The tactical officer let her voice trail off, and Askew nodded. Bad enough if someone in their own company was passing potentially “interesting” information on to Admiral Byng’s staff without authorization. But if it had come into Aberu’s possession because Byng’s people were hacked into the tactical department’s information net – or, even worse, Captain Mizawa’s personal internal com channels – it said even worse things about Task Force 3021’s command structure.

And in either case – whether she got it from a spy or through some illegal hack – the fact that Aberu decided to tell the Captain she had the access isn’t exactly a good sign either, now that I come to think about it.
“Should I take it that she complained about my conclusions to the Captain, Ma’am?” he asked after a moment.
“She objected to your conclusions, your assumptions, your estimates, and your sources,” Zeiss said almost dispassionately. “She characterized you as alarmist, credulous, ignorant, incompetent, and ‘obviously not to be trusted with any significant independent analysis.’ That last phrase is a direct quote, by the way. And she informed the Captain that if this represented the caliber of his officers’ work and capabilities, the entire task force was obviously in deep and desperate trouble.”
Askew swallowed. Naval service had run in his family for the last eight generations, but all of those generations had been spent in Frontier Fleet. That wouldn’t cut a lot of ice with a Battle Fleet captain – or Admiral – and he couldn’t even begin to call upon the level of patronage and family alliances someone like Aberu could. If Byng or his staff decided an example had to be made of Maitland Askew, the destruction of his own naval career would become a virtual certainty.
“Ma’am –“ he began, with absolutely no idea where he meant to take the sentence. Fortunately, Zeiss interrupted him again before he had to find out.
“You did exactly what the Captain and I asked you to do, Matt,” she said firmly. “I realize that may seem like cold comfort if someone like Aberu decides to set her sights on you, but neither of us have any intention of simply cutting your air line because she’s a little miffed. Having said that, however, I have to admit that what she’s chosen to be miffed over actually worries me more than the potential fate of one of my subordinates, however much I like and value him.”
Askew couldn’t pretend he was happy about that last sentence, but neither could he argue with her professional priorities.
Captain Mizawa had commissioned the report to which Aberu had taken such exception as part of his own background planning for their current mission. Askew had no idea how much of the report’s content Mizawa was prepared to take at face value. For that matter, the assistant tactical officer wasn’t really certain how much of it he was prepared to take at face value. Nonetheless, he was now convinced – and he knew Zeiss was, as well – that the official ONI estimates of the Manties’ capabilities were badly flawed . . . to put it mildly.
Askew hadn’t given much thought to the Royal Manticoran Navy himself before Jean Bart had been posted to the Madras Sector in the wake of the attack on the Republic of Monica. He knew the RMN was a lot bigger than most of the neobarb fleets floating around out in the Verge and beyond. It could hardly be otherwise, given the size of the Manticoran merchant marine, the need to protect it, and the fact that Manticore and the People’s Republic of Haven had been at war with one another for the last twenty-odd T-years. That much he’d been prepared to admit, in a sort of offhand, casually incurious way, but his own assignments had kept him clear on the other side of the Solarian League’s vast volume. He’d had rather more pressing concerns in his own area of operations. So even if he’d been vaguely aware of the Manty navy’s sheer size, that awareness hadn’t inspired him to think about it with any particular urgency. And if he’d thought about the ridiculous rumors about new “super weapons” coming out of the so-called Havenite Wars at all, it had mostly been to dismiss them as the sort of wildly exaggerated propaganda claims to be expected out of such a backward and distant corner of the explored galaxy. He certainly would have agreed that it was ludicrous to suggest that a single neobarb star system, be it ever so deeply involved in interstellar commerce, could have put together an R&D effort that could manage to outpace that of the Solarian League Navy!
Askew had found it extremely difficult to accept the possibility that his initial estimate of the situation might have been seriously defective, but Captain Mizawa had asked him to keep an open mind when he undertook his appreciation of the Manticoran threat’s severity. He’d done his dead level best to do exactly that, and the more he’d looked, the more . . . concerned Maitland Askew had become.
The actual hard data available to him was painfully limited. There’d never been much of it to begin with, and he’d decided at the outset that if he was going to come at his task with the “open mind” Captain Mizawa wanted, he’d have to start out by discarding the ONI reports which flatly dismissed the possibility of any threatening Manticoran breakthroughs. That left him gathering data on his own, and since they’d already been in hyper-space, on their way to their new duty station, there’d been precious little of that around until they reached the Myers System, the Madras Sector’s administrative center, and he was able to quietly talk things over with some of the officers of the Frontier Fleet detachment on permanent assignment to Commissioner Verrochio’s office.
Commodore Thurgood, the senior officer in Myers prior to Admiral Byng’s arrival, had been more than willing to share all of the information, analysis, and speculation available to him. At first, Askew had been strongly inclined to dismiss Thurgood as an alarmist, but he’d dug into the commodore’s documentation, anyway. And, as he’d dug, he’d begun to feel more than a little alarmed himself.
There was virtually no hard data from the actual attack on Monica. Any sensor data which had been available had either been destroyed along with Eroica Station’s military components and the ships the Manticorans had engaged, or else swept up afterward by the Manticoran “investigation teams” which had swarmed over the Monican wreckage. Yet even though hard data was effectively impossible to come by, Thurgood had drawn certain very disturbing conclusions from the reports of as many Monican survivors as he’d been able to interview.
First, unlike a majority of Solarian Navy officers, Thurgood had declined to write off what had happened as due solely to Monican incompetence. He’d personally known the Monican flag officers involved – especially Isidor Hegedusic and Janko Horster, the two admirals who had actually engaged the Manticorans and gotten themselves killed for their pains. While the highest levels of the Republic of Monica’s military had been as riddled by cronyism and political favoritism as any other Verge “star nation,” Thurgood had respected the personal abilities of both Hegedusic and Horster, and he’d also informed Askew that the Monican Navy’s basic level of competence had been surprisingly high.
Second, although he wasn’t supposed to have been, Thurgood had been briefed on the missile pods Technodyne had made available to Monica. As a consequence, he’d been aware that the missiles in those pods had possessed a substantially higher rate of acceleration and drive endurance — and therefore a substantially greater effective range — than the standard missiles of the Solarian League Navy.

