TORCH OF FREEDOM — Snippet 12:

Chapter 6

Herlander Simões landed on the air car platform outside his comfortable townhouse apartment. One of the perks of his position as a Gamma Center project leader was a really nice place to live barely ten kilometers from the Center itself. Green Pines was a much sought-after address here on Mesa, and the town house didn’t come cheap. Which undoubtedly explained why most of Green Pines’ inhabitants were upper mid-level and higher executives in one or another of Mesa’s many business entities. A lot of the others were fairly important bureaucrats attached to the General Board which officially governed the Mesa System, despite the fact that Green Pines was a lengthy commute, even for a counter-gravity civilization, from the system capital of Mendel. Of course, Simões had realized long ago that having the long commute’s inconvenience to bitch about to one’s fellow government drones actually only made the address even more prestigious.

Simões had very little in common with people like that. In fact, he often felt a bit awkward if he found himself forced to make small talk with any of his neighbors, since he certainly couldn’t tell them anything about what he did for a living. Still, the presence of all of those business executives and bureaucrats was useful when it came to explaining Green Pines’ security arrangements. And the fact that those security arrangements were in place was very reassuring to people like Simões’ superiors. They could hide the really important citizens of Green Pines in the underbrush of all those drones and still be confident they were protected.

Of course, he reflected as he climbed out of the air car and triggered the remote command for it to take itself off to the communal parking garage, their real protection was no one knew who they were.

He chuckled at the thought, then gave himself a shake and opened his briefcase. He extracted the gaily wrapped package, closed the briefcase again, tucked the package under his left arm, and headed for the lift bank.

* * * * * * * * * *

“I’m home!” Simões called out five minutes later as he stepped into the apartment’s foyer.

There was no answer, and Simões frowned. Today was Francesca’s birthday, and they were supposed to be taking her out to one of her favorite restaurants. It was Tuesday, which meant it had been her mother’s turn to pick her up from school, and he knew Francesca had been eagerly anticipating the evening. Which, given his daughter’s personality, meant she should have been waiting right inside the door with all the patience of an Old Earth shark who’d just scented blood. True, he’d gotten home a good hour earlier than expected, but still . . . .

“Harriet! Frankie!

Still no answer, and his frown deepened.

He set the package carefully on an end table in the foyer and moved deeper into the spacious, two hundred fifty-square meter apartment, heading for the kitchen. Herlander was a mathematician and theoretical astrophysicist, and his wife Harriet — their friends often referred to them as H&H — was also a mathematician, although she was assigned to weapons research. Despite that, or perhaps because of it, Harriet had a habit of leaving written notes stuck to the refrigerator rather than using her personal minicomp to mail them to him. It was one of what he considered her charming foibles, and he supposed he couldn’t really blame her. Given how much time she spent with electronically formatted data, there was something appealing about relying on old-fashioned handwriting and paper.

But there was no note on the refrigerator this evening, and he felt a prickle of something that hadn’t yet quite had time to turn into worry. It was headed that way, though, and he slid onto one of the tall chairs at the kitchen dining bar while he looked around at the emptiness.

If anything had happened, she would’ve let you know, idiot, he told himself firmly. It’s not like she didn’t know exactly where you were!

He drew a deep breath, made himself sit back in the chair, and admitted to himself what was really worrying him.

Like a great many — indeed, the vast majority — of the alpha line pairings the Long-Range Planning Board arranged, Herlander and Harriet had been steered together because of the way their genomes complemented one another. Despite that, they’d had no children of their own yet. At fifty-seven, Herlander was still a very young man for a third-generation prolong recipient—especially one whose carefully improved body would probably have been good for at least a couple of centuries even without the artificial therapies. Harriet was a few T-years older than he was, but not enough to matter, and the two of them had been far too deeply buried in their careers to comfortably free up the amount of time required to properly rear children. They’d planned on having several biologicals of their own — all star line couples were encouraged to do that, in addition to the cloned pairings the Board produced — but they’d also planned on waiting several more years, at a minimum.

Although the LRPB obviously expected good things out of their children, no one had pushed them to accelerate their schedule. Valuable as their offspring would probably prove, especially with the LRBP’s inevitable subtle improvements, it had been made pretty clear to them that the work both of them were engaged upon was of greater immediate value.

Which was why they’d been quite surprised when they were called in by Martina Fabre, one of the Board’s senior members. Neither one of them had ever even met Fabre, and there’d been no explanation for the summons, so they’d felt more than a little trepidation when they reported for the appointment.

