Grimm didn't have to put up with anywhere near the crap Planetary Traffic Control did, of course, but to make up for that, she had many times the amount of traffic to keep track of. Actually, for a star nation whose preposterous wealth was so heavily based upon its merchant marine, there were usually remarkably few hyper-capable ships anywhere near Manticore or Sphinx, even under normal conditions. It made far more sense for cargoes bound in or out of the Manticore System to take advantage of the stupendous warehousing and service platforms associated with the Junction itself. It was much more time and cost effective, even for ships which weren't using the Junction — and there were some of those, headed for more local destinations — to use its facilities, which were undoubtedly the biggest, most efficient, and most capable in the entire galaxy. The ships and cargo shuttles which plied back and forth between the Junction and the star system's planets were far smaller than the leviathans which traveled between stars, and they were a far more efficient way for most shipments to complete the final transition to their destinations.

            It was those freight-haulers who were complaining most vociferously about ACS' new rules and attitude, according to Grimm. After all, before a shuttle pilot or, even more, the astrogators and helmsmen aboard one of the bigger, short-haul freighters were certified for planetary approach, they had to clear dozens of certifications, background checks, and routine physical and mental evaluations, and all of those certifications and evaluations had to be kept current, as well. Given all of that, some of them seemed to deeply resent the fact that they were no longer trusted to make those approaches under impeller drive. And some of the owners of those vessels clearly resented the way the new requirement to have two fully certified planetary approach pilots on the bridge at all times was increasing their overhead.

            Well, I can live with that, Michelle reflected. I think sometimes they forget just how frigging dangerous an impeller-drive ship is. Maybe it's because they spend so much time in space themselves that for them it's all just routine, but they might want to remember that even a fairly small ship could turn itself into a dinosaur-killer from hell if it really wanted to.

            She shuddered inside at the thought of what a mere hundred thousand-ton short-haul freighter could do if it hit, say, Manticore, at twenty or thirty thousand kilometers per second. A ten-petaton explosion would pretty much ruin the local real estate values. Michelle was no historian herself, certainly not to the extent Honor was, but Admiral Grimm, who'd seen all the ACS threat analyses and recommendations, had told her that an impact like that represented something like sixteen times the destructive power of the meteor impact which was supposed to have killed off Old Earth's dinosaurs. Given the fact that the danger represented by her ship was pounded into the head of every ACS-certified planetary approach pilot from Day One of her training, the idiots who were complaining certainly ought to understand why the new rules — including the "two-man" rule — were in place.

            Especially after what had happened to Tim Mears.

            I wish we knew more — hell, I wish we knew anything! — about how they got to him. And not just because of how much I liked him, Michelle thought for far from the first time, glancing again at the young man sitting beside her and remembering all the youthful, murdered zest and promise of Honor's flag lieutenant. And I wish we knew whether or not the same "programming" could have made him do something else . . . like flying a pinnace into downtown Landing at a few thousand KPS. But until we have the answers to both of those questions, I don't think anyone's going to be venturing into or out of Manticore orbit under impellers. Or no one except Navy ships and the tugs, that is.

            There never had been enough tugs, of course, and the situation was even worse now. Traditionally, three ready-duty tugs had been assigned to each of Manticore's space stations. Actually, there'd been seven — enough to keep three continually on call, three more at standby as backups, and one down for mantainence or overhaul. Despite the wear and tear on their impeller nodes, the trio of ready-duty tugs' nodes were always hot, ready for instant use. And, despite their relatively diminutive size, they had hugely powerful wedges, as well as gargantuan tractors. One of them could easily handle the unpowered mass of two, or even three, superdreadnoughts if it had to. And the reason their nodes were always hot was that one of their responsibilities was to maintain a safety watch over the space stations. Even without some sort of esoteric mind control to create a deliberate collision, there was always the possibility of an accidental collision as ships maneuvered under thrusters to dock with the station. So whenever a ship approached or departed from Hephaestus, Vulcan, or Weyland, one of the duty tugs was ready to intervene. And they were always ready to pounce on any random bits of space debris, as well.

            Only the most experienced captains and helmsmen were allowed to command the ACS tugs, and they'd always used the "two-man" rule, for reasons Michelle had always found self-evident. But these days, with all of the new, additional restrictions, the demand for their services had risen astronomically.

            Michelle winced internally as she recognized the word play she had just inflicted upon herself, but that didn't make the thought inaccurate. According to Grimm, her Planetary Control counterparts needed at least half again the number of tugs they actually had. The good news was that even with the press of warship construction, at least some vital auxiliaries were still being laid down, and eight new tugs were set to commission over the next couple of T-months. The bad new was that despite the newly commissioned units, the number of ships which were going to be leaving the near-Manticore dispersed building slips over the next several months meant the need for still more tugs was going to get even worse quite soon now.

            Fortunately, I'm not going to be here when it does. But I do wish we could figure out how they got to Tim.

            "Twenty minutes from the pad, Milady," the flight engineer informed her, and she looked up with a nod.

            "Thank you, PO.

About Eric Flint

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28 Responses to STORM FROM THE SHADOWS — snippet 43

  1. lkan says:

    Hmm… was all this junction infrastructure destroyed by Haven in the Battle of Manticore?

  2. Paul says:

    I don’t think it was. IIRC, it was an objective, but the 3 Manty fleets got in the way.

  3. Karsten says:

    No. The only vessels, Haven had sended against the junction, were the BC-Quadron of Oliver Diamato; and the task of these vessels was only to watch the junction, if and then nasty Manty podlayers comes through …

  4. lkan says:

    Sounds like a miscalculation… they probably shoulda destroyed it to cripple Manticore’s economy

  5. D says:

    The BC’s didn’t have enough fire power to do so. They had to wait until the fleet was destroyed first, then they could have mopped up. Alternatively if they were sure of staying they may have left it for their future use.

