Chapter Twenty-Four

“Sir, the Manty admiral is on the com,” Captain Willard MaCuill said. “It’s a Vice Admiral Gold Peak. She’s asking to speak to you.”
“Oh, she is, is she?” Admiral Josef Byng smiled sardonically as he turned his command chair to face his staff communications officer. “Took her long enough to get around to it, didn’t it? I wonder why that was?”

“Probably took her that long to get back out of the head after she changed her underwear, Sir,” Rear Admiral Karlotte Thimár, Byng’s chief of staff, replied with a nasty chuckle. “Not quite like the last time one of their ships was here, after all.”
“No, it isn’t,” Byng agreed, and glanced at the tactical display on SLNS Jean Bart’s flag bridge.
He didn’t quite curl his lip as he considered the flag bridge’s old-fashioned instrumentation and cramped size. He understood that Frontier Fleet had a lower priority for the Fleet 2000 upgrades, after all, so he’d also known from the beginning that it was unrealistic to expect better, but he didn’t exactly attempt to conceal his feelings, either. There was no need, since all of his staff officers had come over with him from Battle Fleet. All of them shared his awareness of the step down they’d been forced to take for this particular mission, although they did do their best to conceal their feelings whenever any of their Frontier Fleet “brothers in arms” were present.
Not that anyone on either side of that particular division was actually likely to fool anyone very much, he supposed.
Still, even though they were only battlecruisers — and Frontier Fleet battlecruisers, at that — rather than the superdreadnought squadrons he should have had under command, Karlotte was undoubtedly correct about the Manties’ reaction when they found seventeen Solarian League warships sitting here to greet them. Indeed, Byng’s only real regret was that the Manty ships which had previously occupied the system had already withdrawn before his own command came over the hyper wall. He would’ve loved to see their reaction to his arrival. Or, for that matter, how they would respond when his third battlecruiser squadron arrived in a couple of T-weeks.
His eyes moved to the scarlet icons of the Manticoran ships, and this time his lip did curl ever so slightly as he considered CIC’s data bars. Of course, it was a Frontier Fleet combat information center with a Frontier Fleet tactical crew, so one had to take its analyses with a grain of salt. Still, at this piddling little range, it was unlikely that even Frontier Fleet could get its sums wrong. Which meant the “battlecruisers” on his plot really did mass well over two million tons apiece.
Just like them and their so-called “navy,” he thought contemptuously. No wonder the doomsayers have been whining and moaning about how “dangerous” Manty warships are all of a sudden. Hell, if we built “battlecruisers” twice the size of anyone else’s, we could probably stick a lot of firepower into them, too! Sure, I’ll bet they can take a lot of damage, too, but ONI’s right. The real reason they’re building them that damned big is the fact that they realize they couldn’t go toe-to-toe with a real first-line navy without the tonnage advantage. And the biggest frigging “battlecruisers” in the galaxy won’t help them if they ever come face to face with Battle Fleet!
Before deploying to command Task Group 3021, Byng had dutifully read through all of the intelligence appreciations. Not surprisingly, those from Frontier Fleet’s analysts had been much more alarmist than anyone else’s. Frontier Fleet had always had a tendency to jump at shadows, in large part because viewing with alarm was one way to try to twist the accountants’ arms into diverting additional funding to it. Then too, one had to consider the quality of the officers making those reports.
Still, even Frontier Fleet’s reports had sounded almost rational and reasonable compared to the ludicrous claims being made by some of the system-defense forces. God only knew why any of them had bothered to send observers to watch two batches of neobarbs five hundred light-years from nowhere in particular butchering each other with muzzle-loading cannon and cutlasses in the first place. Perhaps that was part of the explanation for the wild exaggerations some of those observers had included in their reports? Not even an SDF admiral was going to send a competent officer that far out to the back of beyond. No, he was going to send someone whose services could be easily dispensed with . . . and who wouldn’t be missed for the weeks or months he’d spend in transit.
Oh, there was no doubt the Manties and their Havenite dance partners had managed to fall into at least some innovations as they stumbled about the dance floor with one another. For example, they obviously had improved their compensator performance to at least some extent, although clearly not to the level some of those “observers” were claiming. And even though it irritated him to admit it, fair was fair; that improvement in their compensators had sparked Solarian R&D efforts in the same direction. Given the difference between the basic capabilities of their respective scientific communities, however, there was no doubt that the Manties’ advantage — never as great as those exaggerated reports had asserted — had already been pared away. He only had to look at the acceleration rate of those outsized “battlecruisers” to know that!
Oh, well, he thought. I suppose I’d better get this over with.
“Very well, Willard,” he said, turning back from the plot. “Go ahead and put her through.”
* * * * * * * * * *
Well, so much for my hope that there were two Josef Byngs on the Solly officer list, Michelle thought as the Solarian admiral’s face appeared on her display.
It had taken him long enough to get around to taking her call, but that had scarcely been surprising. A lot of Solarian naval officers liked to keep their inferiors waiting as a not-so-subtle way of emphasizing that inferiority.
“I’m Admiral Josef Byng, Solarian League Navy,” the white-uniformed man on her display said. “To whom do I have the pleasure of speaking?”
Michelle managed to keep her jaw from tightening. She’d never thought much of SLN officers’ efficiency, but she rather suspected that Byng’s subordinates had at least bothered to inform him of the identity of his caller. And she’d asked for him by name and rank, which made his self-introduction a deliberate and patronizing insult.
I can already see how this is going to go, she thought.
“Vice Admiral Gold Peak,” she replied. “Royal Manticoran Navy,” she added helpfully, just in case he hadn’t recognized the uniform, and had the satisfaction of seeing his lips tighten ever so slightly.
“What can I do for you today . . . Admiral Gold Peak?” he inquired after a moment.
“I only screened to extend my respects. It’s not often we see a full Frontier Fleet admiral this far out in the sticks.”