But Fabre had quickly made it clear they weren’t in any sort of trouble. In fact, the silver-haired geneticist (who had to be at least a hundred and ten, standard, Simões had realized) had seemed gently but genuinely amused by their apparent apprehension.

“No, no!” she’d said with a chuckle. “I didn’t call you in to ask where your first child is. Obviously, we do expect the two of you to procreate — that is why we paired you up, after all! But there’s still time for you to make your contribution to the genome.”

Simões had felt himself relaxing, but she’d shaken her head and wagged an index finger at him.

“Don’t get too comfortable, Herlander,” she’d warned him. “We may not be expecting you to procreate just yet, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a little something we do want out of you.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” he’d replied, much more meekly than he usually spoke to people. Somehow, Fabre had made him feel like he was back in kindergarten.

“Actually,” she’d let her chair come upright and leaned forward, folding her arms on her desk, her manner suddenly rather more serious, “we really do have a problem we think you two can help us with.”

“A . . . problem, Doctor?” Harriet had asked when Fabre paused for a handful of seconds. She hadn’t quite been able to keep a trace of lingering apprehension out of her voices, and Fabre had obviously noticed it.

“Yes.” The geneticist had grimaced, then sighed. “As I say, neither of you were even remotely involved in creating it, but I’m hoping you may be able to help us out with solving it.”

Harriet’s expression had been puzzled, and Fabre had waved one hand in a reassuring gesture.

“I’m sure both of you are aware that the Board pursues a multi-pronged strategy. In addition to the standard pairings such as we arranged in your case, we also work with more . . . tightly directed lines, shall we say. In cases such as your own, we encourage variation, explore the possibilities for enhancement of randomly occurring traits and developments which might not occur to us when we model potential outcomes. In other cases, we know precisely what it is we’re trying to accomplish, and we tend to do more in vitro fertilization and cloning on those lines.”

She’d paused until both Simões had nodded in understanding. What Herlander had realized, although he wasn’t certain Harriet had, was that quite a bit of that “directed” development had been carried out under cover of Manpower, Incorporated’s slave breeding programs, which made the perfect cover for almost anything the LRPB might have been interested in exploring.

“For the past few decades, we seem to have been hitting a wall in one of our in vitro alpha lines,” Fabre had continued. “We’ve identified the potential for what amounts to an intuitive mathematical genius, and we’ve been attempting to bring that potential into full realization. I realize both of you are extraordinarily gifted mathematicians in your own rights. For that matter, both of you test well up into the genius range in that area. The reason I mention this is that we believe the potential for this particular genome represents an intuitive mathematical ability which would be at least an order of magnitude greater than your own. Obviously, that kind of capability would be of enormous advantage to us if only because of its consequences for the sort of work I know you two are already engaged upon. Long-term, of course, the ability to inject it into the genetic pool as a reliably replicatable trait would be of even greater value to the maturation of the species as a whole.”

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47 Responses to TORCH OF FREEDOM — Snippet 12

  1. Succotash says:

    Pretty hollow snippet here. Two, maybe three different cliff hangers and no information on any of them. Have to say this snippet bugs me.

  2. Nomad says:

    And into the light steps the disgrunted Alpha line whose little mortal dreams did not fit into the perfect machinery?

  3. Jeff says:

    …or the unstable Alpha line adoptee foisted on a non-Alpha who goes postal and slaughters someone’s wife, making him bitter enough to spill his guts to the Ballroom?

  4. Nomad says:

    Probably right about this being something about their adopted daughter.
    I guess it wouldn’t be too much of a problem if it was a bust experiment (unless as you said; too unstable to let loose but that means their intuitive Mathematician line has become more unstable than Aldonna Anisimovna and her line for comparison) but it might be the opposite. She might be a big success and that would mean bye bye Francesca, see you at the dissection table (or its equvalent of living conditions under mycroscobe…

  5. JustAGuy says:

    I’m afraid that Nomad (@4) is right.

    Not only do we have a six hundred year conspiracy, which is hidden beneath multiple layers, and which NOBODY KNOWS ABOUT (Yeah, right), we have a six hundred year old conspiracy which will dissect a young girl of their OWN MASTER RACE.

    Remind me again why we’re supposed to believe that such a conspiracy exists?
    Seriously, why? (I’ve had that question since SftS)

  6. whiddon says:

    Could it not be that the Ballroom learned something on Torch and made away with his family as a bargaining tool.They are ruthless you know.Theoretical astrophysicist.Hmmmmm.

