TORCH OF FREEDOM — Snippet 11:

Zachariah snorted in agreement, and Jack grinned. He didn’t know anywhere near as much as he wished he did about what was going on inside the Maya Sector. It wasn’t really his area of expertise, and it certainly wasn’t his area of responsibility, but he had his own version of Zachariah’s ability to put together seemingly unrelated facts, and he’d come to the conclusion that whatever was happening in Maya, it was considerably more than anyone on Old Earth suspected.

“Personally, I think it’s no better than a fifty- fifty chance Rozsak would actually have fired on Commodore Navarre,” he went on. “Oversteegen might well have — he’s a Manty, after all — but I’m inclined to think Rozsak, at least, was bluffing. I don’t blame Navarre for not calling him on it, you understand, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Barregos heaved a huge sigh of relief when we backed down. And now that Cassetti’s dead, he’s got the perfect opening to repudiate any treaty arrangement with this new Kingdom of Torch because of its obviously ongoing association with the Ballroom.”

“Can you tell me if there’s anything to the stories about Manpower having pulled the trigger on Cassetti?” Zachariah asked.

“No,” Jack replied. “First, I couldn’t tell you if I knew anything one way or the other — not about operational details like that.” He gave his brother a brief, level look, then shrugged. “On the other hand, this time around, I don’t have any of those details. I suppose it’s possible one of those Manpower jerks who doesn’t have a clue about what’s really going on could have wanted him hit. But it’s equally likely that it was Barregos. God knows Cassetti had to’ve become more than a bit of an embarrassment, after the way he all but detonated the bomb that killed Stein himself and then dragged Barregos into that entire mess in Verdant Vista. I’m pretty sure that at this particular moment Barregos views him as far more valuable as one more martyred Frontier Security commissioner than he’d be as an ongoing oxygen-sink.”

“I understand, and if I pushed too far, I apologize,” Zachariah said.

“Nothing to apologize for,” Jack reassured him . . . more or less truthfully.

“Would I be intruding into those ‘operational details’ if I asked if you’ve got any feel for whether or not the other side’s likely to figure out the truth about the wormhole?”

“That’s another of those things I just don’t know about,” Jack replied. “I don’t know if there was actually any information there in the system to be captured and compromised. For that matter, I don’t have any clue whether or not the Manpower idiots on the spot were ever informed that the terminus had already been surveyed at all. I sure as hell wouldn’t have told them, that’s for sure! And even if I knew that, I don’t think anyone knows whether or not they managed to scrub their databanks before they got shot in the head. What I am pretty sure of, though, is that anything any of them knew is probably in the hands of someone we’d rather didn’t have it by now, assuming anybody thought to ask them about it.” He grimaced. “Given how creative its ex-property on the planet was, I’m pretty damn sure that any of Manpower’s people answered any questions they were asked. Not that it would have done them any good in the end.”

It was Zachariah’s turn to grimace. Neither brother was going to shed any tears for the “Manpower’s people” in question. Although they didn’t talk about it much, Zachariah knew Jack found Manpower just as distasteful as he did himself. Both of them knew how incredibly useful Manpower, Incorporated, had been to the Alignment over the centuries, but designed to be used or not, genetic slaves were still people, of a sort, at least. And Zachariah also knew that unlike some of Jack’s colleagues on the operational side, his brother didn’t particularly blame the Anti-Slavery League, genetic slaves in general, or even the Audubon Ballroom in particular, for the savagery of their operations against Manpower. The Ballroom was a factor Jack had to take into consideration, especially given its persistent (if generally unsuccessful) efforts to build an effective intelligence net right here on Mesa. He wasn’t about to take the Ballroom threat lightly, nor was any sympathy he felt going to prevent him from hammering the Ballroom just as hard as he could any time the opportunity presented itself. Yet even though one difference between Manpower and the Alignment was supposed to be that the Alignment didn’t denigrate or underestimate its future opponents, Zachariah also knew, quite a few of Jack’s colleagues did exactly that where the Ballroom was concerned. Probably, little though either McBryde brother liked to admit it, because those colleagues of his bought into the notion of the slaves’ fundamental inferiority even to normals, far less to the Alignment’s enhanced genomes.

