He took a document viewer from his desk drawer and passed it across to her. She keyed it and pursed her lips thoughtfully as she scanned the information. She didn't recognize many of the names, but she did recognize some of them.

            "Captain Lecter became available almost as unexpectedly as you did, Milady," Cortez said. "At least a half-dozen flag officers requested her services, but I felt she'd fit best as your chief of staff."

            Michelle nodded in mingled understanding and gratitude. Captain Cynthia Lecter — only she'd been Commander Cynthia Lecter, at the time — had been the best executive officer Michelle had ever had. She was delighted Cynthia's promotion had come through, and she had no qualms at all about her suitability for the chief of the squadron command staff she'd had no idea she was about to inherit.

            "I don't believe you've ever served with Commander Adenauer," Cortez continued, "but she's compiled a very impressive record."

            Michelle nodded again. As far as she was aware, she'd never even met Commander Dominica Adenauer, much less served with her, but the bare synopsis of her combat record appended to the file Cortez had handed her was impressive. Not every skilled tactical officer worked out well as a squadron operations officer, but at first glance, at least, Adenauer looked promising. And Cortez did have that knack for putting the right officer into the right slot.

            "I think you'll be pleased with Commander Casterlin and Lieutenant Commander Edwards, as well," Cortez told her.

            "I know Commander Casterlin," Michelle said, looking up from the document. "Not as well as I'd like to, under the circumstances, but what I do know about him, I like. I don't know anything about Edwards, though."

            "He's young," Cortez replied. "In fact, he just made lieutenant commander about two months ago, but I was impressed when I interviewed him. And he's just finished a stint with BuWeaps as one of Admiral Hemphill's assistants. He's too junior to hold down the ops officer's slot, and even if he wasn't, he's a communications specialist, not a tac officer. That's why Adenauer got Operations and Edwards got Communications. But he's been hands-on with both laser head development and the new command and control systems, and I think you — and Commander Adenauer — will find his familiarity with the Admiral's newest toys very useful."

            "I'm sure we will," Michelle agreed.

            "I'm still trying to find you a good Logistics officer, and I still need a staff EW expert for you. Edwards' experience could probably be helpful in that area, as well, but, again, it's not something he's really trained for. Hopefully, I'll have both Logistics and Electronic Warfare covered by the end of the day. Obviously, all of these are suggestions at this point, and if you do have any serious reservations or objections to my suggestions, we'll do everything we can to accommodate you. I'm afraid, however, that time's so short we may not have a lot of flex."

            "Understood, My Lord," Michelle said in a voice that sounded more cheerful than she actually felt. The Manticoran tradition had always been that BuPers tried hard to meet any flag officer's reasonable requests for staffers, and no squadron or task force commander was ever happy to find herself stuck with someone else's choices for her own staff officers. She couldn't pretend she was exactly delighted to find herself in that position, but she suspected that quite a few other flag officers were finding themselves in very similar positions at the moment.

            With Cindy to ride herd on them, we should be all right, she told herself. I wish I'd ever at least met Adenauer, though. Her record looks good, from what I've been able to see of it so far, at least, but that's all on paper as far as I'm concerned. And Edwards looks like he'd be happier as a research weanie somewhere. God, I hope appearances are deceiving in that respect, anyway! But Casterlin's a good, solid choice for astrogator. Between them, he and Cindy should at least be able to keep things running on an even keel. And if there are any problems, it'll just be my job to make sure they . . . go away.

            "I understand, My Lord," she said again, a bit more firmly. "I do have one additional question, however."

            "Of course, Milady."

            "From everything you've said, I assume you're planning on deploying the squadron as soon as possible."

            "Actually, Milady, I'm planning on deploying the squadron even sooner than that," Cortez said with a tight smile. "That's what I meant when I said you might even be pulling out for Talbott before all of your ships have completed their acceptance trials. You do remember what I said about the shipyards cutting corners to streamline production, don't you? Well, one of the things we've dispensed with is the full spectrum of acceptance trials and pre-trial testing."

            Michelle's eyes widened in the first real alarm she'd felt since entering Cortez's office, and he shrugged.

            "Milady, we're between the proverbial rock and the hard place, and we've simply had no choice but to make some . . . accommodations. I won't pretend anyone's delighted by it, but we've tried to compensate by putting even more emphasis on quality control in the construction process. So far, we haven't had any major component failures, but I'd be misleading you if I didn't admit we have had some minor to even moderately severe problems which had to be worked out using onboard resources after a ship left the yard. I hope that won't be the case where your squadron is concerned, but I can't guarantee it. And if we have to deploy you with builder's reps still on board, we will. So, in answer to the question I'm sure you were about to ask, your deployment date is one T-week from today."

            Despite herself, Michelle's lips tightened. Cortez saw it, and shook his head.