About Eric Flint

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45 Responses to STORM FROM THE SHADOWS — snippet 93

  1. kingpaul says:

    Ah yes, pour on the "I am holier than thou." I can hardly wait until they start exchanging fire.

  2. MadMcAl says:

    A rather small snippet this time. Well, at least we now know that the SL has begun compensator research. So we can expect to see ships as fast as allied counterparts as early as in 2 or 3 years. And still nothin in regards of modern navy armaments. So bad.
    I would wish to see Byngs face when he realizes that these 4 "primitive" BC's in front of him can kill one of his SD's each without breaking into sweat.

  3. Erik_Ker says:

    And, Admiral Gold Peak, knowing she was speaking to a Battle Fleet admiral, still referred to him as a Frontier Fleet admiral. Not calculated to ease any tensions, now was it?

  4. Chris says:

    Frontier Fleet admiral. Now there is a Jab.

  5. Vince says:

    “I only screened to extend my respects. It’s not often we see a full Frontier Fleet admiral this far out in the sticks.”
    Either Michelle Henke is returning Josef Byng's insult (knowingly or unknowningly), or the use of Frontier Fleet in the last sentence of the snippet is a typo, since we know from the previous snippet that Mchelle knows that Byng is Battle Fleet. If this isn't a typo, I expect Byng to react to the insult and the tension to ratchet up.

  6. Willy says:

    “I only screened to extend my respects. It’s not often we see a full Frontier Fleet admiral this far out in the sticks.”

    Now, now Michelle be nice.

  7. Mike_G says:

    I thought Weber was getting a little bit better about this sort of thing, but every so often it seems he can't help but slip back into his "cardboard cutout evil, stupid badguy" routine.

    • JohnRoth1 says:

      I don't think so. This looks like a very nice description of the kind of career "admiral" who's never had to fight a battle outside of a simulator. What kind of odds will you give that the simulators are rigged as well?

      The thing to remember here is that the Mesan Alignment has been working for a couple of centuries to foster corruption and incompetence at all levels of the Solarian Union. Byng is simply the kind of power-hungry incompetent who flourishes in that kind of environment.

      • MadMcAl says:

        Good argument. But the source of the corruption is unimportant besides the existance of the corruption. We could speculate that the slightly inefficient gouverment form of the SL could have been inspired by Mesa. We know that Mesa was ultimately behind the corruption and incompetence of the PRH at least. And it was still the fault of the system and the people that they abused this system and drove it against the wall. Ironically in the end it will be that it was Mesa that destroys Mesa. If they hadn't meddled with Haven, Haven wouldn't have become an imperialistic molloch, and Manticore wouldn't have build up the RMN. They wouldn't have startet a ultra-accellerated military technology program. They wouldn't have befriended Grayson. And they wouldn't have revolutionized interstellar warfare. Now there are 4 powers outside of Mesan controll that are a little bit unfriendly towards them and together have relative good chances to topple the SL and of course kill everything Mesan.
        But back to topic, the enviroment of the SL in general and the SLN in special is corrupt, but the problem is more so that most member of the ruling bodys AKA bureaucracys have long forgotten the concept of honor. We allready know that in some small instances some of them still have a bit of their honor left, like the gouvernor of the Maya-sector and this captain from CoS. But for most it only goes about personal gain and/or glory. And glory is the death of honor.

  8. LarsH says:

    This "Bad Guy" is handpicked.
    The Mesans have done all to receive one super duper Manti Hater at this special frontline.

  9. mwhiddon says:

    Muzzleloading cannon and cutlasses from an admiral named Byng,yea DW laying on thick early.