“When it comes right down to it, Zack,” Jack pointed out after a moment, “you’re actually probably in a better position than me to estimate whether or not the Ballroom — or anyone else, for that matter — picked up a hint about the wormhole. I know your department was involved in at least some of the original research for the initial survey, and I also know we’re still working on trying to figure out the hyper mechanics involved in the damned thing. In fact, I’d assumed you were still in the loop on that end of things.”

A rising inflection and an arched eyebrow turned the last sentence into a question, and Zachariah nodded briefly.

“I’m still in the loop, generally speaking, but it’s not like the astrophysics are still a central concern of our shop. We settled most of the military implications decades ago. I’m sure someone else’s still working on the theory behind it full time, but we’ve pretty much mined out the military concerns.”

“I don’t doubt it, what I meant was that I’m pretty sure you’ll hear sooner than I would if anybody comes sniffing around from the Verdant Vista side.”

“I hadn’t thought about it from that perspective,” Zachariah admitted thoughtfully, “but you’ve probably got a point. I’d be happier if I didn’t expect the Ballroom to be asking the Manties for technical assistance where the terminus is concerned, though.” He grimaced. “Let’s face it, Manticore’s got more and better hands-on experience with wormholes in general than anybody else in the galaxy! If anyone’s likely to be able to figure out what’s going on from the Verdant Vista end, it’s got to be them.”

“Granted. Granted.” It was Jack’s turn to grimace. “I don’t know what we can do about it, though. I’m pretty sure some rather more highly placed heads are considering that right now, you understand, but it’s sort of one of those one of those rock-and-the-hard-place things. On the one hand, we don’t want anybody like the Manties poking around. On the other hand, we really don’t want to be drawing anyone’s attention any more strongly to that wormhole terminus — or suggesting it may be more important than other people think it is — than we can help.”

“I know.”

Zachariah puffed out his cheeks for a moment, then reached for his beer stein again.

“So,” he said in a deliberately brighter tone when he lowered the stein again, “anything new between you and that hot little number of yours?”

“I have absolutely no idea what you could possibly be talking about,” Jack said virtuously. “‘Hot little number’?” He shook his head. “I cannot believe you could have been guilty of using such a phrase! I’m shocked, Zack! I think I may have to discuss this with Mom and Dad!”

“Before you get all carried away,” Zachariah said dryly, “I might point out to you that it was Dad who initially used the phrase to me.”

“That’s even more shocking.” Jack pressed one hand briefly to his heart. “On the other hand, much as I may deplore the crudity of the image it evokes, I have to admit that if you’re asking about the young lady I think you’re asking about, the term has a certain applicability. Not that I intend to cater to your prurient interests by discussing my amatory achievements with such a low brow lout as yourself.”

He smiled brightly.

“No offense intended, you understand.”

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28 Responses to TORCH OF FREEDOM — Snippet 11

  1. Paul Rennie says:

    Sure sounds to me that there’s something artificial about that wormhole! On a possibly related topic, anyone care to bet that the “hot little number” turns out to be a spy (from Beowolf, perhaps)?

  2. obelow says:

    @Paul Rennie
    Artificial is probably not the right word. From what was said it sounds as if the wormhole has some unusual properties that the Alignement/Manpower tried to figure out, seemingly without full success! So that unusual property seems to just be something new, that nobody encountered before, not something coming from an artificial creation of a wormhole…

  3. Karsten says:

    @obelow — July 24, 2009 @ 1:56 am:
    Over there in Baen’s Bar, there is a speculation rising, that the discovery of the … peculiarities of the Torch Wormhole Junction had caused to the development of Spider and/or Streak-Drive … interesting thought, now, that I come to think of it ;)

  4. Virgil says:

    I was just about to suggest the same thing.

  5. Mark says:

    seams a likely explaination, off course it could be something else

  6. Thirdbase says:

    Perhaps it is forked.

