Alexander Inheritance – Snippet 08

* * *

For the next few days, the villagers focused on stripping the dock and ruins of anything of any possible value. Two people were injured in collapsing buildings, and one died, but they picked the ruins clean. In doing so, they learned a large amount and made some surprisingly good guesses. They found a battery-powered flashlight and realized that the copper carried the power that produced the light. That explained much of the use of the wires in the walls of the buildings. They realized that lightbulbs were lightbulbs, and even managed to hook up a light bulb from a ceiling to a battery, and got it to light dimly.

By then the boat sent to Ibiza had returned, escorted by a larger ship. Mosicar and his wife boarded the ship, along with the goods for the trip to Carthage. This was a major risk, and his wife was going along to make sure Mosicar didn’t screw it up. As a rule in Carthage and its territories, the wife was in charge of dealing with the household gods. And, more generally, the household management.

Men were left in charge of politics and fighting.

Queen of the Sea, en route to Egypt, approaching Carthage

September 17

The officer of the watch looked out at the galley off the starboard bow. It had come over the horizon from the direction of Tunis — or at least what would be Tunis in a couple of millennia — gotten one good look at the Queen, then turned tail and run for port.

Honestly, Second Officer Adrian Scott wasn’t at all sure that he blamed them. He pulled up a camera, zoomed in, and took a quick snap. Eighteen oars on a side, a single sail that was not in use at the moment. They were making good time.

Adrian wondered if the rowers were slaves. He wasn’t sure. He knew that some of the ancients used slaves as rowers and some used soldiers or sailors who got paid. And those were probably Carthaginians, and what Professor Easley had said last night was that very little was known about the Carthaginians, aside from the fact that the Greeks and the Romans didn’t care for them.

It wasn’t the first ship they had seen on this watch, and probably wouldn’t be the last.

* * *

Lars Floden waved Al Wiley to the small table in the dining nook of his private cabin. “I’m sorry it took me so long to get back to you, Congressman, but the things I absolutely had to do took precedence.” The captain was trying to be polite, but he wasn’t trying all that hard. It wasn’t as if the US Congress was anything he had to worry about three hundred years before Christ was born.

“I understand that the…urgencies, let’s call them…of command can make the long-term consequences of our actions seem to fade in importance.” Al waved at the window. “I note that we are under power and the rumor is that we are headed for Egypt. Is that true?”

“Yes, Congressman.” Floden nodded as Wiley took his seat at the table.

“Is that wise? Wouldn’t it have been better to stay where we were in the hope that we might return to our own time? I only ask these things, Captain, because they are the questions that the passengers are asking me.”

“We have looked into that question, Congressman, and the answer clearly seems to be that there is no chance we will be returned. Are you familiar with what is called the Minnesota Hypothesis concerning the mysterious disasters that befell the town of Grantville in West Virginia and Alexander Correctional Center in southern Illinois?”

Al shook his head. He knew about the disasters, of course. Everyone in America did — probably everyone in the world, outside of a few people in places like New Guinea. But he’d never studied the issue.

“Well, I just spent a fair amount of time with two passengers — both physicists — who have a great deal of knowledge of the matter. The Hypothesis argues that the records from the Alexander disaster are impossible to explain unless an element of deliberate purpose is included in the explanation. The term ‘intelligent design’ is not used, but that is clearly what is being suggested.”

Al’s expression must have looked skeptical because Floden shrugged his shoulders. “I have no opinion on that matter,” the captain said. “But what is relevant to us is that everything we can determine about our situation is that we have suffered something very much like what seems to have happened to Grantville and Alexander prison.”

He gestured toward the window. “Consider two things. First, we have definitely been moved in both time and space — more than two thousand years, in terms of time; almost five thousand miles, in terms of space. Second, the…let us call it the transposition, caused almost no damage to the ship and while it did damage the docks, it resulted in only one fatality. What are the chances of that happening if the disaster that befell us did not have elements of purpose? It would be like an explosion right next to someone that caused no damage except a ringing in the ears.”

Al frowned. “But…what purpose?”

“I have no idea, Congressman. Neither did the authors of the Hypothesis. But it really doesn’t matter, because what is uncontestable is the third feature of the Grantville and Alexander disaster.”

“Which is?”

“Whatever happened, no one ever came back. There is no reason at all to think we would either. So, we have come to the conclusion that we have no choice but to assume that we will remain in this new universe we find ourselves in for…perpetuity, let’s call it.”

Al grunted. “As long as we can stay alive, you mean.”

The captain smiled thinly. “Your words, Congressman. Not mine.”

Tug Reliance, in the Mediterranean

September 17

Captain Joe Kugan muttered curses. He was still in radio contact with the Queen, but they were over the horizon from him now. The Reliance could only make twelve knots, not the twenty-two that was the Queen’s most efficient cruising speed, so the Queen had left them behind. Using the Queen’s charts and the inertial compass as well as the magnetic, they followed as they could, keeping further out to sea just to be safe.

Meanwhile, Joe was cursing himself for a fool for having given away a full load of fuel to the Queen, based on a bill of lading that wouldn’t be good for two millennia and more.

“Captain, sail off the port bow.”

Joe looked up from his muttering and saw the monitor for the mast camera. What he saw was just the tip of a sail, and unless they had someone in the crow’s nest, there was no way they had seen the Reliance. “Bring us a point to starboard.” And more delay.

Queen of the Sea, en route to Egypt

September 17

Dag looked at the designs and wondered. It wasn’t as though there was anything in the designs that the ship didn’t either have or at least could make, but it seemed like a lot of work to fight off a bunch of primitives who couldn’t even climb the hull without a lot of help or a lot of luck.

He was looking at a WikiHow article on how pneumatic cannons worked and could be built. All because Marie Easley was an anal-retentive paranoid. Professor Easley had convinced Jane Carruthers, and Jane had convinced Staff Captain Anders Dahl, that they needed real weapons.

Anders hadn’t bothered to convince. He’d simply ordered.

“What do you think, Romi?”

“It looks fine, Mr. Jakobsen.” Romi Clarke was grinning broadly, displaying the gap in his teeth where he had lost some in a bar fight. Romi had a partial, but it was not something they could easily replace, so Romi wasn’t wearing it.

“How long?”

“It depends. If I have first call on supplies and labor, only a couple of days. We have the piping in stores and the machine shop can turn out what we need. If it’s as we have time, it’ll take a couple of weeks.”

“I’ll check with the staff captain, but for now treat it as when you have time.” Actually, Dag was pretty sure that the staff captain was going to want a higher priority than that, but Dag and the whole crew had a lot on their plates. They were preparing the ship for anchoring in Alexandria, Egypt, and converting the lifeboats to act as loading boats and transports while not losing their functionality as lifeboats. It was likely that this was going to be the fifth or sixth top priority on the list.