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The Alexander Inheritance: Chapter Four

       Last updated: Monday, May 15, 2017 19:47 EDT



Royal Lounge, Queen of the Sea
September 19

    Al Wiley had barely gotten invited to this little dinner in the Royal Lounge.

    Every ship that belonged to Royal Cruise Lines had a Royal Lounge, and they were always reserved for private parties. This one was one deck up from the pool deck, and you could see the swimmers from the windows. The windows were massive picture windows that went from floor to ceiling. At the moment, they were transparent but Al knew that they could be opaqued with the flip of a switch. There was a well-stocked bar next to the main doors and both a large conference table and a set of smaller tables where people could eat, drink or chat. The chairs were white naugahyde, but of good quality. The tables were plastic, but heavy and colored to resemble teak or other dark woods.

    Al was miffed about the trouble he’d had getting this invitation. The captain was being unreasonable.

    But he pulled himself up short. This situation was upsetting him more than he wanted to admit. The captain was being the captain. And, technically, at least until things got a bit more organized, the captain had a point. He was the one with a legal obligation to care for the passengers and crew. Al stood up as the locals in linen robes came sauntering into the room like a bunch of tribal chieftains decked out in native attire. Which, Al guessed, was what they were.

    They were escorted by one of the ship’s officers…he thought it was Dan, no, something foreign…Dag, that was it. Right there on his nametag, Dag Jakobsen.

    The guests were shown to seats and Captain Floden introduced everyone. Dinocrates of Rhodes was tall, a dignified looking man, going a bit gray at the temples and around the beard. Crates was shorter, balding, with bad teeth. Al had seen the Egyptian, Atum, before, though he hadn’t been introduced. The woman, Lateef, was apparently Atum’s wife and Al wasn’t sure why she was here.

    The captain finished the introductions, and Marie Easley translated. At every name, the Greeks nodded their understanding till they got to Al. He listened carefully, but couldn’t follow. Then she said, “tribune.”

    “What’s the problem, Professor Easley?” Al asked.

    “They don’t have an equivalent title to congressman. The closest I was able to come was the Latin ‘tribune.'”

    Al nodded. It made sense. But it also brought some potential problems forward in his mind. Al was a Republican, and that wasn’t just his party. He believed in representative government, not the right of kings. And these people, even the Romans, didn’t get that. Not in the modern sense, anyway. That could produce errors in judgment among them, but there was a more insidious danger if they were stuck here permanently. Al had no desire to live in a world where the citizenry were lorded over by the kings and captains of antiquity.

    For the rest of the meeting, while Al listened and even participated, that thought was bouncing around his mind. They might be stuck here, not just for a time, but forever.

    They talked about resupply. They talked about fuel and its availability. They talked about taxes and duties. And it was mentioned that signal fires had been used to transmit word of their arrival to Memphis and Ptolemy. The satrap of Egypt would know that they were here by now.

    Then Dinocrates of Rhodes asked a question, and Marie translated. “Who owns the ship?”

    “Royal Cruise Li — ” Captain Floden started to say, but Al interrupted.

    “The people on board!”

    “Congressman!” Captain Floden said.

    Al said, “Wait, Captain, please. And listen. This is vital and it will affect all our dealings with these people. If the ship is owned by a company that will not exist for two thousand years, then it’s owned by no one, and is open to seizure. It’s in Egyptian territorial waters and, absent an owner, it is the property of the government of Egypt. Ptolemy. Don’t give them that opening.”

    “He’s right,” Marie Easley said. “Captain, we can’t leave it the property of a future company licensed by a nation that itself doesn’t exist yet.”

    “That doesn’t mean that it has become the property of everyone on board equally,” Captain Floden said. Then his lips twitched in a sort of half smile. “I didn’t expect such a communistic viewpoint coming from a Republican congressman.”

    Al felt a grin twitching his own lips and, without hesitation, let it show. “We aren’t insane, whatever the liberal media has told you, Captain. And I didn’t say it was equally owned by everyone, but who owns how much and how it’s shared out is something for us to decide, not the locals.”

    Captain Floden nodded. Professor Easley spoke in Greek, was questioned, and then spoke again.

    She turned to them. “Well, now they understand why Congressman Wiley is here. Or at least they think they do. He is here as a representative of the owners of the ship.”

    “That’s not too far off,” Al said.

