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The Alexander Inheritance: Chapter Five

       Last updated: Monday, May 22, 2017 09:16 EDT



September 20

    Eurydice sat on the couch, leaning against one arm and listened to the soldier read out the report from the signal fires. She knew that someone had gotten the size wrong. There was no way a ship could be that big. It wasn’t possible. Philip, though, was mumbling and Eurydice slid over to listen. He was muttering numbers as he often did. Philip wasn’t stupid, whatever the others thought. He just thought differently. He didn’t understand the value of a drachma and he never looked at people directly, but he read everything he could get his hands on and was constantly doing calculations. It was more than simple counting, what Philip did. He understood the world through numbers, shapes and vectors. So she listened carefully and began to wonder. Philip seemed to think it was at least possible.

    Once that was out of the way, Eurydice got up and moved over to Roxane, who was sitting in state across the room. Philip would be busy with his calculations for a time. “What do you think?”

    Roxane sniffed dismissively and Eurydice wanted to slap the spoiled bitch, but managed to restrain herself. She waited, and after a moment Roxane said, “With the army in the state it’s in, it could mean anything. Remember, Antipater is on his way, and will be arriving in no more than a week.”

    “I’ll deal with the old man,” Eurydice said.

    Roxane looked back at her. “Don’t underestimate him. Your hold on the army is weak, and Antipater has the rank. These are soldiers, Eurydice. Unpaid and angry, but soldiers. They are conditioned to respect rank.”

    “They killed Perdiccas,” Eurydice insisted.

    “No. Peithon and Arrhidaeus killed Perdiccas, and the army let it stand. And that only after the idiot had lost a third of the army trying to march them across the Nile.”

    Eurydice didn’t like Roxane, but had to admit that the woman was astute. She understood politics, even if she lacked the guts of a Macedonian. Now Eurydice considered what that would mean for herself. Roxane was probably right about the reverence that Antipater was held in by the common soldiers, especially since they hadn’t had to deal with the old man for decades. Antipater wasn’t fond of Eurydice, and Eurydice didn’t trust him. She didn’t trust any of them. But old man Antipater despised anything that wasn’t Macedonian, and despised women even more than he did Greeks. Until now, Eurydice had been planning to continue her bid for the regency, or at least a real place on a regency council. But with Antipater running things, that seemed a lot less likely to succeed. She would need to push the sub-commanders so that the old man didn’t get to use his rank. “Do you want to be left in Antipater’s hands?”

    “Do you think we have a choice?” Roxane hissed at her, her eyes slitted. “Disabuse yourself of the notion that we are queens, little girl. We are no more than bargaining chips in the game of power that the generals play now.”

    “Is that what you want?” Eurydice hissed back. “To be a playing piece?”

    “It’s –” Roxane started in what was almost a shout and suddenly everyone in the room was looking at them. Roxane looked back and they looked away, then she continued much more quietly. “It’s not a matter of what we want or don’t want. It’s a matter of what is.”

    “But the ship,” Eurydice insisted. “It changes things, doesn’t it?”

    “Maybe. If it’s real, and not some plot. At this point, how it changes things is anyone’s guess.”

    Eurydice turned away from Alexander’s beauty and went back to Philip. The woman’s perfume was giving her a headache.



Reliance, Alexandria Harbor
6:23 AM, September 21

    Joe Kugan saw the bulk of the Queen of the Sea rise out of the horizon with a mixture of relief and resentment. He’d had plenty of time to think as he made his slow way across the Mediterranean Sea. Everything was left back in the future. His wife, his sons, the company…everything. Meanwhile, he and his crew had been left behind by the Queen as she rushed off to Alexandria. They could have gone slower. They could have waited, but they didn’t. Well, fine. If they were going to be that way, so was he. The Reliance was his ship, and the fuel oil on her was his fuel oil. His and his crew’s.

    “Radio message, Captain,” Michael Kimball said. “They want us to pull up on the starboard side of the Queen and prepare for fuel transfer.”

    “We’ll go ahead and pull up to the side, but not a drop of our fuel oil is going to leave the barge till I have a few things settled with Captain Queeg over there.”

    “Fine by me, Captain,” Michael said with a grin.



    “The Reliance confirms that she will pull up alongside, but says that refueling will have to wait until a price and a medium of exchange are established.”

    “Fine.” Lars Floden rubbed his eyes. He had been in meetings almost nonstop since they reached Alexandria. Meetings with the cooks and the engineering staff as they tried to come up with ways of separating the wheat from the chaff and grinding the wheat into flour suitable for making bread. Fortunately, there was yeast in the bakery. By using some of that, they had established a good colony of twenty-first century yeast, which they might be able to sell to the locals because clearly the Queen’s bakery turned out better bread than the locals. Then there were the meats, which often had tapeworms and other parasites. For right now, that was being handled by cooking everything well done. The vegetables were of indifferent quality and it was all expensive.