About Eric Flint

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23 Responses to STORM FROM THE SHADOWS — snippet 96

  1. Mike_G says:

    That bit about the missile pods is odd. Is this a leadup to "therefore, if these hopped up missiles failed, then the SLN missiles would fail worse," or is it a leadup to "and what the heck is a private outfit like Technodyne doing with such good hardware?"

    Based on the context, I'm guessing it's the former.

    • MadMcAl says:

      Technodyne was reverse engineering then infos and tech examples they got from the Peoples Republic of Haven. And tried to sell them to the SLN. The SLN was obviously not interested in the pods, but when Mesa came up with a plan to get actual manticorean first line military tech to investigate… pods are not so hard to produce and Technodyne had month to prepare for it.

  2. dac says:

    so, when Byng leads them to death and destruction because of his incompetence, will they follow his orders, or will they act in the way they know they need to?

  3. Dave490 says:

    Maybe Askew is the SLN version of Haven's Oliver Diamato – the lone voice telling the truth while everyone ignores him. We'll have to wait to find out if he survives his "I told you so" experience.

  4. JohnRoth1 says:

    The thing I found interesting is that this particular ship is from the other side of Solarian space. Considering that Byng has 17 ships and has mentioned that he's got two squadrons with a third on the way, I'm wondering if this is a single that they got specifically for his flagship with the rest of the ships being two 8-ship squadrons.

    Are these the two squadrons that Detweiller mentioned having been held in reserve and he was considering getting rid of the commanding officers, or are they two others?

    The Alignment's strategy now seems pretty clear: send in an initial force that's sure to be cut up as an excuse to send in Byng's "hundred of the wall" to clean up.

    • MadMcAl says:

      I think you misinterpreted that snippet. The Jean Bart was stationed on the far away side of the League seen from Manticore. But remember, that is exactly where the Talbot Cluster is.

      • JohnRoth1 says:

        Check the "Strategic Map" at You'll see that the angle between Manticore and Talbot as viewed from the center of Solarian space is about 75 degrees, not 180 degrees. Talbot is not on the other side of the Solarian League from Manticore. The Jean Bart, on the other hand, did start out there.

