STORM FROM THE SHADOWS — snippet 36

 

STORM FROM THE SHADOWS – snippet 36:

 

 

            Manpower and its genetic slaves remained, in fact, immensely profitable, but these days that was actually only a happy secondary benefit of Manpower's existence. In fact, as the Alignment fully recognized, genetic slavery had long since ceased to be a truly competitive way to supply labor forces, except under highly specialized circumstances. Fortunately many of its customers failed to grasp that same point, and Manpower's marketing department went to considerable lengths to encourage that failure wherever possible. And, possibly even more fortunately, other aspects of genetic slavery, particularly those associated with the vices to which humanity had always been prey, made rather more economic sense. Not only were the profits higher for Manpower's customers, the frailties of human nature and appetites being what they were, but the various types of pleasure slave Manpower provided were enormously more profitable for it, on a per-slave basis, as well. Yet the truth was that although the vast amounts the slave trade earned remained extremely welcome and useful, the main purposes which today's Manpower truly served were quite different from anything directly related to money.

            First, Manpower and its genetic research facilities provided the perfect cover for the experimentation and development which were the true focus of the Mesan Alignment and its goals. Second, the need to protect Manpower explained why Mesa, although not a member of the League itself, was so heavily plugged into the League's political and economic structures. Third, the perversions to which genetic slavery pandered provided ready-made "hooks" by which Manpower's proprietors could . . . influence decisionmakers throughout the League and beyond. Fourth, the nature of the slave trade itself turned Manpower — and thus, by extension, all of Mesa's ruling corporations — into obvious criminals, with an instinctive imperative to maintain the current system as it was so that they could continue to feed in its comfortably corrupt depths, which distracted anyone from considering the possibility that Mesa might actually want to change the current system, instead. And, fifth, it provided a ready-made excuse — or plausible cover, at least — for almost any covert operation the Alignment might undertake if details of that operation should stray into sight.

            There were, however, some unfortunate downsides to that otherwise highly satisfactory state of affairs. Three of them, in fact, came rather pointedly to mind, given what he'd just been discussing with Aldona Anisimovna and Isabel Bardasano: Beowulf, Manticore, and Haven.

            It would no doubt have helped, in some ways, at least, if Leonard Detweiler had fully worked out his grand concept before establishing Manpower. No one could think of everything, unfortunately, and one thing Mesa's geneticists still hadn't been able to produce was prescience. Besides, he'd been provoked. His Detweiler Consortium had first settled Mesa in 1460 PD, migrating to its new home from Beowulf following the discovery of the Visigoth System's wormhole junction six T-years earlier. The Mesa System itself had first been surveyed in 1398, but until the astrogators discovered that it was home to one of the two secondary termini of the Visigoth Wormhole, it had been too far out in the back of beyond to attract development.

            That changed when the Visigoth Wormhole survey was completed, and Detweiler had acquired the development rights from the system's original surveyors. The fact that the planet Mesa, despite having quite a nice climate, also possessed a biosystem poorly suited to terrestrial physiology helped lower the price, given the expenses involved in terraforming. But Detweiler hadn't intended to terraform Mesa. Instead, he'd opted to "mesaform" the colonists through genetic engineering. That decision had been inevitable in light of Detweiler's condemnation of the "illogical, ignorant, unthinking, hysterical, Frankenstein fear" of the genetic modification of human beings which had hardened into almost instinctual repugnance over the five hundred T-years between Old Earth's Final War and his departure for Mesa. Still, however inevitable it might have been, it had not been popular with the Beowulf medical establishment of the time. Worse, the fact that Visigoth was barely sixty light-years from Beowulf had guaranteed that Mesa and Beowulf would remain close enough together (despite the hundreds of light-years between them through normal-space) to be a continuous irritant to one another, and Beowulf's unceasing condemnation of Detweiler's faith in the genetic perfectability of humanity had infuriated him. It was, after all, the entire reason he and those members of the Beowulf genetic establishment who shared his views had left Beowulf in the first place.

            It was quite clear that Leonard's decision to rename the Detweiler Consortium "Manpower, Incorporated," had been intended as a thumb in the eye to the entire Beowulf establishment, and that thumb had landed exactly where he'd aimed it. And if Beowulf had been . . .  upset by the Detweiler Consortium's practice of wholesale genetic modification of colonists to suit hostile environments like Mesa, it was infuriated when Manpower began producing "indentured servants" genetically designed for specific environments or specific tasks. At first, periods of indenturement on Mesa itself had been limited to no more than twenty-five T-years, although even after completing their indentures, the "genetic clients" had been denied the franchise and generally treated as second-class citizens. As they became an increasing percentage of the planetary population, however, the planetary constitution had been modified to make "indenturement" a lifelong condition. Technically, Mesa and Manpower continued to insist that there were no such things as "slaves," only "indentured servants," but while that distinction might offer at least some useful smokescreen for Mesa's allies and paid mouthpieces in places like the Solarian League's Assembly, it was meaningless to the institution's opponents.