  7. Peter Z says:

    @4 Nomad, that would just be too easy to hate for both this character and the reader. No dilema at all and a gross display of stupidity by the LRPB. Perhaps we should consider where this adopted was cooked up and where any close relations might be now. Susanah, perhaps? Not her, OK then who and where. Recall that this development was somewhat serendipitous, meaning they had a surprise breakthrough in their intended trait. Could there be near identical siblings out there with this gene as the only difference? How will this play into things? There have to be many incomplete successes in the various genomes of pleasure slaves, too successful to destroy but not successful enough for an alpha line. Maybe such a sibling led the ballroom to this child.


  8. @5

    We are not talking about nice people. The possibility you are complaining about is not even surprising.

    However, from the list of clues the daughter is the incredible mathematician, and therefore the alignment wanted her in a nurturing environment, not parental units who think the most important thing is for their daughter to get along with the other kids in school. The daughter, I expect, is entirely synthetic, in the sense there are no parental units anywhere. After all, we can synthesize bacterial DNAs now, so fully synthetic human DNA in 1400 years is not surprising.

  9. JustAGuy says:


    I’m not complaining about the possibility.

    I’m complaining about the PLOT – we’re supposed to swallow the existence of a 600 year old conspiracy, fronted by incompetents, who kidnap the kids of their own employess, and NO ONE has ever noticed it.
    For 600 years, Mesa has been working behind the scenes of almost every major power, and not one person noticed?
    They’ve been assassinating people (including heads of state), organizing wars, and worse for 600 YEARS, and somehow they’re under the radar?
    They have a entire company staffed of idiots (Manpower), but none of these idiots screwed up badly enough to leak any information? Any incomplete, false information, which would give some of the very smart people at ONI (which Weber has kept on telling us how smart they are) figure out something’s wrong?
    They’ve been developing technology on their own for 600 years, and not one scientist outside of Mesa noticed this? No contractor from the Solarian League? Manticore knew about Bolthole, but not where it was. But they have no idea what Mesa’s been doing?

    That’s the implication you get reading Storm from the Shadows, and it was unbelievable then.

    To top it all, they kidnap the (adopted) kids of their own employees, the ones who know the conspiracy, and not one of these employees quit? Gets fed up? Wants vengeance?
    The fact that his daughter is not genetically related doesn’t matter – he was thinking of her as his daughter, so I would expect him to be pissed if she was kidnapped by Mesa.

    If this is true, it is just too much.

  10. Drak Bibliophile says:

    JustAGuy, I’ve read the next snippet and she wasn’t kidnapped. Nothing in this snippet indicates she was kidnapped.

    I disagree with your charactistic of what we already know about the Alignment, but here you’re getting upset for no reason.

  11. Peter Z says:

    @9 You forgot to mention how Mesa as a whole has to subsidize Manpower’s operation to sustain the level of bribery described in the storyline. Regardless of profit MARGIN, the gross profit of a relatively small number of pleasure slaves can’t begin to fund operations that rival similar operations of first tier galactic star nations. Edward Saganami died fighting a Manpower backed squadron of first class warships after all. Even if we exclude the Star Kingdom, Beowulf’s analysts would have twigged onto this centuries ago. They certainly have the motive to look into this.

    By following the money, too many questions without answers would have arisen. These unanswered questions would have made some of these smart analysts really look into Mesa as a whole and reconsider their assumptions. Why haven’t they? For all I know there is an answer in this book, if so I can’t wait to read about it, hopefully soon.


  12. Ian Darley says:

    Peter Z,

    Don’t forget that the information is out there, Zilwicki and Montaigne tried to blow the lid off in one of the earlier books but the Alignment has spent trillions of dollars (at least) buying off, co-opting or flat out killing anyone with the power to do something about Mesa. Since the story concentrated on Manticore we got a little information on High Ridge and his government squashing the investigation and burying the information to save their own skins. I am pretty certain that the same thing happened with the Sollies, Andermani’s and every other nation. I know that the files in question were mainly about genetic slavery and not about the Alignment, but there would still have been enough data in there to get someone like Zilwicki or Cachat to start digging.
    Add in the ability of the human race to divert itself from uncomfortable truths and I find this story arc to be believable and fairly engaging. Our history is filled with examples of people turning their backs on or ignoring evil acts until they grew so big they had to be contested.


  13. Peter Z says:

    @12 Ian, I can see that logic working with respect to the SKM. After all they have had other, much bigger fish to fry for the last century or so. But Boewulf??? No. That star nation has direct action commandos specifically targeting slavery operations. I suspect they have foresic accountants to track money flows to discover potential targets. I can even see Beowulf realizing there are deeper currents at work but feel intensely that discovering and countering them is a national responsibility. Leonard Detweiler was originally a Beowulfer after all.