  5. Doug Lampert says:

    No, it's not from the other side of Solarian space. Manticore is ON the opposite side of Solarian space from where he is, and he was stationed on the opposite side of solarian space from Manticore. It's only because of the wormhole that anything in this sector is within Manticoran reach, and prior to the discovery of the final wormhole exit (quite recent) anyone from this area had no direct reason to worry about the RMN.

  6. But Byng isn't with the 100 SDs, he's with the battlecruiser force! Unless you mean that he's to be the sacraficial lamb to start the war…

    • kingpaul says:

      Maybe not to be truly sacrificed, but if he gets bloodied in a fight with Manticore, perhaps he'll get his "hundred of the wall" back.

      • MadMcAl says:

        I am not completely convinced that the "100 of the wall" are not a sacrifice too, considering that Mesa allready knows relative well about the manticorean superiority. They know about Apollo and (at this moment at least) know that a normal SD(P) with MDM's can kill with luck a squadron of normal SD's.
        I think the whole situation is not meant for Manticore to get a bloody nose, but to enrage the whole SL to destroy Manticore outright.

        • kingpaul says:

          Hmm…interesting idea. And by keeping the war with Haven going, Manticore will be facing wars on 2 fronts..

          • MadMcAl says:

            At this moment it would be relative easy for the RMN to bring the 8th Fleet through the junction and ready for combat in virtually no time. As the Battle of Manticore is still in the future, Mesa has to plan for this ability. They allready know that 8th Fleet is armed with Apollo, and that the relative few SD(P)'s of that formation have much more combat power thant their numbers would let on. 100 ships of the wall of an pre-podder era would be no threat to them, as this ships are build to overcome the missile defenses of the podder-era. With other words, for their plans they have to count on the 8th Fleet being there to play "friendly host" for the Battle-Fleet in Lynx Terminus.
            They also have to know that no solarian formation will have even a shadow of a chance to overcome this much firepower. So the only possibility I see is that Mesa plans on the destruction of the BC-force as that of the SD-force.

        • Mike_G says:

          I don't think Mesa's ultimate goal is to destroy Manticore. I think their ultimate goal is to destroy the SL and replace it with a structure of their own choosing. Then they can take care of Manticore or anyone else still remaining.

          Thus, a war between Manticore and the SL could well be designed to destroy the SL more than to destroy Manticore.

          • MadMcAl says:

            The problem with that is the sheer size of the SL. Even in their worst dreams they wouldn't think that a war between a (for all purposes still) one-system power and the SL can ever destroy the SL. Also Manticore is one of the biggest thorns in Mesas side. When they have gobbled up large parts of the SL they won't be happy with it. No, I think that they want the SL to destroy Manticore in a long, devastating war that will destroy large parts of the SLN and cement the power of the bureaucracys so that they can more or less take over in secrecy.

    • Mike_G says:

      It's clear that he is intended to be the blood sacrifice. He just doesn't know it, that's all. He's the goat that thinks that alter looks like a nice place to be led up onto.

  7. Why do people think that the bureaucracies will survive intact if the League goes down? And Mesa to conquer the rump League??? Nonsense. At SOME point Manticore and Haven will find out they've been manipulated, and then, Mesa is dead. Their military, special weapons and all, will go down in, what, 2 years? I say that Manticore will after destroying all their ships and shipyards/spacestations, impose a PERMANENT blockade. No Mesans out, no others in. No ships. Like what the Terran Federation did to the Thebans in Crusade.

    • JohnRoth1 says:

      I find it very difficult to figure out what the Alignment is thinking. It's either to conquer the Solarian League, or to get their revenge on Beowulf so they can practice their version of genetic "improvement" on a larger scale.

      In either case, Manticore is a serious problem simply because they're not being rotted from within on schedule.

      Shrug. I think Lois McMaster Bujold did the genetic superman bit a lot better with Cetaganda, but so what? It's still a good series.