    In spite of the amount of the provisioning problems Jane handled, a load of it had made its way to the captain’s desk because people didn’t like the answers Jane gave them. “Set up an appointment with Captain Kugan and the staff captain.” Lars felt himself smile. “And include Congressman Wiley. If he wants to be involved so much, let him tell Joe Kugan that the oil in Barge 14 is owned by all the passengers in common.”

    “Yes, sir.” Doug smiled and pulled up the captain’s schedule. It was — unsurprisingly — full. It would be the next afternoon before the captain, staff captain, and Congressman Wiley would all be free at the same time.



Royal Lounge, Queen of the Sea
September 21

    “Not at all, Captain Kugan. I agree completely. You and your crew own the Reliance and the fuel on board her as well.” Al Wiley smiled generally around the room and even snorted a laugh at the captain’s expression. “You always knew I was a Republican, Captain Floden, not a communist. I am simply concerned that all the, er, found wealth be shared out in a reasonably equitable manner. The people on the Reliance own the Reliance. The people on the Queen of the Sea own the Queen of the Sea.”

    By now Kugan was looking smug, Floden was looking pissed, and Dahl was looking ready to chew nails and spit tacks. Which was pretty much what Al had been going for in all cases. “You and your crew have a valuable ship there, Captain Kugan, and a valuable cargo. However, it’s a very limited cargo too.”

    “What do you mean?”

    “You don’t have machine shops on the Reliance. You can’t fix anything that can’t be fixed by hand. You don’t have food, water or the means to get any of those things on your own. Perhaps most important of all, you don’t have someone who can speak to the locals to allow you to negotiate with them directly. And even if you could, what makes you think they would negotiate in good faith?”



Royal Palace, Alexandria
September 21

    “We need to learn their language,” Dinocrates said. “I don’t like the idea of everything we say going through that woman. There’s something odd about her. For one thing, I’m sure she’s much older than she looks.”

    Atum suppressed a grin when Ptolemy looked first at his hetaera, Thaïs, then back at Dinocrates.

    “There are options, Philos Dinocrates,” Atum said. Philos was a court title roughly on a par with the later “count,” and had been given to Dinocrates by Alexander when he was given the job of overseeing the construction of Alexandria. Ptolemy reaffirmed the title when he was made satrap of Egypt by Perdiccas at Babylon, just after Alexander’s death.

    “What alternatives?” asked Ptolemy.

    Atum bowed. “They have a sort of magic slate.” He waved to Dinocrates and Crates, as well as Lateef. “We’ve all seen them.” Atum was referring to the e-pads and phones with their gorilla glass fronts. Something that you really had to see to believe. “Please withhold your judgment on our sanity until you have had a chance to see them. In any case, there is a demon or ghost they call a program that can be placed in the slates, and it can translate, if not well. Its Greek is barely understandable and it speaks no other tongue known in this time.”

    “I thought they knew Egyptian in that future,” said Thaïs.

    “So, apparently, did they,” Lateef said. “The language of my home has changed even more in the intervening centuries than Greek has. What about Latin, Atum? Didn’t Marie say something about the translation ghost having Latin?”



    “I’ve heard it. It sounds a little like Latin, but it’s hard to tell. Perhaps I should have said ‘it speaks no other civilized tongue.’ The point I was trying to make is that if we can get one of their magic slates, we can use it to learn their language.”

    “Will the slates work for us?” Ptolemy asked.

    “I asked about that, and if I understood the answer, they will for a time, if we are given the spell to unlock them. But they run out of life force and must be fed their vibrant force. They call it ‘e-lek-trik,’ I think, and it is made of the same stuff as lightning.”

    Dinocrates, Crates and Thaïs all nodded in support. Some of the Greek philosophers had experimented with the same power. No one in the room knew the distinctions involved. The experiments they had read about had been with static electricity, and to a lesser extent with bioelectrical sources, like the electric eel. Direct current and alternating current would be new to them, but not completely unfamiliar.

    “Then we should see about gaining one or more of the magic slates and some means of providing them with the ‘e-lek-trik,’ you mentioned,” Ptolemy told Atum, “and learn how they are fed. I hope it can be done like the experiments discussed in works, and doesn’t require sacrifices to their gods.

    “What can you tell me about that other ship that arrived this morning?”

