocity, and therefore adjustable penetrating power. The power a one-pound lead bullet needed to pulp a human chest, even an armored human chest, is considerably less than the muzzle velocity necessary for that same shell to punch through one-eighth inch steel plate.

The crew of the Queen had made lots of bullets for the steam guns.

Two thousand armed and armored soldiers crowded onto the Reliance. They couldn’t have spread out if they wanted to and they didn’t know enough to want to. They clumped together to provide mutual protection and support and the one pound rounds of the steam cannon went through two or three men to finally lodge in a fourth.

It didn’t take long for the deadly rain of lead bullets to have their effect. People started screaming that they surrendered. These were tough men who would readily face other men in battle with sword and shield, but invisible death that ripped a man in two and sounded like Zeus on a rampage…? That they weren’t willing to face.

* * *

They surrendered, but could that surrender be trusted? Could Lars send people across to the Reliance without knowing that?

“We’re ready, Captain,” came Daniel Lang’s voice over the speakers.

“All right. Pull us alongside.” Then, into the mike, “Dan, don’t take any chances. If any of them give you any trouble at all, just shoot them.”

“Right, Captain. Police brutality coming right up.”

The Queen came up alongside the Reliance and a massive porthole opened to reveal men in glowing white uniforms with little metal things in their hands. The little metal things looked harmless, and the only ship people these men had contact with till now were the unarmed crew of the Reliance and the equally unarmed work crew. They didn’t know. Still, the rain of death from above kept most of them in check.

Most of them.

Daniel Lang would never know whether the Macedonian soldier who charged him was desperate or just saw an opportunity. Ultimately, it didn’t matter. Dan had done twenty years as an MP and another ten as a cruise ship cop, and never even drawn his gun in anger.

Didn’t mean he didn’t know how.

The gun came up, he hollered half in Greek and half in English. He’d been practicing. The man didn’t halt.

Dan fired. Blam, blam, blam! Three in the chest. They punched right through the guy’s bronze armor. That halted him and more. He went down on his back. It was close enough to what had been raining on them, louder even. Now they knew.

The order to drop their weapons was given again. Those who hadn’t already done so dropped their weapons.

* * *

Goran looked at the men. Wait! Is that a woman? Yes, it was. Dark-skinned, long black hair tied back, wearing the same whiter-than-white clothing as the rest. And holding death in her right hand, just like the men. But she had tits. Nice ones too, best he could tell. And no man had a waist and hips like that.

His observations nearly got him killed. Not because the woman was offended, but just because he was so busy staring that he almost missed the order to get on his knees. Fortunately, they were repeating the orders twice before they killed people over them.

Goran got to live. He went to his knees on the decking wet with blood and waited. He put his hands behind his head and interlaced his fingers just as the voice from nowhere told him to, and as he did he realized that it was an effective method of restraint. Not because you couldn’t unlace your fingers, but because it took time and was pretty obvious. These people must be great slavers, they were so practiced at restraining captives.

He looked over at the woman. By now he had seen other women among their captors, but he thought of her as the woman. She had a set of bindings and was going along behind the kneeling men, taking one hand and binding it behind their back to the other hand, while a man with death in his right hand held death pointed at the captive.

Goran let his hands be bound. She wasn’t gentle about it, but neither was she vicious. She was just efficient.

There was a shout in their tongue, and then what sounded like orders. About half the white suits went off to do something. Goran considered. Probably they had found the crew. Goran had come on at Tyre, so he hadn’t had much to do with the crew of the little boat that pushed the big boat.

* * *

“Captain, we have a ship. A galley, but only two rows of oars. It’s heading for us and there is some guy in the front waving some branches at us. I don’t know if he’s suing for peace or trying to drive off evil spirits.”

“I’m not entirely sure, either, Captain,” Marie Easley put in. “I would guess suing for peace. I think those are olive branches.”

“Talk to them, Professor Easley,” Captain Floden said. “Tell them to stand off while we deal with the Reliance. Tell them we’ll send a boat to talk to them after we’re done.”

Marie waited for the comm officer to cue her, then spoke. The ship stopped, but the guy with the branches started yelling. It was too far and the accent was weird enough that she wasn’t sure what the guy was yelling about, but it seemed urgent. Or at least, he seemed to think it was urgent.

 


Alexander Inheritance – Snippet 32

Posted on Categories 1632Snippet, Snippets

Alexander Inheritance – Snippet 32 Little Alexander resisted, but it came out of his mouth if it stayed in his hand, and the co-king of the Alexandrian empire started screaming. “Quiet,” Dag said, and for just a moment there was … Continue reading

Alexander Inheritance – Snippet 32

Little Alexander resisted, but it came out of his mouth if it stayed in his hand, and the co-king of the Alexandrian empire started screaming. “Quiet,” Dag said, and for just a moment there was quiet. Following up quickly, Dag looked around for something, anything, to distract the kid from the painted sword. Nothing in his pocket. It wouldn’t help to keep the kid from lead poisoning, then have him choke on a button or keys.

There, in his back pocket, a plastic comb. He gave it to the kid.

Then he looked up at Roxane. She had come out of her chair when Dag grabbed the sword, and was now kneeling next to Dag, ready to snatch her son out of danger. Dad tried to explain, but he didn’t have the words for paint, lead, or poison. All that came out was “Sword bad.”

“Not for a son of Alexander the Great, they are not.”

Dag pointed at the teeth marks in the sword blade and said, “Sick.” He pulled out his cell phone and turned it on. Then he called up the translation app that Marie Easley had been working with programmers to tweak. He spoke in English. “Poison in the paint.” The app translated.

Roxane grabbed the blade away from her son, and threw it across the room. “How do you know?”

Dag was ready and pushed the translate button and got the words in English. But Roxane was still talking and the app only worked one way at a time. It had to record the words in ancient Greek, then translate them, or record the words in English and translate them the other way. It couldn’t just work in conversation. Dag recorded a message in English. “You have to say the words to the phone, then wait for it to translate them, then say another phrase. Just say the words when the front of the phone is facing you.”

Then he had the phone translate. Roxane looked at him and nodded slowly with emphasis. Then she waited.

Dag pushed the record button and turned the phone to face her. Then she spoke two phrases with a short pause between them and nodded again.

Dag had it translate and “How did you know?” A pause, then, “Who tried to poison Alexander?”

“No one tried to poison him. It’s the lead in the paint that is a slow-acting poison. It takes a lot of it over a long time, but it’s unsafe, especially for children.”

The guards were all watching this. “So, not a plot,” said Kleitos. Dag had enough Greek to make a good guess, and shook his head no.

Roxane pointed at the phone imperiously, then at herself. Once Dag had pushed record and had the phone pointing at her, she asked, “How does that work?”

Dag tried to explain using the translation app and pointing at symbols on the phone’s screen. In the process, he noticed that the little battery was less than half full. So he explained that.

“So it will be useless when the charge is gone?” Kleitos asked.

Dag thought he understood, but had Kleitos repeat the question to the phone.

“Yes, sort of. There is a charger, but it’s not mine.” More questions and answers. Finally Keith was brought from holding.

“What’s up, Mr. Jakobsen?”

