Shadow Of Freedom – Snippet 39

Shadow Of Freedom – Snippet 39

Chapter Eleven

“We’re getting back good data on the forward platforms, Skipper,” Abigail Hearns said, and Naomi Kaplan turned her command chair to face the tac section and cocked her head in response to Abigail’s tone.

“I’m seeing three merchies in parking orbit with the platform, Ma’am,” Abigail said, replying to the unspoken question. “They’re not squawking transponders, but we’re close enough for good visuals, and at least two of them look Manticoran-built to me. That’s not the interesting thing, though.”

“No?” Kaplan smiled thinly. “That sounds interesting enough to be going on with to me, Abigail.”

“Oh, I agree, Ma’am. But what I thought was really interesting were the four battlecruisers lying doggo in the inner system.”

A frisson of tension ran around Tristram’s bridge.

“You’re right, that is interesting,” Kaplan conceded after a moment. “I’m assuming Commodore Zavala has that information, as well?”

“Yes, Ma’am. It’s on the distributed feed.”

“Good.” Kaplan’s hexapuma smile was even thinner — and much colder — than before. “I think this little spider may have underestimated the fly.”

* * *

“It’s confirmed, Sir,” Lieutenant Commander Gabrowski said a half-hour later. “All four of the battlecruisers are Indefatigables — older units, from their emissions signatures — and the recon platforms say they have hot nodes. Our platforms’ve gotten a good look at the entire inner system now, though, and aside from the trio of tincans on the far side of Cinnamon’s moon, that seems to be all they’ve got.”

“And still not a peep out of any of them, correct, Abhijat?” Jacob Zavala asked Lieutenant Abhijat Wilson, his com officer.

“Not one, Sir,” Wilson confirmed.

“And they have to know we’re here…and that we sure as hell aren’t merchies,” Lieutenant Commander Auerbach added. “So I have to wonder why they haven’t said a word to us.”

“Well, at least it makes a pleasant change from the usual Solarian bluster, don’t you think?” Jacob Zavala’s tone was whimsical; his expression was not.

“What it suggests to me is that there’s a reason we’re not hearing the usual Solarian bluster, Sir,” Auerbach replied. The chief of staff liked and respected Zavala, and they usually got along well, but George Auerbach had never been noted for his spontaneity or sparkling sense of humor.

“Fair’s fair, George,” Zavala pointed out in a more serious tone. “We haven’t talked to them yet, either.”

Zavala’s truncated squadron had been inbound for eighty-five minutes. His destroyers’ velocity relative to the system primary was up to 29,400 KPS, and they were barely three minutes from their turnover for a zero/zero intercept with the planet of Cinnamon, still over 88,000,000 kilometers ahead of them. They were also well inside the twelve-light-hour limit where they were supposed to have announced their identities. There was a little leeway in that requirement, especially for ships emerging from hyper — as most ships did — well inside it, but they were still supposed to get around to it in a “timely fashion,” and he supposed it could be argued that he hadn’t done that.

Pity about that.

“I know we haven’t talked to them yet, Sir,” Commander Rochelle Goulard said from the com display which tied Zavala and his staff into HMS Kay’s command deck. “On the other hand, I can’t see them trying to hide from our sensors if they didn’t have something nasty in mind.”

“I can think of at least a couple of legitimate — from their perspective, at least — reasons for ‘hiding,’ Roxy,” Zavala told his flag captain. “For one thing, they might’ve come up with a Frontier Fleet officer bright enough to seal his own shoes. They may not have details on Spindle here in Saltash yet, but it’s been five T-months since Byng got himself blown away in New Tuscany. There’s been time enough for them to’ve heard all about that encounter, and if they’ve paid some attention to the reports of our weapons’ range from New Tuscany, they may just want to make sure we’re inside their range basket before they make their presence known. Especially if they buy into the notion that we’re the ones who’re actually picking this fight, which is exactly how the Sollies spun New Tuscany.”

“Agreed, Sir,” Lieutenant Commander Gabrowski said. “But there are some other possibilities here, too.” Zavala looked at her, and the ops officer shrugged. “We’ve wondered all along why a system governor might do something as daft as seizing Manticoran merchantmen. What if they were intended from the beginning as bait and these battlecruisers are the trap?”