    What I can’t see is that ALL the analysts in the Honorverse missed EVERY clue pointing to those deeper currents until now. There are simply too many clues and too many interested operatives around for this to be possible.


  14. robert says:

    To me there is an interesting philosophical point posed by this track of the Honorverse story. I have read with wonder and a boggled mind the recent story about a couple of U.S. Senators who have introduced a Bill to make illegal the pairing of human and animal genes, parts, etc. in order to create a kind of hybrid critter, like a mermaid (how could anyone not want D. Hanna?). They exempt things like pig heart valve replacement, which makes one wonder where the line really is for them. But they don’t prohibit the kind of thing Mesa does – engineering the human genome to produce super-people. To my mind they are missing an important point in the working of science and scientists: what science can do, it will do. If you prohibit or limit government sponsored stem cell research, for example, then it will be done by other governments or by private persons, especially if there is potential profit. The evil part has to do with intent, not with the science, the “what happens if” stuff is not inherently evil.
    Oh, well. Sorry to interrupt the what next guessing.

  15. Bequimão says:

    Oi, Galeira!

    Nice to find a brazilian name, even if it one of the bad guys! I was already afraid that the portuguese speaking world has completely vanished in the Honorverse. The forename seems to be the danish(?) Erland, the H in the beginning is mute. Thank you!


  16. robert says:

    @15 I am sure that Weber is aware of this:

    Top 10 Languages by Population as of 1996)
    Rank and Language Population

    1 CHINESE, MANDARIN 885,000,000
    2 SPANISH 332,000,000
    3 ENGLISH 322,000,000
    4 BENGALI 189,000,000
    5 HINDI 182,000,000
    6 PORTUGUESE 170,000,000
    7 RUSSIAN 170,000,000
    8 JAPANESE 125,000,000
    9 GERMAN, STANDARD 98,000,000
    10 CHINESE, WU 77,175,000

  17. Peter Z says:

    @14 Robert, you seem to be saying that pure research has no moral component. I disagree but will limit my remarks to elements within this story.

    Mesans draw philosophical distinctions (so far undisclosed) between the fruits of their reserarch. One direction leads to slaves and another leads to Alpha lines. Both are products of the same research and processes. In the story there exists a population of both. Suppose a Mesan geneticist experiments with a one off, a unique entity, similar to a centaur. Is this moral? Is it moral to create (assuming the experiment is a success) a being doomed to be alone? Does such a being have rights when rights and responsibilities tend to be defined by relationships between similar beings? I know others may pose a much larger list of questions than I.

    I only point out that just about anything sentient beings do in this universe may contain a moral element. Ignoring this is a mistake.


  18. RobertHuntingdon says:

    @11 PZ… dude, I like you, but this is really getting old… If, and ONLY if, that information is actually available do your pet hobby horses make any sense. But that information simply does not have to be available. I know you (and I) are creatures of the 20th century but you HAVE to let reality in through your skull, man, this is NOT the 20th century that these books are set in.

    Mesa is not some bush-league nation on another continent that can be easily infiltrated by spies sneaking across an unguarded border. Infiltrating a planet from space takes a LOT of work, especially one with the kind of security that we hear about, and is VERY difficult even on a verge planet. You can’t just drop in an unpowered life capsule and hope nobody notices. Even Hades, a bush-league planet that was “colonized” solely for the purpose of putting a nasty prison on it, a planet with zero GPD and utterly worthless in every other way, still had more than sufficient sensors to prevent that. The only reason Honor got away with it was because of the EMP from the mines her minions tricked them into firing off. There are no handy mines around for people to trick Mesa into blinding their own sensors with. NO ship is going to land without being noticed. Even if you manage to successfully land, you won’t stay free long enough to do any good if they know you are there and are spending resources to look for you. Getting somebody in means tricking their spaceport security, and that’s obviously quite hard to do when pretty much nobody comes in at all. Mesa is an exporter of people, not an importer.

    So you can’t get spies on the ground. But you can hack their computers, right? Of course not! Mesa’s computer system has ZERO links to off-planet databases (as does everybody else’s, of course). Even their orbital stations aren’t going to be connected (if they have any sense at all). But you can hack into the wireless network right? Only if it exists, and if the real conspirators have the SLIGHTEST bit of sense it won’t. Not strong enough so to reach from ground to orbit at any rate. But, but, but… sorry. There is NO WAY IN. There are no satellites monitoring everything from orbit where nobody else has the ability to get up there and prevent it. There is no internet that you can sneak in through an unguarded portal. Hell, we have all of that today and just look at how little we really know about what’s going on in North Korea! To say nothing of a country like Japan with actual security on its computers. We don’t know much of anything and we actually have all of that to work with. Without it, you got NOTHING. And once the money is in their system, you can’t track where it goes in their internal economy. Frankly all they really needed Manpower for was the seed money to jump-start their local economy… what they get out of it today is mere lagniappe.