  7. Nomad says:

    Thirdbase (6): That would be a major find. (By forked he means one junction connected directly with another instead of having 2 unrelated junctions’ termini in close proximity). Still it does not explain how Aligment can dig military and other related topics from observing it…

    I thought the secret was the fact that the termini were all surveyed already (remember that even with full resources of SKM it would have taken them more than 2 years to find their newest terminus if it wasn’t for blind dumb luck twice in a row…) but the section; “We settled most of the military implications decades ago. I’m sure someone else’s still working on the theory behind it full time, but we’ve pretty much mined out the military concerns.” ponts out that there is really something different with this one.

  8. JN says:

    The key phrase here is “scrub their databanks.” Anton or Ruth is going to find something in the computers left behind.

    Also, the military applications have been explored, leaving commercial uses and spy stuff.


  9. Nomad says:

    What military applications? The junctions are not some cutting edge, discovered tomorrow thing. They are known phenomenons and they have been studied… How did this one resulted in “new” military research?

  10. Peter Z says:

    @9 It may be that all WHJ so far encountered have been “shaped” by gravity waves in Hyperspace, but this one is shaped by something else. In Amegeddon Troll DW played around with time and hyperspace. Perhaps this WHJ warps space through the temporal axis of space. I am not implying time travel, but perhaps hyperspace is exists not only in the gravity axis (one demension of multi-dimensional space) but also in other single or even multiple axis.

    Think of hyperspace as existing in multiple axis with gravity being one and time being another. Streak Drives simply access hyper in a different axis which may be easier to manage than gravity hyper. On this axis of hyper may be more efficient with respect to speed but less efficient in other areas than traditional hyper. The Spider Drive may simply be another form of impeller wedge which taps into the boundry between bands of this other axis of hyperspace. The fact that Spiders seem to accellerate slower suggests that the energy gradients between bands is flatter, so that “wedges” can’t generate as powerful an effect from tapping into this boundry energy gradient. Flatter energy gradients would also help explain the Streak drive. Perhaps they can go faster because they can penetrate deeper into the hyper bands which is possible due to the flatter gradients between all bands of hyper along this new axis.

    This may be the cutting edge applications they are discussing.


  11. Nomad says:

    Thanks Peter. I guess i should have added “Need! More! Now! please!” at the end of the last post. The snippets can be real torture :D.

  12. Peter Z says:

    @11 Ditto, Nomad, ditto. Just send the e-arc or offer it for sale or whatever. I don’t care if its not ready, send what you have. I am sure we will all make do as well as pay for the privilege AND be happy about it.


  13. Mike says:

    No, the secret has to be something other than just that it connects to some strategic star system.

    Maybe it connects to some other hyperspace or alternate universe, and that is the basis of the streak drive.

    Or maybe it’s just a MacGuffin.

  14. robert says:

    @13 Mike, when has Weber ever done a MacGuffin? He does not mislead the reader, he just keeps him/her in the dark, writhing in suspense (I determined that from the anguish in the comments).
    After reading Peter’s analysis, I am afraid to even suggest an alternative because his is so logical and perfect. But here goes: A wormhole of a new type, that takes the wormholer into a galaxy far, far away, where a now extinct but highly advanced civilization…no, that is also not Weber’s style. But wait, the coauthor is Eric Flint, right?

  15. Peter Z says:

    @14 So….will the Ashanti be waiting for the wormholer? Perhaps not. Perhaps giant semi-corpreal space faring cetaceoid (sp? whaleforms) energy matricies?

    If you are right, Robert, the whole Honorverse will turn Ringoesque as is Looking Glassverse. Might be fun. :-)


  16. John Roth says:

    With all the discussion about the wormhole, I’m mildly surprised that nobody’s mentioned the other shoe: they know about Cassetti and Zilwicki, and those two are headed (or will be after ‘Rat Poison’) to Mesa to see what they can dig up. And now we find that the Ballroom keeps attempting to build an intelligence network on Mesa itself.

