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The Macedonian Hazard: Chapter One

       Last updated: Friday, November 13, 2020 06:31 EST



Queen of the Sea, Forward Radio Room

November 2, 320 BCE

    The radio printer clacked and Joshua Varner jerked in his office chair. He couldn’t get used to it. The Queen had arrived in this time equipped with top of the line laser printers, and they still had them. But to keep that happy state as long as possible, they had, over the past year, built printers, using chips from anything they could scavenge. Dot matrix printers, which were slow and noisy. The radios sent digitally. That meant they could send anything from picture to voice to text, but text used the least bandwidth, and so was the most common. He was from the twenty-first century and here he was in the fourth century BCE, using mid-twentieth century tech to receive what amounted to radio teletype from Rome about the senate’s response to Antigonus holding Babylon against Attalus. 

    He rotated in his chair and scooted over to the printer.  The roll of paper was held on the rubber cylinder with a serrated blade. He tore off the sheet. It was locally made rag paper. The words were in Latin and Joshua couldn’t read Latin. But the address was clear. He folded it, sealed it with wax and a stamp made by the machine shop, then called a new hire. “Delivery for the Romans. Titus Venturis Calvinus.”



    Titus took the sheet from the messenger and gave him a ship people dollar as a tip. Once the door to his cabin was closed, he used a fingernail to pop the wax seal and opened the letter.

    He sat at the small desk in his room and read.

    From the Office of the Consuls

    Rome will take no action regarding the conflict of the diadochi.

    Make no promises to either side.

    “Any side, they should say,” Titus muttered.

    You will endeavor to obtain the designs for an electrical battery.

    “A battery of cannons would be easier.”Titus tossed the cable on the desk and picked up the phone. “Who do I see about a battery?” he muttered to himself again. Then, making up his mind, dialed a number.  

    When the phone was answered, he said, “Capot, I have some scoop for you and I need a favor.”

    “What sort of a favor?”

    “Rome wants batteries. The electrical kind. Who do you know and what are your suggestions?”

    “Hm,” Capot Barca said, and Titus could imagine him playing with his fancy beard. “I think lead acid is probably your best bet. I’ll have some names for you by lunch. Meanwhile, I’m going to send Carthage Rome’s plans, once you give me the scoop.”



    Two hours later, Capot lay on his bed and read the Carthaginian response to his message. It was longer and more detailed, but amounted to much the same thing Titus got from Rome. The people back home were confident that with Alexander dead and the generals fighting each other, Carthage remained safe.

    Then Capot got to the next section.

    Do all in your power to prevent the Romans from seeing the work going on in the military harbor. In this history, Carthage will not wait for the Romans to sow our city with salt.

    Insane, Capot thought. Rome wouldn’t be a threat for another hundred years, and by that time the world would have changed beyond all recognition. Capot stopped himself. No, that wasn’t right. Rome had read the butterfly book too. They would know about the three Punic wars, and would see Carthage as a threat, no matter what Carthage did or didn’t do. As much as he hated the thought, the government might well be right. The effect of the butterfly book was to rush things, to push the world in decades into wars that would have happened over centuries.

    Had it not been for the Queen of the Sea.



Queen of the Sea, Piraeus, port of Athens

November 3, 320 BCE

    Marie Easley looked around the conference room. Eumenes, Dag Jakobsen, and Daniel Lang were talking together, pointing at a map on the table. Eleanor Kinney, the chief purser for the ship, and Roxane and Eurydice, the queens-regent of Alexander the Great’s empire, were a couple of seats away. And all the way across the room, Olympias was scowling at all and sundry. She was greatly displeased that her stock of hallucinogens and other drugs had been taken. They were under lock and key in the pharmacy. Captain Lars Floden wasn’t going to let the fourth-century BCE’s most famous poisoner keep her stock of poison while she was on the Queen, even if she was the mother of Alexander the Great.

    For the past few days, Eumenes had attempted to get the Queen of the Sea to take a force of his soldiers around the horn of Africa, because he had two fires to put out: Cassander in Macedon, and Antigonus in Babylon.