    But, but, but, surely you can trace the money coming IN at least… right? Nope. If there are a few thousand planets in the Solarian League, do you REALLY think that a small government agency from a single planet can watch EVERY planet’s banks to see what’s going on? Even if they could, privacy laws would keep you from figuring out whose bank accounts to monitor in the first place! Not only do they not begin to have enough resources to track all those bank accounts, they don’t have access to monitor most of them anyway.

    The information is NOT AVAILABLE to be found and analyzed. Certainly not remotely as easily as you seem to think it should be, at any rate. Absent that information, the BSC attacks what they CAN see, not realizing (yet) just how much more is hidden under the surface. Now add in the part that they too don’t see the mask for what it is yet. Until they realize that they really SHOULD be looking deeper, they won’t even try. And even once they start trying it won’t be easy. But if you don’t even know it’s going on, why would you bother to look?

    It really does makes sense… once you let go of your 20th century viewpoint. I know it’s hard. But you have to do it or you’re going to continue to make a mockery of yourself complaining about how something “makes no sense” and is “unrealistic” when in fact it’s exactly the opposite.


  19. Peter Z says:

    @18 RH, this is my last post on this issue so you may feel relieved.

    The SKM is one of the central financial hubs in the Honorverse per texev. There are only a handful of comparable hubs. Money flows between hubs are not secret to the systems that actually send and revieve the money. It follows that the SKM monetary authority sees a majority of the aggregate flow of funds in the known galaxy. They KNOW the absolute size of funds flowing into or out of Mesa. Without such a flow Mesa cannot be bribing half the galaxy. They may not know how Mesa made those funds, but they know about the size of the flows. Simple back-of-napkin calculations of the sheer number of slaves needed to generate those funds would point out that that slaves can’t be Mesa’s primary money maker. Estimates of actual slaves shipped based on captured slavers would further indicate some subsidies are involved for at least some of their lines. So if the motive to run slaves is not purely monetary, what is it? All of this is inferential and does not require actually invading Mesan databases.

    On this note I will leave the issue until time to say either “I told you so!” or “Golly! was I a git.”

  20. bfticardi says:

    I would just like to add to Robert Huntingdon’s comment that the people who are “in the know” about the alignment are a) by in large only on Mesa and b) probably monitored by their internal security pretty strictly. Therefore they can’t leave the planet unless it in an offical capacity and even then with pretty tight security.

    Also probably all information is compartmentalized to such an extent that there is no outside communication portal to it through human or computer means. The Soviets during the cold war kept all their best scientists who worked on their top-secret projects in specialized cities with no outside access. Also during WWII we built Los Alamos to keep all our scientists working on the Manhatten Project isolated. Of course the Soviets had agents in the program from its inception, but those were in place before the project started and didn’t infiltrate it after it was started.

    So it is possible if you keep the info flow contained to keep it secret. Please note that only now when the alignment is starting to put their plans in action are things starting to unravel. Up to now it’s only been preparation and plans…now they’re starting to put those plans into action and some information is starting to get out to bright analyists in the outside universe. After all, no plan survives contact with the enemy.

  21. @9
    In my opinion, there is absolutely no evidence in what we can see that the child and her mother were kidnapped by the Alignment. Actually, there is a bit of fear, but no evidence for kidnapping at all, as opposed to “fell from tree and was seriously interested, and panicked mom forgot to leave note”.

  22. Bank transfers: There may well be some number of clearing houses whose software can be invaded. In that case, a small number of sites will give you a very large fraction of the information. We already know form upstream that SL bank software was viewed as less than outstanding even by PRH operatives. The technique is perhaps already standard on this earth. There are allegations that the European clearing houses, for parts of the last decade, were penetrated by American intelligence looking to spy on people the Bush administration did not like, allowing them incidentally to see the great majority of all cash flows.

  23. Michael says:

    The ‘worry’ element in this snippet seems entirely related to the ‘problem’ the researcher is having, likely with personality traits exhibited by this mathematical super-genious line.

