STORM FROM THE SHADOWS — snippet 70

 

STORM FROM THE SHADOWS – snippet 70:

 

 

            What was scariest about that particular analysis, in Michelle’s opinion, was the possibility that the Republic might actually have had an at least plausible motive for killing off their own conference. Given the dispute over how the current war had started, Pritchart and her advisers would scarcely be likely to reinitiate operations in a way that openly sabotaged a peace conference she’d initiated. So if some inkling of the Star Kingdom’s accelerated building programs or – far worse – some hint of Apollo’s existence had somehow leaked to Nouveau Paris only after Pritchart had suggested her meeting with Elizabeth, and if Pritchart and Theisman had concluded that the newly discovered threat left them no option but to seek a decisive military victory before those ships or those new weapons could be added to the balance against them, then it was entirely possible that they would have been delighted if they could get Beth to kill the conference for them.

            And if that was what lay behind this operation, whoever had planned it had shown a devastating grasp of Beth’s psychology. The timing, and the technique, could not possibly have been better selected to drive Elizabeth Winton into an incandescent fury. Given the fact that the previous Havenite régime had already attempted to assassinate her and had succeeded in killing her uncle and cousin — who'd just happened to be Michelle's father and brother — and her beloved prime minister, expecting any other result would have been ludicrous. Not only that, but that assassination attempt had been planned and executed by Oscar Saint-Just for the express purpose of furthering a political strategy when he had no viable military strategy. So the theory that Pritchart — or some rogue element in her security services, Michelle reminded herself almost desperately — had deliberately chosen to use a variant on the same theme as a means to sabotage the summit meeting for some reason of their own was nowhere near as insane as Michelle would have preferred for it to be. In fact, she couldn't think of a single other hypothesis for why someone would have carried out those two particular assassinations in that particular fashion on the same damned day.

            And Beth and her advisers are also right about who knew about the summit, she thought bleakly. If someone was actually out to sabotage it, they had to know about it in the first place, and who could possibly have found out in time to put something like this together? Word would still have had to get to them somehow, and they would've had to get their assassination orders out in time, and Manpower is too far away for that. You simply can't get dispatch boats back and forth between Mesa and Torch — or Noveau Paris, for that matter! — quickly enough for them to have found out what was happening, formulated a plan to stop it, and sent out the execution orders. Even if they’re using the Junction and Trevor’s Star under cover of some legitimate corporation or news organization or diplomatic boat, they're just plain too far outside the command and control loop to physically pass the needed orders. For that matter, everyone is outside the command and control loop . . . except, of course, for one of the two star nations setting the damned thing up in the first place! And even if you assume someone else did find out about it, and had time to set it up, what possible motive could that "someone else" have had for sabotaging a summit meeting like this one?

            Well, if that was what the mastermind behind the operation had wanted, he'd gotten it. The same dispatch boat which had brought news of the attack on Torch had brought with it a copy of Elizabeth's white-hot denunciatory note to Eloise Pritchart. The note which had informed Pritchart that the Star Kingdom of Manticore would be resuming military operations immediately. And as a part of the shift in deployment stances that implied, Vice Admiral Blaine and Vice Admiral O'Malley had been ordered to concentrate all of their Home Fleet forces at the Lynx Terminus as quickly as possible.

            Which was what had so thoroughly destabilized the preliminary plans she, Khumalo, Medusa, and Krietzmann had been working out.

            At least they’d been in a position last night to discuss a few contingencies– like the Star Kingdom’s potential withdrawal from the peace conference – without drawing official attention to them. Which meant that, little as any of them had cared for the possibility, she actually knew how the government and Vice Admiral Khumalo were likely to respond now.

            "All right."

            She let her chair come back upright, then swiveled it to face Lecter, Commodore Shulamit Onasis, and Captain Jerome Conner, the senior officer of BatCruDiv 106.1, the 106th's first division. Gervais Archer sat quietly to one side, taking notes, as always, and Onasis had brought her own chief of staff, Lieutenant Commander Dabney McIver, who was just as much a Gryphon highlander as Ron Larson, while Conner was accompanied by his executive officer, Commander Frazier Houseman.

            Houseman had come as a considerable surprise to Michelle, and she looked forward to the first time he came face-to-face with Rear Admiral Oversteegen. Or, for that matter, with Honor! Houseman was a first cousin of Reginald Houseman, who was probably the single Manticoran political figure who most loathed Honor Harrington . . . and vice versa, since Pavel Young was dead. Of course, the competition for which politico most hated her would undoubtedly have been fierce, but Houseman had the unique distinction of being the only surviving member of the Manticoran political establishment who had been — literally — knocked on his wealthy, cowardly ass by Honor.