“What would you want for your charger, Keith?”

Keith looked around the room. It was a luxurious room with golden candelabras and expensive wall hangings. The chairs were throne-like. Dag could see Keith getting greedier by the moment. “Don’t go overboard, Keith. They can always just take the thing. And kill us both in the bargain.”

“How about a couple of talents of silver?”

“Are you trying to get yourself killed?”

“I’ll let them talk me down, Mr. Jakobsen,” Keith said with a grin. “Let’s see what they say.”

Kleitos was playing with the hilt of his sword, so Dag guessed that he had at least understood the term “talent.” A talent of silver was enough to pay the two hundred man crew of a trireme for a month. A trireme crew weren’t just casual labor. It required skill to handle those oars, and the men were also the boarders in battle.

Dag made the offer. Roxane started cursing in Greek and some other language, and all the guards were fingering their swords now.

Finally, she calmed down and pointed out that the charger wasn’t of any use without the cell phone. Apparently she had understood Dag’s explanation fairly well. Then the real haggling began, using Dag’s phone with the translating app. Roxane called Keith the worst kind of thief, and Keith protested his desperate straits. It went back and forth, and a couple of minutes in, Dag got the feeling that Roxane was enjoying herself.

Kleitos was clearly amused and a bit impressed by Keith’s audacity, and was kibitzing. It was Kleitos who pointed out that if they bought the charger and not the phone, they had nothing. Suddenly Dag was in the bargaining too.

They finally settled on one silver talent for both charger and cell phone. Dag was to receive two-thirds of it, while Keith Seiver got the remaining third. Since both were necessary, Keith wanted an even split. That didn’t fly with Roxane. She was very clear on the issue of officers versus common sailors. Dag was an officer/noble, he would get more. Dag would be required to help Roxane handle her new cell phone. Keith was sent off to fetch his solar power charger.

Dag checked his bars. He had three now. The Queen was on its way, but was still probably a hundred miles out.

He borrowed Roxane’s new phone and used the app to ask, “Where has the fuel ship gone?”

“Rhodes. That idiot Metello has decided that he will take the island and all of the Rhodian ships.”

Quickly, Dag pushed the button and called the Queen. He had enough bars. The call went through and he was talking to Adrian Scott. “Adrian. First, the Reliance is headed for Rhodes. Now I need you to get Marie Easley up to the bridge so that she can talk to Queen Roxane. Then I need you to come get us.”

“You’re on your way to Rhodes?”

“No, not us. When we got here, they dumped me and my work party off and took the Reliance, with her crew, off to conquer Rhodes. They have her packed to the deck heads with soldiers.”

“That could be a problem, Dag,” Adrian said. “The passengers are pretty mad about the attack and the Reliance running off like that.”

“Hey, Adrian. I didn’t run off. That was Kugan’s doing.”

“I know that, and you know that, but the passengers don’t want to believe it. I’ll tell you, Dag, I’m starting to think we ought to dump the whole bunch of them off in Ashdod and let them stew in their own pot. Hold on, I have Professor Easley on the line. Patching her through now.”

Dag handed the phone to Roxane, and was then left out of the conversation while Marie Easley talked to Roxane about what was known, and Roxane explained what she knew about the players involved. It was a few minutes later that Roxane looked up and said something in Greek. She listened to the phone again, then handed it to Dag.

“Dag, this is Captain Floden. We need to get the Reliance back before it gets us involved in the political mess that Alexander’s successors are involved in.”

Dag felt the color drain from his face. He understood. He wished he didn’t, but he did. Right now the Queen of the Sea was walking a political tightrope. She was virtually impregnable, but she needed food and supplies that she couldn’t force anyone to sell them. So she couldn’t afford to be banned from any port, especially not Alexandria. That was why the captain had decided to go after the Reliance before rescuing them.

But it might be worse than that. It might be that they would have to leave Dag and his crew right here in Tyre rather than alienate Attalus. Dag could be here for months.

* * *

Dag Jakobsen was a nice guy, but he was neither an idiot nor a coward. He realized that they were liable to need some form of weapon and that his captors were unlikely to sell them swords. Not that Dag could use a sword if he had one. But Dag had known how to make black powder since he was a small boy. His family made their own fireworks. Besides, he was a fan of Nobel and had studied the arms manufacturer’s life in school. “Keith, I want you to do me a favor.”

“What’s in it for me?” Keith asked resentfully. He wasn’t pleased that Dag got the lion’s share of the money for the phone and charger combination.

“Get over it, Keith. We don’t have time for that crap.”

Keith came to a parody of attention, snapped an open-handed British-style salute and said, “Sir, yes, sir. Anything the officer requires, sir.”

“Sit down, Keith. We need to make some black powder.”

Keith looked around sharply and Dag shook his head in disgust. He wished he had Romi Clarke with him. “Keith, how many people on this island know what the term black powder means?”

“Seven. You, me, and the other members of the work crew.”

“Right. So just don’t make a big deal of it. You want to make a poultice. For your aching backside, or your legs, or your forehead. I don’t give a crap. The poultice will contain…” Dag proceeded to give Keith the ingredients for black powder, along with some other stuff that was essentially useless, but would mask the purchase of the ingredients a little bit. “Any of the local apothecaries ought to have all of it, so we are going to have to be fairly careful. One thing about black powder is it needs to be ground moist, and then dried, then ground again. For that second grinding, you want a brass mortar and pestle to avoid sparks. We’re also going to need clay or iron pots, little ones. Hand grenade size. And nails or other bits of metal for shrapnel.”

“What are you planning, sir?” Keith asked, serious now.

“I don’t know, but we’re prisoners. I believe the captain is going to come for us, but what do you think these people are going to do when he does?”

“They won’t turn us over. They’ll try to ransom us.”

“Right. How much are you worth?” Dag asked. “How much will Wiley and his people think you’re worth? I can hear him now, being noble. ‘We will not negotiate with terrorists or kidnappers.'”

“Yeah. Me too. Funny thing is, I sort of agree with him in principle.”

“As do I. However, it feels a bit different when you’re the one being sacrificed for his principles.”

“Don’t it just?” Keith agreed.

“The day we arrived, Kleitos asked me if the Queen would ransom us or not. If not, we will be sold as slaves. I figure they can get a really good price for us on the auction block, considering we’re such unique items. I’d rather avoid that, Keith. So I think that we might want to be in a position to get out on our own. Or at least close enough to out that the captain will be able to come get us.”

“You think there’ll be enough time to make black powder grenades before the Queen gets back from Rhodes?”

“Again, I don’t know. I do believe it’s better to try than not.”

Keith saluted again, but this time it was casual and real. “I’ll get right on it, Mr. Jakobsen.” He coughed experimentally. “I think I’m developing a chest cold.”

 


Alexander Inheritance – Snippet 31

Posted on Categories 1632Snippet, Snippets

Alexander Inheritance – Snippet 31 Dag looked at the old reprobate and did. “First, you need to know that Metello made a bad mistake by taking the Reliance. The Queen of the Sea is almost twice as fast and a … Continue reading

Alexander Inheritance – Snippet 31

Dag looked at the old reprobate and did. “First, you need to know that Metello made a bad mistake by taking the Reliance. The Queen of the Sea is almost twice as fast and a lot bigger.”