    “With all due respect, Congressman,” said Staff Captain Dahl, “you represent your district in Utah, not the people on this ship, many of whom aren’t even Americans and less than a hundred of whom are from Utah.”

    “This isn’t the time, Staff Captain, but we need to have a meeting soon,” Al said.

    Then they got back to business until the Greeks were taken off on a tour of the ship by Professor Easley and Dag.



    “All right, Congressman,” Captain Floden asked after the Greeks had left the room, “what did you mean when you said you represented the passengers?”

    “Yes,” Staff Captain Dahl said. “Who elected you?”

    Al took a sip of ice water and carefully put the glass back on the table before he answered. “Staff Captain, as to who elected me, the people of the United States did. The chain of command runs from the president to the vice president to the Speaker of the House and President Pro Tem of the Senate, and then through all the members of the cabinet starting with the Secretary of State. If they’re all dead — or gone missing — then it goes down the congressional chain of seniority, to me. As it happens, I am three hundred fifty-seventh in the House. It matters for things like committee seats, which is why I know. For this ship, in these circumstances, I am the next in line for the presidency of the United States of America. And if you find that notion something between obscene and ridiculous, believe me, I am no more fond of it than you. But it’s true. There will need to be elections, but until they are held, I am the commander-in-chief of the citizens of the United States on this ship.”

    “But we aren’t in the United States, Congressman. We weren’t in the United States when The Event happened. We weren’t even in her territorial waters.”

    Al shrugged. Captain Floden had a point. “I agree that it’s a gray area, and I am not trying to usurp your authority, Captain. But, like it or not, it leaves me with a responsibility to the American citizens on this ship, and that’s the majority of the people here.”

    “Does that make me the queen of England?” Jane Carruthers asked with a smile.

    “I have no idea, Ms. Carruthers.” Al laughed. “I don’t know your relationship to the crown, or the relationship of the other British citizens on board.”

    “I can’t let command of the Queen fall to an unqualified person or, especially, a group, just because they have the most votes,” Captain Floden said. “And I can’t run for election, either. I’d lose and that still wouldn’t make me unqualified to command this ship.”

    “No, you’re right about that, Captain. Command of this ship, at least in the immediate sense, must remain with you and your staff.”

    “In the immediate sense?” Dahl asked. “What other sense is there?”

    “The long-term policy sense,” Al said. “If we are truly stuck in this time and it’s permanent, then we can’t stay on this ship having shrimp cocktails and weiners on a stick forever. We have to do something. Something beyond getting more shrimp and bread. The planning for that something can’t be the purview of one unelected man. It must represent the views of the majority of the people on the ship, passengers as well as crew.”

    “How would you go about that, Congressman Wiley?” asked Jane Carruthers. “I’m not objecting. In fact, I rather agree with you, at least in principle. I just want to know how you plan to hold elections and what level of…well, civilian oversight…you’re looking to impose.”

    “I don’t know yet, but we all need to be thinking about it.”



    “I wish to see the movers,” Crates of Olynthus said yet again. Marie didn’t even need to translate it because Crates had made the same request every time they had gone anywhere on the ship. So far they had been to the casino, two restaurants, a stateroom, the Royal Duty Free Shop, the Coach shop, where Dinocrates had bought a leather jacket, a backpack, and boots. They’d just finished the visit to Guess, where Dinocrates bought a pair of blue jeans and a silk shirt, putting the whole thing on Atum’s ship account. Atum wasn’t looking very pleased, but he had nodded acquiescence. If Dinocrates kept this up, they would be owed another boatload of wheat.

    Dag said in English, “We can take him to see the engines if you want, but there won’t be a lot to see. They are turbines and all the moving parts are covered.”

    “Show him what you can, Dag,” Marie said. “Almost twenty-four hundred years later, this man’s name is still remembered. He’s the one who designed the sewer system for Alexandria.”

    So they went down many decks, and Dag took them into the crew section where the passengers weren’t allowed, and showed them the engine rooms.

    “But where are the machines you mentioned?” Crates asked.

    “They are under the covers and behind the shields. Understand, we use great heat and spin the turbines very fast. So fast that even were there not shields, you couldn’t see the blades.”

    “Well, what can I see?” The little balding man seemed pretty upset.

