The Macedonian Hazard – Snippet 07
Chapter 1: A War to Fight
Queen of the Sea, Forward Radio Room
November 2, 320 BCE
The radio printer clacked and Joshua Varner jerked in his office chair. He couldn’t get used to it. The Queen had arrived in this time equipped with top of the line laser printers, and they still had them. But to keep that happy state as long as possible, they had, over the past year, built printers, using chips from anything they could scavenge. Dot matrix printers, which were slow and noisy. The radios sent digitally. That meant they could send anything from picture to voice to text, but text used the least bandwidth, and so was the most common. He was from the twenty-first century and here he was in the fourth century BCE, using mid-twentieth century tech to receive what amounted to radio teletype from Rome about the senate’s response to Antigonus holding Babylon against Attalus.
He rotated in his chair and scooted over to the printer. The roll of paper was held on the rubber cylinder with a serrated blade. He tore off the sheet. It was locally made rag paper. The words were in Latin and Joshua couldn’t read Latin. But the address was clear. He folded it, sealed it with wax and a stamp made by the machine shop, then called a new hire. “Delivery for the Romans. Titus Venturis Calvinus.”
Titus took the sheet from the messenger and gave him a ship people dollar as a tip. Once the door to his cabin was closed, he used a fingernail to pop the wax seal and opened the letter.
He sat at the small desk in his room and read.
From the Office of the Consuls
Rome will take no action regarding the conflict of the diadochi.
Make no promises to either side.
“Any side, they should say,” Titus muttered.
You will endeavor to obtain the designs for an electrical battery.
“A battery of cannons would be easier.”Titus tossed the cable on the desk and picked up the phone. “Who do I see about a battery?” he muttered to himself again. Then, making up his mind, dialed a number.
When the phone was answered, he said, “Capot, I have some scoop for you and I need a favor.”
“What sort of a favor?”
“Rome wants batteries. The electrical kind. Who do you know and what are your suggestions?”
“Hm,” Capot Barca said, and Titus could imagine him playing with his fancy beard. “I think lead acid is probably your best bet. I’ll have some names for you by lunch. Meanwhile, I’m going to send Carthage Rome’s plans, once you give me the scoop.”
Two hours later, Capot lay on his bed and read the Carthaginian response to his message. It was longer and more detailed, but amounted to much the same thing Titus got from Rome. The people back home were confident that with Alexander dead and the generals fighting each other, Carthage remained safe.
Then Capot got to the next section.
Do all in your power to prevent the Romans from seeing the work going on in the military harbor. In this history, Carthage will not wait for the Romans to sow our city with salt.
Insane, Capot thought. Rome wouldn’t be a threat for another hundred years, and by that time the world would have changed beyond all recognition. Capot stopped himself. No, that wasn’t right. Rome had read the butterfly book too. They would know about the three Punic wars, and would see Carthage as a threat, no matter what Carthage did or didn’t do. As much as he hated the thought, the government might well be right. The effect of the butterfly book was to rush things, to push the world in decades into wars that would have happened over centuries.
Had it not been for the Queen of the Sea.
Queen of the Sea, Piraeus, port of Athens
November 3, 320 BCE
Marie Easley looked around the conference room. Eumenes, Dag Jakobsen, and Daniel Lang were talking together, pointing at a map on the table. Eleanor Kinney, the chief purser for the ship, and Roxane and Eurydice, the queens-regent of Alexander the Great’s empire, were a couple of seats away. And all the way across the room, Olympias was scowling at all and sundry. She was greatly displeased that her stock of hallucinogens and other drugs had been taken. They were under lock and key in the pharmacy. Captain Lars Floden wasn’t going to let the fourth-century BCE’s most famous poisoner keep her stock of poison while she was on the Queen, even if she was the mother of Alexander the Great.
For the past few days, Eumenes had attempted to get the Queen of the Sea to take a force of his soldiers around the horn of Africa, because he had two fires to put out: Cassander in Macedon, and Antigonus in Babylon.
There were radios in Rome, Carthage, Alexandria and other places around the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas. But they didn’t have any radios in Babylon or anywhere in the eastern stretches of empire.
Eumenes couldn’t let Cassander consolidate in Macedonia, because Macedonia was the tail that wagged the dog of Alexander the Great’s empire. But if Eumenes concentrated on Cassander, it would give Antigonus One-eye time to cut the empire in half. To counter that threat, he wanted to remind the eastern satraps that they weren’t safe, even if Antigonus held Babylon, for the Queen of the Sea could reach them anyway.
Eumenes wasn’t going to get what he wanted.
The delegates from Antigonus One-eye were lobbying just as hard against Eumenes, insisting that it was an internal matter. And, for that matter, that Attalus’ attack on Antigonus in Babylon had not been an authorized action, but little more than an act of banditry. They also argued that even if the queens-regent Roxane and Eurydice were to rule against Antigonus, it was still an internal matter and for the Queen of the Sea to interfere would destroy its neutrality.
It was a good argument, as much as Marie might sympathise with Roxane and Eurydice. Lars wasn’t going to let the Queen be dragged into the politics of the diadochi, Alexander the Great’s surviving generals, any more than could be avoided.
Lars came in with Staff Captain Anders Dahl, and took the seat at the head of the long oval table right next to Marie’s seat. Anders took the next seat over. The position of Staff Captain was analogous to that of Executive Officer on a navy ship or a cargo ship. But the way it was working out since the twenty-first-century cruise ship, Queen of the Sea, arrived in the year 321 BCE, Staff Captain was going to be the title for Executive Officer in the future and exec was going to be ignored except by dusty old scholars like Marie. Marie felt her lips twitch at the thought.
Lars gave Anders a look, and Anders said, “If everyone will be seated, we’ll get started.”
Eumenes, Dag, and Daniel took their seats quickly, as did Eleanor, Roxane and Eurydice as well. Olympias went around the table to take the seat opposite to Lars, as though that were the head of the table. It was an obvious powerplay, and Marie looked at Lars. Lars let it pass. Whatever the changes over the last year and a bit, Lars had been a cruise ship captain for almost ten years and an officer on a cruise ship for even longer. He was a polite man and willing to let others appear to score points . . . as long as they didn’t actually interfere with the running of the Queen. That was one of the things Marie liked about Lars, even though she occasionally found herself wishing he would rip someone’s head off–metaphorically speaking–when the situation required it. Lars had proven his willingness to do it literally. He had washed the decks of the Reliance in blood when pirates seized her, and used the Queen to turn a fleet of triremes into kindling.
Once everyone was in the proper place, or close enough, Lars again let Anders say it.