“The sea is a big place. It’s going to be hard to find a single ship. Even a ship the size of that one.”

“Not that hard. They know we were headed for Tyre.”

“How would they know that?” asked Evgenij in a voice like gravel. He had a scar along his neck and apparently didn’t like to talk.

“I told them,” Dag said. “Building big ships isn’t all our people can do.”

Evgenij looked frightened, then angry.

Kleitos, though, looked intrigued. “From what we heard and from what I saw you people are just very skilled crafters so if you told them, you had to have some way to signal. Some device? That’s right isn’t it?” He was watching Dag like an eagle watching a mouse hole, and Dag wished he’d kept his mouth shut.

Kleitos was still watching him, not saying anything, and Evgenij was starting to fidget like he was getting ready to do something Dag would regret.

“Yes, that’s right.” Dag said. He was being careful now that it was too late. And he realized that Kleitos would make a really good poker player if someone taught him the rules.

“Is the device still on the ship?”

Dag started to lie, hesitated, then told the truth. “No.” He pulled the phone out of his pants and Evgenij laughed and said something that was probably obscene.

Kleitos laughed too, then said, “Show me how it works.”

Dag turned it on and Kleitos lost his smile. Something approaching wonder was on the face of Evgenij. Gears and springs these men understood. Even ships made of steel made a kind of sense to them. But a flat piece of black glass that glowed to life with images and strange symbols? The Greek of the third century BCE didn’t have distinct words for science and magic. Learning and trickery were all one to them. Invoking the favor of the gods, just another skill, like knowing how much to slant an aqueduct, or how to arrange a phalanx of infantry to best advantage in a battle. And if invoking the gods didn’t always work, neither did arranging the phalanx. This was magic. This was learning, but of power and subtlety well beyond anything they had ever seen, even the Reliance sitting out in the harbor.

“There are devices like this on the Reliance, and other devices. And though this small one is out of range now, the emergency beacons on the Reliance will lead the Queen of the Sea straight to her.” Dag had tried to say that in Greek, but Greek didn’t have all the words. At least, Dag’s Greek didn’t. He had the phone out, so he used the translation app. It was out of range of the ship, but it had been updated with the most recent lexicon only day before yesterday.

Kleitos exchanged a look with Evgenij that Dag couldn’t read. He suspected it was something to do with the Reliance, and Dag wondered if they would warn Metello about the beacon.

As it happened, they didn’t. Neither Kleitos nor Evgenij was fond of Metello, who was arrogant in a way that Macedonians found objectionable in anyone but another Macedonian.

“It will run out of power soon if I use it too much,” Dag explained, then turned the phone off.

“Well, you’re wealthy enough,” Kleitos commented. “You should be able to pay your ransom, so you won’t end up a slave. Will your people pay the ransom of your common soldiers?”

Dag froze for just a second. Somehow, unconsciously, he had been thinking that he was still in the twenty-first century. No. He hadn’t been thinking at all. He had just assumed that there was civilization here. Then he spoke, parsing every word carefully. “I think you should assume that the Queen of the Sea will do whatever is necessary to get us all back.”

Queen of the Sea, Alexandria Harbor

October 19

Eileen Sanders, Jose Clavell, and Owen Kalusza were buried in Christian ceremonies in the Gabbari necropolis two hundred thirty years before the birth of Christ. That, at least, is what archaeologists would call it when it was rediscovered in 1997. The locals just called it the necropolis. Josette Easley attended the funerals both as a representative for her mother, and because she had met Eileen. Their staterooms were just across the hall from each other and they had drinks together at the first night party. Eileen was killed by Greek fire. Her husband wanted her buried, not “dumped in the ocean.” Ptolemy was most accommodating.

More delays while they had people in the hands of pirates. Meanwhile, the signal fires confirmed Dag Jakobsen’s report. The Reliance arrived at Tyre at dawn on the sixteenth. Now Josette, back on board in the Nobles Lounge, was having a drink in memory of a woman she barely knew.

“Why are we wasting time going after them?” the drunk whined. “We should just go ahead and go to America. Let these European barbarians kill each other. And let that stuck-up bastard Kugan take care of his damn fuel barge himself. He was busy telling everyone the barge was his. Let him and his crew protect it. We don’t need them. There’s oil in Trinidad, plenty, and the engines will use it without refining. We should go to America and never come back to this hell hole.”

“We have people on the Reliance, Mr. Stuart,” said Romi Clarke. This was said more in the way of a threat than the simple providing of information.

“We have people right here too,” Stuart said. “Paying passengers.” One of the changes over the weeks in 321 BCE had been the dropping of the rules about below decks personnel staying below decks. Crew and staff were, by the captain’s orders, allowed into all the public areas of the ship. They could buy booze at the bars, swim in the pools, and so on. Not all the passengers appreciated that, but Captain Floden had been firm. Apparently, Mr. Stuart was one of those displeased by the crew’s admittance into passenger territory.

Josette Easley wasn’t the history scholar her mother was. She was an electrical engineer who had gone on the cruise to celebrate her recent divorce from her mechanical engineer husband. Since she was on the ship, she studied it and was working part-time with the electrical systems managers. So she knew the specs pretty well. “Mr. Stuart, the Queen of the Sea has a full tank range of just over eight thousand miles. But we don’t have full tanks. Even sitting in one place, just running the lights and other electronic devices, plus air conditioning and water purification systems…all that takes power. From here, Trinidad is over five thousand miles. We might have enough to make it to Trinidad, but we would be close to out of fuel when we got there. We need the Reliance. We need her fuel and we are going to need her in the colony, to take that oil from shore to the Queen. And to do all sorts of things that a very powerful tug boat can do, like helping to dredge canals and harbors.

“But even if none of that were true, it takes a truly contemptible coward to advocate leaving our people in the hands of barbarians when we have a height advantage of over a hundred feet, not to mention steam cannons.”

Suddenly there were people standing and applauding. Romi looked at the skinny little white girl. He’d seen her around, but hadn’t really noticed her. Now he decided he liked her. He walked over, took her hand, bowed with a flourish, and kissed it. “Well said, pretty lady. On the money.”

* * *

Meanwhile, something similar was going on all over the ship. Joe Kugan and, to be honest, most of his crew had been less than subtle in harping on their newfound wealth, and the need the Queen had for their fuel. And how rich that made them. Finally, Captain Floden got on the ship’s intercom and made an announcement saying basically what Josette had said. Then the Queen of the Sea headed for Tyre.

Royal Compound, Alexandria

October 19

Ptolemy watched the Queen of the Sea sail out of the harbor and worried. He hadn’t imagined the steam guns, and he should have. He had seen ballistas and catapults. He had underestimated the ship people. But he hadn’t been wrong. They were soft. The loud lamenting over casualties so light as to be meaningless proved that. He simply hadn’t realized how powerful their tools made them.

Ptolemy turned from the harbor and re-entered the palace. “Call Dinocrates,” he told a guard. “And Crates and every scholar in Alexandria. We need a library.”