    “I was on the Queen when it arrived,” Atum said. “It is a fuel ship, loaded with the refined naphtha they use to power the larger ship. That’s all I know, but I got the impression that Dag was less than pleased with the crew of the Reliance for some reason. He didn’t say why, and I didn’t want to ask.”

    “Yet another reason we need one of those magic slates.”

    “It won’t be cheap, Satrap. I bought one of their ‘flashlights,’ and it cost a thousand pounds of wheat. The &##8216;L-E-D flashlight’ is a relatively simple device, so Dag explained to me, and I saw the same thing in their gift shop.”

    Ptolemy’s expression went dark, and Atum lost any urge to smile in response. “I will send messages to Memphis for more grain and foodstuffs,” Ptolemy said. “And I don’t doubt that I can handle the expenses. But I don’t like these merchants trying to bargain with me in my own harbor.” The satrap of Egypt grimaced, then continued. “In the meantime, get me a slate.”



    Gorgias looked at Ptolemy as the others left the audience chamber. “It can be done, Satrap. I have been aboard the ship and seen both the strengths and weaknesses of it.”

    “And what are they?”

    “The great strength is simply the size of the thing. That, you can see from here. It would be a climb and we would take losses making it. The ship is like a mountain fortress.”

    “And the weaknesses?”

    “The people on board that ship are sheep for the shearing. Many of them are old, and all of them are fat. If there are two hundred soldiers among the five thousand people on that ship, I’ll eat the excess. That is the largest single weakness, but almost as great is the lack of weapons. They wear on their belts a device that is apparently something like a slingshot that throws a small oblong pellet. I doubt they would stand up against bows, even if they had a lot of them. And they don’t. They have twenty, perhaps twice that. I didn’t want to seem too curious, but they are, at the core, unarmed oldsters off on a jaunt.”

    “What would be the best way to take the ship?”

    “Subversion of the crew, I would think.” Gorgias considered. The crew were basically servants, though not slaves. Certainly not war captives. They were paid for their work and under normal circumstances could leave their service. But these weren’t normal circumstances, and Gorgias was convinced that the laws that held them in check had been left behind in that place or time they came from. Gorgias wasn’t convinced it was truly the future, though he was starting to think it might be. He brought himself back to the question. “Failing that, or perhaps in coordination with it, an attack by galleys, ropes and ladders thrown up to the ports to get our troops in. Once we are in, there won’t be much to it. But we will lose men getting in, possibly a lot of men.”

    Ptolemy nodded, and then said, “Make your preparations, but quietly. And take no overt action until I tell you to.” There was a half-smile on the satrap’s face. “Such a ship is rulership of the Mediterranean Sea and all the lands surrounding it. If Alexander had had such a ship, he would have indeed ruled the world. And if Perdiccas owned it, I would be dead now. At the very least, we cannot allow it to fall to Antigonus or Seleucus. Attalus would be almost as bad. Hades, even old Antipater would be dangerous with such a weapon. If for no other reason than that Cassander might inherit it when the old man dies. Even Cassander would be brave from aboard such a ship.”

    “What about Eumenes?”

    “No. And not because he’s a Greek. He’s a good general and Alexander trusted him with reason. No, we are safe from…” Ptolemy stopped. “No. You’re right, Gorgias. Eumenes would be the greatest danger of all. Not because of his ambition, but because of his honor. He would try to impose Alexander’s empire on us all, out of loyalty to the Argead royal house. He would put demented Philip and baby Alexander on my throne.” Ptolemy shook his head. “No, we can’t allow that ship to run free.”



Queen of the Sea, Alexandria Harbor
September 21

    “This is so cool,” fifteen-year-old Latisha Jones told her brother as they filed into the theater. The entertainment staff had decided to put on Egyptian Karaoke Night in the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. So far, all The Event that brought them here had done was extend their vacation. At least that’s what Latisha was telling herself just as hard as she could. It wasn’t that she was unaware of the danger they were all in, and the fact that they might never get home again. But she didn’t want to face it, not yet. Latisha was in denial, and had every intention of staying there till they got home.

    Jason Jones tried to play along. Two years younger than his big sister, he was finding denial harder to achieve. Dad was a high school principal and this was the annual divorced-father-family-vacation. Since The Event, Dad had been spending almost all his time on the shipnet. He was trying to figure out what had happened and what they could do about it. Mom was back at home and Jason was wondering if he would ever see her again.

    They filed into the theater, found their seats, and the lights came up to a black-haired guy in a campy Egyptian headdress and a skimpy costume.

    “Under the circumstances we have decided that what is needed is a clear and exact description of Egypt at this time,” said the guy. Then he went into a lip-syncing of Steve Martin’s “King Tut.”