  10. Thirdbase says:

    Admiral Byng sounds just like ONI under the High Ridge government. If Battle Fleet didn't report it, it can't be true.

  11. Bryan says:

    Byng doesn't have any SDs only battlecruisers. His comment about SDs was refering to the squadrons that he ..would have… commanded if this were a normal battle fleet assignment.

    • MadMcAl says:

      He has no SD's at the moment. But, when you read the snippet then you will find that he should command superdreadnaughts. That where the SD's I was reffering to.

  12. Aside from the compensators, they haven't got ANY idea of the advances of the past 15 years. The Solarians are like the Havenites in the Short Victorious War. In fact, they are worse, because the Legislaturalists KNEW the Manticorans had better tech. They are worse off then America, who had no idea that the Japanese had the best torpedo in the world at the time, good attack aircraft, all sorts of technology. They have intelligence, they just are blowing it off, because they think it's impossible.

    • MadMcAl says:

      But the distance wasn't as great between the RMN and the PN at SSW. The RMN had slightly longer range, arround doubly effective electronics, the first instances of the grayson-style compensators, the flt-com (that is also known to the sollys, if they actually use it or not, and more important if they actually belive the RMN has it or not). To make it short, the RMN-ships where arround 2 times as powerfull as their PN-counterparts. Maximum.
      Now with the SLN… 20 times as powerfull sounds more like it. Or in other words under normal combat conditions 1 RMN-ship should be able to kill up to 20 of its SLN-counterparts (in LAC's at least). 10 times sounds like a good average, when we think about the most modern manticorean ships of the wall. A Medusa B can roll 6 pods every 12 seconds. That are 30 pods per minute. 30 Apollo-pods. That are 240 attack-missiles per minute. Apollo-guided attack missiles. An missile-defense designed to withstand the normal pre-podder throwweight of less than 75 missiles per salvoe (propably way less. I would think between 50 and 60) would be overwhelmed if the Medusas had only standard MDM-pods and would launch quintuple-patterns. Deadly overwhelmed. With Apollo in the equation…. not a chance for the SLN-SD's to survive.

      • Mike_G says:

        Right. The US had plenty of warning about Japanese military technology and skill, and some parts of the US defense establishment took them very seriously. But for the vast majority of the US, the Japanese were not understood to be a serious threat. In the air war, for instance, Japanese planes were tremendously more capable than American planes, especially those on the respective aircraft carriers. But within a year or so, the situation changed. The US had the capacity to catch up to and then out-produce the Japanese, even while fighting in two theaters. The Sollies should have that same relationship to the Manties. But not if their government blows apart.

        • MadMcAl says:

          Actually the relationship is only on the surface comparable. The big, well funded and well fed industry nation and the small, elitist but technologically superior little nation.
          But beyond that there are enormous differences.

          1.: The weapons in question are not so fast to build. Even if the SLN designs MDM's and pods, they still don't have podnaughts. And these take years to build. We are talking about 4-5 years here.

          2.: The industry of the SLN is, contrary to the industry of the US not safe. We know that the RMN has mastered the deep strike tactic. The SLN still operates on the entrenched lines policy, where the attacker needs to capture the systems in his general path. The first tactic loads the protection of important systems on the shoulders of this specific system and what ressources are there or can be brought there. The second gives the illusion of layered defenses, where the attacker has to fight many times for his actual target.

          3.: The RMN is not so glory mad to strike after a anchored fleet of outmoded ships and ignore the more modern ships and building facilitys elsewhere. Tactically Pearl Harbour was a success. Strategically it was a absolute failure. So we can expect that the famous solarian industry is one of the first things the alliance targets.

          Combined that gives the RMN arround 3-4 years to reach the capital shipyards in the SL and trash them. Then they have 5-6 aditional years to trash all the new yards build up in the SL, meanwhile capturing one important system after the next. Think about it, as soon as they capture Beowulf they have the most important industry sides, fleet formations and political systems in easy range.

          • kingpaul says:

            Who says they need to capture Beowulf? Maybe that system will just into the Manticore lap like San Martin did.

            • MadMcAl says:

              ATM Beowulf is member in good standing in the SL. And nothing DW wrote in any of his books suggests that Beowulf would simply leave the SL and join the SEM as subject state. So when the fracas begins it is entirely possible that Beowulf stands against the alliance, if only formally.
              Even if Beowulf leaves the SL, and joins the alliance, at that moment Beowulf will become an enemy of the SL and has to be suborned.

              • Drak says:

                David Weber has said that Beowulf can legally leave the SL and has said that Manticore & Beowulf have very friendly relations.

              • Mike_G says:

                Oh, I don't know if I would say nothing in the books has suggested Beowulf might leave the SL. I doubt they would join Manticore as a subject state, but it seems they might split from the SL as a member of the Manticore/Grayson/Anderman alliance. This would especially be true if Mesa became an open power in the SL.