Hades, Ptolemy thought, I’ll even send for that idiot, Apelles. He was a very good artist and a fair scholar. And Ptolemy was going to need all the scholars he could get. There was no way that he was going to be able to reproduce the Queen of the Sea. But he might produce the steam cannon on another ship. Cannon like that, on the Nile with a powered ship, would control the Nile.

Royal Compound, Tyre

October 20

The sun was setting and Dag decided to check. He was rationing his checks, especially since the Reliance had sailed off. He didn’t know where the ship was headed. He hadn’t had a meeting with Roxane. Kleitos had kept him busy, then let him check in with his work crew. They were being treated well. He pulled out the cell and turned it on. He had bars. Well, he had one piddly little bar. But it told him the Queen was on her way. He needed to find out where the Reliance was going.

Dag put his phone away and went looking for Kleitos. Dag wasn’t entirely sure why Kleitos and Evgenij had let him keep his phone. He would like to think it was because they were afraid to touch the magic, and there was probably something like that in their attitude, but it felt more like a plumber insisting they get an electrician in to work on the wiring. They knew that there was potential danger in it and wanted it left in the hands of the expert.

* * *

“I would like to speak with Her Majesty.” Dag smiled. “In fact, there is someone else who would like to speak to Roxane, even more than me. A scholar who studies your time, as some of your scholars study Troy.”

“A story teller, then.” Kleitos laughed.

“She knows a lot,” Dag explained.

“She? A woman scholar?” Kleitos laughed again, though there seemed a bitter edge to it. Dag didn’t know why. In any case, Kleitos finally shrugged. “Why not? She’s been pestering me all day, wanting to interview our ship people.”

“Isn’t she in charge?”

“Rabbit,” Kleitos said. “I told you that. Rabbits aren’t in charge of anything when the foxes are around, and that girl’s been surrounded by foxes her whole life.”

* * *

Dag struggled through the greeting and the woman seemed to be almost enjoying his difficulty.

“Thank you for your greeting,” she said. “I know it must be difficult for you. I had a great deal of trouble with Macedonian and I already spoke some Greek. Please sit and tell me of the ships from the future.”

About then, a little boy with a painted wooden sword came running in, shouting about the hydra, and chopping off the imaginary hydra’s imaginary heads.

Well, he was yelling “Hydra” and chopping the air. Dag went to one knee to put his head on eye level with the tyke, and said, “Greetings, oh great warrior.” At least, that’s what he thought he said. Whatever it was that actually came out, it was enough to stop the kid in his tracks and the little replica of a kopis stopped chopping hydras and went into the kid’s mouth like a pacifier. Dag, without thinking, reached out and took the sword away from the kid.

 


Alexander Inheritance – Snippet 30

Posted on Categories 1632Snippet, Snippets

Alexander Inheritance – Snippet 30 Chapter 10 Queen of the Sea, Alexandra Harbor October 15 “Do we go after them?” Anders Dahl asked. Not that there was any doubt. “Captain, there is a ship heading out from the docks at … Continue reading

Alexander Inheritance – Snippet 30

Chapter 10

Queen of the Sea, Alexandra Harbor

October 15

“Do we go after them?” Anders Dahl asked. Not that there was any doubt.

“Captain, there is a ship heading out from the docks at Alexandria. It looks to be Ptolemy’s galley.”

“I am tempted to say to hell with it and leave now,” Captain Floden said. “We have people on the Reliance, even if Joe Kugan has been being a horse’s ass about weapons and fuel.”

“Well, he was apparently right about the weapons, Captain,” Daniel Lang said.

“Was he? If he had just stayed with us…”

“He would have been in our way when we ran over the triremes,” Elise said. “Sorry, Captain, but he would have been. It would have made maneuvering more difficult and dangerous for all of us.”

“Fine. He was right and I was wrong. All the more reason to go after him now.”

“I’d like to agree, Captain,” said a new voice as Congressman Wiley stepped onto the bridge. “But we are still going to need Alexandria for some time, and showing that level of disrespect for Ptolemy isn’t going to make that easy.”

“That bastard was behind this attack, Congressman. We had the ships on radar from the time they left the harbor to the time the last of them limped home.”

“I don’t doubt you, Captain. But we still have to deal with him.” Wiley waved a hand. “We don’t have to let him off easy. We can charge him through the nose. But we are going to have to let him save face publicly.”

“Fine. We’ll need Marie.” Lars looked around. “Where is she?”

“In the wardroom, having breakfast, Captain. After she delivered the warning, she didn’t want to be in the way,” Daniel Lang explained.

“Doug, would you go fetch her, please.”

* * *

It took Ptolemy’s galley fifteen minutes to reach the Queen, and almost the first words out of his mouth were protests that he had never authorized the attack, and that Gorgias had acted completely on his own and against Ptolemy’s orders. He didn’t try to convince them that it was anyone but Gorgias who had done it, which Marie thought was wise of him. For this meeting, Marie simply watched and translated. Wiley played peacemaker, with Floden in the background, muttering darkly about burning Alexandria to the ground in retaliation. It was a good bargaining ploy, and it worked in terms of getting the royal treasury to pay for the damage and loss of life, while letting Ptolemy save face and act as magnanimous innocent.

But it took time.

It was after nightfall by the time all was settled. By then they had received a phone call from Dag informing them that he was pretty sure they were going to Tyre. In a way, that made it less urgent to go after the ATB, articulated tug barge. They knew where they would be, and could go fetch them once the more immediate business was taken care of.

Internally, the attack cut the legs out from under the Jerusalemites. Yes, the Queen would defeat anything on the sea, but once they got on land, they could be taken prisoner and held for ransom. Not a good plan. Wiley’s plan of going to Trinidad or perhaps Spindletop, Texas and setting up the United States of America early gained a lot of credence and the consensus was that Trinidad was the best place. It was an island, so there would be some protection. And it had oil that was easy to get to.

They got a second call, but it was breaking up. Dag was out of range of the cell tower, even over water with no competing signals, well before the Reliance got to Tyre.

On learning that the Reliance had been captured and was on its way to Tyre, Ptolemy again offered a contingent of Greek soldiers to help them. Captain Floden started talking about the trojan horse, and Marie didn’t have to translate that, as Ptolemy’s next words made clear. “I understand the captain’s concern, but I am not Agamemnon.”

More time as Wiley smoothed things over.

Then the issue of burying their dead came up. There was a dive shop on the ship. Two of the entertainments available on the Queen were scuba diving and snorkeling, so there was extensive scuba and snorkeling gear. They had been able to recover the body of Eileen Sanders, the woman who had gone over the side in flames during the attack. They had three bodies to bury and they couldn’t afford the bad feeling that would be generated by ignoring the desires of the grieving loved ones.

Reliance, Approaching Tyre

Dawn, October 16

Dag, bloody and subdued, watched a bloody and subdued Captain Joe Kugan show Admiral Metello the sonar depth gauge. Dag knew Joe Kugan well enough to know that Joe was protecting the Reliance from going aground more than he was protecting himself from another beating. The Reliance and Barge 14 together made up a sea-going ship that was more seaworthy than anything from this time. They were designed to transport fuel across the high seas. In essence, Reliance and Barge 14 constituted a small tanker, except at need the massive fuel bunkerage in Barge 14 could be separated from the Reliance so that one of the two could receive maintenance or repair while the other part of the system was still in operation. That had happened several times before The Event. About half the time the Reliance had been attached to Barge 15. For a moment Dag was distracted by the question of whether the Reliance and Barge 14 would ever be separated again. It almost certainly would, he decided as he looked back toward the stern. It was a waste of fuel to lug around Barge 14 when you were towing triremes.