    After King Tut came a woman singing “Cleopatra, Queen of Denial” and then a group of women doing “Walk Like an Egyptian.”

    Overall, Jason didn’t think it was particularly funny, but Latisha seemed to be having a blast.



    “How are the passengers reacting, Jane?” Lars Floden asked the hotel manager.

    “Restive, Lars. The ship has a lot of entertainment venues, but they are not enough for everyone. It’s planned that much of the entertainment on these cruises will be shore excursions.”

    “We can’t risk that sort of thing yet. I’m not even comfortable with the crew’s shore leave under Atum’s watchful eye. A bunch of Americans with, for the most part, very little in the way of experience with other cultures? That would be begging for incidents.”

    “I’m not arguing, Captain. But we are going to have to come up with some sort of solution. The Queen is a big ship, but it’s not big enough for this many people to live on permanently. So the restiveness is only going to get worse. Right now, the main thing preventing riots is that everyone is terrified and intent on sticking together. Once they calm down a little, they are going to start demanding things.”

    “They started that within minutes of the –”

    “No, they didn’t. Sure, there were the ‘take us home,’ ‘you have to undo this’ types, but mostly people have stayed pretty calm. That’s going to change as it sinks in that they aren’t about to be beheaded by a bunch of barbarian Greeks, and they’ll start to wonder what they are going to do for the rest of their lives. This isn’t a stable situation, and I don’t see any way of making it into one.”

    Lars nodded. He knew Jane was right. He just didn’t have a good answer. He had an answer: dump the passengers. That, at least, would work. But he couldn’t do that. He wouldn’t. He had a responsibility for everyone on board. In a way, he had even more of a responsibility to the passengers than to the crew. This needed a political solution and Lars wasn’t a politician.

    However, Lars did have a politician on hand. As much as he didn’t care for Al Wiley and distrusted his judgment, he was going to have to call on his skills.




    At that moment, Al Wiley was having his own problems. “What can I do for you, Reverend Hewell?”

    “We have to go to Judea. The Second Temple still stands and Jesus is coming. We must clear the way for him. Cleanse the temple and protect Judea from the Romans.”

    “Reverend, that’s more than three hundred years from now. We are facing more urgent concerns.”

    “You don’t understand, Congressman. Being a Mormon and all. It’s why God sent us here. We are to prepare Judea for the coming Christ.”

    Al kept his politician’s smile, but it wasn’t easy. He tossed Amanda a look. Amanda shrugged at him behind Mr. Hewell’s back and Al knew what she meant. You had to take support where it was offered in politics. “I will take your points to the captain and speak for them. But right now, it’s not up to you, or me, or any of the passengers. It’s up to the captain. We are aboard a ship at sea, and the law is clear about that. Until some form of civil government is established, we won’t have a lot of say in what goes on.”

    “That’s not right, Congressman. We’re Americans. I can’t abide dictatorships.”

    “That’s a harsh way of putting it, Mr. Hewell, though I take your meaning. Still, any sort of change in government would need to be done civilly, through the electoral process.”

    Once Hewell was gone, Amanda ushered in the next complainant. This one wanted the ship to go back out to sea and avoid contaminating the local culture with modernity. Al found he had more sympathy for Mr. Hewell. But he was polite, promised to bring the matter up with the captain, and repeated the spiel about it not being their choice until some form of civilian government was established.

    “Boss,” Amanda said, “we’re pushing pretty close to mutiny.”

    “I know, Amanda. But if it turns out to be a choice between mutiny and a permanent dictatorship, I’ll risk the mutiny.” Al threw up his hands in frustration. “Do you think I like this? I’d rather be back in Washington dealing with the Democrats, for the Lord’s sake.”

    “I think Captain Floden has done a pretty good job, sir,” Amanda said.

    “Captain Floden hasn’t yet made a decision or formed a plan,” Al said. “He’s just reacting. Marie Easley says the best place to go for food is Alexandria, so we go to Alexandria. Now we are resupplying. Fine, good enough, exactly what a pseudo-military bureaucrat ought to be doing. But Floden isn’t the man to set policy.”

    “There really hasn’t been a lot of cause for Captain Floden to make long-term policy decisions. It’s only been a few days and we’ve had enough on our plate just dealing with the emergencies.”

    “I know you’re right,” Al admitted. “And it may be that we got off on the wrong foot, but I just don’t trust his judgment.”



    Eleanor Kinney was worrying over the same issue, but from a different angle. “We need something to sell, Professor.”

    Marie Easley looked up from her computer screen. “Excuse me? I thought we had established a list of goods and services.”

    “We did, and aside from the issues of space, it’s working for now. But this isn’t a cargo ship. It’s a cruise ship. It’s designed to carry people, and people are light cargo.”