“I think that’s an entirely plausible scenario,” Zavala acknowledged. “Mind you, I’m not going to rush in assuming it’s what’s happening, but I’m damned well not going to assume it isn’t, either!”

“That’s a relief, Sir,” Gabrowski said earnestly. “Given how gullible and easily taken in you usually are, I mean.”

Unlike Auerbach, Gabrowski did have a sense of humor, and Zavala grinned at her, then rubbed the tip of his nose thoughtfully.

The Sollies had undoubtedly figured out who — and what — his command was by now. Or they’d at least figured out his ships had to be Manticoran, at any rate, even if they didn’t realize something as large as a Roland-class destroyer wasn’t a light cruiser. On the other hand, it was unlikely anyone in Saltash had detected the highly stealthy Ghost Rider recon platforms fanning out in front of his squadron. Which probably meant that — so far, at least — he knew about their battlecruisers and they didn’t know that he knew about them.

The problem was what he did with that information.

I know what I’d like to do with it, he thought grimly. Unfortunately, Admiral Gold Peak made it abundantly clear I’m not supposed to do that if I have a choice. So I guess just blowing them out of space without warning would be just a bit of an overreaction. Of course, if they decide to be unreasonable about this…

“I suppose we’d better go ahead and talk to them, Abhijat,” he said.

“Yes, Sir,” Lieutenant Wilson replied, trying hard not to crack a smile at the resignation in his superior’s tone. “I’ll see about getting hold of someone.”

* * *

System Governor Damián Dueñas’ com buzzed discreetly and he tapped the virtual key to accept the connection.

“I have a com request from a Captain Jacob Zavala, Governor,” Maxence Kodou, his executive assistant announced, from the holographic display when it materialized above his desk.

“Really?” Dueñas tipped back his chair and frowned. “Took the bastard long enough to get on the com, didn’t it?”

“Well, he’s coming up on Dubroskaya’s projected turnover point,” Lieutenant Governor Tiilikainen observed from where she stood gazing out over the lights and air car traffic of the city of Kernuish. She turned to face the governor. “If his intention was to let us sweat, we’ve had time to start doing that nicely now, so he probably figures it’s time he got around to talking to us.” She made a face. “From what we’ve seen out of him so far, I don’t imagine he intends to be particularly accommodating about it, either.”

“I almost hope you’re right, Cicely,” Dueñas half-growled. “In fact, I’m looking forward to it. I don’t imagine he’s going to be very happy when he finds out we’re a lot readier for his visit than he expected us to be! I just want to get him farther in-system before he figures out what we’ve got waiting for him.”

Tiilikainen nodded, but Dueñas felt another stir of resentment as she turned back to the window. He couldn’t fault her willingness to dig in and make the plan work, despite her lack of enthusiasm, but she’d been the lieutenant governor here in Saltash for over ten T-years, and she seemed far less…engaged than Dueñas would have preferred. Or as engaged as someone with a proper sense of ambition should have been, for that matter. Not too surprising, really, he supposed. The lieutenant governorship of a single backwater star system like Saltash wasn’t exactly the sort of plum assignment for which a really up and coming OFS bureaucrat would choose to compete. Even a full governorship out here was little more than a stepping stone to something better and more profitable, but Tiilikainen seemed prepared to settle for her current slot. Damián Dueñas, on the other hand, was not. And the system governor who finally managed to bloody the Manties’ nose would be bound for bigger and better things.

Hell, if this works out half as well as I expect it to, I’ll even take her along with me! he thought. Then he looked back at Kodou.

“Go ahead and put him through to my desk, Maxence,” he said.

“Of course, Sir.” Kodou nodded courteously and disappeared from the hologram. A moment later, he was replaced by the image of a small, dark featured officer with incongruously blue eyes in an obviously military skinsuit.

“Captain Zavala, I presume?” Dueñas said with a cool smile, then sat back to wait the ten-plus minutes while the light-speed message zipped to the distant Manticoran’s ship and his response came back again.

“Indeed,” the man in his display said, barely nine seconds later. “And you, I assume, are System Governor Dueñas?”

Dueñas twitched. He couldn’t help that any more than he could help the involuntary widening of his eyes. He turned his head, shooting a sharp glance at Tiilikainen. The lieutenant governor was outside his own com’s pickup’s field of view, but she’d turned quickly back from the window, her expression as astonished as Dueñas felt.

