PART II. 1921 Post-Diaspora.

(4023, Christian Era)

Because the Beowulfers imported a full, functional technological base, and because they were within such close proximity to Sol that scientific data could be transmitted from one planet to another in less than twenty years, they never endured any of the decivilizing experiences that other colonies did. In fact, Beowulf has remained pretty much on the cutting edge of science, especially in the life sciences, for the better part of two millennia. Following the horrific damage suffered by Old Earth after its Final War, Beowulf took the lead in reconstruction efforts on the homeworld, and Beowulfers take what is probably a pardonable pride in their achievements. Beowulf’s possession of a wormhole junction terminus — especially a terminus of the Manticoran Wormhole Junction, which is the largest and most valuable in known space — hasn’t hurt its economic position one bit. In short, when you arrive in Beowulf you will be visiting a very wealthy, very stable, very populous, and very powerful star system which, especially in light of the local autonomy enjoyed by members of the Solarian League, is essentially a single-star polity in its own right.

From Chandra Smith and Yoko Watanabe, Beowulf: The Essential Guide for Commercial Travelers. (Gonzaga & Gonzaga, Landing, 1916 PD)

February, 1921 PD

Chapter 8

Brice Miller began slowing the cab as he approached Andrew’s Curve, often called Artlett’s Folly by some of Brice’s less charitable relatives. The curve in the roller coaster track was also a rise, which tended to fool the rider into thinking the centrifugal force wouldn’t be as savage as it was if the cab went into the curve at full speed.

In the amusement park’s heyday, the cabs had been designed to handle such velocities. But that had been decades ago. Age, spotty maintenance, and the deterioration brought on by the nearby moon Hainuwele’s plasma torus had made a lot of the rides in the enormous amusement park in orbit around the giant ringed planet Ameta too risky for public use. Which, of course, just added to the downward spiral caused by the original folly of the park’s creator, Michael Parmley, who had thought up this white elephant and poured both a fortune and his extended family into it.

Brice’s great-grandfather, he had been. By the time Brice was born, the park’s founder had been dead for almost forty years. The small clan he left behind in possession of the now-ramshackle and essentially defunct amusement park was presided over — you couldn’t really use the term “ruled” to apply to such a contentious and disputatious lot as her multitude of offspring and relatives — by his widow, Elfride Margarete Butre.

She was Brice’s favorite relative, except for his two cousins James Lewis and Edmund Hartman, who were the closest to his own age. And, of course, except for his very very favorite relative, the same uncle Andrew Artlett for whom the curve or the folly — it had been both, really — were named.

Brice loved his uncle’s curve, although he always approached it very carefully since the accident. He’d been with his uncle when Andrew gave the curve its name. Coming into that section of the giant roller coaster at a truly reckless velocity, both of them whooping with glee, Andrew had managed to break the cab loose from the tracks. Not from the magnetic track, of course — it would probably have taken a shipyard tug or a small warship to do that — but from the magnetic grips themselves. The metal must have gotten fatigued over the long years.

Whatever the cause, the two grips had snapped as neatly as you could ask for. And there they were, a forty-two-year-old-going-on-twelve uncle and his eight-year-old-and-aging-rapidly nephew, in a cab not more than ten meters in any dimension, tumbling through space. The proverbially “empty” space, except this portion of the universe contained a lot of ionized particles vented from Hainuwele and swept into Ameta’s magnetosphere, along with gases from Yamato’s Nebula. They had no source of propulsion usable on anything except maglev tracks, and with only the meager life support systems you’d expect for an amusement park roller coaster cab which had never been designed to be occupied for longer than a few minutes at a time.

Still, they managed to eke out the air and power long enough to be rescued by the clan’s grande dame, who came after them with the somehow-still-functional yacht that had been one of the many follies left behind by her husband. Fortunately, Elfride Margarete Butre had been a renowned pilot in her heyday, and while that heyday was many decades behind her, the old lady still had the knack of flying by the proverbial seat of her pants. That was about the only way she could have managed to pull off the rescue before the cab’s shielding was overwhelmed by the harsh and lethal radiation in Ameta’s magnetosphere, given that the yacht’s instrument systems were in the same parlous state of repair as just about everything owned by the clan of a material nature.

On the negative side, the same Elfride Margarete Butre had an acid tongue that suffered no fools gladly and suffered downright screwballs not at all. As it happened, the comm systems on both the yacht and the now-adrift roller coaster cab had been among the few pieces of equipment still functioning almost perfectly. Nor, alas, could the comm system in the cab be turned off by the inhabitants. It had been designed, after all, to pass on instructions to idiot tourists. So, the entire rescue was accompanied, from start to finish and with not more than four seconds of continuous silence, with what had gone down into the clan’s extensive legendry as Ganny’s Second-Best Skinning.