            The hostility between Beowulf and Mesa had grown unspeakably bitter over the past four and a half centuries, and the anti-slavery Cherwell Convention which had been created by Beowulf had produced enormous headaches for Manpower, Mesa, and the Mesan Alignment. That was unfortunate, and it had posed some significant problems for the Alignment's overall strategy. The ferocity with which the Star Kingdom of Manticore and the Republic of Haven harassed Manpower's operations, for example, had clearly presented a long-term threat. While both of those star nations combined constituted little more than a flyspeck compared to the Solarian League, their loathing for genetic slavery had made them implacable foes, and the Republic of Haven's vibrant economy and steady expansion had caused the Alignment considerable anxiety. Haven had been colonized over a hundred and fifty T-years before Mesa, and while it had lacked the enormous financial "nest egg" Leonard Detweiler had brought with him to Mesa, it had created a powerful, self-fueling economical base which promised to do nothing but continue to grow. And that had made the Haven Quadrant loom large in the Alignment's thinking, especially following the discovery of the Manticoran Wormhole Junction in 1585.

            It was the Manticoran Junction and the way it moved the entire Haven Quadrant to within shouting distance of the Sol System itself which had made a pair of insignificant, far off neobarb star nations a matter of major concern to the Alignment. Their direct connection to the League ran through the Beowulf System, and both the Republic and the Star Kingdom had fully imbibed the Beowulfan attitudes towards genetic slavery.

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25 Responses to STORM FROM THE SHADOWS — snippet 36

  1. Mike says:

    Another Weber lecture on astro-political politics and history. I wish he would find some better way of doing this, but I have come to expect it. In this case, since it finally starts to move the plot along, I am even glad to see it.

    Plus, he didn’t put it in the form of two people talking, with one explaining it all to someone for whom it should actually have been all already known. This outright lecture to the readers goes down a bit easier than phony dialogue.

  2. Nopporn says:

    So… in terms of transit time, both Haven and Manticore are practically Mesa’s next door neighbors? And that the Beowolf connection may have influenced the entire Haven Sector’s attitude toward genetic slavery? Interesting…

    Is the next snippet going to infodump that Manpower created the economic fiasco that was Haven’s Legislaturist regime?

  3. MadMcAl says:

    Manticore is Mesas next door neighbour.
    Haven only if they have access to Manticore.

    But the Legislaturist fiasco could be true.
    Of course, on the other hand, why should they?
    The politic was created by idealists without regard of the realitys.

  4. Elim Garak says:

    Wow! If I read this right, Mesa may have modified the Haven structure and society into socialism.

    Also, the dude in charge had a point about genetic improvements. Managed correctly they could be extremely beneficial to the human race. Probably the only hope for it considering the rapidly approaching singularity, although it may come too late anyway.

  5. Tony says:

    looks like they managed to switch Haven off course….. As for Manticore … well, we already know some nice, cute conservative Association politicians use and abuse sex slaves…

    Anyway, really wondering what is going to happen next, as it goes in directions I didn’t quite expect at all and as DW had roughly 10 years to tinker with the facts in the back of his head ! :)

  6. jk says:

    Wasn’t the anti-slavery Haven the result of Socialism’s dialectic demands? I seem to recall that in the books

  7. Drak Bibliophile says:

    jk, it was mentioned that Haven’s anti-slavery position predates the “People’s Republic of Haven”. What you might have seen is somebody using “Socialism’s dialectic demands” to support his own position against genetic slavery.

    Oh Tony, the annoying thing about Haven for Mesa is that Haven still has its anti-slavery position in spite of their ‘fall’.

  8. JN says:

    “Next door neighbor” is an exaggeration. Manticore is on the other side of Beowulf if I understand things correctly. However, since Mesa and Beowulf ARE next door neighbors, that puts Manticore comfortably within the neighborhiid. Also, Manticore has the piracy in Silisia to keep the anti-slavery feelings lively.

    DW has never explained why Haven is such an implacable foe. Perhaps that is next.

    J

  9. justin says:

    also don’t forget that currently Haven has it’s own access to the League via Erhwon. While that access might not be closer to Sol the the link through Beowolf. It still gives Haven a tie to the League. Before Erhwon switched sides however I’m not sure how easy it was for the Peeps to get in contact with the League.

  10. re:comment 4 by eg – “rapidly approaching singularity” – what is that?

  11. chuck says:

    Justin
    If I recall correctly, One of Haven’s biggest problems after Honor’s breakout from Hell was the long lag between the arrival of Maniticore’s and Haven’s press releases in the Leauge. I think it was in the order of eight weeks for anything that didn’t use the Trevor’s star-Manticore-Beauwolf junction route and two for anything that did-a long time for public opinion to form before the Haven version could arrive.
    CS

  12. Elim Garak says:

    @jim summerlin – Singularity is what some currently project the future of science to be. If you graph the rate at which we progress, scientific and technological advancement appear to increase at an exponential rate – within the next 100-200 years the graph becomes vertical.

    You can think of it this way – after development of AI, the computers will be able to start improving themselves. As they improve themselves, they become smarter, and are capable of building ever faster and better versions. Humans will be left far behind, if we are lucky.

