Chapter Twenty-Five

“Take a seat, Matt,” Commander Ursula Zeiss invited, pointing at one of the chairs in front of her desk as Lieutenant Maitland Askew stepped through her shipboard office door.

Askew obeyed the polite command, seating himself in the indicated chair, then watched as she punched the console button to close the door behind him.
Askew was twenty-eight T-years old, with sandy-brown hair, brown eyes, and a wiry build. He was slightly below average in height – in fact, the compactly but solidly built Zeiss was at least a centimeter taller than he was – and something about him gave an impression of continual bemusement. Zeiss was one of the people who knew better than to take that “bemusement” at face value. There was a brain behind those mild brown eyes, and it seldom truly shut down.
Which, of course, was part of her current problem, she thought, sitting back and contemplating him thoughtfully across her desk.
“You wanted to see me, Ma’am?” he observed after several moments of her silent scrutiny, and she snorted.
“Of course I wanted to see you. I always want to see you, don’t I?”
Askew’s lips twitched ever so slightly at her acerbic tone. Zeiss was SLNS Jean Bart’s tactical officer, and Askew had been her assistant tac officer for almost two T-years now. They’d worked well together over that time, but there was no denying that they had fundamentally different personalities. Zeiss was an excellent training officer, and her main interest – and strength — lay in recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of her human material and adjusting for them. Askew’s personnel management skills, while adequate, were nowhere near as strong as hers were, and his main interest was in what he called the “nuts and bolts” of the tactical officer’s trade. As a result, Zeiss tended to leave hardware issues in his hands while she got on with other things. As a rule, that worked well, but sometimes the difference in their emphases led to a certain amount of . . . friction, perhaps. That wasn’t really the exact word Askew was searching for, but it came closer than anything else he could come up with.
“I’d like to think you’re usually able to at least tolerate my presence, Ma’am,” he said now. “On the other hand, I had the impression that there was something specific you wanted to discuss with me.”
“You had the right impression, then,” Zeiss said, straightening in her chair with a considerably more serious expression. She looked at him for another few moments, then waggled one hand in the air in front of her.
“Captain Mizawa had a little discussion with Captain Aberu yesterday,” she said, “and it would appear your name came up.”
“My name?” Askew repeated carefully, and frowned when Zeiss nodded.
Captain Warden Mizawa, Jean Bart’s CO, was one of the better officers Askew had ever served under. He was also career Frontier Fleet, like Askew – and, for that matter, Zeiss – and not particularly fond of Battle Fleet officers, like Ingeborg Aberu, Admiral Byng’s staff operations officer. It wasn’t likely the two of them had just gotten together for a friendly chat over a stein of beer. Coupled with Zeiss’ expression, that lent a somewhat ominous aspect to the thought that his name might have come up in conversation between them.
“May I ask the context, Ma’am?” he inquired even more cautiously.
“It would appear, Matt, that Captain Aberu is not one of your greater admirers. Did you do something at some point that might have personally stepped on her toes? Something that might explain why she’d take a certain degree of dislike to you?”
“Ma’am,” Askew said, “I don’t even know Captain Aberu. Aside from the dinner party Captain Mizawa hosted when the Admiral and his staff came aboard, I don’t think I’ve ever even been introduced to her.”
Which, he did not add aloud, would not be the case if she were on the staff of a Frontier Fleet Admiral.
There was remarkably little love lost between Battle Fleet and Frontier Fleet at the best of times, and Askew wasn’t immune to that institutional lack of mutual admiration. All the same, Admiral Byng and his staff seemed to have taken the traditional rivalry between the two services to an all-time high. There’d been virtually no social interaction between them and Captain Mizawa’s officers, despite the lengthy voyage involved in just getting to the Madras Sector. Obviously, they’d had better things to do with their time. And they’d made it abundantly — one might almost have said painfully — clear that the sole function of the none-too-bright ship’s company of SLNS Jean Bart was to chauffeur them around the galaxy while they got on with the business of sorting out everything Frontier Security and the local Frontier Fleet detachment had managed to screw up beyond all repair here in the Madras Sector. Probably because none of them knew how to seal their flies after taking a leak.
So why, after totally ignoring Jean Bart’s entire company ever since they’d come aboard, should Captain Aberu find herself “discussing” Maitland Askew with Captain Mizawa? Right off hand, he couldn’t think of a single reason, and he doubted very much that he was going to like where this was headed.
“I didn’t think you’d ever crossed swords with her,” Zeiss said, “but apparently you’ve managed to really piss her off. I suspect this had a little something to do with it.”
She reached into her drawer, withdrew a fairly thick sheaf of hard copy, and slid it across the deck to him. He picked it up, glanced at the header on the first page, then looked quickly back at her with his eyes full of questions.
“No,” she answered the first of those questions, “I don’t know how Aberu got hold of it. I suspect that neither the Captain, nor the Exec, nor I are going to be very happy if we ever manage to find out. The salient point in your case, however, is that the Admiral’s operations officer has apparently read your little treatise and been singularly . . . unimpressed by it.”
Askew looked back down at the header. “A Preliminary Appreciation of Potential Technology Advances of the Royal Manticoran Navy,” it said, and in the originating officer’s name block it said “Askew, Maitland, LT.”
“Ma’am, this is the report the Captain asked me for,” he began carefully, “and I never meant for it to –“
”I’m well aware that it was never intended for general circulation, Matt,” Zeiss interrupted him. “That’s why I said I don’t expect to be particularly happy when I find out how it came to be in Aberu’s hands. One thing I do know, though, is that it didn’t get there by accident. So either someone from the ship’s company gave it to her, or else . . . .”