    John Roth

  17. Nomad says:

    John Roth: At the sinipoet “dissection” people try not to get too far from what is written in the snippet. Otherwise the whole thing gets out of control and there is no edit function :)
    (Erm btw, its Catchat, the havenite mani… I mean superspy not Cassetti the Maya sectors chief Comissar who was killed as the fall guy by Barregos (Governor) and Rozsak (Rear Admiral / Bossman of local frontier fleet))

  18. John @16:
            At the time of the discussion, the Alignment has no particular reason to be concerned about Zilwicki and Cachet. That will change, but for now, they’re not special threats as far as the Alignment knows.

  19. John Roth says:

    @18 This is true, however I’m thinking more of how stories are constructed. Mentioning Catchet and Zilwiki here (well, in the previous snippet) and then following it with the comment about the Ballroom trying to set up a spy network on Mesa in this snippet indicates that something is probably going to come up. Neither Weber nor Flint seems to be in the habit of sticking things in that go nowhere.

    John Roth

  20. JN says:

    A spy network on Mesa may be the point of the snippet, and not the wormholes. One of the best ways to hide an intelligence gathering operation is by destroying its obvious parts. jack and Zack may think that the Ballroom was unsuccessful, but should we?


  21. Peter Z says:

    @20 Which brings us all back to the first post. What ARE the odds that the little hottie is a spy? The only way that is possible is for some of the Alpha lines to be turned. No one without some serious Alpha lineage would have made it this close to someone as inside Mcbryde seems to be. If one Alpha line was turned could one of the Mcbrydes be next?


  22. robert says:

    All this spy network stuff brings to mind (mine, anyway) the visit by Cachet and Zilwiki to Honor (At All Costs) after the assassination attempt on Honor to try to get her to hold off while they pursue the real perps. I am sure that that will be in this book, but when exactly does it occur? It is prior to when they know anything for sure. I think it also after the assassination attempt on Berry that scotched the peace meeting on Torch?? All the threads are still too loose for my feeble wit.

  23. Nomad says:

    Peter (21): Unless Mcbryde has hots for someone outside the aligment then none. Even if she is outside the Aligment, she needs to be at least beta line for Mcbryde to have an affair with (think of Hindu caste system on steroids I guess). Even on such a scenario it is a very very slim chance.

    Then again this doesn’t stop “someone” from planting some heavy duty spyware in her systems to “infect” and act as a “dead drop” for spyware inside Aligment computer systems…

  24. Thirdbase says:

    @18: They weren’t overly worried about Cachet and Zilwicki right up until the time they tried to assassinate ones girlfriend and the others daughter.

  25. Peter Z says:

    Nomad, no one from the outside but a turned Alpha or Beta line individual? Yes, the chance is small but greater than 0.


  26. Nomad says:

    Thirdbase (24): You are skipping over the fact that although these 2 may be phenomenal at getting the big picture through disjointed details (like Catchat and Zilwicki)in their respective fields, they are not the policy makers or heads of their departments. Jack will probably be in the position of an expert / an engineer who argued against a road construction and in the end who becomes a bystander staring at the icy road as a bunch of cars loose control and crash.

    Peter (25): Of course the chance is always more than 0.00 but do you really think anyone as important as these “true” Alpha lines would meet other alphas as co-workers and betas as bodyguards, servants etc? It would too much of a coincidence.

    Then again a Beta could be disguisted for being created inferior to his/her “masters”…

  27. Peter Z says:

    @26 Not coincidence, Nomad. Simply an extension of the underlying moral question within this story. If Leonard Detweiler truly wanted to perfect humanity without limiting humanity’s ability to choose, then the possibility of Alpha lines choosing to reject the Grand Plan exists. Uless that potential is addressed in the story, the Mesans become two dimensional cutout villians forced by the author into a story’s plot. Such is unworthy of the MWW’s skill and Eric’s understanding and reverence of the individual.


  28. Thirdbase says:

    @26 Nope they aren’t policy makers or heads of departments, or even able to directly com their respective head of state. What they are, though are two of the deadliest characters that DW has introduced in the Honorverse. They will, if or more likely when they find out who was behind the attack, take direct, but sneaky, action to eliminate the people that ordered the hit. They will not ask for nasty notes to be sent to Mesan government, they will not complain to the League, they will KILL them.

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