“Under the circumstances,” Zavala went on from the display, “I thought it would probably be a good idea to minimize transmission lags for this conversation, Governor. I am speaking to Governor Dueñas, I trust?”

“Yes. I mean, I’m System Governor Dueñas. What can I do for you, Captain?”

Dueñas’ voice sounded less firm than he might have wished, almost hesitant, in the face of the Manticorans’ demonstration that they did have the faster than light communications capability the human race had sought for the last thousand T-years or so, and he willed his face back into impassivity.

“I’m here to inquire into certain reports we’ve received, Governor,” the Manticoran officer responded with that same disconcerting quickness, but then he paused.

“What sort of reports would that be, Captain?” Dueñas asked, then swore silently at himself for allowing Zavala to suck him into filling the silence the other man had deliberately left.

“According to information which has reached Admiral Gold Peak,” Zavala replied courteously enough, “the Manticoran merchant vessel Carolyn has been unlawfully detained here in Saltash.” He showed his teeth in a brief flash of white. “I’m certain it’s all simply a misunderstanding, but Lady Gold Peak sent me out to get to the bottom of things.”

“I see.” Dueñas folded his hands together on his desk blotter and regarded Zavala’s holographic image levelly. He was starting to come back on balance mentally, although the confirmation of the Manties’ FTL communications ability had been unpleasant. Mostly because it suggested some of the other wild rumors might have some substance in fact, as well.

“Well, Captain Zavala,” he said after a moment, “I’m afraid it’s not all ‘simply a misunderstanding.’ I have, indeed, denied Carolyn departure clearance and placed her crew in medical quarantine. I’m afraid that’s also true of the Manticoran vessel Argonaut, in fact.”

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18 Responses to Shadow Of Freedom – Snippet 39

  1. dave o says:

    Stupidity and arrogance are a bad mix. Duenas is about to find that out. But it’s nice to know that MALIGN isn’t involved. I think.

    • Robert H. Woodman says:

      I think he’s about to find his dreams of better postings are going to disappear, perhaps along with his battlecruisers.

  2. John Roth says:

    Interesting that Rolands have an FTL communication node as part of their platform – or is it part of the Ghost Rider platform?

  3. Hmmmmmmm…I don’t suppose that Zavala could be considering his own, smaller-scale version of Terekhov’s “Exclamation Point,” could he? It might be interesting–in the Chinese sense of the word–for Duenas to learn in quick succession that a) Zavala knows all about the four BCs, and b) said BCs don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of getting into range of Zavala’s Rolands before they’re slagged. I know I would find the situation somewhat deflating if I were to find myself holding four jacks and an ace, only to find that the guy I thought was holding four sevens had the joker as his fifth card.

    • John Roth says:

      I think there was a reason why DW showed us that sim with FF ships that had longer ranged missiles. Otherwise obliterating the BCs is simply going to be “war porn,” which DW definitely doesn’t like.

    • ET1swaw aka Rob says:

      There was an interesting thread drift on the bar vis-a-vi the Battle of Torch and SLN vs RMN.
      SLN BCs are capable of Cataphract-As whose prescence and range so took the Mayan admiral by surprise.
      And IIRC at Monica, the ghostriders didn’t see all the Technodyne system defense pods that unloaded on them.

      I really don’t think a turkey shoot is in the offing.