  13. hank says:

    Remember, Haven being barred from access to the Manticore Wormhole is a recent development. Only since the start of the First Havenite War and the Comm of Pub Safety era. For all those centuries before the old Republic of Haven, and the People’s Republic had access as long as they paid their transit fees.

  14. Brom says:

    Giving rise to the Butlerian Crusade?

  15. Virgil says:

    I believe that during the war it was mention that the League was six months travel. The denial of the Manticore and its Allies Junction.

  16. Alsadius says:

    Normally I don’t mind Weber’s habit of infodumping – after all, it’s not like there’s a clean way to get technical specs into a novel, and he’s probably picked the least dirty one(certainly better than “Well, sir, as every schoolchild in this era knows…”). But this one is just ludicrous. Seriously, could you have put a bigger stick into the eye of “Show, don’t tell”? You just demolished any curiosity or sense of discovery the reader might feel, as well as most of the menace Manpower might otherwise inspire. And for nothing – clearing away the plot so you can write more battles is tolerable in the first book of a series, but this is the fourteenth.

  17. John Roth says:

    Well, um, speaking as a author, I’d have to say that there might be reasons for just dumping it here. There really seems to be only one plot point: there’s something more than meets the eye going on. And while I can imagine a way of making it come out piecemeal, I haven’t a clue whether it justifies a complete subplot.

    Anyway, please remember that this is first draftish – the book has already gone through a major revision with a whole chapter added to introduce a character.

    John Roth

    John Roth

  18. Adam says:

    Remember, this series is incredibly intricate, and this back story actually makes sense of some plot points from the earlier books, like why Mesa had incredibly advanced mind control nanites that no one else could approach.

    Taking the enemy from opportunistic corporation to evil empire builder is actually an important new development. After all, while all of Manpower’s and Mesa’s actions have made sense from the opportunistic corporation viewpoint, some of these long range plans were getting rather intricate and expensive to operate, without a secondary motivation besides profit.

    So this shift will give the readers insight that the protagonists will not have, so we’ll get to see the protagonists’ well-intentioned missteps for what they are.

    We’ve gotten this before in the HH novels (most memorably in Short Victorious War), when one admiral curses the other side for excellent intelligence or daring, when we as readers, seeing both sides, know that it was truly dumb luck that swung the battle.

  19. Mike says:

    IMO, while it does seem to be the case that many of Weber’s fans eat up this stuff, his long essays about things like this detract from his novels.

  20. Blackmane says:

    Not to add fuel to the fire here, but short of revealing that Manpower engineered the fall of Haven rather than the latter succumbing to the hubris of its socialists, nothing here is a major plot revelation. We knew Mesa split from Beowulf, and it was pretty obvious from links drawn in prior books that Mesa was eventually going to initiate a Second “Final War” and make another grab for genetic dominance of humanity as a whole. The only surprise, as far as I’m concerned, is this wormhole junction, but even then we can make Educated WAG’s about it. After all, doesn’t Torch have a wormhole terminus that Mesa is overly concerned about? This is merely backstory, Infodump, etc, making sure everyone’s on the same page before the intruige starts. We wouldn’t want anybody lost before we start the double-think.

  21. MadMcAl says:

    Torch has an own wormhole-junction, not a terminus. Maybe they will contract the Mantys for exploration, as they are the most experienced in it.
    But the rest of Blackmanes post is absolutely right. We knew since Crown of Slaves that Manpower had an deeper plan than simply being the crime & vice center of the known universe.
    We knew since AAC that Manpower followed through with the developement of a nanovirus, not something that can’t be done in the rest of the universe, but something that isn’t done, because of the riscs involved, most prominently the so called grey goo.

    About the technological singularity, well, there is something most people don’t see. The plateau-effect.
    Some few geniuses pioneer new, groundbreaking physical principles, and 3-4 generations of ‘normal’ scientists try to translate their work into common understandable science.
    And then the whole technology more or less plateaus over some time.
    We are at the moment at such an plateau.
    Over the last 20-30 years there was absolutely no really groundbreaking invention, revelation or technology brought onto the market that wasn’t a refinment, modernisation or new combination of allready known and used technologies.
    And every plateau has a physically defined point up to wich it can go before it is no longer refinable.
    In the honorverse there was such an plateau for a long time.
    We know of only one really groundbreaking developement in the last 30 years (at least in warfare).
    That was the ftl-com. The rest where new combinations of refined old technology, new ways of using known technology and such things.

  22. D says:

    There is another possible plot revelation and that is what the Alignment’s real adgenda is.

  23. Tim says:

    A Mesan plot so expletive nasty that we don’t notice the setup for the next book? Mr. Weber milks a story, but it’ll be fun, so it’s all good.

  24. Weber writes plot and character-driven sf action-adventures in space and time. Science is important but not primary, and usually military in nature. The singularity is a concept used by hard sf writers with different styles. The singularity is not something I associate with Weber, or Drake, Flint, Ringo, Stirling, et al. More likely with Baxter, Bear, Benford, Silverberg, et al. But that is just my feeling. Weber is my all-time favorite, followed by Flint.

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