    It’s far too early for any kind of effective speculation where this is heading, but my guess would be they’re setting up a sympathetic protagonist inside the Alignment structure. A child (we can’t tell how old yet… anywhere from 6-15?) who’s a greatly desired (from a eugenics point of view) mathematical genious but who is also stridently opposed to genetic slavery. I’m sure at least distaste with what Manpower does has got to be pretty common, with the occasional folks inclined to do more than wrinkle their nose and pretend they don’t see it. South Africa in the mid 80’s comes to mind. We could be being set up for a character who’s relatively harmless in the Alignment structure (she’s a child, after all), but who’s so off the scale in terms of intelligence that she sees what’s going on (kids are often far more observant about what their parents do than the parents give them credit for), and becomes a contact point for subversion.

  24. RobertHuntingdon says:

    @19… OK PZ, I’ll return the favor… but I since you had “just one more point” I’ll also return THAT favor as well… :)

    You are correct that Manticore is a major financial hub. But that doesn’t mean they are the major hub. Nor does it mean that you have to transfer funds through ANY “major hub” at all. If you were a criminal enterprise, and you had somewhere like the Stotterman System with incredibly difficult-to-get-around (if you can at all) privacy laws AND no interest whatsoever in pursuing the information, or you had somewhere like New Timbuktu on the back-end of nowhere that few people even knew existed and wouldn’t even investigate if they did because its so unimportant nobody pays any attention to it, or you had an enemy like Manticore without such protections and who would want to pursue any leads they stumble across… AND you could choose where to send your bank drafts through… would you pick Manticore? I wouldn’t! :)


  25. robert says:

    I am confused and dazzled. Where is the MA getting funding from? If slavery is not economical, and we know it isn’t on the scale needed to build fleets of warcraft and support a planet-load of bio-genetic and weapons researchers, then what else do they do? Drugs, illegal and otherwise? Skimming from money-laundering? What am I missing?

    @17 Peter, I am not saying that there is no moral factor in pure research. I am saying that one does not know where it will lead or what the result may/will be. Researching the structure of the atom, we NOW know, lead to the atom bomb. But that was not what the researchers were after. They just plain wanted to know. Figuring out what the Big Bang was is pure research (i.e., wanting to know), but it may lead to some horrible things. Who knows? Should what “may” result be a reason to ban the research? If so, back to the caves, folks. Really, it takes some very bright folks to look at the results of pure research and say “Hey, we can make a cure for multiple sclerosis.” Or “Hey we can destroy humanity.” But that is where morality comes in. Not before.

  26. Peter Z says:

    @26 If there exists a moral question, discussing those questions is essential. Disregarding a point of view in the discussion by a quick “that’s absurd!” is counter productive. I would like to know someone’s reasoning behind a desire to prohibit certain forms of research. Just as I would like to know how and why someone wants to research a specific area before I condone it. Experimenting in genetically design bacteria or viruses is scary. Genetic experiments of other organisms may strike me as repugnant for a variety of well considered reasons.

    The potential benefit of research doesn’t automatically nullify all the moral questions surrounding such research. Nor do potential moral issues automatically nullify potential benefits. That’s why discussion is needed. Should research always be exempt from a moral standard, we end up with Mesa. Should even the slightest wif of moral ambiguity preclude research in an area, we would have the Curch of God Awaiting. Only through honest discussions will we arrive at a more optimal middle ground.


  27. John Roth says:


    You asked where Manpower is getting its funding from?

    From the Alignment, rather obviously. It’s already been established that manpower is the big, really obvious bad boy that holds everyone’s attention while the real work gets done in the background.

    What I find interesting is that in the previous scene we’ve seen that there’s not only something really peculiar with the Torch wormhole nexus, but that the military implications were fully explored 40 years ago (and is the guy who said that a reliable witness?)

    Now we’ve got a genius level astrophysicist, a genius level weapons researcher, and a mathematical prodigy who might possibly rival Gauss, etc. And the two of them are rather high up in the research establishment.

    I’m not particularly worried about this being a “cliffhanger.” In a book this size, there are going to be scenes where the snippet breakpoint leaves stuff hanging that’s going to be resolved in the next one. Drak did point out that he’s seen the next snippet, and some of the huffing simply isn’t warranted. I’m even willing to go out on a limb and guess that daddy coming home an hour early might have something to do with it.

    John Roth

    “Dear Lord, please give me patience. I need it right now!”

  28. KenJ says:

    Here’s a rather nasty thought…

    Intuitive mathematical genius: emphasis on intuitive. I can think of another character in this series who for all intents and purposes should be a mathematical genius except that when she actually tries to work out a problem she has a hard time balancing a bank account. On the other hand she has been known to plot astro-physical navigation formulae off the top of her head in times of stress and be dead on accurate.