From the pilot house, Dag could see the steel cables that went from the stern of the Reliance to the bow of a trireme. After that was another cable from the stern of that trireme to the bow of the next, and so on until all six of the triremes under Metello’s command trailed the Reliance like ducklings. After Julio’s death, the crew had cooperated. In exchange, they had been mostly left alone.

Most of the crews of the flotilla were camped on the Reliance, with only steersman and a few sailors on the triremes. The campers were being careful to avoid dark places, the holds especially, and mostly not touching anything. Partly that was because of the guys who had died from the fire suppression system, but it was reinforced by how strange this giant ship made of steel was to them.

Dag had managed to make one covert phone call shortly after dark on the fifteenth, and confirmed that they were headed for Tyre. Everyone in the work party had phones. They were standard issue for the Queen’s crew. Pretty decent phones, not the most recent, but about two generations back. After making his point, Metello was surprisingly gentle with them. He had taken all the cell phones, but they hadn’t searched anyone and missed Dag’s.

Keith Seiver had a cell charger in his pocket, but there had been no opportunity to use it. The charger was, in Dag’s opinion, a silly gadget. At least, it had been before The Event. It was a battery to recharge your cell phone through the USB port. But this battery was shaped like a cellphone and had one side covered in solar cells. The idea was that you could just leave it in the sun and it would charge the battery, which could then charge the cell phone or tablet computer. The problem was the solar panel was small. It would take the solar panel a couple of days in the sun to fully charge the battery pack, then you could use the battery pack to charge the cell phone in a couple of hours. Given enough time, the solar panels would charge a cell phone, a slate, even a laptop, but that meant putting it out in the sunlight. As soon as they did that, it would be seized. At the moment Dag’s cell phone and Keith’s battery pack were both fully charged because they had managed to plug them into the ATB’s power grid last night. But who knew how long it would be before they had another chance to do that.

Dag looked out at the island they were approaching. Tyre was an island with an artificial causeway to shore. The causeway was about ten meters wide and nearly a kilometer long. Dag knew the history. Alexander the Great had built the causeway under the eyes and arrows of the defenders, then sacked the city. It hadn’t yet fully recovered, though a lot of Phoenicians still lived there, and the defenses had been mostly rebuilt. Now it was Attalus’ home base on the east end of the Mediterranean and currently the residence of Roxane and Alexander IV.

* * *

Dag and his work crew were pulled off the Reliance when they got to Tyre and put on a galley that took them into shore. A very beautiful, dark-haired young woman, surrounded by a bunch of grizzled old vets, was there to meet them.

“Why are these people tied up and what happened to them?”

Dag didn’t find the girl’s accent hard to follow. It was a bit different than the Macedonian accent, but was a lot closer to it than Metello’s. The girl had black hair done up with a sort of gold chain hat, dark eyes, pale olive skin…and she was built. This must be the famous Roxane. She looked a bit like Elizabeth Taylor.

The commander of the galley started to answer back, but apparently thought better of it and just said, “Admiral’s orders,” in a sulky tone.

“Release them.”

“Admiral said to…”

“I don’t care what Metello said, and I doubt Attalus will either,” Roxane said.

“You are not Alexander,” the commander said. “You’re not even Macedonian.” That struck Dag as strange, because from his accent and appearance, the commander was probably Phoenician from right here in Tyre. Not that Dag was an expert.

Roxane looked like she was about to back down, then an older guy moved up beside her. “I am! Release them.”

* * *

Hours later Dag felt better. He was washed, bandaged and even to an extent, briefed, by Kleitos, the guy who had backed Roxane. There was another man in the room, the commander of the Silver Shields, named Evgenij. Older and harder looking than Kleitos, he didn’t talk much. Kleitos was something between her bodyguard and jailor. Not one of the official bodyguards who had been appointed in Babylon, four for Philip and three for baby Alexander, but none of them were present. They were all out trying to raise armies to bite off their own chunk of Alexander the Great’s empire. Kleitos was a man for hire who would keep her safe or kill her, depending on the orders from the paymaster. That paymaster had been Perdiccas before his untimely demise, then Peithon for a couple of weeks, then Attalus. The Silver Shields were almost worse. They had appointed themselves and were halfway between guards and extortionists. As long as the money kept coming, they would keep Roxane and little Alexander safe. If the money stopped, they would sell her to the highest bidder.

And they were all quite disgustingly straightforward about it.

Kleitos had backed Roxane because he didn’t like Phoenicians, and the Silver Shields had backed him because they were mean old bastards who didn’t take crap from anyone.

“Roxane is pretty enough, I’ll grant, and smart too,” Kleitos explained. “But she has all the guts of a rabbit. You, on the other hand, look like you have at least a little bit of guts.” Kleitos waved vaguely in the direction of the Reliance. “So tell me all about the ship out there.”

 


Alexander Inheritance – Snippet 29

Posted on Categories 1632Snippet, Snippets

Alexander Inheritance – Snippet 29 He wasn’t the only one who noticed the crash, not that it was going to do any of them any good. They had no guns, none at all. And even as he watched, dozens of … Continue reading

Alexander Inheritance – Snippet 29

He wasn’t the only one who noticed the crash, not that it was going to do any of them any good. They had no guns, none at all. And even as he watched, dozens of men, armed with swords and shields — even spears — vaulted onto Barge 14.

“Where the hell did they come from?” Kugan wailed.

“I don’t know, Captain,” Dag said even as he grabbed the radio mike. “Mayday! Mayday! We have armed men on the Reliance and are under attack.” He looked at the readings and continued. “By the inertial compass, we are twelve knots east northeast of Alexandria and I see no way to hold the boat.” Dag was struck by a thought. “Captain, can you disconnect the tug from the barge?”

“If I had a few minutes,” Kugan said, but even as he said it the pirates were running along Barge 14 to the Reliance. Dag guessed the pilot house was the obvious target for anyone trying to take the Reliance. Dag had his phone in his breast pocket. Now he turned it off, and slid it down into the crotch of his underwear. In all the old movies, that was the safest place. Though this was ancient Greece, close enough, so that might not help.

Then the Greeks were among them, except these guys weren’t speaking Greek. It was a different language. And when they didn’t respond, Julio was knocked to the floor with the flat of one of those short, curved machete-like swords they carried.

“We surrender,” Dag said in Greek. At least that was what he tried to say. It seemed to work too. Their captors immediately started giving orders in Greek. It was a weirdly accented Greek, unlike what they spoke in Alexandria, and Dag could barely make it out. The rest of the crew were totally lost.

A swarthy bastard with a curly, oiled, black beard started in. He wanted the Reliance to stop. Once the Reliance was stopped, he started asking questions. “Is this the Queen of the Sea?”

“No.”

