The young woman — she was only twenty-two T-years old — had clearly never experienced anything like it. Denton had, on the other hand, although it had usually been from a Solarian merchant spacer, not someone from New Tuscany. Some Sollies went out of their way to attempt to provoke a Manticoran officer into providing a basis for complaints and allegations of harassment. It was something Astro Control back in the home system encountered with depressing frequency from Solarian ships passing through the Manticoran Wormhole Junction, as well. Some Sollies simply resented the hell out of the fact that a single little out-system star nation dominated such a huge percentage of the League’s total carrying trade. They went around with planet-sized chips on their shoulders where the Star Kingdom was concerned as a consequence.

But the Sollies who did that also knew they were representatives of the Solarian League. They were armed and armored with all of the arrogant Solly assurance that there was nothing any mere Manticoran could really do to punish them if they got out of line. That was one of the things Denton himself personally most hated about Solarians. And it was also what puzzled him about this incident, because New Tuscany was a single-system star nation, so poor it didn’t have a pot to piss in. So what could possibly possess a New Tuscan merchant skipper to risk deliberately antagonizing the Royal Manticoran Navy here in a star system which had just become Manticoran territory?
Denton shook himself back up out of his thoughts and looked back at Monahan.
“Sorry, Rachel.” He gave her a quick smile. “Wool gathering, I’m afraid. You had something else you wanted to add?”
“Yes, Sir.”
“Well, add away,” he encouraged.
“Sir, it’s just, well . . . .” She seemed a bit hesitant, then visibly steeled herself for the plunge.
“Sir, it’s just that I had this funny feeling that he wasn’t really saying any of it for my benefit.”
“What do you mean?” Denton’s eyes narrowed.
“It was more like he was talking about me than to me,” she said, sounding as if she were picking her words carefully, trying to find the ones to explain whatever it was she was groping towards. “Like . . . like somebody in one of the Academy’s training holos, almost.”
“Like he knew it was being recorded,” Denton said slowly. “Is that what it felt like?”
“Maybe, Sir.” Monahan looked more worried than ever. “And it wasn’t just me he was complaining about, either.”
“Meaning?” Denton tried to keep any note of tension out of his voice, but it was hard, given the mental alarm bells trying to ring somewhere deep down inside him.
“Meaning that he didn’t say just ‘you’ when he was complaining about what a hard time I’d been giving him. He said that, but he also said things like ‘you people,’ too. Like there were dozens of me, all trying to give him and his friends trouble.”
“I see.”
Denton sat in thought for several more seconds, not particularly liking the speculations chasing around the inside of his brain like hamsters in an exercise wheel, then returned his attention to the ensign sitting before him.
“Rachel, I want you to know that you did exactly the right thing reporting this. And that neither the XO nor I believe for a minute that you did a single thing wrong aboard that ship. I don’t know exactly what his problem was, but I’m sure you handled yourself just as well as you always have in the past.”
“I tried to, Sir,” she said, unable to hide her enormous relief at his firmly supportive tone. “The more it went on, though, the more I started wondering if I had done something to tick him off!”
“I doubt very much that you did anything at all,” Denton said in that same firm tone of voice. “Unfortunately, you may well encounter the same thing again. God knows most of us have run into it a time or two, although it’s usually from the Sollies, not from someone like the New Tuscans. I’m sorry it happened to you here, but it’s probably just as well to get the first dose out of the way early in your career.”
“Yes, Sir,” she said, and he flashed her a smile of approval.
“All right,” he said with an air of finality. “I think you’ve probably given me everything you’ve got, so there’s no point our sitting here chewing it over any more or wondering what kind of wild hair might have inspired him to go off that way. I would like you to go ahead and record a formal report on this, though. If he does actually decide to complain to someone, I want to have your version of the encounter already on the record to help shoot him down.”
“Yes, Sir,” she said again.
“In that case, why don’t you go ahead and get that taken care of right now, while events are still fresh in your mind?”
“Yes, Sir.”
Monahan obviously recognized her dismissal, and she rose, braced briefly to attention, and left. Denton gazed at the closed door for several moments, then punched a combination into his com terminal.
“Bridge, XO speaking,” a voice said. “What can I do for you, Skipper?”
“I’ve just finished talking with Rachel, Pete. I see why you sent her to see me.”
“She did seem more than a little upset,” Lieutenant Peter Koslov said. “But it was the nature of what that New Tuscan bastard said that really worried me.”
“Agreed. I don’t want to make a big thing out of this and worry her any more than she’d already is, especially not before she gets her formal report together for me. But, that said, I want you to have a word with the rest of her boarding party, especially Chief Fitzhugh. And have a quiet word with any of the other JOs who’ve been running the customs inspections. See if any of them may have heard some of the same kind of remarks and just not been as willing as Rachel to bring them to our attention. And if they have heard anything like that, I want details of time, place, and content.”
“Yes, Sir.”
Koslov sounded rather grimmer than he had a moment ago, Denton noticed.
“One other thing,” the CO continued. “I want every party that goes aboard anybody’s merchant shipping wired for sound and vision. I don’t especially want you to mention it to anyone aboard ship, either, because I don’t want anyone obviously playing to the camera from our side. So find someplace to put a parasite cam. I don’t want to give away any image quality unless we have to, but I’m less worried about picture than I am about sound.”
“Skipper, I don’t think I like what I think you’re thinking.”
“Well, if you hadn’t been thinking in the same direction yourself, you wouldn’t have gotten Rachel into see me quite this promptly, now would you?” Denton shot back.
“It was more an itch than any sort of full-blown suspicion, Sir.”
“In that case, your instincts may just have been serving you entirely too well, I’m afraid,” Denton said grimly. “I don’t have any idea why this might be going on, and it may be that you and I are both just imagining things. But it may be that we aren’t, either, and Admiral Khumalo made the point that he wanted us to keep our eyes and ears open when he sent us out. So go ahead and make those inquiries for me. And get those bugs planted. Maybe we can sneak them into the boarding officer’s memo boards or something. I don’t know, but I do know I want the best hard records we can get of every visit to a New Tuscan ship. And I want the same thing from our inspections of anyone else’s shipping, as well, to serve as a base for comparison. Clear?”
“Clear, Skipper,” Koslov replied. “I don’t like where we seem to be going with this, but it’s clear.”

