The Macedonian Hazard – Snippet 01

The Macedonian Hazard

By Eric Flint, Gorg Huff, Paula Goodlett

Prologue: Build, Sell, or Die

Queen of the Sea, off the coast of Trinidad

November 28, 321 BCE

Stella Matthews lay on the bed in her cabin on the Queen of the Sea and watched TV. Stella was fifty-two years old, a bit overweight, recently divorced, with two adult children left behind by The Event, and was on the Queen of the Sea to, as the movie said, “get her groove back”.

Being dropped in the fourth century Before the Common Era was not helping Stella get her groove back. The fact that she was going to be dumped off the Queen of the Sea with nothing but her luggage and some so-called “money” that was sucked out of Eleanor Kinney’s thumb wasn’t doing anything for her groove either.

So she wasn’t goofing off watching TV. She was studying. There were recorded programs that could be watched on demand. The one she was watching was a discussion including Allen Wiley, who was the president of New America, his assistant Amanda Miller, Eleanor Kinney and a few others.

“As you all must know by now,” Kinney was saying, “there is no way that the Queen of the Sea can support the passengers indefinitely. That, as much as the oil, is why we’re here.”

Allen Wiley nodded his politician’s head with his face a picture of grave concern. “We will need to build ourselves a new nation here in the past. Grow our own food . . .”

“There is no way that the colony on Trinidad will be able to grow its own food this year and probably not next year either,” Kinney interrupted. “With all the hard work and good will in the world, it takes time for plants to grow. The colony. . . “

“New America,” Wiley interrupted in turn.

“New America,” Kinney agreed with a nod at Wiley, then looked back at the camera. “New America is going to have to buy all, or almost all, its food for at least the next year. Probably the next three to five years. Some of that will come from oil, but not all. There are only two ways that New America can support itself, manufacturing and trade. This is different from previous colonies because this is the largest initial colony that we have been able to find, not that we’ve looked that hard.” She smiled at the camera. “But the Mayflower carried one hundred and two passengers and about thirty crew to the new world. We will be more than two thousand . . .”

They kept talking, but Stella, a legal secretary, didn’t have a clue what she might build or sell. There probably weren’t going to be a lot of lawsuits for her to type up and file. 

They went on talking about who owned the oil well and, for that matter, the oil field. The oil field was owned by the colony, and the oil rig was owned by the investors, which included the Queen of the Sea, some of the crew from the Reliance,the colony, and the roughnecks working on it. There would be a dividend, but Stella could do math. Especially financial math. It was unlikely that she was going to be able to live off the annual dividend. I’m going to need a job.

Fort Plymouth, Trinidad

December 8, 321 BCE

Stella looked at the lot marked by sticks in the grass-covered sandy soil and silently raged. She knew perfectly well that her rage was fueled by terror, but there was a lot of terror to fuel it. Her hunt for a job wasn’t going well. It wasn’t that there wasn’t work for secretaries. It was that there were a lot of secretaries on the Queen of the Sea when The Event happened. And several of them had better ins with the new government than Stella did. All Stella had was her buyout from her room on the Queen of the Sea.

The money she got as the buy out of her share of the Queen of the Sea, along with a mortgage, was paying for this piece of land and the “townhouse” to be built on it here in Fort Plymouth. The deal was that fifty percent of the combined cost of the land and construction was covered by the buyout, and the rest was a loan at three percent annual interest. The total cost was forty thousand New America dollars, and she would pay out the other half over ten years, along with paying for her food and drink at the community center. She would be eating at the community center because her house wasn’t going to have a kitchen for the foreseeable future. Very few of the houses in Fort Plymouth were going to have kitchens. Having a kitchen of your own upped the cost of a townhouse by over ten grand.  She had no idea how she was going to get the money to make the payments on the basic townhouse. For the moment she had five grand in the bank from the sale of her cell phone to the ship, and that was going to go away in about ten months’ worth of payments. 

That was what the stakes were for, marking out her part of the block of townhouses that were to be built together. It wasn’t much of a townhouse. Seven hundred and fifty square feet, one bedroom, one work room, a closet that was supposed to be a bathroom once they got running water, no kitchen.

They claimed that it would have electricity and plumbing as soon as they could manage it. For now, it was to be built with a place for the wires and pipes.

She looked over to her left to see an old white guy with a walker. He was looking at the lot next to hers. After a moment, she recognized him. He had been in the cabin next to hers on the Queen of the Sea. Two internal cabins with no windows translated into two apartments in Fort Plymouth.

“You weren’t using a walker on the Queen.”

He looked at her and started to bristle, which Stella welcomed. She could really use a yelling match right now. Someone, anyone, to have a fight with would help.

But then the cowardly bastard deflated. Just looking sad and old. “The Queen had elevators and carpeted halls. Besides, I didn’t have to go very far at any given time. There was always some place to sit.”

Stella nodded and introduced herself.

He was Donald “call me Don” Carnegie. Seventy-seven years old and a retired plumber who smoked for fifty years and was about to take it up again because, with his diabetes, he was going to die soon anyway.

The natives used tobacco in pipes, had for who knew how long. Don figured why the hell not. At least he’d die happy.

Work Area, Fort Plymouth, Trinidad

December 15, 321 BCE

The half tent–roof, no walls–was part of the gear from the Queen. Now it was filled with benches as Stella joined the work crew. A man waved her over and directed her to a chair.  The crude bench table in front of her had a rough wooden framework for slats with strips of thin wood crisscrossed between them. And a bucket of gray-brown looking goop. There was also a flat piece of wood with a handle sticking into the goop in the bucket.

Once everyone was seated, the man held up one of the frameworks and said, “This is wattle. It’s just a thin framework of just about anything and its only purpose is to provide a place to put the daub.” He set down the wattle framework and picked up a bucket. “This is daub. It’s basically mud. A little more complicated than that, but not much. It’s pretty similar to the stuff you would use to make mud bricks. Your job is to use the trowel–” He held up a flat piece of wood with a handle like the one in Stella’s bucket of mud. “–and use it to spread the daub on the wattle in a smooth even coat. And have a care, folks. This is liable to be part of the wall of your house. And if it’s not yours, it will be one of your neighbors.”

They got to work, and it was hard work. The daub was thick and spreading it evenly over the wattle took effort. You had to pick up the wattle and rotate it to reach the far end. It took ten to fifteen minutes to finish a panel. Then you would raise a hand and an inspector would come around with a cart, look at it, and either point to places where the daub was uneven or didn’t cover everything, or put it on the cart to be taken to the drying shed.