“Then it is the fuel ship?” The word he used was the Greek word for lamp oil, but that was close enough and what they had been using with Atum and the Greeks in Alexandria.

“Strong boat?” That took a little explaining, but apparently the guy with the curly black beard, who Dag learned was named Ithobaal, had gotten some sort of briefing on what the Reliance was. And someone, probably Dag himself, had been a bit too free with information about the power and functionality of eleven thousand horsepower engines.

“Good. You will pull my other ship, while we go back to Tyre,” said Ithobaal.

Then another voice arrived, and with it another man with a curly black beard. Fancied up whiskers seemed all the rage with these people. This one was called Metello and seem to be in charge of the fleet of pirates that had captured them. Metello said something in the Semitic-sounding language, which Dag was guessing was Phoenician, then in Greek. “I claim this ship as a prize of war since you strangers have sided with the traitor, Ptolemy.”

Ithobaal started screaming in Phoenician, and some of the pirates started pulling their big knives. Then other guys were pulling their big knives. The knives were a type that Dag saw a lot in Alexandria. They were called kopis. They bent forward and were heavier near the end, sort of a compromise between a machete and a cleaver. They were made for chopping. Arms. Legs. Chests.

The new curly black beard, who had claimed the Reliance as a war prize, turned out to be the admiral of this little fleet. He worked for Attalus, Roxane and Alexander IV. At least Dag was pretty sure that was what he was saying. Between Dag’s poor understanding of Greek and Metello’s accent, he couldn’t be sure. But he knew that Roxane and Alexander IV were in the custody of Attalus. That much had come back to them by way of the signal fires. Marie Easley was calling it a major change in the course of history.

By now there were other ships tied onto the Reliance. Six, including the first one.

Metello was talking again. “You will tow the galleys.” He pointed.

* * *

Baaliahon looked at the metal and, being a fairly bright guy, figured out that it was a door. After some experimentation, he figured out how to open it. He turned the handle one way, then the other, and then when he thought it was loose, he pulled up the hatch. There was a ladder going down, and Baaliahon started climbing. He took a breath, then another. Then he went unconscious and fell the rest of the way down the ladder into a tank of fuel oil.

Baaliahon had no way of knowing just how dangerous inert gases like nitrogen are. When you hold your breath, you’re keeping your lungs full of air, and slowly the oxygen is taken up and CO2 takes its place. But when you go into an inert atmosphere, you exhale all the oxygen in a couple of breaths and there is no buildup of CO2 to warn you that something is wrong. So you lose consciousness quickly, with no warning. Baaliahon was with Baal before his mates knew he was missing.

* * *

In the pilot house of the Reliance a light went red, indicating that the port three hold had been opened. Then, when it stayed open, an alarm sounded. Not a very loud alarm, but an alarm, and a sound that none of the locals had ever heard. It was a beep beep beep in a pure tone and it caught the attention of everyone in the pilot house.

“What is that?” asked Metello.

Joe Kugan looked at the console and grinned grimly. Joe didn’t have Dag’s daily practice at understanding Greek and spoke not one word, but he knew his instruments. He saw the light and said in English, “Looks like one of these assholes opened the P3 tank. Think they used an oxy mask?”

Dag looked back and forth between them, Metello curious and Joe smiling, and wasn’t sure what to do. He knew what Joe meant about the oxy masks. Also, some of the safety systems had been let slide in the days since The Event. They were reworking the fuel barge to multi-purpose and Joe Kugan had been protected in some ways. He hadn’t dealt with the locals the way Dag had and he hadn’t seen the level of casual violence that was an everyday event on the docks in Alexandria.

“Joe, if they didn’t, then one of these guys is dead and the rest of them are probably going to take it out on us. So grinning is a pretty bad idea, don’t you think?” Then Dag looked at Metello and explained what the alarm meant.

Joe didn’t get the grin wiped off his face quite quickly enough. Julio wasn’t even trying.

Ithobaal was frowning, but Metello seemed almost as amused as Julio. Metello ordered everyone to stay out of the holds, but it took some time. Several more people had either followed the first guy down the hatch or opened another. Two more lights came on and a total of seven of the pirates died in the holds of Barge 14.

Metello didn’t seem all that concerned with the deaths. He went on with business, asking what job each person on the Reliance had. “What is this one’s task on the ship?” He pointed to a crewman and was told his job, then another, and another. He got to Julio and asked in the same tone of voice as the ones before. He identified all the crewmembers of the Reliance and Dag’s work crew. When he had everyone’s job, he turned back to Julio.

“It is unknown word to see your enemies die from their gibberish maybe stupidity maybe ignorance.

“You thought it was unknown word that Ithobaal’s crewman didn’t know of your unknown word air. Well, so did I. But I am an admiral, not a deckhand. For you to show unknown word was as stupid, maybe ignorant, as breathing unknown word air.” He gestured to two of his men. “Kill him.” And never lost his smile.

They fought — the rest of Reliance’s crew, Dag and his work crew. But the truth was they weren’t nearly as good at hand-to-hand fighting as the locals. They weren’t SEALs or Green Berets. They were working people who spent their time working, not training to kill. They were quickly restrained, then beaten for fighting.

Dag looked at the admiral through bruised eyes. “Even admirals can face consequences. It’s worth remembering.”

Metello looked back at Dag and shrugged. “Maybe, but life is risk.”

 


Alexander Inheritance – Snippet 28

Posted on Categories 1632Snippet, Snippets

Alexander Inheritance – Snippet 28 There was apparently not a consensus among the passengers about whether the Queen should shoot. There was motion on several of the galleys, and a shout hard to hear in the distance. Four of the … Continue reading

Alexander Inheritance – Snippet 28

There was apparently not a consensus among the passengers about whether the Queen should shoot.

There was motion on several of the galleys, and a shout hard to hear in the distance. Four of the rigs on the galleys went into action, flinging burning jars of something. None came near the guns, but one reached the Promenade Deck and two hit windows below the Promenade Deck. The windows both cracked, but neither broke. However, the passengers watching from the Hoi Polloi Lounge got a much closer view of the fight than they were expecting.

The results of the one jar that reached the Promenade Deck were much more serious. Twelve people hit, with everything from minor burns to two who were burned to death, and one who went over the side on fire.

As soon as that report came, Captain Floden lost all interest in waiting. “Sink those bastards, Lang. Sink every last one of them.”

* * *

“About damn time,” Romi Clarke muttered when they got the orders. He’d been wanting to shoot this thing since they built it. He took careful aim, using the camera’s rangefinder and the little program that adjusted the sights automatically based on range and input windage. Then he pointed the camera at the sucker banging the drum and fired.

As it turned out, either the programming was off or he had guessed wrong about the wind. The wide-angle camera recorded the round hitting the water forty feet to the right of his target. The shot didn’t even hit an oar.

Romi adjusted and fired a burst of five. The “potato gun” used steam to propel a heavy object down a four foot long barrel and fired a forty millimeter round that weighed about half a kilogram. They had a muzzle velocity of three hundred meters per second. It took the bullets a second and three quarters to reach the target and the first burst didn’t seem to do much. It had hit the trireme but the ship hadn’t slowed. So Romi tried again, raking his fire from one end of the ship to the other.