About Eric Flint

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15 Responses to STORM FROM THE SHADOWS — snippet 100

  1. Willy says:

    Now, will Denton report his findings to Admiral Khumalo, or will he wait until the smelly stuff hits the ar impeller?

  2. Willy says:

    Second try.

    Will Denton report his findings to admiral Khumalo or sit on it until the smelly stuff hits the rotary air impeller?

  3. kingpaul says:

    But even if the Manties have the A/V documentation to show their side of the situation, will OFS really believe it?

    • Mike_G says:

      It doesn't matter.

      Look at the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. All you need to do is get enough evidence believed by enough of your citizens for long enough to start the conflict. Afterward, what's done is done. And some people will continue to believe forever (all of the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time…).

      There are numerous such incidents through recent and more distant history. The second Gulf of Tonkin incident is another one, for instance. There is a lot of evidence that suggests the motorboats that supposedly attacked the US ship at night were actually US special forces returning from a mission. (For the initial contact, anyway; after that the Navy apparently was firing at shadows. Or maybe they were firing at shadows all along.) But that was enough to get the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution passed. In the end, once the bullets start flying and the bombs start dropping, it tends to be too late to just say, "my bad". So the accusation (whether intentionally exagerated or just mistakenly believed) only has to hold up long enough for the shooting to get started.

  4. Mike_G says:

    He said, she said — or my video versus your video.

  5. 1JH says:

    In a duel of commentary, the side with the recording always has the upper hand. I suspect this will be relevant when it comes to comparing recordings.


  6. charles Shaw says:

    It's a little safer to do that when the government is supporting it. This is as if the army (or the state department to make it more realistic) tried to start the war in Iraq by itself. That would have been a lot more difficult to implement than a situation where the bulk of the government, with support from the top, deciding that a war is necessary. On the other hand the Spanish American war (and the American involvement in WWI) proved that enough people with enough wealth and contacts can maneuver the government into a war, even if the leaders are determined to stay out of it. Not unrealistic, unfortunately.
    Chuck S.

  7. ThisIsntGulfofTonkin.ItsmoreliketheOpiumWars.ExceptthattheSolarianLeagewonthave

  8. MadMcAl says:

    It is fascinating how much the entusiasm drops now that the E-ARC is out.
    But as I said in the last snippet, the target group for this propaganda would "belive" anything that even hints that Manticore is guilty of anything.
    And to be fair, this sounds much more like "Operation Himmler" than anything more recent.
    "I shall give a propaganda reason for starting the war; whether it is plausible or not. The victor will not be asked whether he told the truth."
    That was Hitler before the invasion of Poland.
    But it is a rather bad translation.
    I think better is:
    "The conflict will be started by suitable propaganda. The plausibility is irrelevant, in victory lies right."

    • Mike_G says:

      Like I said, many examples from history.

    • JohnRoth1 says:

      MadMcAl said:

      "It is fascinating how much the entusiasm drops now that the E-ARC is out. "

      Oh, I didn't buy the e-arc. It's just that this particular piece of the action is totally boring. As far as I can tell now, almost nothing would be lost if it didn't exist and a short report was placed elsewhere.

      • dac says:

        I am with johnroth

      • Mike_G says:

        Well, to be fair, this is actually a fairly short report. Especially by David Weber standards.

        • JohnRoth1 says:

          Oh, it isn't just this snippet. It's the last three snippets – starting with Anisimovna prepping her fake merchant captain.

          Now, I grant you he may very well connect it up later, but so far there's nothing here that really justifies this part of the action taking place on screen.

          • MadMcAl says:

            They are important. As important as the planing sessions in SoS1. In the Book this last 3 snippets are not more than 2 pages. You can tolerate that. But here, that is like pulling teeth.
            But the discussions arround it are the real interesting thing.

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