            "I'm genuinely sorry, Milady. I fully realize one week isn't even long enough for you to complete straightening out the details of your personal affairs, far less long enough to develop any feel for your ship commanders, or even the members of your own staff. If we could give you longer, we would. But whatever may be happening where Haven is concerned, the Talbott Cluster is still a powder keg waiting for a single spark in the wrong place. A powder keg someone's already tried their damnedest to touch off for reasons we're still only guessing at. We need a powerful, sustained presence there, and we need it in place before any Solarian redeployments in response to events in Monica shift the balance. God knows there are enough arrogant Solly COs and squadron commanders out there, even without the little matter of the fact that we're still trying to figure out exactly who — besides Manpower — was doing what to whom until Terekhov spoked their wheel. I hope we'll all breathe a sigh of relief when we do figure that out, but I'm not planning on putting down any bets on that outcome. And one thing we don't need while we work on that little problem is for some Solly commodore or admiral to decide he has a big enough advantage in combat power to do something stupid that we'll all regret."

            "I understand, Sir," Michelle said yet again. "I can't say I expected any of this when I walked into your office, but I understand.






About Eric Flint

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18 Responses to STORM FROM THE SHADOWS — snippet 34

  1. Ian Darley says:


    The first historical parallel I can think of is HMS Prince of Wales going out to meet the Bismark with her builder’s reps on board. Henke’s ship may survive the experience but I wouldn’t want to be on the Manticoran equivalent of the HMS Hood…

  2. JN says:

    PW came out of that “trial” better than Hood did.


  3. Ken Valentine says:

    True, but during the action one of PW’s turrets (I think it was ‘A’ turret–40%of her main-battery firepower)jammed in train before it fired its first shot and the jam wasn’t cleared until after the action. That’s why PW had to break off as soon as Hood went up. Given that PW was technologically inferior to Bismarck in the first place, losing 40% of your main battery to an engineering casualty before opening fire is BAD NEWS.


  4. Chuck says:

    Only because the Bismark’s orders were to avoid encounters with capitol ships if possible. With less restrictive OP orders Bismark would have chased the PoW down and finished her wihout difficulty.

  5. Robert Krawitz says:

    Urk…as an engineer (even of the software variety), this leaves me scared even though it’s fiction!

    At least these things don’t have lots of explosive propellant and warhead materials on board, like “wet navy” battleships. I think I read somewhere that a 16 inch naval gun uses something like 300 kg of propellant per shot — plus whatever the warhead contains.

  6. Blackmane says:

    You’re right. Thank goodness they only use fusion-bomb-pumped laser warheads on their missiles, which themselves mount impeller drives. There has only been one example each in the series of one of those going off inside a warship so the odds are admittedly slim that either of those will happen, but technology only makes potential disasters worse, just as your example is worse than dropping a round of hot shot on a wooden battleship. Worst case scenario? A missile launcher fails to actually launch and the missile goes active inside the tube. Bright side is that no one would have time to realize that they’re dead.

  7. Robert Krawitz says:

    There’s a difference — chemical explosives are unstable (pretty much by definition); one they start to ignite, nothing can stop them. Expose them to sufficient heat or shock, and they’ll go. Fusion bombs (at least the OTL version) contain relatively small amounts of chemical explosive, which must be detonated in a precise timing sequence to trigger the fission primary. If the sequencing is off, there won’t be a nuclear explosion. With impeller wedges, there also needs to be a sequence of events to bring them up that would be very difficult to happen accidentally. Horace Harkness had to override an awfully large number of safeties in order to bring up that wedge.

    Yes, there are chemical explosives in OTL fusion bombs, but not in sufficient amount nor sufficiently closely packed together that if the explosives in a single bomb go off that they will trigger a chain reaction, as will happen with large quantities of conventional explosives in a small enough volume. The only difference between HMS Hood and a wooden ship is that the former has more armor around its magazine — but if that magazine is penetrated, or someone is careless inside, there isn’t much difference. The magazines of Henke’s ships simply aren’t as unstable.

    Missile launch failures are going to be a fact of life on any ship, new or old. The missiles themselves (and presumably they’re getting standard issue missiles) are going to have lots of interlocks to prevent activation before it has cleared the ship and (one would hope, at any rate) are designed to fail safe — if the electronics in the missile fail, or the missile itself does not determine that it’s far enough from the ship, the impeller won’t be brought up.

  8. Mike says:

    The magazines might not be unstable, but the ships contain a large amount of hydrogen as fuel. Of course that’s not explosive by itself, but when mixed with the correct proportion of oxygen it can be bad news.

  9. Wyrm says:

    And if you are worried about what could go wrong …

    … remember what Sir HorrissHarkness did to Cordelia Ransom (and her ship)

  10. Robert Krawitz says:

    Sir Horace was a highly 31337 h4x0r who had to use all of his skillz to accomplish that. Then again, look at what Manpower & fiends almost did to Honor…

  11. adis says:

    On the use of fission and fusion powerplants, has anyone done the math, and seen if Weber’s assumptions on fission even hold up? I personally can’t see something as power hungry as a LAC having fission cells that don’t need refueling for years. The amount of plutonium, uranium, thorium or whatnot should be prohibitive in comparison to hydrogen slush volume, even with fast breeder reactors.

    Consider the graser, it’d need a bomb pumped energizer to work, or equivalent amount of delivered power in a short interval. A boosted fission nuke delivers quite alot more output than a plain fission device, and that involves not so much lithium deuteride, in comparison to the plutonium pit.