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36 Responses to STORM FROM THE SHADOWS — snippet 95

  1. Erik Ker says:

    Nice to know that some of the officers in the SLNS have a function brain and competence at their chosen profession.

  2. Mike_G says:

    Junior tactial officer respects Manties, but upper levels of command are incompetent. Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

    • catboy says:

      this should get intersting

    • MadMcAl says:

      Some officers of the Frontier Fleet respect the Manties. And they should. They are the ones that actually see some of the hardware sometimes.
      And in an organisation as large as the SLN there can't bee only bigots.

    • JohnRoth1 says:

      Uh, no. It was his captain that asked for the report. Captains of battlecruisers are not junior officers. He most likely wanted an appreciation so if some of the rumors turned out to be true, he could go "oh, so that's what they're doing," instead of WTF!!!

      By the way. Why the paper?

      • kingpaul says:

        Good question on the paper. I would have thought that these kinds of reports would be read on something similar to a Tablet PC.

        • Ace_3 says:

          To me it kind of makes sense as I imagine that in an electronic information dominated society paper might be used to keep reports limited in circulation.

          • kingpaul says:

            But couldn't you handle that just as easily with sercurity protection? Yes, I know that passwords can be hacked, but paper can be copied.

            • Ace_3 says:

              Try to imagine a society in which use of a photo copy machine or text scanner requires checking one out from the archeology department of the nearest University or possibly even paying a sizable insurance fee to a Museum to use one of theirs, or finding some well equiped intelligence oficer tasked with spying on planets with tecnhnology from the "dark ages", yet the odd three century old law here and there still requires the odd report or document to be printed on paper, so printers and paper may be unusual but are still much more common than a copier.

              Also, don't think of it as a measure for protecting secrets, just a simple "This will limit it's circulattion.", possibly , also attempting to avoid the electronic security system for whatever reason.

    • Mike_G says:

      Hmm, looks like some of missed what I was trying to say. Or just ignored it.

      My concern is the same as it was a couple of snippets ago — this appears to be Weber falling back into exactly the same pattern he had from about the time of Honor Among Enemies to the time of Ashes Of Victory. The upper echelons of the enemy are so stupid and/or corrupt that they are merely cartoon figures. There are some competent and likeable officers (eg Tourville, Forraker, Prichard, etc.), but they don't really get a say in policy.

      He wrote about 10 books where that was the entire depth of characterization, and I fear we are looking at the same, boring, overused pattern again.

      The first Talbot Cluster book was interesting because it did not follow the overused script. Seems so far like this one might be back to the formula, however.

    • Mike_G says:

      Hmm, looks like some of you missed what I was trying to say. Or just ignored it.

      My concern is the same as it was a couple of snippets ago — this appears to be Weber falling back into exactly the same pattern he had from about the time of Honor Among Enemies to the time of Ashes Of Victory. The upper echelons of the enemy are so stupid and/or corrupt that they are merely cartoon figures. There are some competent and likeable officers (eg Tourville, Forraker, Prichard, etc.), but they don't really get a say in policy.

      He wrote about 10 books where that was the entire depth of characterization, and I fear we are looking at the same, boring, overused pattern again.

      The first Talbot Cluster book was interesting because it did not follow the overused script. Seems so far like this one might be back to the formula, however.

      • Ace_3 says:

        Okay, I'll bite. Just give me a moment to think up a decent contrary position.

        Ah, I know. DW is not being lazy, he strikes me as a firm believer in the idea that in any bureaucracy people are always promoted to their highest level of incompetence. And now that the Solarian League has been described as being governed by bureaucracies he is stuck following formula for anything therein. Whereas for the Talbot Cluster and Mesa, we may be surprised.

