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The Alexander Inheritance: Chapter Two

       Last updated: Wednesday, May 3, 2017 20:10 EDT



Off Formentera Island
9:00 PM, September 15, 321 BCE

    The voice over the loudspeakers was calm and matter-of-fact, as if the ship’s officer was simply reporting on the weather:

    “Ladies and gentlemen, using astronomic instruments, we have determined the date. It is the year 321 Before the Common Era, and it is September fifteenth by our calendar. Also, we believe we are in the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Spain. We have no idea how this has happened, but the captain has decided that for all our safety, we need some sea room. We will be moving away from the docks to insure that boarding by the locals is more difficult.”

    All around the ship everyone reacted individually, as their natures dictated. There were cases of panic, but more often than panic was disbelief. There was consternation and curiosity. The phones of passengers all over the ship were turned on and 321 BCE was looked up. Other people shrugged and went on with their gambling, shopping, dining, or other entertainments.



    Jason Jones pulled out his cell phone and tried to call his mother. He got a “no signal” message. Then he tried to call his father, who was just five feet away, sitting on his bed with his laptop opened. Dad’s phone rang with the Lone Ranger theme and he looked over at Jason.

    “I can’t get Mom,” Jason explained.

    Dad’s face got a pinched look on it and Jason got even more scared. Almost in desperation Jason asked, “Dad, if I can’t get Mom, how come I can get you?”

    “Good question!” Dad seemed relieved. “It could be that the phones are in range of each other. A cell phone is a small radio combined with a computer, and good ones like ours have the ability to talk directly back and forth if they are close enough. That’s how we can share photos when our phones get close to each other. But it might be the ship. I think the cell providers have restrictions built in. Let’s look it up.”

    That was Dad’s answer to everything. “Let’s look it up.” Dad called up the ship specs and got a rate listing, a chart of how much cell calls, wifi, and internet cost per minute or megabyte. A couple of links below that was a description of how it worked. The Queen of the Sea was wired to a faretheewell, with hotspots and wired connections all through the ship. Those led to the ship’s Communications and Data Center. That, along with mirror sites and catching, constituted the ship’s cloud. All phone and internet access first went into the ship’s cloud. A phone call from one cell phone on the ship to another never left the ship’s cloud. But you still got charged for the call as though it were going through the satellite. That was even true on some of the ports, because the Queen of the Sea had its own cell tower, called a repeater. In fact, it had three. One forward, one amidships, and one near the stern. Each station had a satellite link, a cell repeater, ship-to-ship, and ship-to-shore radios. That gave the ship’s cloud considerable range, so if you were on an island excursion and called someone on the ship, it usually went through the ship’s cloud. The reason there were three was to ensure that there was adequate bandwidth, and as a safety feature, redundancy in case of accident. Finding all that out took time, and long before they finished, a history professor decided to take a hand.



    In Stateroom 601, Marie Easley, a small woman with black hair and just a touch of gray, looked over at her daughter. Josette Easley was looking frightened. She was recently divorced and, as amicable as it had been, she needed to get away for a while. Marie got dragooned into accompanying Josette because she didn’t want to go alone. And now it looked like the trip was going to be a lot more life-changing than either of them had thought. Not that Marie hadn’t had enough life-changing since being widowed three years ago.

    “Mom,” Josette asked, “what was going on in 321 BCE before the common era?”

    It was a perfectly reasonable question, since Marie had a doctorate in history with a specialization in Ptolemaic Egypt.

    “Well, Alexander is dead, and so is Aristotle. A shame, that. I would have liked to meet the philosopher.”

    “Not Alexander?”

    “Didn’t you ever listen to our discussions around the dinner table, Josette?” Marie grinned. “Alexander the Great may well have been the greatest man of his time, but almost anyone who comes down in the history books with ‘the Great’ attached to their name has piled up a very impressive body count. Alexander was certainly no exception. He was anything but a good man by any modern standard of ‘good.’#8217; He and his cronies make the characters in Game of Thrones seem positively benign.”

    She thought for a moment, her lips. “Well, Epicurus was alive — is alive, and I suspect I would like to meet him. Perhaps even more than Aristotle.”

    “Do you think the captain and crew can get us back home?”

    Marie considered. It seemed highly unlikely on the face of it. And if the captain and crew were unlikely to be able to do so, how likely was it that anything would take them home? There was a tightness around Marie’s abdomen as she considered the world they were now in and the possibility…no, face it squarely, Marie…the almost certainty that they were here permanently.

