Chapter Eight



            Michelle accepted her beret from Master Steward Billingsley and started to turn towards the door and the waiting Admiralty air car when she paused suddenly.

            "And what, Master Steward, might that be?" she asked.

            "I beg the Admiral's pardon?" Billingsley said innocently. "What 'that' would the Admiral be referring to?"

            "The Admiral would be referring to that 'that,'" Michelle replied, one forefinger indicating the broad, prick-eared head which had just poked itself exploringly around the corner of a door.

            "Oh, that 'that'!"

            "Precisely," Michelle said, folding her arms and regarding him ominously.

            "That's a cat, Ma'am," Billingsley told her. "Not a treecat, a cat — an Old Terran cat. It's called a 'Maine Coon.'"

            "I'm well aware of what an Old Terran cat looks like, Chris," Michelle said repressively, never unfolding her arms. "I don't believe I've ever seen one quite at large, but I do know what they are. What I don't know is what it's doing in my mother's townhouse."

            Actually, the townhouse and its landscaped grounds belonged to Michelle now, not to her mother, but it was Caitrin Winton-Henke's home, even if Michelle did have most of a wing reserved for her private use whenever she was on Manticore.

            "Well, actually, Ma'am, he's mine," Billingsley said with the air of someone making a clean breast of it.

            "And just when did this monumental change in your status as a parent take place?" Michelle inquired just a bit acidly as the rest of the impressively large feline ambled into the foyer.

            "Day before yesterday," Billingsley said. "I . . . found him wandering around over near the Master Chiefs' Club. He looked like he needed a home, and he walked right up to me, and I couldn't just leave him there, Ma'am!"

            "I see," Michelle said, looking into his guilelessly wide and innocent eyes. "And would it happen that this hulking menace to all mice, hamsters, chipmunks, and unwary small children has a name?"

            "Yes, Ma'am. I call him 'Dicey.'"

            "'Dicey,'" Michelle replied with long-suffering resignation. "Of course."

            Billingsley continued to look as if butter would not melt in his mouth, but the name was a dead giveaway of how his new pet had really come into his possession, Michelle thought, looking at the enormous cat. It was the first terrestrial cat she'd ever seen who looked like he probably came close to matching Nimitz's mass. Not only that, but 'Dicey' was a good twenty centimeters shorter overall than Nimitz, and although he was definitely a long hair, he was nowhere near as fluffy as a treecat, which made him substantially bulkier. One ear had a notch that looked like someone else had taken a bite out of it, and there was a visible scar across the back of his burly neck. Obviously, he'd been to the wars, yet there was something about him that reminded her irresistibly of Billingsley himself, now that she thought about it. A certain endearing disreputability, perhaps.

            "You do realize how many regulations there are against having a pet on board one of her Majesty's starships?"

            "Regulations, Ma'am?" Billingsley repeated blankly, as if he'd never heard the word before.

            Michelle started to open her mouth again, then gave up. A wise woman knew when to cut her losses, and she didn't begin to have the time it would take to make a dent in Billingsley's bland innocence. Besides, she didn't have the heart for it.

            "As long as you understand that I'm not going to put any pressure on anyone to allow you to bring that beast along on our next deployment," she said, trying womanfully to sound firm.

            "Oh, yes, Ma'am. I understand that," Billingsley assured her without a trace of triumph.

* * * * * * * * * *

            "Excuse me, Admiral."

            Michelle turned from her study of the streets and green belts of the City of Landing, two hundred floors below her crystoplast window viewpoint, as the Admiralty yeoman spoke.

            "Yes, Chief?"

            "Sir Lucian is ready for you now, Ma'am."

            "Thank you, Chief."

            She managed to restrain the almost overpowering impulse to let nervous fingers check her appearance one last time, nor did she lick her lips anxiously or whistle a merry tune to disguise her nervousness. Despite which, unusually large butterflies seemed to be waltzing about in her midsection as the yeoman pressed the button which opened the door to Sir Lucian Cortez's palatial Admiralty House office.

            She nodded her thanks and stepped through the waiting portal, with Lieutenant Gwendolyn Archer, her brand new flag lieutenant, on her heels.

            "Admiral Gold Peak!"

