TORCH OF FREEDOM — Snippet 04:

Chapter 2

A sizable percentage of the Maya System’s original colonists had come from the planet Kemal. Like most of their fellow immigrants, they’d been none too happy with the planet and society they were leaving behind, but they’d brought their planetary cuisine with them. Now, four hundred T-years later, Mayan pizza — courtesy of the kitchens of Kemal — was among the best in the known galaxy.

That point had particular relevancy at the moment, given the clutter of traditional delivery boxes and plates littered with bits and pieces of pizza crust scattered around the conference room.

Luiz Rozsak sat in his place at the head of the table, nursing a stein of beer, and looked at his assembled staff. Captain Edie Habib, his chief of staff, had her head bent over a computer display with Jeremy Frank, governor Barregos’ senior aide. Lieutenant Commander Jiri Watanapongse, Rozsak’s staff intelligence officer, was involved in a quiet side discussion with Brigadier Philip Allfrey, the senior officer of the Solarian Gendarmerie for the Maya Sector, and Richard Wise, who headed Barregos’ civilian intelligence operations. That conversation, the rear admiral thought with an inward grin, would have caused an enormous amount of acid reflux back in Old Chicago if Watanapongse and Allfrey’s ultimate superiors had been privy to its content.

Brent Stephens and Donald Clarke sat to Rozsak’s left and right, respectively. Stephens was on the large size, seven centimeters taller than Rozsak’s own hundred and seventy-five centimeters, with blond hair and brown eyes. He was also a direct descendent of the first wave of Mayan colonists, whereas the black-haired, gray-eyed Clarke had been five years old when his parents arrived on Smoking Frog as senior managers for the local operations of the Broadhurst Group. Most places in the Verge, that would have made him a very poor fit for this particular little get together, since Broadhurst was one of the Solarian League’s major transstellars, but this wasn’t “most places.” This was the Maya Sector, and the rules here were a bit different from those by which the Office of Frontier Security was accustomed to playing.

And they’re about to get a lot more different, the rear admiral thought coldly.

“Can I take my file copy of our notes home with me, Luiz?” Clarke asked now, and Rozsak raised an eyebrow at him. “I’m headed off-planet this afternoon,” Barregos’ senior economic adviser explained. “It’s Dad’s birthday, and I promised Mom I’d be there for it.”

Rozsak grimaced in understanding. Michael Clarke was only ninety T-years old, which barely constituted middle age for a civilization with prolong, but he had developed a progressive neural disorder not even modern medicine seemed capable of arresting. He was slowly but steadily slipping away from his family, and he wasn’t going to have very many more birthdays when he remembered who his son was.

“He’s out on Eden, isn’t he?” the rear admiral asked after a moment.

“Yeah.” It was Donald’s turn to grimace. “It’s not like we can’t afford it, but I don’t think it’s doing much good, either.”

Rozsak nodded in sympathetic agreement. The Eden Habitat was a low-grav geriatric center in geosynchronous orbit around the planet of Smoking Frog. It offered the very best medical care — care as good as anyone could have gotten back on Old Earth herself — and the most luxurious, patient-friendly staff and quarters imaginable.

“If you take it with you, are you really going to get very much done, anyway?” he asked quietly.

“Of course –” Clarke began just a bit sharply, then cut himself off. He looked at Rozsak for a moment, then inhaled deeply.

“No, probably not,” he admitted heavily.

“I’m not that worried about the security risk, Donald,” Rozsak said, mostly honestly. “I know you’ve got good security, and God knows Eden’s people are going to make damned sure no one invades their patients’ privacy! But we’re not on that tight a time frame. You can take a few hours to spend with your parents.”

“You’re sure?” Clarke looked at him, and Rozsak shrugged.

“Your part’s either already done, or else it’s mostly going to happen once we get to Erewhon. We’re talking nuts and bolts here, not financial instruments or investment strategies. Go ahead. Don’t worry about it. It’s more important that you’re as close to rested as you can get when we head out than that we squeeze every single moment of utility out of your time before we leave.”

“I’ll admit, I’d be happier leaving it under lock and key down here,” Clarke confessed. “And you’re right. Spending the time with them is important, too.”

