Alexander Inheritance – Snippet 18
Second, it was established that a civil government based on the principles of representative democracy would be put in place. That the rights of individuals would be protected. Things like free speech and protection from unreasonable search and seizure, would be enshrined in the basic law of the new nation, as would the principle of equality before the law. The issue concerning the right to keep and bear arms was shelved for the moment, since Europeans and Americans had different traditions and attitudes on the question.
Through it all, there was a snake sitting under the table, rattling its rattles and preparing to strike. The snake had two heads; the first was simply that the Queen of the Sea wasn’t big enough for her population. The second was more subtle. The population was too small to be viable.
Biologically, the population was too small, and would be even if all of them were in their early twenties. The fact that well over half the women on board were past childbearing age made it even worse. Even among the men, a lot of the little swimmers were, nowadays, little waders.
But even worse was the question of cultural viability. They didn’t have a culture to be viable. The passengers were from all over the USA and Canada, with a sprinkling from other parts of the first world. The crew was divided into officers — mostly from Western Europe — and crew — a majority of whom were from Asia and the Pacific Isles, with a sizeable representation from Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. It wasn’t a naturally cohesive group and it wasn’t made up of volunteers. Tensions between ship’s complement and passengers were increasing, and so were tensions between staff and crew, officers and lower deck crew.
About the only thing keeping it from blowing up was the threat of being murdered or enslaved by the pre-Christian primitives.
Cleisthenes read the message, which was a set of letters. The Greek alphabet was used as both letters and as numbers. Three Greek letters could provide any number between one and nine hundred. Cleisthenes had a code book and what he got was a choice of seven hundred fifty-three phrases, and some number groups that indicated that the next numbers really were numbers. The code was nothing new, and variations on it were used from Carthage to Babylon. So, having received the message, he went to his tent and decoded it. Passage 354 read Peithon rode at the head of the army, and the next group instructed him to use only the first word.
It went on like that till Cleisthenes had the whole message. Peithon forced resign. Antipater captured. Cyclops rescues. Through ruse. Seleucus bribe. Ship from future. Tell queen.
Cleisthenes leaned back against his pillow on the bench at his work table and thought. Peithon and Arrhidaeus had been forced to resign, and had sent messages to Antipater telling him to hurry. And Seleucus was being very attentive to Eurydice. So was the message that he should bribe Seleucus? Or that One-eye would bribe Seleucus?
Cleisthenes didn’t trust Seleucus to stay bribed. Seleucus had tried to short him on the payment for the wheat twice now. He would have a talk with Attalus. There was no way he could get in to see Eurydice, or even Roxane.
* * *
Attalus was encamped next to the main camp, with a large contingent of guards to protect the silver coins he had gotten hold of, and merchants were a common sight in his camp. Cleisthenes made no real impression till he reached the tent of Attalus. “I need to see Attalus. I have important news of the giant ship.”
The guard nodded and went into the tent, and Cleisthenes was ushered in.
“Has it left the harbor at Alexandria?” Attalus asked quickly. The giant ship had been the talk of the army camp since the news arrived. And such news was of special concern for Attalus, because he had been Perdiccas’ naval commander and had kept control of the fleet. A fleet that was in serious jeopardy if a ship the size that was reported decided to threaten it. Such a ship could run over his fleet and leave it kindling, probably without taking any damage at all.
“No, General. It still sits quietly in Alexandria harbor, buying grain and other foodstuffs. And selling the finest quality steel on Earth and other goods of like quality. What I have just learned, or rather had confirmed, is where it comes from.”
“You’re saying it really is from the future?”
“Yes. I just got a message from Egypt that Peithon and Arrhidaeus would be forced to resign.”
“They alreadyâ€¦Oh, I understand. They couldn’t have known that when they sent the message. So they are from the future, or they have some magi that can see at a great distance.”
“That’s not all the message said. They report that Antipater will be captured by the army and that Antigonus will come to his rescue with the assistance of Seleucus.”
They talked for a while. Attalus paid Cleisthenes a handsome bribe for the information, and to keep it to himself. “Also,” Attalus finished, “report any new information directly to me.”
* * *
Once Cleisthenes was gone, Attalus went for a walk. He needed to think. He moved around the camp with his bodyguard, and saw Seleucus talking with Eurydice.
Attalus had generally good relations with Eurydice, but she was wild. As he watched, it seemed like she was listening to Seleucus a bit too carefully. That decided him. He would tell Roxane, not Eurydice. He turned on his heel and headed across the camp.
Triparadisus was a set of three “paradises,” one large hunting park, an orchard of olive and fig trees, and a smaller walled garden with flowers, fruits and vegetables. The hunting lodge was located on the side of the river that held the trees and the vegetables, with the actual hunting park across the river. Across the river was also the direction from which Antipater was expected to arrive. So, while there were scouts on the other side of the river, most of the army was on this side. Both queens and both kings were located in the hunting lodge, though Eurydice wandered the camp at will.
Attalus climbed the three stone steps to the wooden porch of the hunting lodge and faced the guards. “I’m here to speak to Queen Roxane.”
“I’ll check but I doubt the queen will want to beâ€¦”
The guard trailed off, and Attalus handed him a large silver coin. “Please tell her it’s important.”
Shortly thereafter, Attalus was let into the presence. The little emperor was wielding — sucking on — a toy sword. It was made of wood, but painted in bright colors.
Roxane was sitting on a couch, leaning against one arm, eating a fig. “What can I do for you, Attalus?”
“I have word of the ship, the Queen of the Sea.”
Roxane sat up. “What news?”
Attalus looked around at the guards and serving maids, then back at Roxane. But she just shook her head. “I couldn’t dismiss them if I wanted to, Attalus, and I have no reason to trust you. How long will I live if Eurydice becomes the head of this army?”
“Longer than you might think. Eurydice may be impetuous, but she isn’t stupid.”
“Then why are you here?”
“Because I don’t trust Seleucus, and he’s too close to Eurydice right now.”
Roxane gestured to a chair. “Have a seat then. What news from the ship? Is it really from the future as they say?”
“Yes, and it carries some interesting information about what will happen.” Attalus took the offered seat and stopped talking. He was aware of the guards and not at all comfortable with their presence.