            Cortez was a smallish man who wore the uniform of an admiral of the green. In many ways, he looked more like a successful schoolteacher, or perhaps a bank bureaucrat, than a naval officer, despite the uniform. And in many ways, Michelle supposed, he was a bureaucrat. But he was a very important bureaucrat — the Royal Manticoran Navy's Fourth Space Lord and the commanding officer of the Bureau of Personnel. It was his job to meet the unending appetite of the frantically expanding, brutally overworked Navy, and no one — including Michelle — quite knew how he had done that so well, for so long. Under the prewar system of rotating senior officers regularly through fleet commands and then back to desk jobs in order to see to it that they stayed operationally current, Cortez would have been replaced in his present position long since. No one in her right mind was going to suggest replacing him under wartime conditions, however.

            Now he came to his feet, smiling and welcome, and extended his hand to her across the desk as the other man, a commander wearing the insignia of the Judge Advocate's Corps, who'd been sitting beside the office's coffee table also stood respectfully.

            "Good morning, My Lord," Michelle responded to Cortez's greeting, and clasped his hand firmly. Then she quirked one eyebrow politely at the waiting commander, and Cortez smiled.

            "No, you're not going to need legal representation, Milady," he assured her. "This is Commander Hal Roach, and he is here because of you, but not because of anything you've done. Unless, of course, you have a guilty conscience I didn't know anything about?"

            "My Lord, my conscience is as pure as the driven snow," she replied, holding out her hand to Roach, and the commander smiled in appreciation as he took it. He was a solidly-built fellow, with dark hair, and probably somewhere in his mid-forties, Michelle estimated.

About Eric Flint

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27 Responses to STORM FROM THE SHADOWS — snippet 30

  1. Mike says:

    OK, finally something new.

  2. Greg D says:

    “My Lord, my conscience is as pure as the driven snow,” she replied

    Liar. She’s an Admiral. All Admirals are guilty of something. :-)

  3. Alistair says:

    yes but what?

    any guesses?

  4. Karsten says:

    Michelle gets her new duties, imho. But I can’t see the role of this JAG-Commander – this makes me curiouser and curiouser …

  5. ojollabe says:

    Probably there to clarify the rules and stipulations regarding officers returned to duty on a parole status

  6. rickthomaskorea says:

    IMHO, the JAG guy is there to dot the i’s and cross the t’s on the parole. Make sure Manticore does it correctly so to speak. And then off to Sizemore is my bet.

  7. Virgil says:

    Its obvious, he there to explain her legal position due to her parole. That is why she can not be given an appropriate command in the war. That she will insteand be shipped out to the backwater of the Talbot system.
    He there to back up Cortez. Cortez is in fact greatly pleased. He gets a very good admiral to send that will be able to object due to her legal position.

  8. Mike says:

    Isn’t “Hal Roach” a name from one of the Dorsai books? There was also a Hollywood producer by that name, as well as a still-living Irish comic. Maybe I’m wrong about the Dorsai thing, though. Google doesn’t hit it.

  9. ldwechsler says:

    Wasn’t Cortez the Fifth Lord in earlier books?

  10. Dave says:

    Just wondered why tree cats don’t use voders. Our current technology has had them for at least 8 years. The cats even have extra hands.

  11. BrianBridgePro says:

    Yes, He was Fifth Space Lord and according to

    Fifth Space Lord: BuPers. Recruiting & manpower management.

  12. Gil says:

    I suspect this has something to do with the parole Michele gave before she was released by Haven…. Still this is interesting. :-)

  13. Alejo says:

    A Maine Coon, huh? DW is such a cat person :p. Such an interesting breed, Maine Coons. I own a Skogcat which is the source breed for them that the Vikings are supposed to have brought over to America. Wonder if he features in comic relief scenes later on in the book. Wonder how a treecat would respond to one. hmm.

  14. Blackmane says:

    While we’re all wondering about the parole, has it occurred that he may be there to explain some of the legal intricacies of the situation in Talbott?

  15. JN says:

    We have a Maine Coon female that loiters around the area. She’s big. But the biggest cat I have ever seen is also a ‘Coon. The county pound has one that is nearly as wide as it is tall, and weighs about 35 pounds.


  16. Mike says:

    He’s probably there for both reasons. I would guess he’s going to be added to her staff for the rest of the book.