    Dag thought about showing them the machine shop, and then remembered what Romi was doing in there. Instead, Dag took him to one of the monitors that could be used to see the props on the nacelles. The nacelles had cameras and lights. Looking at the monitors, you could see the props turning. As he showed Crates the moving propeller, he wondered how Romi was doing with the steam-powered guns.



    Romi cursed and sucked on a skinned knuckle. “What you think, Marcus? Will the arrester valve hold pressure?”

    “It should, Romi. It’s the rest of the rig that bothers me. It’s going to take a lot of steam pressure to run this thing.”

    “We’ve got a lot of pressure. High pressure fire-fighting gear all over the ship. It takes a lot of pressure piping to run those, and we can use the spares to set up the feeds for the cannon.”

    “You really think anyone would try to take the ship?”

    Romi considered. “No. They may be primitive, but I doubt they’re idiots. They couldn’t even reach the deck without help and they know it, or should. It’s seventy-five feet from the sea to the Promenade Deck. Figure that even a tall ship for these people is maybe thirty feet up. That’s another forty-five feet. They might be able to get a rope up to the Promenade Deck, but then they spend ten minutes climbing rope ladders while we drop flower pots on their heads. And when the survivors get here, they are so tired that a ten-year-old with a belaying pin could beat the bunch of ’em.”

    “So why are we…”

    “Because officers are obsessive idiots in any century. At least, ours are.”



    Dag showed the party into another part of the engine room and Panos Katsaros said something in Greek.

    Once Panos had everyone’s attention, he asked, “What about some shore leave, Mr. Jakobsen?” Then more Greek, apparently translating for the locals.

    Panos was a Greek lower deck sailor, an able seaman, whose job was engine wiper. He had also been an ongoing discipline problem. Nothing serious, but the man liked to party.

    The room held one of the emergency backup generators and it was receiving standard maintenance. Crates started talking in Greek and Panos held up his hands and made a downward pushing gestures. Crates slowed down, and Panos started pointing at the components of the generator, the coiled wires and the drive shaft. Just the sort of thing that any industrial worker would know about the machines he used and worked on.

    While Panos was impressing one of the great minds of ancient Greece with his knowledge, Atum spoke to Dag. “I can arrange something, Mr. Jakobsen. I know how to deal with sailors.”



    “I’ll have to talk to the captain, but I think that Panos here may be the only Greek speaker we have in the crew.”

    “I’ll make arrangements, and we can add the costs to my shipboard account.”



Alexandria Royal Compound
September 19

    Gorgias of Thrace looked out at the harbor and measured with a stick. It could be done. Not against a capable foe. Not against a Persian or even an Egyptian. But rumor had it that these were philosophers, mewling infants. Still, he was just drawing plans in the air, not doing anything real, not yet. But the prize…a ship like that, owned by real men, could rule the world. Gorgias was loyal to Ptolemy, but with a ship like that he could be king of Macedonia, Persia, even India or Carthage.

    “Menes, what do you think?”

    “It’s a fool’s quest, General. I’d rather go over the walls of Babylon by myself.”

    “You don’t believe the rumors then?”

    “That they are a bunch of western barbarians from the future?” Menes shrugged. “I don’t know. But I don’t believe that they can’t fight. No one who can build something like that can’t fight. Rather, no one who owns a ship like that can’t fight. If they couldn’t, someone else would have taken it from them by now.”

    “You lack imagination, Menes,” Gorgias said. “It could be done.”

    Menes shook his head at the general’s back and looked out at the ship.



Queen of the Sea, Alexandria Harbor
September 20

    “Atum told me that Ptolemy is at Memphis?” Marie asked the locals. They were back in the Royal Lounge and taking a break from negotiations on resupply. Dag was present because his knowledge of environmental systems was turning out to be useful in terms of handling the unprocessed products of the environment — all the fungus and poisons and stuff that was in unprocessed fruits, grains and meats. Eleanor Kinney was in the room. She had done most of the negotiating on price and, as a demonstration, had arranged to have fresh loaves of brown bread served. Bread made from the local wheat and ship’s yeast. This bread didn’t have the ground rock from the milling in it, and it tasted a lot better.

