Alexander Inheritance – Snippet 14

Chapter 5


September 20

Eurydice sat on the couch, leaning against one arm and listened to the soldier read out the report from the signal fires. She knew that someone had gotten the size wrong. There was no way a ship could be that big. It wasn’t possible. Philip, though, was mumbling and Eurydice slid over to listen. He was muttering numbers as he often did. Philip wasn’t stupid, whatever the others thought. He just thought differently. He didn’t understand the value of a drachma and he never looked at people directly, but he read everything he could get his hands on and was constantly doing calculations. It was more than simple counting, what Philip did. He understood the world through numbers, shapes and vectors. So she listened carefully and began to wonder. Philip seemed to think it was at least possible.

Once that was out of the way, Eurydice got up and moved over to Roxane, who was sitting in state across the room. Philip would be busy with his calculations for a time. “What do you think?”

Roxane sniffed dismissively and Eurydice wanted to slap the spoiled bitch, but managed to restrain herself. She waited, and after a moment Roxane said, “With the army in the state it’s in, it could mean anything. Remember, Antipater is on his way, and will be arriving in no more than a week.”

“I’ll deal with the old man,” Eurydice said.

Roxane looked back at her. “Don’t underestimate him. Your hold on the army is weak, and Antipater has the rank. These are soldiers, Eurydice. Unpaid and angry, but soldiers. They are conditioned to respect rank.”

“They killed Perdiccas,” Eurydice insisted.

“No. Peithon and Arrhidaeus killed Perdiccas, and the army let it stand. And that only after the idiot had lost a third of the army trying to march them across the Nile.”

Eurydice didn’t like Roxane, but had to admit that the woman was astute. She understood politics, even if she lacked the guts of a Macedonian. Now Eurydice considered what that would mean for herself. Roxane was probably right about the reverence that Antipater was held in by the common soldiers, especially since they hadn’t had to deal with the old man for decades. Antipater wasn’t fond of Eurydice, and Eurydice didn’t trust him. She didn’t trust any of them. But old man Antipater despised anything that wasn’t Macedonian, and despised women even more than he did Greeks. Until now, Eurydice had been planning to continue her bid for the regency, or at least a real place on a regency council. But with Antipater running things, that seemed a lot less likely to succeed. She would need to push the sub-commanders so that the old man didn’t get to use his rank. “Do you want to be left in Antipater’s hands?”

“Do you think we have a choice?” Roxane hissed at her, her eyes slitted. “Disabuse yourself of the notion that we are queens, little girl. We are no more than bargaining chips in the game of power that the generals play now.”

“Is that what you want?” Eurydice hissed back. “To be a playing piece?”

“It’s –” Roxane started in what was almost a shout and suddenly everyone in the room was looking at them. Roxane looked back and they looked away, then she continued much more quietly. “It’s not a matter of what we want or don’t want. It’s a matter of what is.”

“But the ship,” Eurydice insisted. “It changes things, doesn’t it?”

“Maybe. If it’s real, and not some plot. At this point, how it changes things is anyone’s guess.”

Eurydice turned away from Alexander’s beauty and went back to Philip. The woman’s perfume was giving her a headache.

Reliance, Alexandria Harbor

6:23 AM, September 21

Joe Kugan saw the bulk of the Queen of the Sea rise out of the horizon with a mixture of relief and resentment. He’d had plenty of time to think as he made his slow way across the Mediterranean Sea. Everything was left back in the future. His wife, his sons, the company…everything. Meanwhile, he and his crew had been left behind by the Queen as she rushed off to Alexandria. They could have gone slower. They could have waited, but they didn’t. Well, fine. If they were going to be that way, so was he. The Reliance was his ship, and the fuel oil on her was his fuel oil. His and his crew’s.

“Radio message, Captain,” Michael Kimball said. “They want us to pull up on the starboard side of the Queen and prepare for fuel transfer.”