  6. Tim says:

    Tim Mears mentioned again, perhaps we’ll see Manties and Havenites comparing notes on exotic molecules?, but Mesa will probably try to blow something up first.

  7. Drak Bibliophile says:

    IMO destroying the Junction infrastructure would not have been crippling in the short term.

    Destroying the Orbital Factories and the Mantie Fleets could have won the war for Haven.

  8. Elim Garak says:

    Slightly off topic, but this is basically one of the things that I had against Star Wars. If every single smuggler and essentially truck driver has a ship with a multimegaton reactor and a space ship capable of significant fractions of light speed, why aren’t there more craters in SW? Especially on Coruscant?

  9. Stephen says:

    Hmh, isn’t there a literary rule that, if a loaded gun is shown on stage in act I, it has to go off by the end of the play?

  10. baldbastard2 says:

    It’s quiet out there….. Too quiet!

  11. MadMcAl says:

    One answer.
    Planetary shilds. In the X-wing-series from Michael A. Stackpole there is the invasion of Coruscant described. Let’s say that the whole SLN wouldn’t make a dent into this shilds. At least 3 layers, randomly opened windows for transfer, the only weapon with a chance to get through them was the death-star superlaser. That was the problem with the attack on Hoth.
    This massive imperial fleet didn’t have enough firepower to saturate the shilds of the base. But, contrary to Corsucant the shilds on Hoth only where a dome above the base, so the imperials could land ground troops to destroy the shild generators.

    About the attack on the junction, remember that at the time of beatrice the ultimate objective of the RHN was not to crush Manticore and invade it but to force Manticore to a peace-summit. Pritchard wanted to bring the peace to fruition. And if High Rigde wouldn’t have been such an pompous ass the war would never have broke out again.

  12. Mike says:

    Chekhov said that if a gun is shown in act one, it should be fired by act three.'s_Gun

    The point is that the gun should not be included at all unless it is going to be used. IMO, Weber includes far too many unfired guns in his novels. Whether this is one or not is something which will be revealed later in the novel.

    I can think of at least one time when a gun (actually a golf club) was introduced early on and was never used — which was a dramatic event by itself. Every other play by that author ended up in a moment of sudden violence, so when the central character finally just took the club and went out golfing it was a total surprise. I was totally expecting someone to get whacked.

  13. LordNecros says:

    The question is whether here in Act I Weber has introduced a loaded gun, or if he has simply provided setting showing the frantic pace which wartime construction has reached.
    Weber certainly doesn’t always fire off his loaded guns.
    Part of that, I believe is not that Weber doesn’t see these plot elements as loaded guns, but because Weber feels that when writing about a war, it is necessary to be reminded that you’re -surrounded- by loaded guns.
    There are so many points of failure, it isn’t necessary for every conceivable thing to go bad, just a handful are enough to snowball and bring the drive to a halt.

  14. John Roth says:

    About the Chekov’s Gun article: it’s the wrong quote style. Change the quote to a straight quote and it’ll work.'s_Gun

    John Roth

  15. John Roth says:

    Of course, it doesn’t help when the software automatically “corrects” straight quotes to slanted quotes – and puts them in UTF as well!

    John Roth

  16. D says:

    And in this case since we know it will be a cliff hanger there is the chance that the loaded gun incident might not occur in this book.

  17. lkan says:

    Ofcourse, if the gun introduced in act one was supposed to be used in play #2…

    Or it could be a red herring.

    I wondered about why the BCs didn’t just randomly lob something in there to keep things hopping. But the non-military infrastructure should be quite susceptible to just lobbing something at it.

  18. JN says:

    Hitchcock said that you can show a bomb and blow it up, and generate a minute or two of suspense. Or you can show the bomb, and generate a half hour of tension, but then the bomb cannot be allowed to go off. Which is right, the Brit or the Russian?


  19. catboy says:

    ok who’s with me? how many people think Henk should get a man? do a honor and have kids during the war? anyone?

  20. Have kids during the war? Isnt military female personel have implants to prevent unwanted impregnation? And that’s why Honor’s being a preggy such a shock to herself? And why would a responsible commander like Henke want to have a baby during wartime anyway?

  21. In the film version of The Midwich Cuckoos, the bomb is there for a fair number of minutes, and it for sure goes off at the end.

  22. John Roth says:


    But you in fact used the bomb in the story – it’s not simply a bit of dangling background, which is what Chekhov was complaining about. Chekhov liked tightly written work, and so did Hitchcock.

    John Roth

  23. MadMcAl says:

    I think neither Chekhov nor Hitchcock are right.
    If you show a gun and you invariantly use it everyone can assume that you use it this time as well.
    If you show a bomb and you invariantly don’t use it it is the same. Boring.
    If you show a bomb or a gun and you are the only one who knows if it goes of or not then you get the suspense.

  24. Brom says:

    Don’t forget that Weber has a history of turning “literary rules” on their heads. His fantasy series has some ogres as the primary heroes, the elves are jaded and totally indifferent, the half-elves are evil and twisted, the most socially organized and scientifically advanced are the dwarfs(gnomes), and the worst disaster in their history was caused by humans.

    No wonder he has fun writing those books, but it would be a mistake to assume that only happens in Norfressa.

  25. catboy says:

    Brom whatch books are thoes?

  26. Drak Bibliophile says:

    catboy, those are _Oath Of Swords_, _The Wargod’s Own_ and _Wind Rider’s Oath_.

  27. Mike says:

    Those aren’t “literary rules”. Those are genre conventions. There is a difference.

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