    Additionally, she is known to have some other talents that the Alignment would love to have working for them, not against them.

    Finally, this person has been in and out of both medical facilities as well as in the custody of people who have been known to have ties to Mesa and its little cliques. All it would take is a conveniently placed mole to get a sample of her genetic map or even some tissue and get it to Alignment researchers.

    It is not implausible that this girl is actually a clone or has a lot of the genetic codes from the series’ heroine-in-chief.

  29. Summercat says:


    You evil bastard.

    That was probably the plan for the original timeline (That I wish Weber stuck to.)

  30. @25

    Actually, I had assumed that Manticore intelligence had penetrated completely the SLN banking system, and that the Alignment had concluded that the safest place in the universe for their transactions was …Manticore.

  31. Succotash says:

    We have 3 more pages of comments then there is snippet. Which probably means the web crack is doing its job. Plus from the sound of it the next snippet doesn’t solve the discussion.

  32. Virgil says:

    You guy, excuse the term ladies, have some really sneaky thoughts. The Honor Genetic clone was a real surprise out of the blue to me. BUT not infeasible. Also the question on where the money coming from was not answer by saying the Alignment. Where are they getting their money?

    Slavery can in no way support the complete infrasture of Manpower, Mesa and the Alignment. Now we are introduced to an unnknown wormhole. But its not really being used in the quantify needed to generate revenues or everybody would know about it.It either a secret backdoor into another sector of teh galaxzy Or to a real gold mine of a system.

    As for the girl, problem, I think they found that it was the nuture part of reaising the child was the problem they were having with that alpha line. The whole point of sher not being there was to allow the mental dialogue telling us about her.

  33. Mike says:

    I just realized that this whole plotline reminds me WAY too much of the Bene Gesserit. That’s why I keep getting the whole “been there, done that” vibe from it. Sure, it’s not a one-for-one match, but the whole “selective breeding program” thing has been done before. Often.

    Also reminds me of the Cetagandens, but they seemed more interesting. Maybe it was because we only really saw them through Miles’s eyes. Many of these snippets have too much of the “evil overlord cackling in his lab” flavor.

  34. robert says:

    @33 Thank you Virgil. I kept wondering if I had misworded my question or was too dumb to understand the answer. ‘Twas neither.

    As to a Clone of Honor (great title–are you there David Weber?), as Miles said to the haut Pel, “It’s prob’ly nurture, not nature, y’know.”

  35. summertime says:

    Dad came home early, unexpected. Mother and daughter are off pursuing own agendas, maybe sinister and anti-Mesa, or maybe innocent and innocuous.

  36. robert says:

    @34 Mike, I agree, and the reason that the Cetagandans seem more interesting is that (1) their behavior is not as monolithic and so totally controlled by the elite–they are kept in line (sort of) through cultural imperatives including a kind of genetic blackmail, vs. the MA, which we automatically hate because it controls by malevolence and violence, and (2) their (Cetagandans’) creator is a wonderful writer, excellent at making interesting and real characters.

  37. The above comment — he got home early, generating an excuse for internal monologue — is an absolutely brilliant analysis.

  38. I will however comment that the genetics level seen here sound rather primitive relative to what might be expected for the little girl’s parental non-unit synthetic process.

  39. obelow says:

    The first thing I thought when I started reading this snippet was “Oh god, not another additional line of characters AGAIN…” slowly I think they should add a graphic chart of characters to the books, else it will get impossible to keep all the character straight…

  40. Palmer Sperry says:

    Where is the MA / Manpower getting it’s money? Well, several ideas do spring to mind. Manpower isn’t the only intersteller operating out of Mesa, it’s just the most (in)famous. They (the MA) are obviously doing a lot of biological / genetic research, some of which they may be prepared to sell / license to the general market. If Manpower is profitable (albeit not greatly) then they could’ve ben siphoning off some of those profits and investing them widely, they might turn out to have a large covert holding in the Hauptman Cartel for instance!

  41. Nomad says:

    Dont forget that the whole “Mesa” is actually a front for Detweiler family, (aka Aligment). Daddy D had a LOT of funds when he set out to hide from Beowulf and her nasty morals. You have to wrap your minds around high finances for this; once you have a really big amounts in your nest egg, the only thing you can buy is more money. It wouldn’t suprise me to see Aligment, Manpower and Mesa (in that order of seniority) being silent partners in most of the current (1921 PD) Solarian interstellar firms and more importantly banks.