    • MadMcAl says:

      I think you misinterpreted my comment. I don't see the SL winning. And of course I don't see the bureaucracys surviving. What I wrote was that I think the Mesan Alignment sees the SL winning. In other words, for the plans of the Alignment the SL will still be there. But in a long war against a hard enemy people tend to give power into the hands of people who gets things done. Or at least are belived to get things done. So a long, strenous war against Manticore will (in the view of the Alignment) strengthen the bureaucracys of the SL.

      That is a bit of deduction.
      Take back 20 years.
      As far as we know there are 4 multi-system-powers.
      The Solarian League, the Peoples Republic of Haven, the Andermani Empire and the Silesia Confederation.
      Of these 4, only one poses anything of a threat to Mesa.
      The SL is mostly controlled by corrupt, powerhungry bureaucracys they can buy.
      The PRH is not so friendly, but they are ideological blind fanatics bend to drive the whole sector into the stone age.
      The SC is a bad joke, and Mesa could actually do here what it wants, where there not a small hindrance.
      The AE may be the smallest of the 4 but it is still the most dangerous for Mesa. But they are more of the "you don't poke me, I don't poke you" philisophy.

      Then there are a few single-system-powers with much more power than their size would suggest.
      Known to us are Manticore and Erehwon.
      Of these Manticore is the greater threat to Mesa.
      One of the most developed technological bases, rival to Mesas own, the junction that gives it direct acces to the core of the SL, including Sol herself, and of course a outsized Navy for a puny single system, bend on disrupting slavery. But still a single system, and as such no real threat to Mesa. Also on the far side from the SL, arround 800 ly's away. And the small hindrance in Silesia.

      Now the situation is a bit worse from Mesan point of view.

      Haven isn't the PRH anymore, and the RH is much more prone of being a problem to them. Also they have a very good navy.
      The AE gobbled up half of Silesia and brings order there, also one very modern navy there.
      We have a new single system power of notability that won't think twice to stop slavery.

      And Manticore… well Manticore has a extremely powerfull navy. It has changed into a multi-system-power with the other half of Silesia, giving it in the long run the industrial output and the man-power to be really really dangerous.
      And then they have taken over the Talbot Cluster. Mere 200 ly's away from Mesa. With other words, they now have secure fleet bases and a free avenue for an attack on Mesa.

      Only the SL is still blind enough to not care.

      So why do you think Mesa would want to destroy the only power that is no threat to them while in the process giving most of its more powerfull systems into the hand of one of the two powers that are allready a class 1 threat to them?
      Or in other words, if it where planned that Manticore destroys the SL than it would as well be planned that Manticore annexes the core of the SL, including Beowulf, Sol and the most important industrial systems.
      That can't be the plans of the Alignment.

  8. catboy says:

    just a remnder that soon it well be 30 days before the book comes out!

  9. The thing is, when was the last time MESA fought a real war? They get by with espionage and manipulation of hostile governments, but what's their real agenda? They don't have the ships to win a real war with ANY of those major powers you mentioned, except the Silesian Confederacy, which no longer exists. So talk about the law of unintended consquences!

    • MadMcAl says:

      Mesa never fought a real war. They obviously think they can play booth ends against the middle.
      In some points they remind me of the Kingdom of Serbia 1914. The Serbs did every sneaky thing they could think of to damage Austria-Hungary.
      They played very dangerous games building alliances and muddling the internation waters, getting the axis-powers more and more isolated. And all for their own gain.
      Then they had the Austrian Crown-Prince murdered (yes, it was a assassin trained by the serbian secret service, equipped by the serbian secret service and under command of the serbian secret service) and where not good enough (or to arrogant) to wipe their traces, thinking they could play forever, ignoring the actually rather moderate demands of Austria-Hungary to punish the provable guilty at the assassination and in this actually startet WW 1.
      Of course the whole might of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire unloaded on the rather small kingdom, while Imperial Germany played with France and Russia.
      And if England hadn't decided to enter on the side of France they would have lost, openly and without a chance.
      Serbia was crushed, Russia was overrun, and France only survived through british, american and canadian help.

      The same will happen here. Mesa will start a War they can't really win, but they don't know it at this time. They are still thinking in cloak and dagger terms, not realizing that when the first shots are fired they are the weak link.

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