“Of course it is.” Rozsak looked at his chrono. “And if you’re going to go off and celebrate a birthday this afternoon, I think you should probably head on home and see if you can’t catch a few hours of sleep, first.”

“You’re right.”

Clarke rubbed his eyes with the palms of his hands, gave himself a shake, then pushed back his chair and stood, switching off his minicomp as he did.

“Of course I’m right. I’m a rear admiral these days, aren’t I?” Rozsak grinned up at the standing financier. “Go ahead — go!”

“Aye, aye, Sir,” Clarke said with a weary smile, nodded to Stephens, and left.

“You did good, Luiz,” Stephens said quietly as his colleague departed. “It’s always worse for him when his father’s birthday rolls around.”

“Yeah, sure. That’s me. Philanthropist and general friend of mankind.”

Rozsak waved it off, and Stephens let him.

“Well, if you don’t want to talk about that, are you really confident that Carlucci’s going to be able to come through on all this?”

“Yes,” Rozsak said simply. Stephens arched one eyebrow ever so slightly, and Rozsak raised his voice. “Jiri, do you think you could tear yourself away from Philip and Richard for a few minutes?”

“Sure,” Watanapongse said. He grinned at Allfrey and Wise. “All we’re really doing at this point is making bets on the football championship while we wait for the rest of you people to call upon our incomparable services.”

“I think that’s one of the things I like best about both you spooks,” Edie Habib put in, not even looking up from her conversation with Abernathy. “Your modesty. Your constant air of self effacement.”

Watanapongse smiled at her, then crossed to Clarke’s abandoned chair and sat back down, cocking his head inquiringly.

“Brent is a little concerned over Carlucci’s ability to make good on our discussions, I think,” Rozsak explained. “Care to reassure him?”

Watanapongse looked at Stephens thoughtfully for a moment, then shrugged.

“The Carlucci Industrial Group has the capacity to build anything we need,” he said. “It’s all just a matter of willingness, figuring out how to pay for it, and time.”

“And how to hide everything,” Stephens pointed out.

“Well, yes, and that,” Watanapongse acknowledged.

“Frankly, that’s what worries me the most,” Stephens said. “I think I’ve got a better appreciation than most for the degree of expansion CIG’s going to have to pull off to make all of this come together. If anyone’s looking, it’s going to be hard to cover that up. Shipyards aren’t exactly unobtrusive.”

“No, they aren’t. And neither are starships. But the idea is that we won’t be ‘covering up’ at all. Edie came up with what’s probably the best description for what we’re doing from one of those old stories she likes to read, something called ‘The Purloined Letter.'” Watanapongse smiled. “Everything we’re doing is going to be sitting right there in plain sight . . . we’re just going to convince everyone that it’s something else entirely.”

“Something else?” Stephens repeated very carefully.


“And exactly how is all of this going to work out?” the industrialist inquired. “I’ve been concentrating on financing schedules and priorities from our end so far. I’m just taking it on faith that you guys are going to be able to use all of this at the other end. I know you’ve promised to explain everything on the trip, but I can’t quite convince myself to stop worrying about it until we get there.”

“It’s not too complicated, whatever it may look like at the moment,” Rozsak told him. “Basically, it’s sleight-of-hand. The Maya Sector is about to begin investing heavily in Erewhon, which — as the Governor will explain to anyone from back home who notices what we’re up to — is not only practical but downright farsighted, given Erewhon’s current estrangement from Manticore and the steadily worsening interstellar situation out here.” He rolled his eyes piously. “Not only does it make sound economic sense for everybody here in the Sector, but it represents an opportunity to start wooing Erewhon — and its wormhole terminus — back into the loving arms of the League.”

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33 Responses to TORCH OF FREEDOM — Snippet 04

  1. David says:

    “back into the loving arms of the League”

    They are ever so loving, aren’t they?

  2. Karsten says:

    @David: You are in doubt about that?? Heretic!! The Solarian League is THE superlative in any aspect, worth to be considered … ;)

  3. fester says:

    So are they doing the infrastructure build-up and the initial naval build-up to ‘export’ large ships to Erewhon — sneaky….

  4. OK, so who is Kemal and where is his Pizzeria?

    That paragraph rings bells, suggesting there is a covert meaning.