              • Mike_G says:

                Oh, I don't know if I would say nothing in the books has suggested Beowulf might leave the SL. I doubt they would join Manticore as a subject state, but it seems they might split from the SL as a member of the Manticore/Grayson/Anderman alliance. This would especially be true if Mesa became an open power in the SL.

                I assume that would be a civil war scenario, since it is not clear that clear there is any provision for planets to leave the SL. In fact, it seems that planets that are not even members of the SL can be forced to join up.

  13. thirdbase says:

    So if Henke hates being addressed as Admiral Gold Peak, why is she using it?

  14. dac says:

    Interstellar war seems to me to be the true desire of Mesa/Consortium (whatever they are called)
    The mutual death of the Solarians/Havinites/Mantis/Andermanis in a gigantic war would lead to a situation where genetically altered super humans could then build/extend and eventually control everything. They use subterfuge to gain control, rather than massive navies.

  15. JohnRoth1 says:

    A little bit of an apology: I'm incapable of following snippets and not also remembering that there are certain things that have to happen, one of which is that Admiral Heneke has to survive at least to the end – there isn't another character in sight that can take over for her. So resolutions to this scene that involve Admiral Byng winning a battle don't interest me.

    So what's the resolution here? I can see two major branches. 1 – Admiral Heneke withdraws in good order, without any kind of a battle but with interesting intelligence.

    2 – Byng decides that, even at 2 to 1 odds he can prevent her from leaving and tries. (The 2 to 1 is because he knows that he's facing what he considers battleships, not battlecruisers). There are two paths here. 2A – Heneke decides to turn on the acceleration and leaves him in the dust, or 2B – she lets him catch up and fire the first shot, and then wipes him out.

    • MadMcAl says:

      I don't see variant 2 coming off. If he decides to blow her out of the space he will do it where he can use the advantage of surprise.
      Meaning the orbit. If Henke is underway allready she has active impeller and sidewalls.
      So withdrawing in good order seems more propable.
      Of course, if he actually comes to the idea of requesting the infos on her, he will see that she is in the line of succession to the throne.
      And that Manticore will not only rise a stink but a whole skunk farm besides the dump, if something untowards should happen to her.

      • JohnRoth1 says:

        Surprise? As far as I can tell, she's not in orbit yet. Heneke's at a stage 2 alert, one stage below Battle Stations. I don't know Byng's readiness status, but I doubt that he can bring anything up to where he can fire energy weapons before she can react to it.

        • JohnRoth1 says:

          Replying to myself. I've got to quit this…

          Anyway, the third scenario would be really fun: Byng is in the process of chasing her out of the system (or she's letting him chase her out of the system) when his third squadron of battlecruisers arrives. Deja vu all over again.

        • MadMcAl says:

          But Byng has no idea of that. There was this one short story where this manticorean noble comandeered the light cruiser of some fith-tier power (if so high). There was a interesting description of the abysmal combat readiness, crew status etc. of a real verge-navy. And that is the picture Byng has in his mind when he thinks of the RMN. For all purposes antique and as such very weak armaments, non functional CIC, a crew a step below what you find in the slums if you dig deep enough.
          Of course he doesn't belive that Henke can fire before he could get his ships even startet to get combat ready.
          And he has to know that if it comes to combat right now, while Henke is nearing the orbit under own power, he is toast. Even the most incompetent Battle Fleet Admiral shoud know that if you need 20 minutes to get impeller and sidewalls again, while the enemy still has his impeller up and running he has an absolute maneuvering advantage and can shoot to kill from up to 2 million km away while you need to get to 500k km. And even the most obsolete ships are in an huge advantage under such conditions.

          So the surprise I meant was when Henke is in parking orbit and shuts down the impeller. After that happened he is in a big advantage (or rather should be, if he wouldn't stand against the qualitative best navy in existance with ships just below general quarters).

    • Mike_G says:

      It's too early in the book for a battle.

  16. The League government can be defined by three words: lead by drift. If they DON'T fall apart, I will be very suprised

    • MadMcAl says:

      I can describe the League goverment with one word: figurehead. And that is the problem with your prophecy. The goverment will fall, no question. The League will more or less officially dissolve. But the true power lays in the hands of the bureaucracys. And when the bureaucracys begin to see their power go away they propably will hold on the power. Without the smokescreen of legality they have now. They have the power. And they also have the power to force the plebejans to the point.

  17. mwhiddon says:

    The comments are twice as long as the snippet .I can hardly wait for the next one.

  18. Bryan says:

    Sure he would normally be in command of a Battle Fleet squadron. But since Mesa seems to be setting his command up for a fight with the RMN in the Quadrandt it seems unlikely (to me) that he'll live long enough to see any wallers in action. Thats the point that I was trying to get at.

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