Alexander Inheritance – Snippet 03

Not these circumstances, though. “How are the passengers doing, Jane?” he asked.

“Congressman Wiley is threatening to have our whole company barred from operating out of the United States.” Carruthers twitched a half smile for a moment. “I’m fairly sure that he’s playing for the camera phones, though, since he’s not stupid and knows perfectly well that isn’t going to happen.”

Her smile died. “There was one heart attack — not fatal, thankfully — and quite a few panicked passengers, and some falls.”

Jane turned to Doctor Laura Miles, the head of the ship’s medical department. Miles had two doctors, five nurse practitioners, and five registered nurses as well as nurse’s aides, in her department. It wasn’t exactly a hospital aboard ship, but it was a decent emergency room.

“The heart attack is stable and only one of the falls resulted in a broken bone,” said Miles. “So far we haven’t lost anyone on board. The docks didn’t fare so well. It was too early for the shore activities, but a lot of the shops were getting ready. We had over fifty injuries over there and four deaths when the buildings came down. The fatalities included Anne O’Hare, who apparently had an arm cut off when whatever it was happened. She was in the back of a shop and the building collapsed on her, making it impossible for her to do anything or for anyone to reach her in time. At least it was probably quick. She would have bled out in minutes and lost consciousness even faster.”

She looked at Floden. “Captain, that many injuries put a major strain on our supplies. We need resupply and we need them soon.”

Staff Captain Anders Dahl cut in. “We have all the shore side personnel on board for now. It’s unsafe on the docks and worse in the shops behind them.” Anders paused for a beat. “Captain, should I have people going through the ruins for salvage?”

Lars Floden looked back at his number two. Staff Captain was the same rank on a cruise ship that executive officer would be on a warship. The cruise lines did it that way so they could have two captains, and thus two captain’s tables. Regardless of the titles, the staff captain had much the same job as a warship XO, including bringing questions to the captain that the captain would rather avoid.

Questions like this one. They didn’t have a clue what had happened. It was possible that they were going to need everything in those buildings, down to the toilet seats. But the buildings over there were half-collapsed and Lars wasn’t prepared to send his sailors into a situation like that if he didn’t have to.

“No, at least not yet, Anders,” he said. “I doubt there’s anything over there worth risking our people’s lives for.”

“The Cabana Drugstore,” said Doctor Miles. “Unless we can get medical supplies, we are going to start losing people to chronic conditions that are treated with drugs.” She looked at Lars. “And one of the losses is going to be me. Our supply of warfarin is very limited, and my prescription won’t last forever. We can use aspirin and it will help, but people like me who have heart issues are going to be in real trouble if we can’t get back in touch with civilization, Captain. Most of our passengers aren’t nursing home ready, or at least they weren’t before this. But a lot of them were assisted living ready.”

“Sorry, Doc,” Anders said. “I was over there just after the event. The part of the Cabana that held the drugs was on the other side of the –” He paused, apparently looking for the right word. “– line of demarcation. Whatever brought us here left the drugs in the Cabana Drugstore behind. There was some of the over-the-counter stuff on this side of the line.” Anders looked over at Captain Floden.

“Sure, Anders. Grab anything that’s out in the open. Just don’t risk our people digging through stuff.”

“Captain, where are we?” Daniel Lang, the chief security officer, blurted.

The sun hadn’t set, though it had shifted in the moment of transition from early-morning to mid-afternoon, east to west. Time of year was harder to say. It depended on where on Earth they were. There were people on the island they were next to but they were staying out of sight, at least for now. The sun was farther south than it should be even in midwinter in the Caribbean. If the compass readings were right, they were in the northern temperate zone, not the tropics.

They had lost satellite communications. Both radio and GPS were gone. So were all the familiar works of man, aside from the Queen of the Sea, the Reliance, the dock and about a block of Port Berry, the little town on the company’s private island. The dock and the block or so of town weren’t in great shape. They had ended up partly over water instead of land and had tilted. Most of the buildings had collapsed.

Lars couldn’t help feeling that whatever had happened had to be the work of someone or something, because it didn’t make sense that any sort of natural occurrence would pick up his ship and the fuel barge and not chop them into little pieces. The lozenge-shaped zone of transference had to be just the right size and shape and had to have just the right orientation. To have that happen by accident was like having an avalanche build the Taj Mahal. Well, not really. But it sure wasn’t the sort of thing that happened by chance.

He’d read a magazine article a couple of years ago analyzing the Grantville and Alexander disasters, which had included speculation by some scientists that whatever caused the catastrophes didn’t seem to be simply random cosmic accidents. But he couldn’t remember any of the details. When he had time, he’d have to see if he could find copies of the article — or, better yet, find a passenger who had some real expertise on the subject. The odds that such a passenger was aboard the ship were actually not bad. People who went on cruises tended to be better educated than average and included a fair percentage of scientists and academics.

All of that had been circulating through Lars’ mind since the event, bouncing off his assumptions and being modified as more information was added. The ship’s sonar was working just fine and the bottom of the ocean was different in an oval-shaped patch below the ship. Or, more accurately, the bottom of the ocean was different outside that oval-shaped patch just under the ship, taking into account the chunk of dock and shore that had come with them.

Lars looked back at Daniel. “I don’t know. I don’t even know what universe we’re in. It appears we’re at least on an analog of Earth, but we clearly aren’t in the same place we were” — Lars looked at the clock on the wall — “three hours ago. For all I…” He took a breath and reined in his speculation. “We may know more after the sun goes down and we get a look at the night sky. In the meantime, we need to keep the passengers and the crew as calm as we can and avoid useless speculation.”

Lars turned to Staff Captain Anders Dahl. “Anders, where are we on food?”

“We have seven days’ worth without rationing. We can stretch that a day or two by just limiting the servings in the all-you-can-eat buffets, and with real rationing we can double it. With severe rationing, starting right now, we might last a month. That would be pushing things a lot. We’re going to need resupply of food probably sooner than drugs.”

The meeting continued and not much new was discovered. However, things that were minor before had suddenly gained much greater significance.

* * *

Congressman Allen “Al” Wiley, Fourth District, Utah, sat in his stateroom and fumed. He was here because his daughter Charlene was marrying that moron, Dick Gibson, and wanted to be married by a ship’s captain. Romantic, she called it. Al called it crap, though never in public. They could have made a lot of political capital out of this wedding if they had just stayed in Provo and done it there.