The Macedonian Hazard – Snippet 02

It was hard work, but it paid fifteen bucks an hour in ship credit and Stella was going to need every dime of that.

214 12th Street, Fort Plymouth, Trinidad

December 28, 321BCE

Stella climbed the short bamboo ladder to the ground floor that was four feet above the ground. President Wiley promised that they would get plumbing using bamboo as soon as possible, but for now there were composting toilets that amounted to honey buckets that would be picked up by carts that would come around daily. The flooring was rough planking with gaps. You wouldn’t fall through, but it was obvious that speed was the controlling factor in construction. No time was spent on fitting or finishing. 

The names of the streets were, for now at least, based on a grid of numbers and letters, and your place in town was based on your room on the ship. 12th Street was populated with passengers from Deck 6 aft inboard. It wasn’t a law. If you had the money, you could buy any plot of land you wanted in Fort Plymouth or outside it. But there was a discount for taking what was offered, and Stella was not flush. 

The “townhouses” were two-story post and daub buildings made of wood posts panels. The panels consisted of a network of twigs that were then filled in with daub, the same stuff used to making mud bricks. They were made in standard frames in a central location and then carted to the townhouses to be installed. The second story was more of a loft than an actual second story, six feet high at the back and ten at the front.

The floors were wood, split logs. The locals–one of the native tribes–built their houses on stilts, so they had logs. The Queen of the Sea fabricated a bunch of log splitters to turn logs into rough planking. But the labor involved made that expensive, so they only used it for the flooring.  The walls were the mud daub. That was also the reason for townhouses. They were easier to build them in a batch than as individual houses. It also saved room, which the wall around Fort Plymouth put at a premium.

Her townhouse now had a shape, but was still weeks away from livable. She went next door to look at Donald Carnegie’s place. He wasn’t up to making the visit himself, but he did know about plumbing, so he was working on the Queen with the five other plumbers who happened to be on the ship when The Event occurred. Not that she, or Don, were going to get indoor plumbing anytime soon.

January 17, 320 BCE

Moving day. Stella walked behind Donald as he lifted the walker with each step. He was on a limited diet now, to try to help with the diabetes, but it wasn’t working, not really. He was shaky and had trouble walking. When they got to the stairs up to the ground floor, she took the walker and lifted it to the front walk, while he held the railing. Then she helped him up the four steps to the wooden sidewalk, or front porch, depending on how you thought of it. Once up, she helped him into his front room where there was a chair and a bed, both of which were pulled from the Queen as the interior rooms on the ship were converted to workshops rather than sleeping places. Stella, without the income from helping design the plumbing system for Fort Plymouth that Don earned, was making do with a locally made bed, reeds in a sack on rope supports in a wood frame.

Stella wasn’t trained to be an old man’s helper. She’d been a legal secretary who had spent her entire working life in a lawyer’s office. She knew how to punctuate a tort, not how to take care of a sick old man.

Once she got Don situated, she went back to her house, got her laptop, then headed to the computer center. The computer center was five blocks away on 7th Street, near the center of town, a larger building with a steam-powered generator to charge batteries and power computers.

Stella used her ship ID card as her credit card to clock in. Use of the computers wasn’t free. Neither was use of the charging station and the network link that let her hook her laptop up to the larger computers and drives that held copies of Wikipedia and the Encyclopedia Britannica, but it was cheaper than using one of the computers for rent. Still, even using the charging station to charge her computer’s batteries was another reason for making do with locally made furniture. She was researching glass making, because Lisa Hammonds from Deck 8, Cabin 8235, said that it was simple. Stella didn’t believe it, but she was going to find out.

While her computer was downloading the Wikipedia and Britannica articles on glass making, Stella thought back a few days to the discussion.

Queen of the Sea, Lido Deck

January 14, 320 BCE

“Isn’t glass making complicated?” Stella had asked.

“Nope. Glass is sand, potash, and if you want clear glass, you flavor it with a little lead oxide. It’s also the first industry started in the New Plymouth colony in like 1620.”

“And where are you going to get lead oxide and potash?” Stella didn’t mention sand, because she pretty much knew that Lisa would point at the beach if she did. But she was almost sure that just any sand wouldn’t do. You needed some special sort of sand.

“They call it pot ash because it’s ashes that you mix with water in a pot to leach out the stuff you want. It comes from the ashes of plants, especially water plants. Seaweed.” She pointed at the beach where there was a line of seaweed at the high tide line. “As for the lead oxide, that might be harder, at least here. But it’s just lead ground into powder because lead rusts really fast. That’s why lead isn’t shiny.”

“So why aren’t you planning on glass making?” Stella asked.

“Because I’ve got a degree in electrical engineering. That’s not as good as a mechanical engineer in this time, but somebody needs to design the electrical systems for Fort Plymouth and figure out how to make radios for when the ones we have wear out. And, if I live long enough, build computers.” Lisa Hammonds was thirty-three, on vacation with her husband Richard, who taught English Lit at the University of Tennessee. They shared an outboard cabin with a balcony before The Event. Between that and what Lisa was making helping to design Fort Plymouth’s electrical grid and the larger payout for the bigger room, they would have over fifteen hundred square feet and be nearer the computer building and capitol building. Once those got built.

Computer Center, Fort Plymouth, Trinidad

January 18, 320 BCE

The download finished. Stella started reading the articles while her computer’s battery charged. Glass making was more complicated than Lisa implied. For one thing, you didn’t make glass in a crock pot or a smoker. You needed heat. The sort of heat you needed to make pottery, 2,450 degrees Fahrenheit. Not much less than the melting point of steel.  That, in turn, meant you needed a kiln. Then you needed a different kiln to anneal the glass after you made it, or it would shatter. At least, that was the impression that the mishmash of articles was giving her.

As soon as her computer was fully charged, Stella put it carefully in its carrying case, and with the strap over her shoulder, headed home. It started to rain while she was in the computer center, so at the corner of every block she walked down steps onto a street that had turned to mud, slogged through the mud to the next block of townhouses, went back up four steps to the wooden walkway, then the same again for seven blocks. Fortunately, because of the way the townhouses were made, the walkway was covered by the second story balcony.

“Little boxes, little boxes,” she half muttered. Then she couldn’t remember some of the song, and continued, “And they’re all made out of ticky tacky, and they all look just the same.” She knew why that was. It was because standardization made for faster, cheaper construction. And building housing for three thousand people wasn’t cheap, no matter how you did it.


Once Stella got home, she dried off using a dirty towel because laundry was expensive now too. Then, using the same towel, she dried her computer case and pulled out her computer. Then she knocked on Donald Carnegie’s door and tried to interest him in glass making as a business.