  5. Peter Z says:

    @4 Fester, I think the flow will be to build infrastructure IN Erewhon to supply “Erewhon” with ships. I suspect that those ships may quietly leased to Erewhon. The personell on those ships may well be the initial cadre for the Mayan Navy. Old Chicago will be encouraged to suspect that the investment and the new ships are all a bribe. The Mayans will get shipyards they control, a trained building staff and a cadre for their emerging navy. When the fecal matter hits the rotary impeller, expanding this capacity in Smoking Frog is simply a matter of scaling up.

    Yes, this is sneaky and smart. Since the yards and ships are not directly controlled by Barregos (such a circumstance would be anathema to League beaurocrats), there is no risk. After all think about all the lucre Barregos is passing up by not controling those yards more directly. The situation must be just as Barregos described, no other advantage is visible. Its inconcievable that Barregos would think of rebelion, he could never build sufficient naval strength to resist the SLN BF.

    Which begs the questions. Barregos must have projected based on Buttercup that the SLN was already second rate, so he must think that Smoking Frog could build a large enough force to hold off BF. What does he know that suggests the League will fall apart at this point? Is he aware of the MA or simply aware of the effects of their groundwork to undermine the League? If either case applies, why isn’t the MA trying more aggressively to cap him prior to launching the next stage of their plans? There is much more going on that we know absolutely nothing about.


  6. fester says:

    @#4 maybe there is some ethnic ties between Kemel and the gangsters of Erewhon?

    @#5 & Peter Z— your suggestion is much smoother than mine, although the transition time is a bit longer (thinking more like German u-boat development in the Weimer Republic by using a Dutch shipyard as the front….)

    As to your last paragraph, I think Barregos is reading the tea leaves combined with his own ambition. He knows that Battle Fleet is 2nd rate, he knows that there is almost no primary loyalties centered in the Verge for the Old League to draw upon, he knows that the decision making structure is ossified. There is no need for Mesa to be involved or for him to be aware of anything beyond the background chatter of League Gossip. I don’t think the MA will cap him because he is useful as a quasi-external threat to further frighten the League’s bureaucracy after the SLN gets ground up against Manticore’s fixed defenses.

  7. Peter Z says:

    Fester, Barregos can’t withstand BF if that force can concentrate all its energy on subduing his insurrection. Regardless of any qualitative inferiority, there simply are too many BF SDs for Maya withstand. In 1919 PD what would lead Barregos to suspect that there will be something big enough to distract BF from an OFS sector in insurrection? Either they know someone/some people have something planned (effects of the MA groundwork) or they know something of the actual plot. I don’t see any other alternative.

    As for the MA using a Mayan insurrection to further their plans, I can see that if they can also guarantee (not suspect but guarantee) that Maya will lose in the long run. Either that Maya will lose or Maya will join the MA hegemony of the new SL. Either option suggests that either Barregos is with the MA or someone on his staff is in the MA’s pocket.


  8. robert says:

    @4 Maybe DW just likes a good pizza. Are the one’s at the Mellow Mushroom the best?

  9. robert says:

    @7 Hi Peter. As usual you have thought things through quite thoroughly. But…let me suggest that if the MA had a spy in the Mayan hierarchy or even if it were Barregos himself, the Mesan debacle at Torch would not have occurred. I do not think that Roszak would be altogether ignorant of any Barregos’ involvement with Mesa. Not with his intel, innate caution and his closeness to the governor. And Torch could not have happened without the Admiral’s very overt aid. Instead, I suggest that the Mayans will go around setting fires all over the Frontier, spread the FS fleet very thin and defeat them in detail. While this is going on, and other star systems see the opportunity, they will begin to peel away as well. This may look like it is an opportunity for Mesa to move in, but who knows–complicated actions have odd consequences. Especially if Haven joins forces with Manticore/Grayson and the Andermani, which I believe they will based on Honor’s finger wagging to Elizabeth at the end of Storm.

  10. Peter Z says:

    @9 I happen to agree with you about the spy, Robert. Which is why I am surprised that the MA haven’t tried to assassinate Barregos or that we haven’t heard about it.