    There were radios in Rome, Carthage, Alexandria and other places around the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas. But they didn’t have any radios in Babylon or anywhere in the eastern stretches of empire.

    Eumenes couldn’t let Cassander consolidate in Macedonia, because Macedonia was the tail that wagged the dog of Alexander the Great’s empire. But if Eumenes concentrated on Cassander, it would give Antigonus One-eye time to cut the empire in half. To counter that threat, he wanted to remind the eastern satraps that they weren’t safe, even if Antigonus held Babylon, for the Queen of the Sea could reach them anyway. 

    Eumenes wasn’t going to get what he wanted.

    The delegates from Antigonus One-eye were lobbying just as hard against Eumenes, insisting that it was an internal matter. And, for that matter, that Attalus’ attack on Antigonus in Babylon had not been an authorized action, but little more than an act of banditry. They also argued that even if the queens-regent Roxane and Eurydice were to rule against Antigonus, it was still an internal matter and for the Queen of the Sea to interfere would destroy its neutrality.

    It was a good argument, as much as Marie might sympathise with Roxane and Eurydice. Lars wasn’t going to let the Queen be dragged into the politics of the diadochi, Alexander the Great’s surviving generals, any more than could be avoided.

    Lars came in with Staff Captain Anders Dahl, and took the seat at the head of the long oval table right next to Marie’s seat. Anders took the next seat over. The position of Staff Captain was analogous to that of Executive Officer on a navy ship or a cargo ship. But the way it was working out since the twenty-first-century cruise ship, Queen of the Sea, arrived in the year 321 BCE, Staff Captain was going to be the title for Executive Officer in the future and exec was going to be ignored except by dusty old scholars like Marie. Marie felt her lips twitch at the thought.

    Lars gave Anders a look, and Anders said, “If everyone will be seated, we’ll get started.”

    Eumenes, Dag, and Daniel took their seats quickly, as did Eleanor, Roxane and Eurydice as well. Olympias went around the table to take the seat opposite to Lars, as though that were the head of the table. It was an obvious powerplay, and Marie looked at Lars. Lars let it pass. Whatever the changes over the last year and a bit, Lars had been a cruise ship captain for almost ten years and an officer on a cruise ship for even longer. He was a polite man and willing to let others appear to score points . . . as long as they didn’t actually interfere with the running of the Queen. That was one of the things Marie liked about Lars, even though she occasionally found herself wishing he would rip someone’s head off–metaphorically speaking–when the situation required it. Lars had proven his willingness to do it literally. He had washed the decks of the Reliance in blood when pirates seized her, and used the Queen to turn a fleet of triremes into kindling.

    Once everyone was in the proper place, or close enough, Lars again let Anders say it.



    “I’m sorry, General Eumenes, but the Queen of the Sea can’t involve itself in the internal politics of the United Satrapies and States of the Empire. Quite aside from logistical concerns, which are real and serious, we have to maintain our neutrality . . . at least officially.”

    “Officially?” Roxane asked, lifting a sculpted eyebrow. She very much reminded Marie of Sophia Loren. Since the arrival of the Queen, she had added golden highlights to her black hair and now wore artfully applied makeup. Roxane’s lush but athletic figure was much the same as before her arrival, save perhaps a bit healthier. Roxane liked to listen to audiobooks while she worked out in the cruise ship gymnasium.

    “Officially,” Lars agreed. “I’ve been in contact with President Wiley by radio, and New America expresses a willingness to ally with the U.S.S.E. On the basis of that, we will help where we can, within the limits of our situation. That doesn’t mean using the Queen very much, I’m afraid, but we should be able to supply you with some gunpowder.”

    “Gunpowder,” Eumenes said studiously, “is a flash in the pan.”

    Marie Easley looked at the general in something partaking of both disgust and admiration. Disgust because the statement was patently ridiculous. Admiration because the expression “flash in the pan” was utterly unknown in 321 BCE, since it was based on a gunpowder misfire–the priming powder flashing in the pan but not igniting the charge.  A bright flash, then gone with no effect. For Eumenes to use it here indicated that the man had managed to understand and internalize the concepts involved in a very short time. 