    “No, dear, I don’t. Wait here. I need to speak to someone in the crew about this. There is information they are going to need and they are going to need it sooner rather than later.” Marie grabbed her laptop as she left the room and headed for the information desk.



    The Help Desk was, unsurprisingly, swamped by people asking questions that the staff was in no position to answer. So Marie answered them. “No, Alexander the Great died two, possibly three, years ago in Babylon.”

    “What about the Romans?”

    “Rome owns a strip of the west coast of Italy, but not much more.” Marie stopped and thought. She wasn’t nearly as familiar with Rome in this period as she was with Greece and Egypt but, yes, this was the middle of the second Samnite War. She wasn’t sure, but she thought the battle of the Caudine Forks was either about to happen or was recent —

    Never mind. “Rome is a republic of sorts, but it makes banana republics look good. Also, it doesn’t control enough territory to be of much use.”

    A teenager was scrolling through his phone. “What about Carthage? Aren’t they the great sea power of the age?”

    “Very little of Carthage is known. But, honestly, young man, most of what is known isn’t very complimentary. At this point, we are between the second and third of the Greek-Punic wars.”

    By now there was a crowd around Marie, and the clerk at the Help Desk called her over and asked about her credentials.



    “Captain, we’ve found an expert,” Jane Carruthers said. “Professor Marie Easley is a professor with a specialization in the history of Ptolemaic Egypt and we are in the time of the first Ptolemy.”

    “Fine, Jane. Get her up here. We need to decide what to do, and soon.”

    Jane knew that better than the captain did. Even though they were limiting portions now — which might cause resentment among the passengers and crew — they were going to run out of food in no more than a fortnight. They needed a supply base and they needed it now.



    Jane escorted Marie toward the captain’s conference room, explaining the situation, what they knew of it, and what they needed.

    “We need to go to Egypt,” Marie said, as soon as they’d entered the conference room. Everyone sitting at the table in the center looked at her.

    “Please explain why,” said the man at the head of the table. He had a Scandinavian accent but it wasn’t pronounced. Marie wasn’t quite sure of the meaning of the various insignia on his uniform, but she thought this was the ship’s captain. Although she cautioned herself not to jump to conclusions. She might be influenced by the fact that he was distinguished-looking and rather handsome, in a late middle-aged sort of way — the way a ship’s captain was supposed to look.



    “There are several reasons,” she said, “but the most important are that Egypt is the richest province in the Macedonian empire and will be the richest in the Roman Empire. It’s the breadbasket of the Mediterranean, even more than Sicily. And Sicily is in conflict at the moment between the Greeks and the Carthaginians. Also, I don’t speak Phoenician, but I may be able to get by in Macedonian Greek. Certainly, I can write in Greek, even if the spoken language has changed more than we think.”

    “We can be off the coast at Alexandria in two days, Captain,” said the man sitting next to him, who was looking at his computer screen. There were coffee cups scattered across the table, and the internal lights made the windows night black. “Fuel isn’t a problem. We were just loading up and the Reliance filled our tanks to capacity. Water isn’t a problem, either. We can purify what we need as long as we have fuel, but food will become an issue.”

    The one he’d addressed as “Captain” nodded. Then, smiled at Marie and gestured toward an empty chair. “Please, Professor Easley, have a seat. Before we go any further, some introductions are in order. I am Lars Floden, the captain of this ship. This fellow” — he nodded toward the man who had just spoken” — is Staff Captain Anders Dahl. My executive officer, if this were a naval vessel. Next to him is our Environmental Compliance Officer, Dag Jakobsen.”

    Now he nodded toward a woman seated at the far end of the table. “That is our Chief Purser, Eleanor Kinney. Who, judging from the way she is fidgeting, has something urgent on her mind.”

    He said that in the sort of relaxed, good-humored way that Marie recognized as the mark of a capable team leader. She relaxed a little and slid into the seat he’d indicated. Having an effective ship’s captain would be critical in the situation they were in.

    As soon as she sat down, Kinney spoke. Her accent was American — from somewhere on the east coast, Marie guessed. Not New York or Boston, though.

    “That still leaves the question of how we’re going to pay for it,” the Chief Purser said. “It’s not like we can pull out the ship’s credit card and charge it to the company account.”

    “Good point, Eleanor,” said Floden. “What do we have that we can afford to sell? We need an inventory of all goods owned by all the shops on the ship. Also ship’s stores. Nothing irreplaceable if we can avoid it. What can we make in the machine shops?”