      • Thirdbase says:

        In the case of Haven, the Government may have been stupid/corrupt, but for most of the fighting officers they knew that they were up against better technology and in many cases better trained personnel. There were Manty officers that were stupid/corrupt and assumed that they had massive technological advantages, Elvis Santino is perhaps the best example, but it is even said that much of the Haven technology was not far behind. The problem was that training lacked amongst the Havenite crews as was explained in AoV.

        Besides this sort of overconfidence has been happening in reality for a long time. The original F4 Phantom was made without a gun, because the air to air missiles would never miss and knock down all the enemy MiGs. We saw where that went. There are also a lot of impregnable castles and unsinkable ships out there that weren't also. Even recently, our stealth fighters can't be shot down, well one got itself shot down.

        It is normally the poor guy on the ground that has to deal with being told that he has the best equipment, because the politician/leader has ignored what he was told. That has probably gotten more people killed in war than anything except disease.

        • Mike_G says:

          Yes, but an author like David Drake seems to be able to get that point across without following a really blatent formula that drops the same anvils on the reader's head book after book after book. Weber, not so much.

      • JohnRoth1 says:

        Actually, I didn't miss what you were trying to say. It's just that societies that are in the process of crumbling have lots of people on the top with a Social Dominance Orientation bordering on psychopathy. Altemeyer is a good reference if you want some academic discussion of the phenomenon, and Strauss and Howe (Generations, etc) are also good references if you want to see a bit of how the cycle works.

        Speaking for myself, I don't particularly want to see an in-depth psychological characterization of that kind of person.

        Granted, no person is a villain in their own eyes, but so what. I can accept that there are a lot of rats that are busy nibbling away at the structures around them, without wanting to see them treated as anything except what they are.

  3. kingpaul says:

    I find it amusing that the junior officer in question has a last name of "askew".

  4. summertime says:

    I think this officer will be important in future proceedings.

  5. The only thing is, we haven't heard the report yet. I can guess some of it, but it may fall short of the real truth. The truth that the Solarian League is outgunned per ship and LAC by a factor of at LEAST 4, and probably more than that.

    • MadMcAl says:

      I think we can expect a new episode of McQueens infamous SuperLAC. But you are wrong with the 4:1. When they can choose the combat enviroment then the newer manticorean classes are arround 10:1 stronger. Think about it. Every destroyer is outpaced by a Roland. And the Roland can kill every single destroyer he goes against beyond range of enemy fire, and then move away. We don't know anything about the newes light cruiser yet, but we can expect a new Mk. 16-platform. No heavy cruiser can even dream of going against a Sag-C. And the Nikes… as I said before, I expect the Nikes to be the smallest class able to use Apollo, even if only with towed pods. But even without Apollo, a Nike that is not ambushed can take on 5-10 modern solarian BC's.
      And we know allready that in the SD-range the cards are much more stacked.

  6. The Invincible Solarian League Navy, in reality, has ships whose missiles are outranged and whose inferior compensators mean that they can neither close into their combat range. Except in hyper in a grav wave doing convoy escort, the RMN ships have as their sole limit exhaustion of ammunition. Perhaps if enough SLN ships are flying wedge to wedge their antimissile defenses can block RMN fire, so that one RMN destroyer actually cannot take out four squadrons of SLN SDs by itself, with time off for reloading, because it cannot fire enough missiles to get through (with fine tuning of missile accelerations this might not be true) at all, but other than that the SLN ships are essentially infinitely outgunned by the RMN.

    • MadMcAl says:

      You are a little bit overentusiastic. We know from DW that an Sag-C is not enough to kill a single SD. The Sag-C simply doesn't have the fire controll and throw weight to significantly damage a SD. Not the same with a BC of course. Given that a BC is actually 3 classes below a SD still a very good comparision. A destroyer can propably take on a BC. But for sure anything below the BC. We also now that a Sag-C can take on a BC with ease (Hexapuma was allready damaged and at relative low speed when she fought the 3 BC's in Monica).
      And of course there are more situations where the RMN-ships loose much of their advantage. We have such a situation just now here. When Byng decides to open fire Henke is toast.

      • dac says:

        That is the key – energy weapon range v. missile range. I don't care how old/bad/incompetent the Solies are – they get their shots off even at the same time, their SD's should toast the Manti's. The Manti's keep the distance up, they should be able to win or disengage at will if needed.

      • kingpaul says:

        Do you really think that Byng will open fire now? I'm figuring the confrontation will happen a bit later when OFS "receives" a " call for help" from the "bullying tactics employed by the evil Star Empire of Manticore".