* * *

When a one pound lead bullet hits a thin piece of wood, it doesn’t slow much. And if the wood is thin enough, all it does is poke a hole. That was what had happened to the first five-round burst. They had poked five neat holes in the bottom of the galley. The displaced water from their exiting the boat had actually done more damage.

The longer burst hit the rowers on the port side of the galley. The same one pound round that went through the boat’s planking like it was paper, went through the chests of men like they were so many watermelons. Then it went on through the man behind, and the man behind him. The steam cannon weren’t silent, but they weren’t all that loud either. Besides, the pop pop pop of the cannon was over well before the men started to die.

Captain Heron saw the slaughterhouse that the port side of his ship had become and turned away from the battle. He didn’t have a lot of choice. He had lost a third of his rowers on the port side, and the rest were trying to get away from the bloodbath.

Gorgias didn’t see what had happened to the lead galley. He did hear the screaming but he ignored it. Screams, cries of rage and fury — those were inevitable in a battle. Gorgias was an experienced Macedonian soldier. He had been in battle many times and was not a man to run from a fight. He gave orders to speed up the beat. The remaining triremes raced for the big ship as though their life depended on it.

* * *

“Get us moving, Elise,” Captain Floden said. “I don’t want to be a sitting target if any of those triremes get through.”

The huge ship started to move. They had been anchored with plenty of sea room, as much for the comfort of the locals as because they needed it. Now they moved landward to keep sea room from the attackers. And they continued firing the steam cannon.

Two more ships pulled away from the fight after being raked by the stern port steam cannon. But the sonar was showing shallowing. And another, if smaller, volley of Greek fire was flung at them.

“Enough,” Captain Floden said. “Reverse engines, Elise. Run over those idiots.”

The engines on the Queen of the Sea ran generators which, in turn, powered huge electric motors located in turnable nacelles. This allowed the Queen to travel forward, backward, or at need, sideways. But even so, it didn’t happen immediately. The Queen was a massive ship. Even though they had barely started moving, it took them a minute to slow and reverse. But Elise Beaulieu, First Officer Navigation, was a skilled ship handler and no more pleased to be the recipient of Greek fire than her captain.

It took Gorgias a bit too long to realise what was happening. When the Queen started slowing, he thought he had won. He was unable to give up that belief in time to dodge. His flagship was run over by a 150,000 ton cruise ship traveling backwards at four knots.

* * *

Gorgias leapt over the side just as the Queen’s stern contacted the flagship’s port quarter. He was a good swimmer and thought he had a chance. He hit the water hard and had both the wind and the sense knocked out of him for a few moments. He managed not to inhale the water. His fingers worked desperately at the leather straps holding his armor on, and piece by sodden piece, he got it off. By that time he was deep in the water. Deep enough that the water pressed on his chest, making his lungs feel even emptier than they really were.

He swam desperately for the surface, but he was disoriented and confused by oxygen deprivation. He had to breathe, but he couldn’t.

It didn’t really matter. Though he would never know it, Elise Beaulieu had shifted the nacelles and an Olympic swimmer in top form couldn’t have competed with the riptides produced by those massive props. Gorgias never saw the propeller blade larger than he was turning at full speed.

It squashed him like a grape.

* * *

The reason for Elise Beaulieu’s adjustment of thrust was because the trireme behind Gorgias’ was rowing with great desperation to try and get out of the way of the Queen of the Sea. But like Alice in Wonderland, running as fast as they could barely kept them in place, for the currents of the massive motors caught them and pulled them toward the big ship even as the motors of the big ship pushed it at them. The Queen backed over them to the noise of cracking timbers and screaming men. The heavy wooden ribs of the triremes broke like so many toothpicks, and men in those ships were masticated between the Queen and the unforgiving sea.

There were no survivors. Not off the flag ship trireme, or the two others that hadn’t been able to get out of the way in time. The rest ran for shore. Of the nine triremes that had actually taken part in the attack, four made it to shore. None made it without massive casualties.

The two that had peeled off to go after the Reliance had better luck. After an hour of rowing, they gave up the chase. The worst thing that happened to them was the crew of the Reliance leaning over the back rail, yelling taunts at them.

* * *

Sound carries over water, even for miles. Metello of Carthage, admiral of Attalus’ fleet, heard the battle. He heard the strange noises — to him — of the Reliance at full power forcing her way through the waves. He gave orders for the fleet, six triremes, to spread out and to douse all lights. And to row quietly. When he saw the lights from the Reliance, he ordered his trireme to get to that ship, but as it happened, he wasn’t the closest.

Closest was that idiot, Ithobaal. And Metello knew what that meant. The motherless jackal would try to claim the whole ship. Metello leaned over to the aulates, whose job it was to play the rhythm for the oarsmen and whispered to increase the pace. He would rather have Ithobaal get there first than have that monster of a ship warned.

* * *

The first Dag knew of the new trouble was when he heard a crashing sound on the port bow of Barge 14. He looked back and saw the black outline of a mast and rigging. The Reliance was attached, slotted into Barge 14. That was important because it meant that the people who were scrambling onto Barge 14 were going to have no difficulty reaching the Reliance.

 


Alexander Inheritance – Snippet 27

Posted on Categories 1632Snippet, Snippets

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 … Continue reading

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.

Reliance

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.

 


Alexander Inheritance – Snippet 26

Posted on Categories 1632Snippet, Snippets

Alexander Inheritance – Snippet 26 * * * “Alert! Riot on the Promenade Deck!” came over the speakers. Daniel Lang ran for the elevators, cursing Al Wiley under his breath. The congressman had promised to keep a lid on things. … Continue reading

Alexander Inheritance – Snippet 26

* * *

“Alert! Riot on the Promenade Deck!” came over the speakers.

Daniel Lang ran for the elevators, cursing Al Wiley under his breath. The congressman had promised to keep a lid on things. He’d been campaigning for an American colony since they got to Alexandria. At this point, Daniel would be just as happy to put the passengers off the Queen, but you didn’t just drop a colony. It needed support. People needed housing and weapons, seeds and plows, fishing boats and more weapons. And, so far, there was damn little of any of that.

By the time Daniel Lang got there, closely followed by Dag, Lorraine Hebert and Chris Louie had almost restored order, and Congressman Wiley was trying to help them calm things down.

“It wasn’t the congressman’s fault,” Lorraine said in her Cajun-accented English. “He was trying to keep things cool. It was the counter-demonstration by the Jerusalemites.”

The Jerusalemites were a coalition faction made up of the “Clear the way for Christ” people and the group of Jews who wanted to discover the true Judaism of the Second Temple before it was lost. That group was headed by Rabbi Benyamin Abrahamson, who had seemed a perfectly reasonable sort till he had met Atum’s guard commander and the two had gotten into an argument about what was and was not in the Torah and what was meant by it. For instance ṭoṭafot, according to the guard commander, simply meant armor, though it was often inscribed with holy script for added safety. Now Abrahamson had to see for himself.

The Jerusalemites wanted a colony, but they wanted to put it in Israel, at Ashdod. And they didn’t seem the least concerned that there were already people living there and the local Jews were a bunch of mercenaries. No. They wanted to use the Queen as a permanent fort to keep the locals in line while they did their religious thing.

