The Macedonian Hazard – Snippet 09
One Hour Later
Roxane sat on the couch and said, “That was a mistake.”
“It doesn’t matter.” Eurydice shrugged. “You know what happened in that other history and you know how Olympias felt about Philip’s mother. There is nothing I can do to keep safe from her, not as long as we are both on this ship.” She glanced at Philip.
Philip and Alexander were across the room. Philip was writing out equations in a combination of Greek and ship people English notation, while little Alexander sat across from him, drawing nonsense on a small chalkboard.
Roxane leaned back. “You have decided then?”
“There was never any choice. Not once Captain Floden let that woman on the ship. I will go with Eumenes.”
“I will go too,” said Philip.
“No. You stay on the ship,” Eurydice said, “where you’ll be safe.”
“If it’s not safe for you, it’s not safe for me.”
“But the treatments!” Eurydice complained. “You’re much better than before and I don’t want you to lose that.”
Philip considered. “I will miss the computers more. We can take the squeeze box with us and I can do maths for the army. I won’t have the drugs, but the doctor says that she wants to wean me off those as soon as possible.” The drugs were antianxiety drugs, basically low-dose morphine, designed to let Philip interact with the world without going into hysterics. “Besides, we can get weed if I need it. The doctor says it’s been in use in Egypt for centuries and made its way to Greece as well.”
Eurydice laughed because she knew perfectly well that Greek soldiers had been using cannabis for recreational purposes since they first passed through Egypt over a decade ago.
Captain’s Suite, Queen of the Sea
“I don’t trust that woman,” Lars Floden said to Marie Easley as they sat on his couch.
“I know. And I shouldn’t have laughed.” Marie took a sip of wine. “But she looked ridiculous.”
“I don’t disagree, but that doesn’t change the fact that we have a mass murderess on board.”
By now word had reached them about the sack of Amphipolis and what Olympias had done. It fit together all too well with her previous reputation. Whether she had used drugs, magic, or the power of suggestion, her slaves and servants had run amok and died to the last man, all the while setting the city on fire even before Cassander breached the walls.
“Mass murderers are not uncommon in this time, Lars,” Marie said. “I think I’ve mentioned that before. In fact, I’m almost sure I have.”
“It may have come up in the occasional offhand comment,” Lars agreed. Then muttered, “About a million times.”
“The problem is, Lars, that you too are a mass murderer now. Remember the steam guns turned on the Reliance and running over the galleys in Alexandria harbor?”
“That was war–” Lars stopped.
“Yes, it was. And you were right to do it, in both cases. But by Olympias’ standards, she was right too.”
“Oh, nonsense,” Lars said. “I’m as willing to accept cultural differences as the next screaming liberal, but drugging your slaves to go on a rampage is not the same thing as shooting people who are engaged in an act of piracy.”
“No, it’s not. Not to you and not to me. But to Olympias, it was simply a tactical maneuver to cover her escape and the slaves were collateral damage.” Marie held up the wine glass in a “wait” gesture. “I’m not justifying it, or approving of it, or excusing it. None of those things. All I am saying is that it’s the way most of the people we are going to be dealing with think, here and in Trinidad. All around the world. And just calling someone like Olympias a nut job is not nearly precise enough. And that will lead us into tactical errors in dealing with her and the others like her.”
“So what am I missing?”
“She is an incredibly smart nut job. One who has survived a snake pit for decades by being the most venomous snake in the pit. The question is: can she adapt to a world that isn’t all a snake pit? If she can, she could be very useful. And even if she can’t, she has connections and alliances enough that killing her would be incredibly dangerous. Not to mention wrong in the same way her poisoning all those people was wrong.”
“She hates you now. I want you to promise me that you’ll be careful around her.” Lars hugged Marie tightly. “I don’t want to be without you.”
“Oh, I will. I think I’ll see about borrowing one of Roxane’s Silver Shields.”
Queen of the Sea, Port of Izmir/Smyrna
Nursery in Roxane’s Suite
Dawn, November 5, 320 BCE
Eumenes reached down and tickled his son Sardisius in his crib. “Daddy has to go away for awhile, but you get to stay on the ship with the ship people and learn their magic. And you will have baby Alexander to play with and all the other children. Not bad for the grandson of a wagoneer. Grow well, my son, grow strong.”
Then, not letting himself cry, Eumenes turned away and went to board the lifeboat, now used as a ship’s boat, that would take him to shore.
Eumenes, Eurydice, Philip, a small company of personal guards, and the radio crew boarded the ship’s boat for the trip into shore. The bay of Izmir was not nearly deep enough for the Queen to navigate safely.
It took only five minutes for the boat to get to the dock, but an hour to unload. Erica Mirzadeh was supervising the unloading with the help of several Silver Shields, the veteran elite infantry of Alexander’s army. With them was another ship person named Tacaran Bayot. Tacaran was five foot seven, thin faced, with a goatee and curly black hair, black eyes, and skin that fell between olive and light brown. He had straight white teeth and an engaging smile. He wore khaki pants with pockets on the sides of the legs and a khaki shirt with big button-down pockets, all of which were full. There was the radio system and the generator to charge the batteries that ran it. The system was owned by the ship people, but assigned to Eumenes’ army under the direct control of Erica.
However, the rest belonged to Eumenes. Five hundred steel crossbows and a thousand venturi. They would build the rockets later, on the road, using designs worked out on the Queen. They would also be making black powder, which wasn’t a mystery to Eumenes anymore. They could do ninety percent of making goods that the ship people made, but the ten percent they couldn’t was often the crucial ten percent. Like the venturi, which needed to be an exact shape and of good metal. But the rest of the black powder rocket was well within their means. They could use rocks or small cast iron shards for the shrapnel. They knew sulfur, saltpeter, and charcoal, and they knew now how to mix them. They could make the rockets from light wood turned on a lathe. So far they were pedal-powered lathes, but they were still lathes. They had designs for steam-powered lathes, as well, although they hadn’t been able to make any yet.
The thing that increasingly bothered Eumenes was that even now Ptolemy’s agents on the Queen were getting ready to give him the same knowledge, and the Carthaginians would have it in another week, if they didn’t have it already. Even the barbarous Romans would have it soon. It wouldn’t be long before Cassander and Antigonus got hold of it. Likely as not, Ptolemy would sell it to them.
Warfare was about to change in this part of the world and all their experience as generals was going to be almost useless. Sometimes worse than useless. A phalanx of Greek hoplites facing a rocket barrage was dead meat. At least, that’s what Daniel Lang said, and Eumenes didn’t doubt him.
Suddenly, Eumenes felt a smile twitch his lips. That was all true, but Antigonus wouldn’t believe it any more than he would believe that a wagoneer’s son could be an effective general. Antigonus knew what he knew, and even if he realized that tactics had to change–which was by no means certain–that didn’t mean that he would be able to change himself.