    As for the plan to generate wide spread insurgency, Maya doesn’t have the resources to start brush fires in so many places that will overwhelm both Battle Fleet and Frontier Fleet. Using the Sepoy Munity parallel implies that Frontier Fleet will be tossed into Chaos. Not every unit will revolt but enough to muddy things up quite a bit. Between some 2000 active BF wallers and another potential 3000-4000 in the reserve fleet and no mutiny will stand a chance on its own. Rozsak knows this better than most. After the mutiny is put down, OFS satrapies in insurrection will follow as sure as the sunrise follows each sunset.

    Rozsak and Barregos must be biggybacking on the groundwork the MA is sowing. They are either doing this knowingly, which I doubt or are reading the tea leaves of current events. Those current events may almost be shouting that some widespread unpleasantness on a once in a mellenia scale is on its way.


  11. saladin says:

    maya only has to survive the first few battles (the credo of the bf “for hundrets of years no one won a battle against us”) to win politically
    as long as the public doen´t know a thing, ofs can do whatever they want
    if the public of the coreworlds know/think/believe that maya really wants to become independent their hans will be tied everywhere (and more rebellions will break out)

  12. luc P says:

    What we know from CoS is that there is many people from the verge in the BF navy and especially marines even if at low rank positions. That could made a sepoy mutinery quite a dicey situation for the high commandment.

    What maya really needs initially is to be able to resist FF (so no more much than old style BCs), and with the division in sectors, only parts of it at a time.
    We know also that the League has very slow reaction time, so with enough ground work a sector as heavily industrialized as maya can probably churn quite a fleet before OFS call BF to the rescue and BF deign answer. OFS relations with BF are not that good either (remember the 60% casualty from friendly fire at battalion level ?)
    Dont forget we also know that Barregos and maya sector have very good PR results in the league, so it is a bit harder for the men in the shadows to justify sending full battle fleets even if the sector secede and successfully resist OFS.
    The only big problem I see is training the cadres and get a viable doctrine, but a cozy relation with Erehwon or even Haven could be a strong help there (both are battle hardened).

  13. robert says:

    I just can’t see, given the fact that Mesa has kept even their own people in the dark about their true goal (galactic domination through superior genetics? getting even with Beowulf?), how anybody can sniff out anything. The new super-secret drive tech, the biochemical weapons, the odd assassinations, all seemingly unknown to anybody except the inner circle of MA operatives, point to Maya being just as much in the dark as everybody else.

    But I will accept anything that DW springs on us as long as it is not mysticism and weirdness (like in Sword of the Lady) even though DW did it sort of well in In Fury Born. Somehow I swallowed my incredulity.

  14. evilauthor says:

    They don’t have to know anything about what Mesa is doing. They can see the writing on the wall. The SL is too corrupt to last much longer and is about to fall apart. What Bar and Rozak are doing is securing their piece of the pie in advance.

  15. Peter Z says:

    OIC where the problem lies! Robert, the groundwork I am thinking of is much like what Mesa did to the original RoH. They changed that star nation from the ground up to suit their purposes. Do you honestly think that they can grab hold of the SL without changing SL attitudes significantly prior to their coup? How they change it depends on the pretext their figureheads will use to usurp authority. Perhaps the MA will foster an increasing sense that their are 2 Solarian Leagues; one that lives on the old league worlds and the rest of the rabble. Who knows how, but sure as certain, the MA is shaping the aggregate SL attitudes to suit their purpose.

    Those are fundemental changes in the SL that the Mayans will see, not the specific mechinations of the MA.


  16. robert says:

    Oh my gosh, Peter. That is VERY god-like, if that is what MA is doing. What really bothers me is that Mesa did not even exist, storywise, in the first bunch of books, and then only as another bunch of bad guys whose existence made Haven’s good guys look really good. And here they are, jumping to the fore in last several books, since the death of St. Just. Wham and here they are, manipulating the entire human-settled cosmos. It is almost too much.

  17. Peter Z says:

    Its only too much when you think about at all. Just reading about it is fun!