    The locals included Atum and Lateef, Dinocrates, Crates and two other merchants, along with Gorgias of Thrace, who was apparently in charge of the garrison of Alexandria. Marie listened to the Macedonian Greek pronunciation of the general’s name and it sounded like Gorgeous, which she knew was an ancestor of the name George, which brought to mind the professional wrestler called Gorgeous George. And if ever she’d seen a man who looked less like the iconic wrestler, she couldn’t remember it. This man had lank black hair and a heavy beard, a scar down one cheek and a nose that had been broken several times. He was also missing at least a couple of teeth and the ones he had were pretty ground down, and brown.

    Dinocrates and Gorgeous George looked at Atum, who shrugged.

    Then Gorgeous George nodded. “Yes. The battle with Perdiccas was over a month ago and things are getting back to normal in Memphis. We haven’t gotten word from Satrap Ptolemy, but I would guess he will be coming this way. As to the others, by now Alexander’s generals will be heading for the meeting at Triparadisus. From what we hear, the troops aren’t happy with Peithon and Arrhidaeus.”

    Dinocrates smiled, then said, “Peithon and Arrhidaeus are apparently having difficulty holding the army together.”

    “And such troubles couldn’t happen to a more deserving pair,” Gorgeous George said. “Opportunists, the both of them, and disloyal as well. We got word a day before you arrived that Antipater was expected there soon.”

    “I wonder how they will react to news of us when it eventually reaches them,” Dag said.

    Dinocrates seemed confused, then offended, and said, “They will know of your arrival by tomorrow night. The signal fires will tell them. We even know how to read and write.”

    “I am truly sorry if I gave offence, sir,” Dag said and Marie translated. Then she added, “I’m sorry, Dag. I should have edited that or just explained, myself. They had an extensive network of signal fires and pony express to get messages across the empire quickly. I knew that, but I was so distracted by what General Gorgias just said that it didn’t really register. Within a week, two at the outside, they will know we have arrived, everywhere from Athens to the Persian Gulf.”

    “What did he say that distracted you?”

    “Antipater isn’t at Triparadisus yet.”

    Dag shook his head in confusion. #8220;So?”

    Marie ignored Dag’s question to ask one of her own in Macedonian Greek. “Have Peithon and Arrhidaeus been forced to resign?”

    “What? They will be forced to resign?” Dinocrates seemed shocked.

    But Gorgeous George was wearing an expression of surmise. “No, not yet. When did that happen?”

    “I don’t know, neither in our calendar or yours. Shortly before Antipater got to Triparadisus, the tensions between Eurydice and those two got so intense that they were forced to resign as regents and send messages to Antipater to hurry up. Then, when…”

    Marie stopped speaking. She had to think. She could change history now, assuming the timing was right. The question was: should she?

    Eurydice might well have Roxane and Alexander IV murdered if she got solid control of the army that had mutinied and killed Perdiccas. It wouldn’t be out of character for any of the players in this history to order or commit murder. Most historians agreed that Roxane had had Alexander’s other wives murdered, or at least had been involved.

    On the other hand, Marie could be sure from her study of this time that if Cassander, Antipater’s son, got his hands on them, both queens and both kings would end up dead. And pretty horribly dead, at least in the case of Eurydice, although it was Alexander the Great’s mother Olympias who had murdered Eurydice and Philip in the timeline Marie had come from.

    But Cassander was a snake. Even Antipater so despised his son Cassander that he gave the power to others instead of Cassander, and Antipater was no great prize either. Nor Antigonus One-eye. It might turn out that Eurydice and Roxane wouldn’t do any better. But could they do any worse?

    Marie looked at the locals and realized that she, by herself, couldn’t change history. It would take the signal fires. “Here is our best understanding of what happened in my history about this time. As Antipater approached, Peithon and Arrhidaeus were forced to resign. Antipater came into the camp and was, in turn, captured by the troops loyal to Eurydice and held separate from his army.”

    Dinocrates gave Marie a look, and Marie almost laughed. “Granted, that army probably wasn’t loyal to anyone. Say rather, the troops who had listened to Eurydice — or been bribed by Attalus — got hold of Antipater. That situation held for a while, I don’t know how long. Then Antigonus One-eye arrived, camped his army with Antipater’s across the river from the — call them Eurydice’s army — and Antigonus put on his fancy armor and fooled them. He crossed the bridge with just a few select cavalrymen, and gave a long rambling speech in support of Antipater, watching for the guards on Antipater to grow distracted. He was supported in his speech by Seleucus, who got the better part of the eastern empire for his bribe. Antigonus then rescued Antipater and somehow got him back to his side of the river and escaped himself. In exchange, Antigonus got possession of the kings and queens, and got assigned to go hunt down Eumenes. Which took him years, because Eumenes turned out to be a better general than anyone thought. I don’t know how detailed your codes are for the signal fires, but if you can get a message to Eurydice with that information, it might make all the difference.”