    “We can probably restock the ship once, maybe twice, out of the jewelry onboard. But that’s not a renewable resource,” Eleanor said. “The same thing is true of the fabrics on the ship but, again, it’s not a renewable resource.”

    “Maybe not, but the laundry is. We can wash local fabrics. I don’t know how much of a market there will be for that, but it’s something.”

    “Wait a moment, Captain,” Marie said. “You are assuming that these are civilized people.”

    “Well, of course. I mean, Aristotle was Alexander’s tutor.”

    Marie opened her mouth, then she closed it. Opened it again. “Alexander the Great truly was great for his time. He had a wide view of humanity, one that included not only his native tribe, but Persians and other Greeks as well. But Alexander was an exception. As much of an exception for his time as Martin Luther King, Junior was for his. And Alexander would be tried for war crimes in our century. Murder, rapine, slavery, brutalization, theft by force of arms — all these things are considered perfectly acceptable, even honorable, behavior in this day and age. Failure to kill your enemies is considered insane weakness.

    “In the years after Alexander’s death, every single member of his family was murdered. Some of them quite brutally, and often killed by other members of the family. His mother Olympias killed his half-brother, Philip III, and forced Philip’s teenage wife Eurydice to commit suicide. Well, will kill. It hasn’t happened yet. Alexander’s wife, Roxane, had his other two wives killed within a week of his death, and she was later murdered herself, along with his only legitimate son, Alexander IV. Of the roughly two dozen top military commanders who launched the decades-long civil war that followed Alexander’s death, only three survived — Seleucus, Antigonus — not the first one, called ‘the One-Eyed,’ but his grandson — and Ptolemy. And Ptolemy, perhaps the sanest of his generals, founded a line of monarchs where incest was not just allowed, but required.”

    She looked around the table. “We have arrived in the historical period known as ‘the Age of the Diadochi.’ That’s a Greek term that means ‘successors.’ Have any of you seen the TV series Game of Thrones?”

    Anders shook his head; Floden and Kinney nodded.

    “Well, you can think of the Age of the Diadochi as Game of Thrones on steroids. Captain Floden, these are not civilized people we will be dealing with. I can say with a high degree of certainty that the only civilized people on the planet are on board this ship. And I am actually an admirer of Alexander and Ptolemy, if you take them within their context. Further, we are just at the beginning of the wars of the Diadochi. The political and military situation of the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East is out of control right now, rudderless because Alexander was the rudder, the center that held everything together. As brutal and ruthless as the people of this era were in ordinary times, they will be even less civilized now.”

    She moved her finger in a circle, indicating her surroundings. “They will attempt to take this ship by force of arms and failing that, by treachery. Any other course would be rank insanity by the standards of the time.”

    Floden took a deep breath and let it out. “What do you recommend then, Professor Easley? Should we go back to the island? Should we head for America? Understand, we will be out of food by the time we get there, but we can get there.”

    “No. We will have to deal with Egypt. It’s probably the most civilized place on Earth. But deal with them with guns out and armed, and with one hand on your wallet.”

    Floden made a face. “Professor Easley –”

    “Call me Marie, please.” She smiled. “You’ll wear yourself out if you plant ‘professor’ in front of my name every time we talk.”

    He returned the smile. “Marie, then.” He made no reciprocal offer but Marie wasn’t offended. There were good reasons to keep calling a commander by his title in a situation like this. Her title just got in the way.

    “This is not a warship, Marie. We have a total of twenty pistols locked in a safe,” Floden said.

    “Well, bring them out and have the security people start wearing them,” Marie said. “And see if you can get them some swords and armor too. Something that the Greeks and Egyptians will recognize as weapons. Understand me, Captain, this ship is worth fighting a war for. Worth risking a thousand men in a foolish charge, if there is one chance in fifty of taking it.”

    “Come now, Prof — ah, Marie. I know that we are…” Anders Dahl’s voice trailed off as he ran out of the right words to say what he wanted to convey.

    Marie could make a good guess at what that was. However advanced their technology, they were only five thousand people and only one ship. Granted, it was the biggest and best ship in the world, but still only one. That had to put a hard limit on its value. She understood, and even sort of wished the staff captain was right. Instead, she shook her head.