  12. adis says:

    If only the Bismarck actually engaged the RN aggressively… it could have taken out half the available cap ships, and the carrier. And if it had a bit more luck with the Swordfishes…

    Ofcourse if Hitler had just built U-boats instead, England would have sunk.

  13. MadMcAl says:

    You sound as if you are disapointed that the nazis lost!
    I am a german and I am glad about that.
    Of course Hitler and the nazis lost only through Hitlers Orders.
    Many times.
    Also we all know that the 18 years life-time of the LAC-fission-reactors where an typo.
    MMW wanted to let them run 18 month. But the even so, I think you overestimate the energy-requirements of the LAC’s.
    Much of the energy comes from the superconductor-rings, wich can be loaded before the battle from the mother-ship.
    Another big part comes from the Beta²-emitters, that, as we know are direct descendants from the missile-impeller-systems, and actually syphon a bit of energy.
    Of course much will also generated by the pile. So what? Actual modern fission piles have an ELECTRICAL power-output of more than 1 GW. At the same time they have 3 times the additional thermal power-output.
    We can assume that the extremely sophisticated energy-conversion-system used to convert the thermal output of the fusion reactors can also be used to convert much more of this power to electric. And the 41th century radiation-shielding would reduce the overall-mass extremely.
    A 1440 MW-Pile of today-technology (actually 1975-technology, but who counts this few years) has an actual heavy metal mass of 103 tons (with an thermal output of 3900 MW).
    If we asume that the honorverse-technology can provide radiation-shielding with a 3-1 ratio of mass and an efficiency of 80% for the conversion, than tha LAC’s can have an 15 GW-pile with a mass of a bit under 1500t.
    On a 20000t-LAC that is not so very much.
    Also we know that for example the reactors on a Nimitz-class carrier have a live-time of arround 23 years, so the 18 years aren’t so extreme inprobable.
    Of course we don’t know the average output of an DD-size fusion reactor, or the requirements of an LAC-size impeller. But I think that 15 GW would be enough.

  14. adis says:

    I was just commenting that the Nazis could have had a more effective battle strategy.

  15. jamesx says:

    Adis. First remember before 1900 Germany wasn’t a great
    Naval power like the British and French were
    They had no long tradition to fall back on like Lord Nelson
    With the British—-
    The Hood had holy stoned wooden decks on top for god sake!!!!

    Can you now understand why she went down so fast!!
    The British Admirality with there stiff upper lip thought battleships
    Didn’t need metal armor on deck, just the sides–

    But with the long British tradition– the British Admirality understood
    A ships purpose is to go down fighting—

    All Hitler saw was the Bismarks Propaganda value. And no one
    Was going to tell a mad man that she was sunk by the British–
    So the German high command gave the Oder to scuttle her–

    What a wastefull end to a ship ahead of her time

  16. Brom says:


    Two additional points – DW did make the “18 year fission life is a typo, should be 18 months” in 1998, but IIRC, he later – in 2004 – went back to keeping the fission pile life at 18 years. Not that it seemed to make much difference as the combat life expectancy was akin to the 8th AF B-17s doing daylight bombing in WWII.

    Also, the capacitor rings were trickle charged from the LAC fission piles. IDSTR any mention of being charged up from the CLAC fusactors prior to launch, although that might have been a later development. Either way, the LACs only have a limited number of full power shots from the spinal grasers.

  17. MadMcAl says:

    There was to my knowledge never mentioned that the capacitor rings where charged from the mother ship.
    But please, that should be a no-brainer. If you have a ship servicing the LAC’s that has actually at least one (more propably 3, considering the size of the CLAC’s) unused fusion reactors, everyone of them propably powerfull enough to power an complete battlecruiser on one hand, and the barely adequate power-output of the fission pile on the other hand, and you wouldn’t even think about using this unused fusion reactors to supplement the fission piles rather meager charge… well, I for one would question your sanity.
    Remember, we know that an DD-fusion reactor is many times stronger than an LAC needs. It is just the smallest an graviton-fusion-reactor is buildable. We also can only asume the power-output an DN-sized fusion reactor would generate, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was more than 100 times the output of an Shrike-fission-pile (considering that an DN is arround 200-300 times the mass of an Shrike). So it would make every sense to have the capacitors of the LAC’s topped of prior to the launch from the mother-ships fusion reactors.
    Also I know that the typo has been made canon by DW. But it was originaly a typo.

  18. Brom says:

    Re the capacitor rings, that would seem a logical practice – but I’ve learned to be wary of ‘no brainer’ ideas if MWW has not mentioned something along that line. He is very likely to have a compelling reason why the no-brainer idea is a ‘bad thing’.

    On the typo, if you knew it had been re-verified by MWW, why push the incorrect data? FWIW, even David had doubts if it was typo or not-a-typo, and went with typo because it differed from hit tech bible. This came up at Balticon 33 where a number of fans pointed out the 18 year figure not only was more logical, given our current knowledge of fission physics, but that an 18 month life would impose a truly massive logisitics and maintenance burden onto the RMN, given the numbers of fission-powered LACs being built and put into service.

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