    Gorgeous George was looking at her with disbelief clear on his face. Dinocrates pointed at one of the lights and the general’s eyes followed his pointing finger. Then he looked back at Marie and nodded.

    “What’s going on?” Dag asked.

    Marie explained. “We’re in a position to affect the outcome of the next battle in the succession wars.”

    “Which adds a certain urgency to my question,” Dag said. “How will the generals react to the news of our arrival? And when will they learn of it?”

    Marie had given those people who were interested a quick rundown of the wars of the Diadochi, the generals, and clearly Dag had been looking stuff up on his own. Marie tried to explain what was going on.

    “You should have talked to the captain before you said anything, Professor Easley,” Dag said. Eleanor Kinney was looking daggers at Marie too.

    “Does Captain Floden have a doctorate in ancient history that I’m unaware of?” Marie asked.

    “He’s the captain,” Dag insisted.

    “His authority on board this ship is based on the law from two thousand and more years in the future, and his expertise. He knows how to make the ship go where we need it to go. I would never dream of questioning his decisions on things like when to drop anchor or how many points to port we should turn. But he is not an expert on this time. I am! This is a political decision, and even in the twenty-first century his authority would not extend to that.”

    “I’m going to have to report this,” Dag said.

    “Go right ahead, young man. It won’t bother me at all.” Marie smiled, then turned back to the locals while Dag made his phone call.

    “General Gorgias, what do you plan on doing with the information that I gave you?”

    “Professor, is it?” he asked and Marie nodded. “The answer is, I don’t know. On a personal basis, I respect Antigonus One-eye as a brave commander. And as little use as I have for Peithon and Arrhidaeus, I have to respect that Antipater is the ranking officer in the Macedonian army. I think I will wait until Ptolemy gets here.”

    Marie noticed a look between Crates and Atum, but didn’t ask about it. And Gorgeous George was still talking. “I was surprised to hear that the future thought so well of Alexander’s scribe. He’s won some battles, but I assumed it was mostly luck. He’s not general material.”

    “History is quite favorably inclined to Eumenes,” Marie said.

    “History written by Greeks. Eumenes is a bookkeeper and the son of a wagoneer,” Gorgeous George said, and both Crates and Atum rolled their eyes.



House of Atum Edfu
September 20

    “Who can you contact?” Crates asked.

    “That’s less the issue than what to say. I have friends among the merchants and an army is always in need of food.”

    “Then Attalus, I think. He’s the one with the money, so he will be in touch with the merchants,” Crates said.

    “Fine. I will send a message to a merchant I know, and have him talk to Attalus. But what should we say? I don’t like Antipater, and I am not all that enamored of One-eye either. But do we really want to put Perdiccas’ family back in power?”

    “No, but that’s not what I think will happen.”

    Atum looked at Lateef, then back to Crates. “What do you think will happen then?

    “I think that it’s all going to come apart, no matter what we do. That being the case, I think we should encourage it to come apart quickly so that Egypt doesn’t get hit by the flailing parts of Alexander’s empire again.”

    “So what message? Remember we are limited by the signal codes and the time it will take.”

    The signal fire network that used bronze mirrors in the daylight hours was owned by Alexander’s empire and maintained in each province by the satrap of that province. So the messages of the government would go first, but after that the private merchants could use it by bribing the men manning the signal fires. All of which meant that if they wanted to send a message, they could, but it couldn’t be too long, and there was a good chance that a copy of anything they sent would be sold to anyone willing to buy it. The merchants were used to the system, so they used codes. Unfortunately, the codes weren’t robust and focused on matters of business, so sending something political would be more challenging.

    Atum tried to explain. “It would be easy enough for me to tell Cleisthenes that a shipment of wheat flour would be delayed or arrive early, but telling them that Antigonus is going to steal Antipater away from the army with the help of Seleucus…that’s going to be harder. Even with the signals, it will be two days before today’s message gets there.”

    “I know,” Crates agreed. “The message we sent when the ship arrived will probably be received in Triparadisus about now.”

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