    “No, Staff Captain Dahl. If any king in this world could, he would trade his capital city for this ship without a moment’s hesitation. Babylon, Memphis, Athens — all of them together don’t represent so much wealth, in machines, in knowledge, even in direct ability to exert power. Pack them to the deck heads and you can put an army of twenty thousand men on any coast, anywhere in the world, in days or, at most, weeks.”



    “We’ll run out of fuel,” Anders started, unwilling, or perhaps unable, to give up his point.

    “We have the new flex fuel engines, sir,” Dag Jakobsen said. “They were designed to be environmentally friendly, but in our situation they mean we can burn just about anything liquid. Alcohol, crude oil…if it’s liquid and it burns, we can use it.

    “Our best bet is crude oil. It’s not the most environmentally sensitive choice, but under the circumstances, it has the best combination of energy density and availability.”

    “Are you sure of that, Dag?” the captain asked. “I agree about energy density, but availability? Wouldn’t it be easier to just use alcohol? The Egyptians have been brewing beer for centuries.”

    “Sure. But beer doesn’t burn. That takes a much more concentrated form of alcohol. We would have to introduce large-scale distillation and that’s effectively a new industry. I’ve been digging into the computers. Back in the eighteen fifties, they drilled a producing well in Trinidad that was something like two hundred fifty feet deep. And some in Wisconsin that were as little as fifty feet deep. I don’t know where we’re going to get it. They may even have it around here, but the cheapest way to get fuel is to drill a well. And, at least for the well in Trinidad, we have grid coordinates. We can fabricate a drilling rig in the ship’s shops onboard a lot easier than we can fabricate a whole distilling industry. I looked at Google maps. We know pretty close to right where to dig in Trinidad.”

    “Write me up a report, Dag. Once we have stocked up on food, we might find it necessary to cross the Atlantic and set up some sort of a base. Meanwhile, for right now, I think we have to take Professor Easley’s advice. We’ll head for Egypt.”



    Rabbi Benyamin Abrahamson sat on the loveseat in his cabin and prayed. He recited from the Torah under his breath as he tried to wrap his mind around the news. God had sent them back to this time. A time that some scholars insisted included the next best thing to polytheism in Judaism. It wasn’t the time of Moses, but Moses was closer to them in time than was the modern world. Even Abraham was closer to them than the world they had left.

    What did God want of him to put him here?



    Lawrence Hewell, a Baptist minister, was having a similar reaction, if one that was perhaps more emotionally confusing. “Dear Lord! Father in Heaven, why have you sent me into this wilderness? Not just among the heathen, but to a time when the entire world was heathen! A time before our blessed savior had come among us to offer himself in sacrifice.”

    Lawrence wasn’t mumbling. It was closer to a wail of despair. Close enough to a wail, in fact, that someone in the next cabin banged on the wall and a woman’s voice shouted, “Would you mind holding off on your spiritual crisis till we’ve gone to dinner?”

    Even here on this ship, where at least at this moment the only Christians in the world are! Lawrence thought. Even here, calling on the Lord brings the wrath of the unrighteous! Is that why God brought me here? To be John the Baptist? Three hundred years early? To prepare the way?



    In his quarters below decks, Yaseen Ali prepared to pray and stopped. Mecca was that way. He had an app on his phone that used the ship’s net to provide the direction and the app was working again. The problem was that the Kaaba wasn’t there yet, or if it was, it was the altar to a pagan god. The focal point for prayer had, for the first thirteen years of Islam, been the Noble Sanctuary, the temple of Jews in Jerusalem. Allah had moved it in the middle of prayers. Yaseen had always assumed that the move was because Allah was angry with the Jews. Allah, not Muhammad, later politics, or later mullahs. Allah. The Jews had rejected the teachings of Christ and then they rejected the teachings of Muhammad and Allah had had enough. So Yaseen had believed — no, known, with confidence and comfort in his certainty. That wasn’t the problem. The problem was that the transfer of the Kaaba had happened at a certain very specific time. Seventeen months after Muhammad had taken his followers to Medina. During noon prayers on February 11, 624 of the Common Era. Nine hundred forty-two years from now.

    The transfer of the Kaaba hadn’t happened yet! Would not happen for almost a millennium, if the effect they were going to have on history didn’t change it. Did he pray facing Kaaba in Mecca or the sanctuary in Jerusalem?

    At this distance the difference was miniscule, but it was the intent that mattered. Did Allah placing him and the other modern followers of Islam in this time mean that the Jews were getting another chance, or that they were already lost?