(The Very Best Skinning had been the one she bestowed upon her deceased husband, when she first learned that he’d died of a heart attack in the middle of attempting to recoup his lost fortunes in a game of chance — right at the point where he’d triumphed but before his opponents had turned over the purse. Leaving aside the expletives, the gist of it had been: “Seventy years living on the edge, you put me through! And you couldn’t hold on for seven more seconds?”)

Fortunately for Brice, his age had sheltered him from most of the ferocious diatribe. Still, even the penumbra of the vitriol poured upon Uncle Andrew by Ganny El had scarred him for life.

So he liked to think, anyway. The incident was several years in the past, and Brice was now fourteen years old. That is to say, the age when all bright and right-thinking lads come to realize that theirs is a solemn fate. Doomed, perhaps by destiny, perhaps by chance, but certainly by their exquisite sensitivity, to the tormented life of the outcast. Condemned to awkward silences and inept speech; consigned to the outer darkness of misunderstanding; sentenced to a life of loneliness.

And celibacy, of course, he’d told himself until three days earlier — whereupon his uncle Andrew piled misery onto melancholy by explaining to him the fine distinction between celibacy and chastity.

“Oh, cut it out, Brice. You’re just in a funk because –”

He held up a meaty thumb. “Cousin Jennifer won’t give you the time of day, and for reasons known only to boys who have been turned into hollow mindless shells by hormones — yes, I knew the reasons myself way back then, but I’ve long since forgotten since I stopped being a teenage cretin — your ‘affections,’ as they are politely called, have naturally settled on the girl in your vicinity who is probably the best-looking and certainly the most self-absorbed.”

“That’s not –”

“Point two.” The forefinger came up to join the thumb. “You have therefore persuaded yourself that you are bound for a life of solitary splendor. If you can’t have Jennifer Foley, you’ll have no lass for a bride. Not that you’ve got any business daydreaming about brides, when you’ve got Tempestuous Taub riled at you for your dismal performance in trigonometry.”

Brice scowled. His much older cousin Andrew Taub was the very least favorite of his cousins, at the moment. It was preposterous to expect a fourteen year old boy gripped by life’s great despairs to attend to the tedious — no, leaden — dullness of sines and cosines and such. Even a teacher as anal-retentive as Andy Taub ought to realize that much.

“That’s not –”

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24 Responses to TORCH OF FREEDOM — Snippet 16

  1. obelow says:

    A full new set of characters AGAIN? How many characters do they intend to introduce in this book? At this rate a great percentage of the whole population of the known universe it seems! I really want a section in this book dedicated only to the cast of characters, with graphics, connection and all the works… shown alphabetical, by group, by assosiation and all else… because without such a thing it will be impossible to keep all the characters straight!
    Inroducing a few new characters per book is ok, but the amount of new characters rapidly approaches the level of ridiculous!

  2. robert says:

    Why comment? Chapter 8 is a transitional one and we’ve all read Chapters 9 and 11, so we know what’s coming. Hopefully Chapter 10, where the slavers get killed.

  3. robert says:

    @1 As I said, we’ve already met these characters in Chapters 9 and 11, here, at Buckley’s site and on the Bar. And what do you think the book’s cover represents? Parmley’s Folly of course.

  4. robert says:

    @1 And we do have to meet up with the Beowulfers next because the book’s blurb says:

    ‘As the slavemasters of Mesa plot against the Star Empire of Manticore and the newly liberated slave planet of Torch, Anton Zilwicki and the notorious Havenite secret agent Victor Cachat set off on a dangerous mission to uncover the truth concerning a wave of mysterious assassinations that have been launched against Manticore and Torch. Most people are sure that the Republic of Haven is behind the assassinations, but Zilwicki and Cachat suspect others of being the guilty party.

    Queen Berry of Torch was one of the targets of the unknown assassins. The former head of the Ballroom slave liberation organization, Jeremy X—now one of Torch’s top officials, but still considered by many the most dangerous terrorist in the galaxy—calls in some past favors owed to him. In response, a security officer from Beowulf arrives in Torch to take charge of Queen Berry’s security—a task made doubly difficult by the young monarch’s resentment of bodyguards and the security officer’s own growing attachment to her.

    Meanwhile, powerful forces in the Solarian League are maneuvering against each other to gain the upper hand in what they all expect to be an explosive crisis that threatens the very existence of the League itself.”

  5. someguy says:

    Does anyone here suspect Torch’s wormhole junction terminus is possibly linked to Beowulf’s?

  6. laclongquan says:

    If I remember correctly, the battle of Manticore kill quite a few important characters. Perhaps the authors are preparing a new set to replace them?

  7. John Roth says:

    @2 It’s possible that obelow doesn’t know about jiltanith. For the record, the URL is:

    That’s where the snippets are nicely cataloged, including material that got put on the Bar out of order.

    John Roth

  8. obelow says:

    @7 indeed I did not know that site! thanks for giving me the heads-up!

  9. Mike says:

    This must be Flint writing.