“We’re trying, people,” Al Wiley was saying, “but two colonies would mean almost twice as much work. And each colony, being smaller, would be at greater risk. There is no oil to feed the Queen’s engines in Israel and the oil in the rest of the Middle East is, for the most part, both deeper and farther from shore.”

“The Queen has flex fuel engines!” shouted one of the Jerusalemites. “She’ll burn alcohol.”

“Yes, she would. If we had the distilled alcohol she needed. But all the beer in Egypt wouldn’t be enough. Even if we could distill it, which we can’t.”

That wasn’t entirely true. There was a whole lot of beer in Egypt. But it was damn sure true that they couldn’t distill enough to keep the Queen’s tanks full. Alcohol wasn’t as energy dense as oil and it took more of it — almost twice as much — to get the same amount of power out of the engines. Among other things, that would decrease the Queen’s range. Not that that mattered to the Jerusalemites. They didn’t want the Queen to move, except to Ashdod.

Once the incipient riot had been quelled for the moment Daniel moved over to Wiley. “Congressman, we have to put a stop to this sort of thing.”

“The only thing that will put a stop to it is setting up a colony and giving these people room to breathe, Mr. Lang.”

* * *

Marie Easley didn’t even look up when the alert came through. She was in a private room off the forward internet cafe, working with Cathy Joe Chohan on adjustments to the translation app that the ship had a license on. It was voice to voice, but the Greek it started out speaking was twenty-first-century Greek, not third-century-BCE Greek. Pronunciations, however, were the least of the problems. This time’s Greek didn’t have words for a lot of the concepts that twenty-first-century English had. In this case, the water pump. Even Archimedes and his screw was a hundred years in the future. What they used in the here-and-now were buckets. Often buckets mounted on wheels and other quite ingenious rigs. But still they were moving water one bucketful at a time. Crates had been entranced by the notion of a water pump. Now they were working on flow rate and one of Eleanor Kinney’s people was trying to get them to buy a low-temperature steam engine to power the pumps. Or a windmill. Or anything at all except slaves on bicycles.

The locals weren’t willing to spring for the steam engine, though. Slaves were cheaper. At least, in the short run. The slaves who were carrying the buckets and treading on the treadwheel that lifted the buckets were already paid for and they were going to have to be fed anyway. The steam engine would be a new expense and the fuel to power it another.

Eleanor Kinney’s assistant purser’s suggestion that they manumit the slaves didn’t go over well. It was hard enough just getting them to buy the pumps and the pipes to get the water up to a water tank.

Royal Lounge, Queen of the Sea

October 10

“When can we go to America?” Al Wiley asked the captain. “This ship is a powder keg and it’s getting worse. Most of these people are working people. They have spent their lives working. A vacation is one thing. Sitting in a stateroom that is about the size of a prison cell with nothing to do is something else.”

“We could leave today if you want us to drop the passengers with nothing but the luggage they brought on the cruise.” Captain Floden waved a hand in apology. “I’m sorry, Congressman, but the issues and the time frame are the same as they were yesterday and the day before.” He turned to the staff captain. “Anders, where are we on the necessary equipment for the colony?”

Anders Dahl tapped an icon on his slate computer, calling up a spreadsheet. “Two hundred pounds of black powder and fifteen flintlock rifles that we’ve made since we got here. It’s a lot harder to make a rifle barrel than you might think. We’re doing better on the crossbows. We have forty of them and they are good, Captain. Their rate of fire sucks, but it’s still better than the flintlocks. They have spring steel bows and…Well, never mind. It’s still only forty for a colony of three thousand.”

Dag took a drink of the local beer. He knew the reasoning behind the colony size. Some of the passengers were simply too old for life in a colony. Some had skills that were vital to the ship, but not to a new colony that would have very limited electronics, at least at first. So it wouldn’t be all the passengers who were debarking. About half of the staff side crew was going to go with the colony. The rest were staying on board.

Dag looked out the big picture windows. There were a lot of people on the pool deck but they mostly weren’t swimming or laying out to get a tan. They were working at the induction furnace, or processing furs and fabrics from Alexandria.

The vacation was over, but there wasn’t enough room to do all the jobs that needed doing. Meanwhile, the locals were watching everything and word was spreading faster than he would have believed possible before The Event. He wondered if they had heard of crossbows in Tyre yet. If not, they would soon.

Tyre

October 11

Roxanne looked out at the Mediterranean Sea as her personal attendant combed her long black hair. Roxane had been looking out to sea a lot since they got to Tyre. She had hoped that Attalus would be better than his brother-in-law Perdiccas, but the pressures of the situation seemed to be making him less stable rather than more. Besides, Attalus was on his way to the coast of Caria and Metello was on his way to Alexandria harbor, leaving her in the care of under officers, who saw her as a playing piece or a bit of loot. Even the Silver Shields who had taken over guarding her were more concerned with their pay than her safety.

One of the Silver Shields came in then. “Nedelko is here.”

Roxane turned away from the window in time to see the commander of the Greek forces in Tyre enter the room. “Well, Commander, what did you think of the drawings?” A couple of days before, a ship from Alexandria had arrived, carrying some sketches. There was a bow mounted on a cross piece, a gear with pedals and a chain that could fit over the gear to, as the notes said, “do useful work,” and a new sort of table called a desk that a chair could slide under to make it easier for scribes to work. Roxane barely got a look at them before Nedelko snatched them away to give to Tyrian craftsmen.

Nedelko stopped at her tone. Which was good. He needed to know that she wasn’t pleased. But he didn’t apologize, which wasn’t good. Instead he looked at her, then said, “I will bring them back, Your Majesty, once the craftsmen have had a chance to study them and make examples of what they show. My guess is that the new scribe’s table will be the most useful. I don’t see the advantage of tying a bow onto a stick. And keeping the bow bent can’t be good for it. The geared wheel is interesting, but slaves work fine and I’m not convinced that letting them lift a bucket with their feet instead of their hands will be any great advantage. The one-wheeled cart might be useful in certain very limited conditions — hard packed flat ground or paved streets, if the cobbles are even enough. But I don’t see what Crates is so excited about. I’m more concerned about Eurydice’s latest pronouncement. She’s claiming that Philip was the true heir to Alexander’s throne. And because Alexander IV wasn’t born when the crown passed, he couldn’t be the heir.”

“You must realize those proclamations are made under the eye of Antigonus One-eye.” Roxane grimaced. “Just as my proclamations are made under Attalus’ eye. You know he’s claiming Alexander is the only true heir, even if he hasn’t insisted that I sign a proclamation to that effect. At least not yet.”

She might have to, even if Attalus didn’t force her, just to counter Eurydice’s proclamation. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Sending Eurydice off with the other army provided additional security for them both. And it had worked fairly well, at least as far as Roxane was concerned. But there were unintended consequences. Aside from claiming that Philip III was the only true heir, the latest word received had Eurydice endorsing Antigonus One-eye as regent. Something that Roxane knew had to be under duress.

She changed the subject. “Where is Metello now?”

“Sailing. It will be another few days before he gets to Alexandria.”