    Islam respected the people of the book. Even Jews. But now the only people of the book were on this ship, and they were mostly Christians. Only the Jews in this time were people of the book. That decided him. For now at least, he would pray facing the temple in Jerusalem. But the comfortable certainty of his faith was missing as he prayed to Allah to guide his steps in this strange world.



On Formentera Island
September 16

    Mosicar looked out at the ocean where the giant ship had been and wondered. Mosicar was the owner of a village of fishermen that was only a few miles from where the giant ship had appeared. He had ordered a watch placed on it, and a little after the middle of the night, it had sailed away.

    No. That was wrong.

    There had been no sail involved, nor any oars. No means of propulsion that he could imagine, not that he could imagine anything other than the will of the gods that could move such a structure.

    Yamm must favor their endeavors, and Mosicar didn’t want such people angry at him. Still, he had obligations to the crown in Carthage, and there was — at least potentially — money to be made. The whole village was set to going through the ruins left when the dock arrived, to find anything of value.

    What they found was strange beyond imagining. Aside from the lumber and odd daub-like stuff that made up the walls, there were pipes made of a white material. There were copper wires inside the walls, that were coated in a flexible covering like leather, but fitted around the wires like skin. There were scissors made of the best steel that Mosicar had ever seen. There were books and pamphlets with strange writing on them. Mosicar thought it might be like the Latin script, but he wasn’t sure. It was almost as though they used occasional Latin letters mixed in with a different script.

    None of it made sense, but parts almost did. There were images of people, of beaches and seas, and more of the giant ships — as though the whole world was filled with them and the people that occupied them. There were pools of water on the ships on the upper decks, and that was the strangest of things, for there seemed to be deck stacked upon deck upon deck upon deck, more than any ship could carry.

    “No!” Mosicar shouted when one of the women started to throw away one of the sheets. “We throw away nothing. Collect everything and store it all in casks and amphoras. I will send a boat to Ibiza and hire a ship. This will all go to Carthage to sell at auction.” He looked around as his villagers stared at him. “You will all get a share of the profits. But don’t be too greedy. Hiring the ship will cost money.”




    For the next few days, the villagers focused on stripping the dock and ruins of anything of any possible value. Two people were injured in collapsing buildings, and one died, but they picked the ruins clean. In doing so, they learned a large amount and made some surprisingly good guesses. They found a battery-powered flashlight and realized that the copper carried the power that produced the light. That explained much of the use of the wires in the walls of the buildings. They realized that lightbulbs were lightbulbs, and even managed to hook up a light bulb from a ceiling to a battery, and got it to light dimly.

    By then the boat sent to Ibiza had returned, escorted by a larger ship. Mosicar and his wife boarded the ship, along with the goods for the trip to Carthage. This was a major risk, and his wife was going along to make sure Mosicar didn’t screw it up. As a rule in Carthage and its territories, the wife was in charge of dealing with the household gods. And, more generally, the household management.

    Men were left in charge of politics and fighting.



Queen of the Sea, en route to Egypt, approaching Carthage
September 17

    The officer of the watch looked out at the galley off the starboard bow. It had come over the horizon from the direction of Tunis — or at least what would be Tunis in a couple of millennia — gotten one good look at the Queen, then turned tail and run for port.

    Honestly, Second Officer Adrian Scott wasn’t at all sure that he blamed them. He pulled up a camera, zoomed in, and took a quick snap. Eighteen oars on a side, a single sail that was not in use at the moment. They were making good time.

    Adrian wondered if the rowers were slaves. He wasn’t sure. He knew that some of the ancients used slaves as rowers and some used soldiers or sailors who got paid. And those were probably Carthaginians, and what Professor Easley had said last night was that very little was known about the Carthaginians, aside from the fact that the Greeks and the Romans didn’t care for them.

    It wasn’t the first ship they had seen on this watch, and probably wouldn’t be the last.



    Lars Floden waved Al Wiley to the small table in the dining nook of his private cabin. “I’m sorry it took me so long to get back to you, Congressman, but the things I absolutely had to do took precedence.” The captain was trying to be polite, but he wasn’t trying all that hard. It wasn’t as if the US Congress was anything he had to worry about three hundred years before Christ was born.

    “I understand that the…urgencies, let’s call them…of command can make the long-term consequences of our actions seem to fade in importance.” Al waved at the window. “I note that we are under power and the rumor is that we are headed for Egypt. Is that true?”

    “Yes, Congressman.” Floden nodded as Wiley took his seat at the table.