“We’ll go ahead and pull up to the side, but not a drop of our fuel oil is going to leave the barge till I have a few things settled with Captain Queeg over there.”

“Fine by me, Captain,” Michael said with a grin.

* * *

“The Reliance confirms that she will pull up alongside, but says that refueling will have to wait until a price and a medium of exchange are established.”

“Fine.” Lars Floden rubbed his eyes. He had been in meetings almost nonstop since they reached Alexandria. Meetings with the cooks and the engineering staff as they tried to come up with ways of separating the wheat from the chaff and grinding the wheat into flour suitable for making bread. Fortunately, there was yeast in the bakery. By using some of that, they had established a good colony of twenty-first century yeast, which they might be able to sell to the locals because clearly the Queen’s bakery turned out better bread than the locals. Then there were the meats, which often had tapeworms and other parasites. For right now, that was being handled by cooking everything well done. The vegetables were of indifferent quality and it was all expensive.

In spite of the amount of the provisioning problems Jane handled, a load of it had made its way to the captain’s desk because people didn’t like the answers Jane gave them. “Set up an appointment with Captain Kugan and the staff captain.” Lars felt himself smile. “And include Congressman Wiley. If he wants to be involved so much, let him tell Joe Kugan that the oil in Barge 14 is owned by all the passengers in common.”

“Yes, sir.” Doug smiled and pulled up the captain’s schedule. It was — unsurprisingly — full. It would be the next afternoon before the captain, staff captain, and Congressman Wiley would all be free at the same time.

Royal Lounge, Queen of the Sea

September 21

“Not at all, Captain Kugan. I agree completely. You and your crew own the Reliance and the fuel on board her as well.” Al Wiley smiled generally around the room and even snorted a laugh at the captain’s expression. “You always knew I was a Republican, Captain Floden, not a communist. I am simply concerned that all the, er, found wealth be shared out in a reasonably equitable manner. The people on the Reliance own the Reliance. The people on the Queen of the Sea own the Queen of the Sea.”

By now Kugan was looking smug, Floden was looking pissed, and Dahl was looking ready to chew nails and spit tacks. Which was pretty much what Al had been going for in all cases. “You and your crew have a valuable ship there, Captain Kugan, and a valuable cargo. However, it’s a very limited cargo too.”

“What do you mean?”

“You don’t have machine shops on the Reliance. You can’t fix anything that can’t be fixed by hand. You don’t have food, water or the means to get any of those things on your own. Perhaps most important of all, you don’t have someone who can speak to the locals to allow you to negotiate with them directly. And even if you could, what makes you think they would negotiate in good faith?”

Royal Palace, Alexandria

September 21

“We need to learn their language,” Dinocrates said. “I don’t like the idea of everything we say going through that woman. There’s something odd about her. For one thing, I’m sure she’s much older than she looks.”

Atum suppressed a grin when Ptolemy looked first at his hetaera, Thaïs, then back at Dinocrates.

“There are options, Philos Dinocrates,” Atum said. Philos was a court title roughly on a par with the later “count,” and had been given to Dinocrates by Alexander when he was given the job of overseeing the construction of Alexandria. Ptolemy reaffirmed the title when he was made satrap of Egypt by Perdiccas at Babylon, just after Alexander’s death.

“What alternatives?” asked Ptolemy.

Atum bowed. “They have a sort of magic slate.” He waved to Dinocrates and Crates, as well as Lateef. “We’ve all seen them.” Atum was referring to the e-pads and phones with their gorilla glass fronts. Something that you really had to see to believe. “Please withhold your judgment on our sanity until you have had a chance to see them. In any case, there is a demon or ghost they call a program that can be placed in the slates, and it can translate, if not well. Its Greek is barely understandable and it speaks no other tongue known in this time.”

“I thought they knew Egyptian in that future,” said Thaïs.

“So, apparently, did they,” Lateef said. “The language of my home has changed even more in the intervening centuries than Greek has. What about Latin, Atum? Didn’t Marie say something about the translation ghost having Latin?”