            And of being loathed by the Navy in general almost as much as he was loathed by Honor.

            His career and his influence alike had taken a powerful nosedive after that embarrassing little incident at Yeltsin’s Star, although there were still members of his Liberal Party (such of it as survived, after its disastrous alliance with the Conservative Association in the High Ridge government) who continued to support him as a victim of "the Salamander's" notoriously brutal and vicious temperament. They were, however, noticeably thinner on the ground than they once had been. Perhaps that owed something to the fact that Houseman had accepted the position of Second Lord of Admiralty in the Janacek Admiralty. At the time, it had probably seemed like a good idea, since it had restored him to the first ranks of political power in the Star Kingdom and finally allowed him to do something about the "bloated and ridiculously over expensive" state of the Navy which he had decried for decades.

            Unfortunately, it also meant he had been personally and directly responsible for planning and carrying out the Navy’s deliberate build-down. Unlike Janacek, who had committed suicide when the enormity of his failure became obvious at the opening of the current war, Houseman had opted for the less drastic option of resigning his office in disgrace. And despite the investigation which had led directly to formal charges of corruption, malfeasance, bribery, and half a dozen other criminal activities on the part of Baron High Ridge, a dozen of his personal aides, eleven senior members of the Conservative Association in the House of Lords (including the current Earl of North Hollow), two Liberal Party peers, three unaligned peers, seventeen members of the Progressive Party's representation in the House of Commons, and over two dozen prominent members of the Manticoran business community, it appeared Houseman had at least not been guilty of any outright violations of the law.

            Because of that, he had been able to retire into the safer, if far less prestigious (or remunerative), fields of academia. His sister, Jacqueline, had never been formally associated with the High Ridge Government, although her longtime position as one of Countess New Kiev's unofficial financial advisers had still managed to bring her into the outer radius of fallout when that government collapsed. Fortunately for New Kiev (and Jacqueline), New Kiev had probably been the only member of High Ridge's cabinet and inner circle who hadn't been personally party to any of his criminal activities.

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13 Responses to STORM FROM THE SHADOWS — snippet 70

  1. Thirdbase says:

    I think that there is an Engineering Rating from the original Fearless that DW hasn’t brought up yet and spent a couple of paragraphs discussing, but I think that he is the only character from all the previous books.

  2. Mike says:

    Don’t worry, he’ll be the subject of the next two chapters.

  3. Willy says:

    So how is Manpower passing its orders around? Perhaps they’re not based on Mesa at all.

  4. John Roth says:

    Willy,

    That’s a good question.

    It doesn’t matter where they’re based: they’re going to have communication lag problems –somewhere–. There are undoubtedly a lot of planets that would have a marginally lower information lag, but I doubt if there are very many, if any at all, that could reduce information lag summed over the entire network by over a day or so.

    With the kind of communication lags they’ve got, they can’t be fostering a “don’t move without home office approval” mentality. What that means is that communication lag is a feature rather than being a problem. It forces the home office to think in terms of field agents that can do the work without their supervisors micro-managing them.

    What I’d imagine is that they’ve got a fairly extensive intelligence organization that’s oriented toward gathering information and corrupting officials, and with relatively few “home office” managed major operations.

    I’d also imagine that there are a lot of “programmed” minions at the lower level, who have no idea what they’re doing, and who were probably selected because they could be programmed to do routine clandestine information collection and movement stuff without causing detectable psychological trauma.

    John Roth

  5. Kelly says:

    Wasn’t there talk of a wormhole at Torch discussed by the Manpower Illuminati earlier? Wonder where that leads too?

  6. Pyrrhic says:

    The “big guy” on Mesa has clone-sons – this should answer some of the questions about managing field ops.

    P.

  7. John Roth says:

    @Kelly(5)

    There’s a three wormhole nexus, exact location and destinations unknown (except to Mesa, obviously). Since DW has said somewhere that there are no nexus to nexus wormhole connections, we can assume that none of them lead to Manticore, nor do any of them lead to an existing wormhole.

    @Pyrrhic(6)

    Six of them, three of whom were in the field the last scene we saw them. It’s a big universe out there…

  8. Willy says:

    “Since DW has said somewhere that there are no nexus to nexus wormhole connections, we can assume that none of them lead to Manticore, nor do any of them lead to an existing wormhole.”

    Did he mean that there are no “direct” links between wormhole junctions, for example Manticore central junction to Erewhon Central Junction. Or did he mean that the termeni from two, or more, wormholes can’t be in the same system, the way things are arranged in the Vorkoverse?