    “Is that wise? Wouldn’t it have been better to stay where we were in the hope that we might return to our own time? I only ask these things, Captain, because they are the questions that the passengers are asking me.”

    “We have looked into that question, Congressman, and the answer clearly seems to be that there is no chance we will be returned. Are you familiar with what is called the Minnesota Hypothesis concerning the mysterious disasters that befell the town of Grantville in West Virginia and Alexander Correctional Center in southern Illinois?”

    Al shook his head. He knew about the disasters, of course. Everyone in America did — probably everyone in the world, outside of a few people in places like New Guinea. But he’d never studied the issue.

    “Well, I just spent a fair amount of time with two passengers — both physicists — who have a great deal of knowledge of the matter. The Hypothesis argues that the records from the Alexander disaster are impossible to explain unless an element of deliberate purpose is included in the explanation. The term ‘intelligent design’ is not used, but that is clearly what is being suggested.”

    Al’s expression must have looked skeptical because Floden shrugged his shoulders. “I have no opinion on that matter,” the captain said. “But what is relevant to us is that everything we can determine about our situation is that we have suffered something very much like what seems to have happened to Grantville and Alexander prison.”

    He gestured toward the window. “Consider two things. First, we have definitely been moved in both time and space — more than two thousand years, in terms of time; almost five thousand miles, in terms of space. Second, the…let us call it the transposition, caused almost no damage to the ship and while it did damage the docks, it resulted in only one fatality. What are the chances of that happening if the disaster that befell us did not have elements of purpose? It would be like an explosion right next to someone that caused no damage except a ringing in the ears.”

    Al frowned. “But…what purpose?”

    “I have no idea, Congressman. Neither did the authors of the Hypothesis. But it really doesn’t matter, because what is uncontestable is the third feature of the Grantville and Alexander disaster.”

    “Which is?”

    “Whatever happened, no one ever came back. There is no reason at all to think we would either. So, we have come to the conclusion that we have no choice but to assume that we will remain in this new universe we find ourselves in for…perpetuity, let’s call it.”

    Al grunted. “As long as we can stay alive, you mean.”

    The captain smiled thinly. “Your words, Congressman. Not mine.”



Tug Reliance, in the Mediterranean
September 17

    Captain Joe Kugan muttered curses. He was still in radio contact with the Queen, but they were over the horizon from him now. The Reliance could only make twelve knots, not the twenty-two that was the Queen’s most efficient cruising speed, so the Queen had left them behind. Using the Queen’s charts and the inertial compass as well as the magnetic, they followed as they could, keeping further out to sea just to be safe.

    Meanwhile, Joe was cursing himself for a fool for having given away a full load of fuel to the Queen, based on a bill of lading that wouldn’t be good for two millennia and more.

    “Captain, sail off the port bow.”

    Joe looked up from his muttering and saw the monitor for the mast camera. What he saw was just the tip of a sail, and unless they had someone in the crow’s nest, there was no way they had seen the Reliance. “Bring us a point to starboard.” And more delay.



Queen of the Sea, en route to Egypt
September 17

    Dag looked at the designs and wondered. It wasn’t as though there was anything in the designs that the ship didn’t either have or at least could make, but it seemed like a lot of work to fight off a bunch of primitives who couldn’t even climb the hull without a lot of help or a lot of luck.

    He was looking at a WikiHow article on how pneumatic cannons worked and could be built. All because Marie Easley was an anal-retentive paranoid. Professor Easley had convinced Jane Carruthers, and Jane had convinced Staff Captain Anders Dahl, that they needed real weapons.

    Anders hadn’t bothered to convince. He’d simply ordered.

    “What do you think, Romi?”

    “It looks fine, Mr. Jakobsen.” Romi Clarke was grinning broadly, displaying the gap in his teeth where he had lost some in a bar fight. Romi had a partial, but it was not something they could easily replace, so Romi wasn’t wearing it.

    “How long?”

    “It depends. If I have first call on supplies and labor, only a couple of days. We have the piping in stores and the machine shop can turn out what we need. If it’s as we have time, it’ll take a couple of weeks.”

    “I’ll check with the staff captain, but for now treat it as when you have time.” Actually, Dag was pretty sure that the staff captain was going to want a higher priority than that, but Dag and the whole crew had a lot on their plates. They were preparing the ship for anchoring in Alexandria, Egypt, and converting the lifeboats to act as loading boats and transports while not losing their functionality as lifeboats. It was likely that this was going to be the fifth or sixth top priority on the list.

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