Chapter Seventeen


            “Hi, Helga,” Gervais Archer said, and grinned from Helga Boltitz’s com. There was more than a little worry in his green eyes, but the grin seemed remarkably genuine. “Got time for lunch?”

            “Hello, Gwen. And how are you? Very well, thank you, Helga. And yourself?” Helga replied. “Fine, thank you, Gwen,” she continued. “And to what do I owe the pleasure of this call? Well, Helga, I was wondering if you had lunch plans?” She paused, looking at him with one eyebrow raised. “Would it happen, Lieutenant Archer, that any of that sounded remotely familiar?”

            “I suppose,” he said unrepentantly, still grinning. “But the question still stands.”

            Helga sighed and shook her head.

            “For someone from an effete, over-civilized Star Kingdom, you are sadly lacking in the social graces, Lieutenant,” she said severely.

            “Well, I understand that’s a hallmark of the aristocracy,” he informed her, elevating his nose ever so slightly. “We’re so well born that those tiresome little rules that apply to everyone else have no relevance for us.”

            Helga laughed. Even now, she found it surprising that she could find anything about oligarchs – or, even worse, overt aristocrats – even remotely funny, especially with everything else that was going on. But the last ten days had significantly altered her opinion of a least one Manticoran aristocrat.

            Gervais Archer had stood her concept of oligarchs on its head. Or perhaps that was being a little too optimistic, at least where oligarchs in general were concerned. It was going to take an awful lot of “show me” to convince Helga Boltitz and the rest of Dresden that all the protestations of selfless patriotism flowing around certain extremely well-off quarters here in Talbott – or, for that matter, back in Manticore – were sincere. Still, if Gervais hadn’t inspired her to leap to a sudden awareness that she’d profoundly misjudged people like Paul Van Scheldt all her life, he had convinced her that at least some Manticoran aristocrats were nothing at all like Talbott Cluster oligarchs. Of course, she’d already been forced to admit that at least some Talbott Cluster oligarchs weren’t like Talbott Cluster oligarchs, either, if she was going to be honest about it. Kicking and screaming the entire way, perhaps, but she’d still had to admit it, at least in the privacy of her own thoughts.

            The universe would be such a more comfortable place if only preconceptions could stay firmly in place, she reflected.

            Unfortunately – or perhaps fortunately – that couldn’t always happen.

She’d already been forced to accept that people like Prime Minister Alquezar and Bernardus Van Dort were very different from people like that poisonous [“worm-eater”: let’s find someone who can translate this into German for us] Van Scheldt. Henri Krietzmann had been right about that. They still didn’t really understand what someone like Helga or Krietzmann had experienced, but they did understand that they didn’t, and at least they were trying to. And much as she’d wanted to cling to the belief that Van Dort’s motivation for the original annexation campaign had been purely self-serving, she’d had no choice but to concede otherwise as she watched him working with Krietzmann and the other members of the newly elected Alquezar Government.

            Not that there aren’t still plenty of Rembrandters who are just like Van Scheldt, she reflected sourly. And they’ve got plenty of soulmates in places like right here in Spindle.

            And then there was Lieutenant Gervais Winton Erwin Neville Archer. Despite his disclaimers, he really was a member of the Manticoran aristocracy. She knew he was, because she’d made it her business to look him up in Clarke’s Peerage. The Archers were a very old Manticoran family, dating clear back to the original landing on Manticore, and Sir Roger Mackley Archer, Gervais’ father, was not only ridiculously wealthy (by Dresdener standards, at least) in his own right, but stood fourth in line for the Barony of Eastwood, as well. Gervais was also a distant relative (Helga had found it almost impossible to decipher the complex genealogical charts involved in determining exactly how distant, although she suspected that the most applicable adverb was probably “very”) of Queen Elizabeth of Manticore. As far as someone from the slums of Schulberg was concerned, that definitely qualified him for aristocrat status. And in the universe which had once been so comfortably her own, he ought to have been just as well aware of it as she was.

            If he was, he concealed the fact remarkably well.

            He was younger than she’d first estimated – only about four T-years older than she was – and she wondered sometimes whether or not some of the monumental aplomb he carried around with him was due to the fact that deep down inside he was aware of the intrinsic advantages of his birth. Mostly, though, she’d come to the conclusion that it was simply a case of his being exactly who he was. There was remarkably little pretense about him, and his lighthearted mockery of the aristocratic stereotypes appeared to be completely genuine.

            And unlike certain cretins named Van Scheldt, he also works his ass off.

            Her mouth tightened slightly at that thought.

            “Should I assume there’s an official reason for your question about lunch?” she asked him, and saw his own smile fade.

