Alexander Inheritance – Snippet 30
Queen of the Sea, Alexandra Harbor
“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 usâ€¦”
“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 skinâ€¦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.
“Admiral said toâ€¦”
“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.”