    “It will remain so till we get pans for it to flash in.” Eumenes shook his head. “And barrels to hold the charge and shot with touch holes to transfer the fire from the pan to the charge. It’s like so much of what you brought–of great potential use but needing an industry built before it can be used effectively. For now what we can build will make a great display, but no real difference. We don’t have cannons and we don’t have the means to make cannons in any numbers.”

    The Queen of the Sea was the only facility that was yet able to make the sort of cannon that were used in their time. Also the only facility that could make cannons of any sort quickly. But aside from the steam cannons on the Queen and the Reliance and some black powder cannons for Fort Plymouth, the Queen wasn’t making cannons. It was making the tools to make the tools to make cannon. And most of those were made for and sold to New America. Cannons for Eumenes’ army would be made by Greek craftsmen, hand-carved from bronze. Neither cheap nor fast. 

    “What about rockets?” Dag asked.

    “A flash in the pan, as I said. Pretty fireworks, signifying nothing.”

    “Not necessarily,” said Daniel Lang. “First, because we can make good rockets using venturi and fins to provide spin. We know how and we have the basic technology here on the Queen. We even have a stock of venturi, though a limited one. That will give you rockets almost as good as you might have found in World War I, or even World War II.”

    Eumenes was looking interested, but Olympias interrupted. “What is world war? The only world-spanning war was my son’s. There–“

    “Olympias,” Roxane said, “you insisted on being here and promised to listen, not interrupt.”

    “I will have my say. I am Alexander’s mother, and Philip’s wife.”

    “No,” said Marie, as pedantically as she could manage. “You were Alexander’s mother and Philip’s wife. But your Philip and your Alexander are gone. Now, Roxane is Alexander’s mother and regent, and Eurydice is Philip’s wife and regent. You have paid your fare, but you are simply a passenger on the Queen of the Sea. Not a ruling monarch.”

    Olympias stood and spoke in a version of Greek that was even more archaic than that spoken in the fourth century BCE, something that went back to Agamemnon or maybe Hercules. Assuming that there had at some point been actual men that Agamemnon and Hercules were based upon. She also waved her hands in obscure and spooky gestures.

    Marie stared at her. Then, quite unable to help herself, she started to laugh.

    Olympias stopped gesturing and speaking. She sat back down, not as though she had intended to, but simply as though shock left her legs unable to hold her up.

    “I’m sorry,” Marie said, trying to get her laughter under control. “Your error is in assuming that everyone shares your mythology. In the time we come from, essentially no one shares it. We have our own. I didn’t mean to denigrate your beliefs, honestly I didn’t. But the gestures you were making looked like something that a carnival fortune teller might use.”

    Marie snapped her mouth closed about a paragraph too late, as she finally realized just how demeaning and infuriating her response would seem to Olympias. She looked into the woman’s eyes and knew that she had just made a mortal enemy.

    Considering Olympias’ history, mortal enemy wasn’t hyperbole. Not in the least. 

    “To get back to the point,” Anders said, “we can provide you some black powder rockets and you have the formula and techniques to make black powder.”

    Anders didn’t sound thrilled about that last. The secret of black powder hadn’t stayed a secret. It was listed in Wikipedia and by now copies of the formula were available from Venezuela to Babylon. Nor was black powder the only ship people secret that was no longer secret. 

    “What about cargo?” Eumenes asked.

    “What do you mean?” Anders asked.

    “I mean I would like to buy wheat and rye here and have it delivered to Iskenderun, so that Pharnabazus can keep the pressure on Antigonus while I go after Cassander.”

    “The Queen is not a cargo ship, and we have a schedule we need to get back to,” Lars said before Anders could.