    “Light cargo? A human is mostly water. We aren’t that light.”

    “We are when you figure one human in an eight by twelve by fourteen foot space, not to mention all the public spaces. We’re lighter than a cargo of feathers and a whole lot lighter than a cargo of grain. That’s why cruise ships are so much taller than cargo ships.”

    Marie nodded. “Yes. I should have realized. Also the electricity, the L E D lights that have a very long life span, the plumbing and computers. Putting this ship to work as a cargo hauler would be a waste…”

    Professor Easley trailed off and Eleanor was tempted to ask her what she was thinking. But she waited.

    “A university,” Marie said. “Most especially a technical school that will have required courses in political philosophy. If they want to study electronics, fine. But they must also study the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. The thirteenth amendment and the reason for it.”

    By now Eleanor had seen the slaves in Alexandria and the welts on backs and arms, the scars on faces and feet. Yes. The thirteenth amendment abolishing slavery was something these people needed to learn about.

    It’s something they need shoved down their throats. Eleanor was shocked at how violent that thought was. There was a rage building in her that she hadn’t realized was there. A little Eleanor Kinney standing up next to Tony Curtis and shouting “I am Spartacus!” along with all the other slaves.

    All of a sudden, she was worried. Because as strongly as she felt about it, she knew that they couldn’t fight the Civil War with five thousand people, most of them old farts on vacation. Al Wiley said he understood that, but she didn’t trust his judgment, not on this.



September 21

    “I don’t trust his judgment,” Roxane said looking to the north, seeing in her mind’s eye the armies that were still days away. Antipater was closest but Antigonus was marching his army to Triparadisus too. She turned to her guard commander, Kleitos. “With Eurydice playing her games, Antigonus will push too hard out of anger and outrage. Ptolemy might have us killed for political reasons, but Antipater is likely to do it just because he’s offended or impatient.”

    “Antipater isn’t any worse than Perdiccas,” Kleitos said. “He was going to marry Cleopatra and reach for the crown and you know it.”

    “Maybe. But Cleopatra is thirty-six and if she isn’t past her child-bearing years, she will be soon enough. Besides, Perdiccas was made regent by Alexander and the partition at Babylon. That’s why Eumenes was loyal to him. The rest of the generals are vultures.”

    “I know you like the Greek, but the Macedonians won’t follow him. I know. I’m a Macedonian.”

    “And yet you are loyal to me, and my guard as much as my jailor, Kleitos.”

    “I’m a man under orders, Roxane, and little Alexander is his father’s son. I owe him my loyalty, at least what loyalty I have left after all these years a soldier.”

    Roxane laughed at that. Kleitos was a cynical man, and she knew that if the soldier was ordered to he would kill her and even little Alexander. But, still, a sort of affection had grown up between them. He was a nice man in his cynical way, even if he was a killer. Every man she had known in her life had been a killer, at least potentially. And most of them had been in fact. That was the world she lived in and the only one she knew. But she knew that world well. She knew how to play the game and how to hide. That was why she was worried now. Ptolemy had abandoned any thoughts of taking Alexander’s place. Roxane was confident of that, even though he had stolen Alexander’s body. Otherwise he wouldn’t have passed on the regency. With him gone, the greatest power among the generals was Antigonus One-eye or perhaps Seleucus. Before Eurydice’s machinations, Roxane would have thought that Peithon might have been the strongest, but the little minx had managed to force him and Arrhidaeus to resign as commanders of the army, leaving Seleucus as much in charge as anyone was.

    Antipater was old and not that strong, but he might emerge as a candidate who was acceptable to the rest, since Peithon was so recently embarrassed by Eurydice. He was the likely choice, more for his weakness than for his strength. That was why Eurydice had been able to stop Ptolemy’s chosen surrogates.

    Antipater was better than his son, Cassander, but he hated Eumenes because he was a Greek and didn’t like Roxane because she wasn’t a Macedonian. What Roxane was afraid of was that Antigonus might have her killed in a fit of rage before he realized it was a bad move politically. That was what had happened to Perdiccas when he had his brother murder Eurydice’s mother.

    But it didn’t matter. She knew Kleitos. She even liked Kleitos. But Kleitos would kill her before he let her escape. Besides, where would she run to? That had always been the true stopping point of her thoughts in the past. No place to go, even if she did get away. But now there was a possibility. That great ship. But she knew almost nothing about it, only that it existed. Even its existence had freed her thoughts, though. What if the great ship did mean safety? What if it was peopled by an army of allies? What if it was Alexander coming back from the grave? Ptolemy had taken Alexander’s body to Egypt, after all.

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