        • MadMcAl says:

          Of course not. He knows allready what political clout Manticore has in the SL. And even if he doesn't know by now who Michelle is, if he doesn't have files on her he doesn't deserve to live. So he will of course know that it could be slightly detrimental to his career-plans when he will be accused of the murder of the 5fth in the line of succession to the manticorean throne. Or in other words, he knows that Manticore doesn't shy away from using its extraordinary power over the SL granted through the junction and its good relations with Beowulf to force the SLN to free 3 freighters. Even if he only has 2 braincells slowly dying from loneliness he should be able to reason out that Manticore won't be satisfied with some demerits for him if he kills Michelle without any even slightly compelling reason. Even if he has a reason he can spin doctor into a over reaction he will know that at least his career is finished. With outright unprovoked attack in the orbit of an independend world he can as easily suck his pulser. That would be less painfull. So he will wait until he has "real" unmisunderstandable reason to attack. After that he can still point out to New Tuscanny (or whoever plays the fall guy) that they falsified proof of the misconducts of the RMN.
          Also remember that in his private little world a Nike is, at best marginally better than one of his Nevadas. So it is irrelevant if he kills her now or when he has her in a better (in his opinion) position where he can take her out in missile range, where the larger number of his ships bolster the defenses, while he has to calculate with higher losses in energy-range (even if only that the outsized BC's have either many weapons or heavy weapons for a BC).
          So he will try to get her in optimal missile range, not knowing that optimal missile range for him is point blanc range for the RMN, or that the missile defenses of a Nike are pod-age defenses, or in other words immensly better than that of any BC before.

  7. dac says:

    I agree – DW likes to keep around "good" bad guys (and then turn them to the good side) –

  8. Summertime says:

    There is no good reason for a Solarian-Manticore war. Disdain and friction may exist, but an unprovoked attack seems unlikely. Something may be engineered later by the Mesans, perhaps involving Tuscany, but right now verbal sparring and posturing appears the probable extent of it.

    • kingpaul says:

      Unless the SL (with influence from the Mesans) feels that the SEM is infringing upon their territory. Land has always been a "good" motivator for war. Granted, right now it doesn't seem to likely. I think the fighting will start later when OFS is called in to help Tuscany.

    • MadMcAl says:

      You are of course right. There are no real reasons. But you are wrong about the time table. Mesa allready doctored the beginnings of the war. What do you think will happen when sollys attack RMN-ships apparently without reason? They will strike back. What will happen when solarian ships are anihilated by RMN-units? Do you really belive that the bureaucracys resort to reason or ask the official goverment? They will send out a punishment expedition.
      And the initial attack will most propably happen as mesa stacked the deck. They have pulled strings to bring 2 manticore-hating Admirals with extensive navy power into the area. They have made sure the local OFS-gouvernor and his right hand man will look into the other direction, only to come for the manticorean retaliation to witness that. They found the one single system in the cluster to dump to accept the terms of the Star Empire and to arrogant to actually realize that all the nice goodies Manticore brings to its new subjects are just that, gifts to new member planets, and not a free for all, eat what you can buffet.
      The chances of Manticore to avoid the war with the SL are slim.

      • Mike_G says:

        The chances to avoid action with the SLN are non-existent, because that's what kind of book we are reading. That action may or may not cause full-scale war, but it probably will — because again, that's what kind of book we are reading. It's not like this is a murder mystery or a romance novel. This is a military space opera. So yes, there will be a battle eventually, and probably a war.

        The book supposedly ends in a cliffhanger, so I would guess that it may take that long for the battle to occur.

      • dac says:

        Mesa has been working to start a true intersteller war – everything collapses, they take control – the super race

  9. Hi,


    I'm wondering if David Weber will PULL The Trigger during a weak moment for Michelle Henke. Maybe when she is planetside.

    Perhaps have a Frontier Sercurity ship Captain have a BRAIN Short Circuit
    and start blowing up Starships – while the ships in her command are parked around a planet.

    Feeling safe.

    But not "safe" because of the Computer-Brain-Virus the BAD Guys control… Where, who, when.


  10. Thirdbase says:

    "No one is to attack the Manty ships until I say 'Fire.'"

    "Firing Sir!"

    Did you mean that sort of a thing?

  11. Byng knows that a Nike is marginally comparable to a CL or perhaps a CL. After all, Nikes are visibly armed with destroyer torpedoes. At 1-1 odds the RMN has no chance. That's even before factoring in that the RMN Admiral is a moron as proven by the fact that she could not identify Byng's uniform as belonging to the most powerful space navy in the universe.

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