    Also on a related matter, in big companies, you only need a connection/in the know person at the highest levels to keep your partnership hidden. Add lots of misdirection and Manpower or Jessyk’s reputation, most people would be satisfied with the 3rd or 4th layer of deception: Legimate Company->Silent Partner->Paper Front Company A->Paper Front Company B->Jessyk Combine… Who would believe that an unheard of galactic scale conspirators hide under even this?

    (Think of the paper companies people put up using Swiss bank and Dubai registirations. You pay a miniscule amount to a lawyer in Switzerland and pay 200$ per year or so to Dubai government and voila you are the proud owner of a legimate company. Unless you break too many laws, (interpol grade trouble) it is nearly impossible for local 2nd and 3rd tier govenments to track your actions.. Now substitute Aligment controlled/influenced banks, and governments in this scheme and you can understand the trouble.)

    On the matter of Mesan transactions, what would happen if Daddy D. was able to put some midsized banks under his control 600 years ago? Those banks grew naturally (as they always had steady clients) so they are probably big interstellar banks now. Trusted for being straight and all.

  42. RobertHuntingdon says:

    Virgil, Palmer, et al… yeah Manpower cannot begin to account for ALL of the Alignments funds. But they aren’t zero either.

    1) Manpower has been around for 600 years. And it has been profitable — in most areas and times wildly so — for all of that time. That alone is a lot of money. I’ve already posted on the Bar why this is so… in a VERY long book, so I won’t re-post.

    2) Add in reinvestment of that income. Factories, shipyards, investments in other businesses off-planet which give large dividends, etc.

    3) Add in the other companies on the planet. Jessyk Combine, for one, and there are many others.

    4) Add in the internal economy of the planet.

    5) Finally remember that a non-trivial amount of the Alignment’s funds are going to go out one door and come right back in the other. The alignment, after all, pays salaries to its employees which then come back in local sales taxes, purchased from manufacturers outright owned by the Alignment, etc.

    At this point in time I suspect they are running into the red a bit because of the way they are scrambling to push things up so that they can take advantage of a “point in time” when they feel their chances of success are greatest. But I also suspect that over 600 years they’ve managed to amass some truly enormous reserves as well.


  43. Peter Z says:

    Manpower’s income is probably profoundly augmented through “legit” holding companies that own patents on nanite processes. Simple everyday types of processes as well as processes that make nanites more efficiently and/or make them more efficient in their function. I don’t doubt that Manpower Inc is an incredibly wealthy entity collecting small amounts from a variety of different essential processes the SL engages in just about every sector of their economy.

    Boil all of it down and I suspect that Mesa (unhindered by any moral ambiguity) controls more wealth than Beowulf and a comparable amount to Manticore. Because both Manticore and Mesa collects a small chunk from the entire SL economy and have reinvested those funds for centuries. That’s why the MA can afford to forgo the direct economic gain from using a multi termini wormhole juction. Otherwise passing up such a revenue source in this their end game would seem breathtakingly stupid.


  44. Nomad says:

    Yes and No PZ, Aligment and by their lead, Mesan corporations like dealing in the shadows. Despite its revenues, a wormhole junction would become a limiting factor for their usual activities in the short term. From what I have understood Aligment does not /did not want to unleash a wildcard (and spend time taming it) this late in their plans. They were probably planning to keep it secret for logistical and rear area needs in the Solarian war period and then use it like High Ridge did with the last Junction; Pr, revenue and all after the dust is settled. Then again wildcards do have a tendercy to go in random directions :D

  45. Peter Z says:

    @45 No argument, Nomad, on your reasoning. Yet without some serious existing revenue sources the MA would not have the ability to hold such an economic boon in reserve. Serious to mean comparable to the economic resources of their enemies; Beowulf, Manticore and Haven.


  46. Ian Darley says:

    You could be right Peter Z and I am looking forward to finding out. However, I guess I am more cynical about humanity in general than you are. I suspect this will be one of those events where people will look back on it and say how could they not have known? If the analysts who know have bosses who bury their reports or threaten them to keep them quiet it could just go on and on at sort of a low simmer.
    I remember growing up listening to my parents and their friends discussing the Holocaust during WW2 and how nobody knew anything about it but now 60 years after the war as more and more information is released we now know that the information was out there but the politicians kept it quiet and most news organizations ignored it. People who came across information about it either ignored it or dismissed it as an aberration or a mistake, or in some cases smeared and dismissed as lunatics those people who risked everything by trying to get the world to pay attention.

    Keep up the good work folks, reading your posts and ideas has been a lot of fun add a depth to these books which might otherwise be lacking.


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