      /Rob

      • Let’s start tying some things together here. First of all, I’m not suggesting that a turkey shoot is in the offing. You’re right, John, Weber doesn’t like “war porn.” We can leave that to Ringo and his ghosts…. What I’m suggesting that nobody is going to be taking kill shots at anyone. If there’s a reason why Weber showed us the longer-ranged FF missiles (there’s no guarantee that the carnage will be totally one-sided, even when FF loses), there’s also a reason why he’s been showing us disgruntled FF OC’s scattered along the Verge. We’ve already got an entire sector (Maya) that is in the process of seceding from the League, though the League doesn’t know it yet, because of one such OC (Rozsak), and it seems clear that Weber doesn’t regard him as unique. Obviously, Dubroskaya is less than impressed by her nominal civilian master, while the Lt-Gov., Tiilikainen, doesn’t appear to have any interest in covering Duenas’ “six.” Zavala already has Duenas and Tiilikainen rocked back on their psychological heels with the FTL com–it would be obtuse to assert that Dubroskaya isn’t equally surprised, and would be wondering what other little surprises the Manties have up their sleeves. Even if they aren’t ten feet tall and bulletproof, they may still be eight feet tall and wear Kevlar. If Zavala does have his own little version of “Exclamation Point” to stage, it presents an opportunity for a measure of sanity to break out among the senior military at Saltash–i.e. the realization that going along with Duenas’ self-aggrandizing designs is all fine and good when there’s no danger of anybody shooting at anyone else, but there’s no point in dying solely for the greater glory of Damian Duenas. If this were real life, people like Dubroskaya wouldn’t be mere ciphers, they would have functioning intellects, and it wouldn’t take them long to realize that Duenas was playing his own game, one which was not entirely congruent with his role as a FF system governor, even allowing for the usual graft and corruption at that position. Likewise, I’m expecting Weber to write these people as more than ciphers: there’s a reason why Dubroskaya and Tiilikainen don’t like Duenas, and it clearly goes beyond his expected level of incompetence in the former’s case and petty resentment at being passed over in the latter’s. Especially in Tiilikainen’s case, if it all goes into the crapper, no amount of distancing herself from Duenas is going to save her career–assuming she survives the flush, of course. There’s a reason why she was passed over to succeed to the governorship of Saltash in favor of Duenas, and it may well be because she’s NOT in the MALIGN’s pocket. There’s a bit too many words spent in the text on her “passover” for it to be an insignificant detail.

        So what I’m postulating here is that when the reality of the threat posed by the Manty DDs is understood (presuming their capability is demonstrated), Duenas will find that he has involuntarily resigned, courtesy of Dubroskaya and Tiilikainen. Once he is out of the picture–alive if possible; dead, just as good–and the nature and extent of his extracurricular activities is revealed (it will be: all bureaucrats keep detailed records of everything, in real life as well as fiction; they’re genetically compelled to do so–it’s in the Bible somewhere, Book of Hezekiah, I believe….), then the word starts to spread in both directions. Officially on the Manticoran side, unofficially within FF and the SLN. Remember, most coups are led by colonels, not generals–colonels haven’t yet become sufficiently politically corrupted to have lost all of their idealism. “Coup?” you ask. “Who said anything about any coups?” I didn’t–but Weber did. Remember, the fracturing in the structure of the Solarian League about which Harrington spoke in A Rising Thunder and Mission of Honor has to begin somewhere, and as Rozsak demonstrated at Maya (and let’s not forget that even Filaretta appeared to be having second thoughts prior to his untimely demise) it’s going to be in the Verge that they begin splitting first.

  4. Margo says:

    Definitely part of the Ghost Rider platform, but one of the reasons for the Roland’s size is the EW and com links. The FTL link to M23 missiles requires Keyhole II and nothing smaller than BC’s have that. However the Ghost Rider platforms can relay – as used by Abigail at Monica; it gives much closer to real time data on the opposition. And FTL has something to do with gravitic pulses and impeller nodes, or that was supposedly what gave Admiral Hemphill the inspiration? Service OT Sword. Just prior to the First Battle of Yeltsin.

  5. The honorable Governor, or at least the Invincible Solarian League Navy commanding officer, might rationally expect that a light cruiser shooting at a BC is simply wasting ammunition, and that with some cleverness the RMN will eventually be on a trajectory that will inexorably take them into range of the BCs’ missiles, at which point the RMN CLs are burnt toast.

    • John Roth says:

      That’s probably their expectation, but Zavala can’t allow it. Rolands are classified as destroyers for a reason: if any of those BC missiles got through, they’d be toast. Zavala has to deal with the BCs before he gets into their missile range, but he’s operating under orders to negotiate first.

      • ET1swaw aka Rob says:

        At Monica they had ammunition reloads and tractored pods and still shot themselves dry.
        Against Byng’s BCs they concentrated fire on singular targets and stared-down/death-dared the rest.
        Against Crandell they had a s**tl**d of missile pods.
        They only have 5 Rolands worth of missiles and two SLN task groups (1 of 4 BCs, the other the SLN DDs); NTM possible Cinnamon system defense pods.
        And like John Roth has brought up: DDs (no matter how large and advanced) are NOT built to go toe to toe at almost any range with capitol ships.
        OTOH Mantie point defense, anti-missiles, and ECM are extremely well developed.
        And as I posted above, MAlign may have trailed their little pinkies in the soup and upgraded these SLN-BCs/system-defense with some unexpected upgrades. After all the Mayans kinda redacted the info from the Battle of Torch to both the SL and what became the GA.