    “Also, if we deliver fifty tons or so of provender to the Mediterranean coast when your army isn’t there to protect it, it’s likely not going to be there by the time your army gets there,” Dag said. “You’d be better off hiring a local ship and maybe seeing if you can get a steam engine to move it. That way Pharnabazus can move his cavalry to meet the provision ship. It’s still means going to Izmir first.”

    The discussion continued and Eumenes didn’t get what he wanted, but did get considerably more than Antigonus’ representatives would have approved. Arrhidaeus would be livid if he knew how much Eumenes was getting in terms of ship credit. The Queen of the Sea had a great deal of silver and gold by this time. Part of it from trading in Europe, but much of it from South America, where the locals used it as decoration. Gold was a soft, malleable metal, often with a pleasing color, and it was shiny, unlike lead. So masks and bracelets were made from it in South and Central America. The natives were happy to trade the yellow metal for steel knives on a pound for pound basis . . . at least at first.

    Eumenes would be getting some of that gold, but he would also be getting a drawing account that would be recognized throughout the Mediterranean. That was half of what the radio teams that the Queen was sending about the Med were for.

    “The amount in the account will be known?” Eumenes asked as he looked at the paper.

    “Not unless someone gets bribed,” Eleanor Kinney said. “Which could happen.”

    “How much is it?” Olympias asked.

    Eleanor looked at Eumenes, Eumenes looked at Roxane, and so did Eurydice.

    “It’s a drawing account and it takes Eumenes to access it,” Roxane said.

    “How much is in the drawing account?” Olympias asked, not to be put off.

    “That,” Eurydice said coldly, “is a government matter and you are not a member of the government.” She turned to Roxane. “I told you it was a mistake to let her in here.”

    “Please, everyone, calm down,” Roxane said. But from the looks Olympias and Eurydice gave each other, it was too late.



Roxane’s Suite

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.



    Eumenes’ smile died as his mind turned to Cassander. Cassander was no general, but he was smart and had a flexible mind, and that might well be more important in this new sort of warfare than personal courage.

    Finally the unloading was finished, and another ship’s boat pulled in and started unloading supplies and equipment. The Queen would be heading for Alexandria as soon as the boats were back aboard.



Queen of the Sea, Alexandria Harbor

November 10, 320 BCE

    Ptolemy sat in the Royal Lounge, reading the constitution of the United Satrapies and States of the Empire. The USSE constitution was interesting, and it was going to require him to reconsider his options. He looked up at Thaïs and waved the document. “What do you think?” 

    Thaïs tilted her head in a gesture that Ptolemy knew well. It wasn’t quite a nod nor a head shake. Thaïs wasn’t sure or, more exactly, liked part of it and disliked other parts. “What do you like about it?”

    “It’s a good framework,” Thaïs said. “For the most part, it will leave you as ruler of Egypt and give you a level of legitimacy that even the agreements at Babylon didn’t.”

    “And what part of it do you dislike?”

    “You are probably going to have to give back Syria, Israel and Judea. And you may well be called on to contribute troops to Eumenes. If the constitution is valid, so is the appointment of Eumenes as strategos for the empire.”

    “Frankly, that bothers me less than giving up Syria. I bought that territory with good silver and quite a lot of it. What bothers me isn’t the specific of having to send troops to Eumenes. It’s the general principle of placing the defense of the realm under the over government that they establish.”

    “Federal government,” Thaïs said, using a ship people word. “You will be able to appoint a representative to the upper house, the one they are calling the House of States.”

    “What about the elections?”

    “That’s mostly ship people influence, but the Greek city states piled on in a hurry. Especially Athens. Representation will be allocated by population and elected by the citizenry. That includes free women as well as all free men, no matter their wealth. But not slaves. We went round and round on that and I am not sure we made the right choice. The compromise that we finally agreed on was that slaves didn’t count for representatives. Not even war captives, much less two-footed livestock. That at least encourages manumission in order to increase a state’s or satrapy’s representatives, in the House of the People.” 

    Thaïs used the Greek words. The world of fourth century BCE had lots of types of slaves and each had their own word, most of which didn’t translate to twenty-first century English. Not directly. They had words for chattel, slaves, serfs, and war captives–who were in some ways more like chattel, but had higher status.