            “I’m afraid so,” he acknowledged. “Not –” he added with a resurgence of humor “– that I would ever have been gauche enough to admit any such thing without being forced.” The flicker of amusement dimmed once more, and he shrugged. “Unfortunately, I’m afraid that what I really want to do is discuss some scheduling details with you for tomorrow. Since I know you’re as busy as I am, and since I doubt very much that you’ve taken any breaks today, I thought we might do the discussing over a nice lunch at Sigourney’s. My treat . . . unless, of course, you feel you can legitimately put it on the Ministry’s tab and spare a poor flag lieutenant the grim necessity of justifying his expense vouchers.”

            “What kind of scheduling details?” she asked, eyes narrowing in thought. “Tomorrow’s awfully tight already, Gwen. I don’t think there’s a lot of flex in the Minister’s itinerary.”

            “That’s why I’m afraid it might take us a while to figure out how to squeeze this in.” His rueful tone was an acknowledgment that he’d already known how tightly scheduled Krietzmann was.

            “And would that also be the reason you’re having this discussion with me instead of Mr. Haftner?” she inquired shrewdly.

            “Ouch!” He winced, raising both hands dramatically to his chest. “How could you possibly think anything of the sort?”

            “Because otherwise, given how busy Mr. Krietzmann is and all the assorted varieties of hell breaking loose, your Captain Lecter would have brought a little extra firepower to bear by discussing this directly with Mr. Haftner instead of having you sneak around his flank. That is the way you military types describe this particular maneuver, isn’t it? Sneaking around his flank?”

            Us military types, is it?” He snorted. “You don’t do all that badly for a civilian sort, yourself. And,” he shrugged, his expression darker and more serious, “I might as well admit that you’ve got a point. Captain Lecter doesn’t think Mr. Haftner’s going to be pleased by an official request to grab an hour or so of the Minister’s time.”

            “An hour?” Helga’s dismay wasn’t in the least feigned.

            “I know. I know!” Gervais shook his head. “It’s an awful big chunk of time, and just to make it worse, we’d like it to be off the books. Frankly, that’s another reason not to go through Haftner’s office.”

            Helga sat back in her chair. Abednego Haftner was Henri Krietzmann’s Spindle-born chief of staff at the War Ministry. He was a tall, narrowly built, dark-haired man with a strong nose and an even stronger sense of duty. He was also a workaholic, and in Helga’s opinion, an empire-builder. As far as she could tell, it stemmed not from any sort of personal ambition but rather from his near-fanatical focus on efficiency. He was an extraordinarily able administrator in most ways, but he obviously found it difficult to delegate access to Krietzmann, and he wasn’t about to let anything derail his own smoothly machined procedures.

            In fact, that was his one true, undeniable weakness. He wasn’t exactly flexible, and he didn’t improvise well, which only reinforced his aversion to people who operated on an ad hoc basis. Under normal circumstances, that was more than offset by his incredible attention to detail, his encyclopedic grasp of everything going on within the Ministry, and his total personal integrity. Unfortunately, circumstances weren’t normal at the moment, and even in the radically changed circumstances following the Webster Assassination, he persisted in his efforts to force order upon what he considered chaos.

            That lack of flexibility had already brought him and Helga, as Krietzmann’s personal aide, into conflict more than once, and she suspected that was going to happen more often for the immediately foreseeable future. It was less than two T-days since news of the Webster assassination had hit Spindle like a hammer, and the entire government – from Baroness Medusa and the prime minister on down – was still scrambling to adjust. So was the military, which probably had a little something to do with Gervais’ request. Although his apparent desire to keep any meeting with Krietzmann off the War Ministry’s official logs also rang more than a few distant alarm bells in the back of her brain.

            “Can you at least tell me exactly what you want his time for?” she asked after several seconds.

            “I’d really rather discuss that with you over lunch,” he replied, his expression and his tone both totally serious. She looked at him for another moment, then sighed again.

            “All right, Gwen,” she conceded. “You win.”

About Eric Flint

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13 Responses to STORM FROM THE SHADOWS — snippet 67

  1. Robert Krawitz says:

    Killing at least two birds with one stone…

  2. John Roth says:

    Hm. I’m still wondering if Gervais == Gervais or not. I think not, but maybe so.

    John Roth

  3. Mark L says:

    Worm eater — try “wurmfresser.”

    Note — essen is “eat” when it comes to humans; fressen is the word used to refer to animals eating. So “fressen” would be more approriate in an insult.

  4. Darth Iggy says:


    How many of those do you know? For some reason I just don’t see DW using the same name twice in the same book for two different characters.

    Always remember…

    Once is happenstance
    twice is coincidence
    three times is a pattern.

  5. Chuck S says:

    Try Once is incidence, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action or something close to that (GOLDFINGER, Ian Fleming)

  6. Johnak says:

    In Honor of the Queen there are also two characters named Harris, Yanakov’s chief of staff and a masadan marine if I believe it correctly. And that’s surname, first names are by definition more common. And don’t forget, that Gervais Archer was originaly a women named Gwendolyn Archer

  7. Robert Krawitz says:

    I don’t recall ever seeing a reference to Gwendolyn Archer or her gender reassignment?