  10. Mike says:

    And BTW, some of us read these things in order. Even though I know the fifthimperium and bar exist, I don’t go there (generally speaking).

    IMO, comments here on this site should reflect what has been published here on this site. Saying “we’ve all read Chapts 9 and 11” is more annoying than helpful.

  11. John Roth says:

    @5 Highly unlikely.

    It’s been said that wormholes between wormhole nexuses don’t exist, so the Beowulf wormhole is a single. It also doesn’t go to the Manticore nexus, for the same reason.

    Of course, since it’s already been mentioned that this wormhole is weird in some way, the rule against there being a direct connection between two nexuses might not hold.

    I don’t, however, think that’s the case. I think the weirdness has to do with the physics, not with what it connects to.

  12. Maxim says:

    I think you are probably write John, regarding that the weirdness has somethink to do with the physics of wormhole itself.

    But, the implications of this weirdness have to have economical, strategic or military potential( a very big one)The possibilities which which come to my mind would either be a way to shorten travel time or a rich target world(space sektor). Perhaps a way to control or influence the other wormholes in some way.

    Besides this to my mind comes only time travel, and I do not think that David Weber and Eric Flint will bring this concept in this Universe(I could be wrong, but I do not think, I am)

  13. Maxim says:

    sorry I meant right.

    My english is not perfect yet(by far not)

  14. John Roth says:

    @12 Maxim.

    I think it’s more that the physics suggested some things to the Mesan weapons designers, and that’s where the ultra-fast space drive and the “spider” drive came from. The idea is that the entire reason they’re on Verdant Vista in the first place is to keep other people away from that specific wormhole nexus, not that it goes to anywhere interesting. Sort of a ‘dog in the manger’ strategy.

    It still doesn’t explain why Manpower’s headquarters was resisting process improvements that would save lives and money – unless they would have required bringing in outsiders, which would raise the question of why the wormhole nexus wasn’t being exploited.

  15. robert says:

    @10 Mike, I want to remind you that Chapter 9 was posted right here on July 13th, so we are allowed to comment, right?

  16. KenJ says:

    Only thing I saw on the 13th was Snip #6

  17. Mike says:

    Allowed? Anyone is allowed to post anything, unless the site owners have rules against it. I’m just stating my preference that what is discussed here should primarily be based on what is posted here (and what has been previously published in book form, of course).

  18. robert says:

    @16 I was wrong about the 13th. Sorry, sorry. The snippet(s) in which the “amusement park” and its inhabitants and the Beowulf Commandos appear was posted with one of the snippets from Chapter 1 around July 1st, based on the comments at snippet 1. And try as I might, I fail to see the difference between what is in a prior book and what is posted on thefifthimperium and the Bar or on the Free Library (or wikipedia, or…) if they have relevance.
    Drak, I sure hope Snippet 17 is not Chapter 9 again.

  19. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Robert, since some may not have seen the Chapter 9 that Eric posted on the Bar earlier, these snippets will include what he had already posted.

    Mind you, there may be some differences from what he posted earlier. For that matter, what Eric and David hand in will be different than what I’m posting. They are still working on this.

  20. robert says:

    @19 ‘Kay

  21. John Roth says:


    As far as I’m concerned, there’s a significant difference between what’s in a prior book, and an advanced snippet that hasn’t appeared in sequence here yet.

    Prior books are available at your local bookstore, library and, in some cases, at the Baen Free Library or on the CDs included with some of the books. I see no reason whatever why we shouldn’t bring them up.

    In the same sense, a lot of the background material at jiltanith (see the bottom of that page for the links) is stuff that could well be relevant to the discussion, and I see no harm in bringing it in.

    Stuff from later in this book, like the amusement park snippets, are a different matter, at least in my eyes. I don’t see much harm in bring it up since it’s available, but a lot of people like to take things in order, so I’ll defer to them.

  22. robert says:

    Gosh, I was only using available information to make the point that we have already seen these characters and will soon see more. Since I am usually walking around in the dark, I just assumed that if I knew something so would everybody, since I am usually the last one without a clue. Never occurred to me that there were others like me…sorry.

  23. Maxim says:

    @14 John

    “The idea is that the entire reason they’re on Verdant Vista in the first place is to keep other people away from that specific wormhole nexus”

    I agree with that thought John, but why do they want to keep others from this nexus?

    Perhaps that Nexus is that unusual, that its physics would further the development of weapons and drive technology you mentioned?

    I think that either the wormhole itself or the places it connects will open up a whole new branch of the STORY.

    Which of both it will be in the end I won’t even attempt to guess.

  24. Bewildered says:

    Just started catching up on the last few snippets and noticed something – Is there a spelling error in “… Ganny’s Second-Best Skinning”? I think the R is missing! Granny El makes sense, Ganny El not at all. Am I overlooking something? It is repeated in “… Ganny El had scarred him for life” so may be intentional but again leaves me slightly confused. Correct spelling or an explanation pleeeeese! :)

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