  18. I propose that the notion is that the Sepoy rebellion was — as was believed by some at the time — to have been pre-planned, and that it advanced as far as it did because it involved a very large fraction of the sepoys rising at the same time. A rebellion across the Verge in which a large fraction of OFS-occupied planets rise up, shoot their OFS gauleiters and staffs, have units like Thandi Palane’s switch sides and wipe out OFS units, would be a major challenge for the league. Eridani Edict or no, bombarding your own planets to force their surrender might create dissent. Also, it would appear that the sepoys in rebellion might plan to do things systematically rather than rebelling and then sitting their waiting for Battle Fleet to arrive.

    As an aside, I find heavy use of acronyms to make the discussion hard to read.

  19. hank says:

    On the subjet of widespread mutiny, a look at the opening chapters of Weber & Whites “Insurrection” may pay dividends for speculators.
    I have to wonder how well the Eridani Edict will hold up in such a situation.

  20. robert says:

    @18 I’m with you George. It is bad enough trying to read the names Weber has invented in the Safehold series, but here we are facing a proliferation of acronyms. I think it is because there are so many books in the Honorverse and so many major and minor players who keep popping up, with new ones all the time, and so many organizations, governments, and associations that it just takes too long to spell it all out. I even find myself doing it, and I don’t like to. But this will continue on until November (I suppose) and by then I presume that Mission of Honor will start showing up on Amazon for pre-purchase and we’ll have even more acronyms to confuse us.

  21. wyrm says:


    Peter, you write “Regardless of any qualitative inferiority, there simply are too many BF SDs for Maya withstand.”

    Surely, the Maya sector would be in the same position to the League that Manticore was against Haven in Ashes of Victory. A weapon (MDM) which the opponent has not got, and (until the SL redesign their fleet to utilise pod layers – which would take at least a year) a weapon the opponent cannot respond to.

    We now see that Rozsak is much more important to Barregos’ plans than was visible in Crown of Slaves, so his comment about the Sepoy revolt “this time we’ll do it right” may have more importance that was apparent earlier. I suspect that the plans may go far beyond the Maya sector.

    One viable tactic for Barregos/Rozsak might be to create a defence force for Maya, and then send an offensive force on a tour of the verge, wiping out all traces of the OFS as they pass. The difference in quality of the respective weapon systems would keep Maya safe, while a verge-wide rebellion, as the OFS shackles are destroyed, would be difficult (if not impossible) for the OFS to handle.

  22. Bamics says:

    The idea would be to supply the ships to Erehwon and Torch (after all, Torch owns that wormhole junction and needs a decent navy to defend it as well as to fight Mesa)and be able to have trained personnel to man those ships when the ball goes up!
    This is not only a maskirovka but, also a propaganda coup for Maya/Barregos. Supplying the “downtrodden” ex-slaves with ships to defend themselves will play well in the Solarian League masses; Supplying ships to Erehwon helps the economy of Maya Sector; which will increase taxes collected from the sector.
    Since the population of Erehwon is not that large and Torch does not have trained personnel to man those many ships; Gov. Barregos will have to supply personnel to crew the ships, and “advisers” to train Torchese Navy. It is after all an act of goodwill, to help allies, etc. . Or so he will explain to the League, that he is doing all these things to increase the League’s influence in the area, gain access to protect a potential invasion route to the League’s(the Torch junction); even prepare the way for total OFS control of the area.
    He will then have accomplished the following:
    – Be able to create a much bigger Navy ( ships and personnel to man the
    – Sign alliances/agreements/treaties with other sovereign powers that
    would help Maya when the balloon goes up.
    – Acquire needed Manticoran technology from Erehwon which will upgrade
    the the capabilities of Mayan navy

  23. robert says:

    @22 Interesting thoughts. So you must be thinking that when the Mesan fleet attacks Torch, surprise, surprise, there will be a hefty defensive presence, mostly Mayan-built with tech from Erehwon, and the result will be what? Aside from the good guys eventually winning, I mean.

    I know this has nothing to do with the Solarian League’s distintegration, but the book’s title does lead one to believe that it is all about Torch in the end.