    Ptolemy looked at his long-time lover and–given the new situation–possible future wife, with a sardonic lift of an eyebrow. He knew her background. Born a slave, she’d been sold to a school for hetaera as a child and then required to work off her debt. She had every reason in the world to dislike the institution of slavery. But at the same time, she had managed to go from slave to only one short step down from a queen through her abilities. “What do you really think? Are the ship people right about slavery?”

    Thaïs stood up and walked to the window, then turned back to face him. “No, but they will be.”

    “What does that mean?”

    “The way the world is now, we couldn’t survive the abolition of slavery. There isn’t enough wealth to pay all the freed slaves for their labor and with everyone weeding their own garden, we would fall into barbarism. But that’s right now. It will change as the ship people’s machines magnify the productivity of individual workers. In a hundred years, perhaps less, they will be right about slavery. We need to be ready for that day, or our children and grandchildren will live in a world even more soaked in blood than this one.”

    “So, do you think I should sign it? Commit to this new nation?”

    “No.” Thaïs frowned. “Not yet. Don’t commit either way. See how Eumenes does against Cassander, at least. Perhaps even wait to see how he does against Antigonus and the eastern satraps. Don’t tie yourself to this new ship of state until you know whether it will float. Stay neutral as long as you can.”

    Ptolemy nodded. One of the things he liked best about Thaïs was that she gave good advice. Even when it wasn’t entirely in her best interest. “You’re right, as usual, my very dear. And I have missed you.”

    When the Queen of the Sea left again, it would leave Thaïs and the children here.

    “I do want to send someone to keep an eye on the ship people. Who do you recommend? I considered Dinocrates or Crates or one of the fellows of the library, but I am concerned that they will be seduced by ship people knowledge.”

    “It’s not just the ship people on the Queen of the Sea that matter. We need relations with New America too. You would be shocked at how much they accomplished in a year and I suspect they are just getting started. We will be able to buy impossible devices from them soon.” She paused a moment in thought. “The Queen will visit New America regularly and we will have the radio to keep in contact so perhaps we only need one watcher. Menelaus?” Thaïs voice made the name a question. She wasn’t fond of Ptolemy’s little brother and aide.

    Ptolemy grinned at her. “It will get him out of the palace, but he’s not going to like giving up his slaves.”

    “My heart bleeds for him,” Thaïs said, using a ship people expression directly translated into Greek. 



224-226 12th Street, Fort Plymouth, New America

November 10, 320 BCE

    Crack! The sound jerked Daoud Khoury around. He looked at the red hot door of the furnace. He moved up and, using a long, heavy wooden pole, opened the small door. Holding up his hand, he tried to look into the fire. He couldn’t. It was much too bright to see anything, and it made him feel like his eyeballs were going to boil.

    He went back to the table and got the tinted glasses from the Queen of the Sea and looked again. The cracking sound was what he was afraid of. The crucible was cracked, and the molten iron was pouring down into the bottom of the furnace.

    Quickly he went to the shutoff valve and shut the oil feed. It took five minutes for the fire to go out and an hour for the furnace to cool to merely scorching hot.

    Cool enough for him, using tongs, to lift out what was left of the crucible. It took another day for the furnace to cool enough for him and his crew of locals to remove bricks to make an opening to pry out the melted iron. Then it was brick the whole thing up and start over with a new crucible, as his money got lower and lower and he got deeper and deeper in debt to the Bank of New America.

    It didn’t help that he couldn’t keep a trained crew. The locals came and worked long enough to get the money to buy what they wanted. Then they went back home. Some few locals stayed, but far more of them just wanted what they wanted, then back to their own ways. Daoud couldn’t really blame them, either. He’d give anything on this Earth or another if only he could go back to his own ways. Accounting might have been boring except at tax time, but trying to make steel with primitive tools was one hell of a lot worse. He wondered when the Queen would get back. At least somewhere still had air conditioning.

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