        This might be a more even face-off than one might think.

        /Rob

  6. Mike says:

    It’s Abigail Hearns. She’s one of the stars of the series. Weber has to set it up so that she does something unexpectedly awesome, especially after the earlier bit where at least one of her fellow officers was put out by her rapid rise through the ranks.

  7. dave o says:

    I suspect that the Manties will learn that they can use much smaller salvos than they expected against the Sollies. They have much better control, and I suspect far superior penaids. Thus more hits from each salvo. If true, the destroyers may well be a match for Battle Cruisers. Especially if the BC’s were designed by a follower of Jackie Fisher.

    • John Roth says:

      It’s not a question of whether they can slaughter the BCs. They can. Probably with one salvo. The issue is that they can’t stand up to the BCs fire so they can’t afford to get inside their range. Destroyers are called tin cans for a reason, and Rolands are even more vulnerable that the name suggests.

  8. Knucklrdraggingwino says:

    In all simulations of Rolland DDs vs SLN BCs, the Rollands kicked BC butt by using Mk-23 pods or even Apollo pods without FTL comm control as was done at Spindle. Earlier in this book we were informed that all Apollo pods have been recalled to be used exclusively by KH-2 equipped SD(P)s and all Mk-23 pods have been reserved for SD(P)s that don’t have KH-2. Eighth Fleet’s lowly Nike BCs, Saganami Cs and Rollands are restricted to using Mk-16 missiles. We don’t know if they have any of the Mk-16 pods used by the Agememnon BC(P)s.

    If the Rollands are restricted to only their on board magazines and wander into the range of the SLN BCs (and System Defense Pods) this battle could get Very Interesting.

    Hopefully; they will not be stupid enough to limit salvo size. The entire premise of pod based ships is to launch enough missiles to overwhelm an enemy’s defenses. The newer non pod ships such as Nike, Saganami C and Rolland are designed to achieve the same result by using off bore targeting to launch double broadsides and stack salvos. IIRC, Rollands have six tubes fore and aft with 36 control links. Five Rollands launch triple stacked salvos will put 180 missiles on target verses 4 BCs or 45 missiles per BC. This will probably achieve multiple hits with concentrated fire. However; if they piss away their limited ammo ( 240 rounds per ship) launching smaller salvos
    that score very few hits, they will be toast.

    Now all we need is a shower scene with Abby Hearnes.

  9. Margo says:

    The SLN is maybe just starting to consider system defence pods post Spindle. The ones used at Monica were Technodyne (not MAlign) and had been rejected by SLN; the Cataphracts used by the StateSec/MAlign forces at Torch were pure MAlign and Roszak was very cagy in post battle reports to SLN after Battle of Torch so only SLN force to actually use Cataphracts, (for all the good it did them) was Filareta’s and again had nothing to do with SLN logistical support. They were snuck in by Mesa.

    • John Roth says:

      Several people in the SLN have come up with the idea that Manticore must have used system defense pods at Spindle, so the concept isn’t all that foreign. One thing I suspect is going on here is that the ISLN isn’t responsible for system defense: that’s the responsibility of the various member systems’ System Defense Forces. So they probably wouldn’t be all that interested in system defense pods for themselves, but Technodyne might very well have them for sale to any SDF that wanted to buy them.

  10. Greg Noel says:

    Another linking problem. This snippet says it’s between snippet 11 of Fire With Fire and snippet 23 of The Heretic. Snippet 23 of The Heretic does point back to this snippet, but the forward link of snippet 11 of Fire With Fire points to snippet 12 of Fire With Fire and that forward link points to snippet 23 of The Heretic.

    In other words, going following the forward links skips this snippet and following the backward links skips snippet 12 of Fire With Fire.

    I suspect this forward link should point to snippet 12 of Fire With Fire and the forward link of snippet 11 of Fire With Fire should point to this snippet. Is there anybody who can make that correction?

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