  24. Peter Z says:

    @22 What you suggest will keep Battle Fleet away from Maya at first. However, what will keep them away if Barregos and Rozsak are the ones launching the new and improved Sepoy mutiny? Their discussion suggest that they plan on something a bit more active than securing their area of responsibility. How on earth does Maya fight off Battle Fleet’s potential strength if their role in the mutiny is discovered? They don’t have Apollo so all their MDMs are still dependant on more traditional fire control systems, which don’t control all that many missiles at any given time. Their missiles will be individually less capable (ie dumber) than manty missiles as well as having much less efficient laserheads. Their sensor tech may be good but those will be predominantly ship based. Their drones will be much less capable. So their potential effective engagement range will be much shorter than the manties and their salvo sizes will be much smaller, even if Maya does gets MDMs. Which means they are MUCH less capable than the manties of reducing large fleets of Super-Dreadnoughts into their component atoms.

    Maya can correct all of this. They can’t do so in 3 years. I doubt they can do this in 10 years. So, if they are going to launch or actively support an insurrection, what else do they know?


  25. robert says:

    What I think is going to happen (in this and the next book) is that when Mesa attacks Manticore – and we know they are only going after Manticore B – the bulk of Manticore’s navy is not damaged. A major building yard may be destroyed, but the fleet will be intact. I personally think that they are going after B because of Sphinx and the treecats. As a result, and based on what Harrington said to Elizabeth, the war with Haven will end and Manticore, Grayson, the Andermani Empire and Haven will join forces to go after Mesa — unintended consequences for the supermen. At the same time Mesa is also attacking Torch, and that is what this book is going to be leading up to, I think. It will be about how Torch forges real alliances with other star nations, like Beowulf (see Chapter 9), and prepares to defend itself. The actual mystery here is what is at the other end of the Torch junction that is so vital to Mesa. When we find that out I think all will be much clearer. And on that we may speculate away. Remember that Mesa has lost skirmishes before and just gone on to something else, but not this time. THEY WANT TORCH BACK.

  26. Robert @16:
            You have to remember, originally Honor was supposed to die at the end of At All Costs, having just won a decisive victory that ended the War with Haven.  Twenty years later or so, her children would get a series that followed their careers, and the war with the Mesan Alliance would have come about gradually.  When the Mad Wizard Weber decided to let Honor live, it upset the timing.  So it is sort of abrupt, but it should be understandable.

  27. Wyrm says:


    I’m surprised that Manticore hasn’t offered to survey the Congo wormhole for Torch. It would appear to have little downside, and would help strengthen Torch.

  28. Peter Z says:

    @27 Perhaps they are. The problem is that junction termini need to be located first. If Manpower took all the data concerning the WJC, Torchers need to start from scratch. Recalling the time it took to find the last Manty terminus, I wouldn’t be surprised if they needed unitl the end of Mission of Honor to locate Torch’s.

  29. robert says:

    @26, 27, 28 All good stuff. Yes, I remember the authorial note in Storm From the Shadows.

    I guess the Torch folks have been busy getting things organized and have not had the wherewithal to do much science. But I really want to know what Mesa (or DW) knows about the other side of the wormhole junction. To me, that is the reason for all their recent actions.

  30. Alan says:

    @25 If I remember correctly the Mesa Alignment is launching attacks on both Manticore A and Manticore B.

  31. robert says:

    @30 I thought that they did not have enough ships for that because they were launching a simultaneous attack on Torch. But maybe I misread the ending of Storm From the Shadows. Gotta go back and re-read it.

  32. fester says:

    @ 31 — the original Oyster Bay plan was to launch attacks at all Haven Quadrant naval infrastructure — so Manticore A, B, Grayson and all known Havenite waller yards.

    The revelation of Apollo @ Lovat forced the MA to move up their time frame by a massive margin and use test and training ships (the Shark class) in a downscaled Oyster Bay where far fewer ships are hitting Manticore-A and B (I think 14 ships to Manticore A and 6 to B) and a small attack force at Grayson. Haven will not get hit in this round.

  33. Lando says:

    Hmm. Just curious, why wouldn’t the Manties and Haven just park a couple of squadrons of pod SD’s at Torch? Have a feeling that one of the terminus (terminii?) is right off Bolthole or near it, and then it would be interesting if the other is near the Andies, out in boonies. As for the SL splitting… how many… and how many get absorbed by Mesa. Aspirin please.

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