  8. Johnak says:

    Well, there was apparently another Gervais in this book. I don’t remember where. I just pointed out that Archer was orifinally a woman, so when David decided to switch his gender, he gave him name Gervais, but may not realized there is another Gervais mentioned.
    But as I said, I don’t know exactly where that particular other mention of Gervais was.

  9. John Roth says:


    The other Gervais is Gervais Detweiler. That is, he’s number 7 of the Detweiler (secret ruler of Mesa) clones, who are named alphabetically (there’s an A through G). At the time of mention, he (and two other of the clones) were off somewhere else; Detweiler said that the were going to wait until they got back to make some important decisions.

    That Gervais Archer was originally Gwendolyn is something I was unaware of; I presume it’s from a very early draft or something that DW mentioned in an interview somewhere? The “Gwen” nickname comes from his initials.

  10. Thirdbase says:

    There was a PO Jansen and a Lt Jansen both serving on Wayfarer. Richard “Silver Spanner” Maxwell has the same name, Richard Maxwell, as the lawyer Honor hires to set up her Duchy. DW has reused names before.

    @7 It occurred in Snippet 52. ” Archer waited until all of his seniors had seated themselves before he found a chair of her own”
    Of course that is the wrong way.

    Way back in Snippet 30, Gervais was Gwendolyn. In Snippet 38 Gwendolyn is now Gervais. That would be between Ch 8 and Ch 11, amazing what modern genetic surgery can do.

    Albrecht is the original, Gervais would be the 6th clone. Benjamin, Collin, Daniel, Everett, Franklin, and Gervais are all clones of Albrecht.

  11. MadMcAl says:

    Well, Harris and Richard are rather common names compared to Gervais.

    But think about it. We know that Gervais Archer had been included in the last write over.
    We can asume that he was a Gwendolyn and a she in the earlier drafts.
    We also can speculate that Gervais Dettweiler was simply the first uncommon male name with an G DW had in mind as he wrote this chapter.
    Maybe DW is actually speculating on such ideas that Gervais Archer = Gervais Dettweiler.
    Maybe he wants to surprise us when he builds indication after indication of Gervais questionable loyality and then reveal that he is indeed Gervais Archer and not a dettweiler-clone.
    AFAIK there was not one single occurence in a Weber-Book where a major secondary character was successfully a turncoat.
    Either a character was unsympathetic from the beginning (the Gouvernour in Fury), nearly completely in the Background (Mister X from Heirs of the Empire) or open and unquestionable hostile (nearly everywhere else).
    I love DW and his books, but I think he is not able to rip such a thing of. If a character is a turncoat DW dosn’t like him and that is easily discernable.

  12. klausB says:

    Dear Eric,
    please forward some – the first part – of my comment to DW

    DW, somehow it stinks. We’re already at Snippet 67 w/o battle?
    So, you’re up to something special!
    – a few minutes ago I woke up. It’s 02:24 here (after midnight).
    – I got to sleep after reading the very last snippet.
    # Since snippet01 I did asking myself, with suspicions, “What is DW up to?”
    # You did explain the political situation Star Kingdom/Star Empire vs. Republic of Haven.
    # You did explain the view of ManPower.
    # You did include the murder of Admiral Webster.
    # You did explain where Michelle is in the line, when it comes to become the next queen/empress.
    # Are you really have the intention to give the queen/star empress
    a – ManPower’ed – untimely departure (including Michelle’s Mother and a few more)?
    # A reply -here- would be extremely appreciated.

    I am anxiously and impatently waiting for every new snippet.
    (It does take allways much time, to get the books or paperbacks here in Germany,
    even if I don’t care wether it’s in english or in german.

    Anyway, go ahead. Have the 163x series here (English & German), the German translation of Minue Alban,
    so to say, I should declare myself as “David Weber & Eric Flint” – junky

    ——————Eric’s part:———————————-
    Dear Eric,
    I highly appreciate what you are doing here, BUT!
    I am among the poor bloody sods, reading the snippets via blackberry
    on the train to/from works.
    So, sometimes, I intentionally skip some ‘lines’ of snippets, currently “Dreeson Incident”,
    try to wait for the book or paperback.
    But, sometime later, when I couldn’t wait for the book anymore, I’ll go back and read the snippets.
    ** Did you really try to read a whole line of snippets?
    (Wether it’s via browser on PC or via browser on blackberry, it’s a pain.
    Possibly, something the ‘Inquisition’ may have thought about, as a way for torture.)

    From what I know about WordPress – using it here, too – on the family web server,
    It’s no deal to link snippet to snippet, to be capable to read one after another,
    avoiding the jungle of links.

  13. John Roth says:


    All snippets are collected in readable form at:

    That’s where I go back and read if I want to check something.

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