    From the scenes with the clone sons DW doesn’t seem to be suggesting that clones are anything more than “twins” of the original not seperate parts of the original. Of course if they have Twin physic powers, reinforced by captured treecat DNA, THAT may solve the communication lag time problem!

    Willy

  9. Thirdbase says:

    @John (7)

    The only problem is that I don’t think the Torch/Erewhon/Havenite/Manticoran Navies (whichever have ships stationed at Torch) are exactly going to let Mesa/Manpower use the wormhole junctions there.

    Going through AAC, Manpower had both assassinations, Webster and Queen Berry, already planned, all they had to do was send out the orders to execute them on a specific day. Mesa is only 60ly from either Earth or Beowulf, which gives them close proximity to the Beowulf-Manticore connection, which would get them to Erewhon quickly enough. So picking a date sufficiently in the future, a month or six weeks in advance, wouldn’t be that difficult. Also Manpower knew of the agreement to the conference and location before Haven did.

  10. MadMcAl says:

    Think about it.
    The Mesan Spy in the foreign office immediatly send word out of the summit. The flight time would be arround 8 days (Manticore->Beowulf 60ly to the wormhole junction which one terminus ends in Mesa). We know that Detweiler was a bit upset about the spy using the Beowulf-line.
    Then maybe arround 10-15 hours to talk about the “problem” before the decission is made.
    The order to execute the two plans in the rather early phases (we know that operation rat poison was not fully ready. That is one point why it failed). 2 Weeks of travel time to Torch for the orders and the assasiantons are ready 4 weeks after the spy learned about the summit.
    In this time the answer to Pritchard maybe has just arrived.
    We know it took month before the summit was even near to ready.
    But I wonder what will happen when Cachat and Zilwicki find some interesting data on Mesa?
    Not the Onion. Maybe not even Rat Poison, even if that would unite the whole of the Manticorean Alliance with Heaven, Torch and Erehwon against Mesa as Rat Poison was used against: the andermani heir to the throne (you remember how the first world war was started?), the havenite goverment (even if it “only” was an lowly ex-ambassador), Torch and Manticore (Honor and Webster). Also it sullied the honor of Erehwon (that took over a part of the protection of Torch).
    No, even if C&Z only find out that Mesa had a high positioned spy in the foreign office of Manticore (the foreign secretary is high positioned, right?), the state office of the republic of haven (the aide of Giancola) and even now has an spy positioned in the foreign office that will shoot out the most convincing argument that it was Haven ordering the assassinations, that only Manticore, Haven, Torch and Erehwon knew about the summit.
    That will be enough to begin connecting the dots that Mesa had a motive, the opportunity and the means to do the deed. It will be clear for the more levelheaded that Mesa actually was in an position to falsify the dispatches, and had a vested interest in starting a new war.
    And that will enable all partys to actually look into what has been done.

  11. John Roth says:

    @MadMcAl(10)

    Minor nit: “Rat Poison” was, as far as I can tell, the name of the operation to assassinate Queen Berry, not the generic name of the method used.

    John Roth

  12. MadMcAl says:

    @John Roth

    I know, but so far nobody brought up a name for the nanovirus so I used it for booth. Not good form, I know, but what can we do?
    That doesn’t invalidate my point.
    If C&Z find only the strings to one single use of this technology (what would point the other 4 operations at them of course), or the information of the spies placed into the RH and the SKM then Mesa will suddenly find itself in the path of the 4 most powerfull fleets that are existing at this moment. And that can’t be good for their plans, onion or no onion.
    The moment somebody relative high in the goverment of one of the 4 nations involved connects the dots (of course he or more propably she will have to see them first) and gets through to one of the Alliance Heads of State (the Empress, the Emperor or the Protector) then it is only a matter of time that that one (most propably the Protector, Benjamin is the one who is on one hand near the information – namely Honor most propably – and on the other hand distanced enough emotionally to not have a kneejerk-reflex where Haven is concerned) gets through to other two at least to get them listening.
    And when the Emperor learns that it was Mesa that tried to kill his brother, his sister in law their children, well I for one have a good idea how he will react.
    And with two of them arguing, Queen Elizabeth has to listen, and has to think.
    When they then compare notes with Pritchard… we will see.

  13. Paul says:

    @12

    Good point. I think you’re right that the Protector will probably be the coolest head of the 4. And if all 4 get the dots connected, Mesa (and by extension, the Sollies) will have their hands full if Grayson, Manties, Andies and Peeps all come to call.

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