  17. Brom says:

    I wonder if Cortez is getting ready to promote Mike …

  18. Karsten says:

    @Brom: That’s not very likely. If I remember correctly, Michelle Henke got her promotion to Rear Admiral together with the command about Battlecruiser Squadron 81. And regarding her … paranoia about ‘promoted to fast’ …

    By the way – she didn’t anything outstanding while CO of BC-Squadron 81 to give BuPers any reason to think about promotion.

  19. Brom says:

    The cover shows her as a VADM …

  20. EM says:

    But is the person on the cover Michelle?

    Last time I checked Michelle Henke was described as dark black skinned with an afro.

  21. Karsten says:

    It should be Michelle Henke, at least – regarding the description about the book at So we have to wait and see – maybe it is only an error of the cover-artist …

  22. Brom says:

    In the high-res graphic used as the cover of Simon & Schuster’s Spring 09 catalog, you can definitely see that the female in the seat has dark brown skin tone, with short, very tightly curled, matted dark brown hair (a short afro?). S&S covered most of her left arm and shoulder with text so the left shoulderboards and sleeve stripes are not visible, but the right shoulderboard is red, with two broad gold stripes – and what looks to be thin green threads down the center of each broad stripe. The right sleeve broad gold stripes also seem to have a thin dark partition down the center of each stripes, but the color of the partition is hard to determine, and may be red.

    Either way, that says Mike Henke loud and clear. Two broad stripes means VADM in the RMN, the question seems to be “of the Red” or “of the Green”.

    HH told Mike that she was promoted way behind her demonstrated abilities because of her determination to “earn her promotions”. After serving as a BATCRURON CO, and then as SRO in the POW camp, I can easily see the Admiralty and/or Theisman deciding to force her to accept the rank she truly deserves – even if above what she thinks she should have.

  23. Mike says:

    Yes but … it’s cover art. Expecting it to be the right number of stripes is kind of silly. Most of the time you are lucky if the characters are represented correctly in any sense whatsoever.

    The idea behind cover art is not to be a photo-realistic depiction of the contents of the book. The idea is to catch the eye and sell the book. Pretty much that’s all it is for.

  24. Robert Krawitz says:

    She would definitely be vice admiral of the red. Green is the “upper half” with more seniority (at the rank), and she certainly wouldn’t have any seniority at all at vice admiral (even at rear admiral I wouldn’t think she’d have much seniority yet). Honor was admiral of the red throughout AAC, and didn’t she become admiral before Henke became rear admiral?

    @Brom, presumably you mean Elizabeth or Honor or somebody, not Theisman…it doesn’t sound like Haven and Manticore are going to be *that* close together yet.

    The whole commissioned rank system of the RMN seems all screwed up. It sounds like with rare exceptions promotions are strictly on seniority or influence. And given the lifespans people have with prolong, making admiral in 30~40 years seems awfully fast, unless the expectation is that people will retire young and have second careers. The non-commissioned ranks seem to make more sense — they have a lot of non-commissioned and warrant ranks, and it sounds like someone really could serve for 100 years and eventually reach senior master chief. No wonder someone like Harkness wouldn’t ever want to be a commissioned officer.

    Maybe in some later book we’ll get to see Honor and Hamish after they’ve retired from the navy (well, I guess Hamish has sort of retired). Now that they have a child, maybe she’ll follow in their footsteps and Honor will be a Lord of the Admiralty or something like that. Her daughter will be the steadholder heir, but Grayson doesn’t seem to have any problem with steadholders or their heirs serving in the military — wasn’t it described as an appropriate kind of physical danger for them to face?

    (As an aside, I think I read on wikipedia that the British Navy had “rear admiral of the yellow” for people who somehow made list, who no one in their right mind would ever want to command anything of consequence, but never did anything that would actually get them kicked out. They had to eventually get promoted, but the people who did know what they were doing made sure that they weren’t put in a position to do any real harm.)

  25. Brom says:

    Oops, you’re correct. I was thinking of 1st Space Lord Caperelli, but somehow wrote Theisman ….

    In a bit of fair play, don’t you mean her son Raoul will be the Steadholder heir … Katherine has no claim to either Steadhold, Duchy or Earldom, as yet.

    IIRC, DW has mentioned that there are a number of ADMs who went on half-pay as Captain or Commodore and have been promoted by seniority without ever being activated.

  26. BrianBridgePro says:

    Honor’s very 1st Captain on her middy cruise, Capt. Bachfisch is one of those who made Admiral by simple seniority, while spending the entire time on half pay.

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