The man Alexander addressed had a fierce scar on his face, a memento from a childhood bear attack, and a menacing, penetrative stare, making the man appear scary and unapproachable.
But in reality, the man named Diagonis was humble and soft-spoken and one who Alexander had appointed to oversee the lumber production within his territory.
"How are the tasks I assigned you?" Alexander lightly smiled at the man.
"We are on schedule. As you instructed, we have started collecting and processing the lumber. Once we have the cement, we can start building the new homes," Diagnosis succinctly replied.
Alexander had decided to completely renovate the slums by replacing them with four-story buildings and he gave this job to Diagonis.
"Good, you will get your mortal in a month. For the time being, make the foundation and the scaffolding," Alexander told Diagonis to get everything else ready so that he could commence construction as soon as the cement was made available to him.
These slums had been made of wood and straw and offered few protections against the elements.
They were so prone to catching fire that the people couldn't even start a fire inside, seriously limiting their defense against the cold.
Alexander decided to rectify this by making a brand new residential district to the west of the city, right next to the nobles' estate.
Though no civil engineer, Alexander, with the help of the experienced artisans had come up with a design that he was quite pleased with.
The four-story buildings would be made of wood and stone or brick, with cement acting as mortar.
It would be sixteen by sixteen (16x16) in dimensions and eighteen meters high with a two-meter deep foundation.
It would be divided into eight flats per floor, each with a fifty square meter area, bigger than many Tokyo apartments.
Each of the flats would come with two bedrooms, a dining room, a kitchen, and a balcony.
The kitchen would be connected to a communal chimney running vertically through the four flats and thus all the cooking smoke would be taken outside through the eight total chimneys.
There would be two communal bathrooms on each floor, which would double as a shower and Alexander estimated that around a hundred and fifty people could be housed in the thirty-two flat house.
Alexander then remembered something vital, "Diagonis, each of the buildings are to have a well and to be connected to the sewage system. Have you considered that?"
"That…! That was…Uzak's job…so.." The fierce man stammered a bit.
Alexander then turned to Uzak to know his response and was pleasantly surprised to see that the man had one, "Worry not, lord pasha. The site you chose for the residential district has a very good underground sewage system as it is close to the high district. All we need to do is build the pipes to connect each of the houses to the network and make a few renovations such as connecting the water from the planned aqueducts to regularly flush the system and all the filth will end up into the sea."
Uzak had surprisingly given the project much thought.
Competent men always pleased Alexander and he lightly smiled towards the stonemason, "You have great insight, mister Uzak,"
"No, no, I'm just doing my job." Uzak humbly bowed.
"Good, then that's solved." Alexander said in a pleased tone, and then asked, "What about the wells?"
"My lord, I'm afraid the wells are not a good idea!" This time Diagonis was prepared.
"Ohhh?" Alexander raised an eyebrow as a gesture to elucidate.
"We have found many the groundwater here is too deep for conventional wells. I believe it will be far better to use the aqueducts to make water fountains from which people will be able to collect the water." He sincerely advised.
"Hmmm, okay, let's do that!" Alexander was persuaded.
Then he reminded Diagonis of another very important task, "Diagonis, the few hundred buildings to be made will all need doors, windows, chairs, tables, and much more. Have you thought about that?"
"That…lord pasha, that's impossible." Diagonis sounded a bit desperate.
"My men are already upto their necks cutting and processing the lumber, digging the foundation, and choosing the sites for the stone pillars, And soon we will start making the building. We don't make the time to make furniture." Diagonis repeatedly shook his head as he pleaded to Alexander to reconsider.
Seeing the man's vehement opposition, Alexander understood there really was no way to make this happen.
"Okay, okay, ..just concentrate on the buildings," Alexander ruefully said, deciding to leave the furnishing to the individual tenants for the time being.
"How long will it take?" Alexander at last asked the most critical question.
"As long as I can have enough stone, timber, and cement, the initial hundred houses can be done in a month," Diagonis promised, making a rough estimate that fifty people working twelve hours a day for thirty days should be enough to complete each building.
This was a bit of an underestimation, but it had to be reminded that all the workers were untrained and inexperienced, and even the artisans had never built anything like this at all.
There was also the fact that Diagonis did not want to over-promise and then fail to deliver, thus making himself look bad in front of Alexander.
The speed was something Alexander found a bit lacking as it meant that only fifteen of the fifty thousand would have adequate shelter when winter would truly set in, but understood that there was little more he could do to speed up the works.
"Okay, try your best," Alexander encouraged and with this, he was ready to declare the end of the morning session.
Or so he thought he was as Heliptos asked him with a bit of sourness to his voice, "My lord, are we really going to keep them giving free food, medicine, heat, and housing? That's too much!"
"Pasha, I too share Heliptos's sentiment." Melodias joined in, "Although it is true that we need to take care of them as our people, but the cost of everything we are doing and planning to do is astronomical!" He had a worried tone to his voice.
"Of course, it is not free. Nothing in this world is free," Alexander lightly refuted the men.
"This is an investment. And we will recoup everything by increased taxes and by using these men to claim more land." Alexander pointed out.
"Pasha, I can understand using these men to increase our military and then taking over other territories. But I'm afraid the small merchant tax will never be enough to cover the hundreds of millions of roplas we are spending. Not in this lifetime!" Theocles, who had a good sense of money advised Alexander.
"Theocles is right that taxation will never be able to cover these costs," Alexander frankly admitted.
Then claimed, "But it won't have to. Because there will be many sources of money, you will see,"
"We will use these men to make products that we will sell to the world. So, the world through trade will pay for all these expenses. Alexander said ambitiously.
"But these men can't work if they don't have good housing, heat, and health. So please be a bit more farsighted," Alexander asked his retinues to be visionaries and not miss the forest for the trees.
He then gave some examples, "For example, the house we are building will be free for the first three years and then a monthly rent of thirty roplas will be charged. There will also be a small yearly road tax and utilities like water and sanitation will also cost money."
"As I said, nothing in this world is free," Alexander repeated.
"The pasha is wise and prescient," Heliptos quickly praised Alexander for his money skills.
"Well then let's …oh I almost forgot." Alexander suddenly remembered a piece of critical announcement.
"Remember that all the free workers will be paid a monthly salary of hundred and fifty roplas. Even the women," Alexander declared.
"That…." After just praising Alexander for his money sense, this announcement made the others not know how to react.
They already had zero income and this move would make them hemorrhage millions of roplas a month, not to even mention how many were flabbergasted by the thought that a woman could be paid the same as a man
"Pasha, we are already giving them free food and a three-year rent-free house. Do we have to give them money too?" Theocles tactfully expressed his skepticism.
"Pasha, these people might think you are too soft and generous, if you keep giving away such free stuff. And then when you will want them to pay, they will complain and cause trouble," Menicus who had seen and experienced how the general people thought warned.
And this was a legit concern.
Even in Alexander's time, some people begged not because of necessity, but because it was easy and lucrative,
But now, for Alexander this policy was vital.
"The reason we will give them is to jump-start the economy." Alexander smiled at his retinue, who were confused by Alexander's reasoning.
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