“Dr. Richard Wix, Your Majesty,” he continued. “Who rejoices, for some reason I’ve never quite understood, in the nickname of the ‘Tons of Joy Bear.'” He grimaced. “We usually shorten it to ‘TJ,’ but I understand you have a very efficient intelligence operation here on Torch. If you can pry the origin of his nom de party out of him, I’d be delighted to know what it is.”

“I’m sure if anyone can figure it out, it’ll be Daddy,” the queen said cheerfully, offering her own hand to Wix.

“Forewarned is forearmed, Your Majesty,” Wix said. “Besides, it’s not really all that much of a secret. If Richard here ever stuck his nose out of the lab, he’d probably have figured it out for himself by now.” He gave the youthful monarch a conspiratorial look. “He doesn’t get out much, you know,” he added in a stage whisper.

“And this,” Kare continued in the tone of a man rising above the slings and arrows of smaller-minded individuals, “is Captain Zachary, Harvest Joy’s skipper. She’s the practical-minded sort who’s going to keep us all straight while we get to work.”

“I think you and Web are both going to have your work cut out for you, Captain,” the queen commiserated as she extended her hand in turn to the dark-haired, dark-eyed Zachary.

“It’s not like it’s something I haven’t done before, Your Majesty,” Zachary replied with a slight smile, and Berry chuckled.

“Well!” she said as she released Zachary’s hand and gestured at the comfortable chairs around the conference table in what had once been the office of the Mesan governor of what had once been Verdant Vista. “Now that we’ve got the introductions out of the way, why don’t we all find seats?”

It was not, Kare thought, the sort of preplanned, carefully choreographed protocol one might have expected out of most people who ruled an entire star system. On the other hand, Queen Berry’s realm wasn’t quite like most other star nations, either. It was barely fifteen T-months old (counting from Berry’s coronation), for one thing, and it had been born in carnage, bloodshed, and all too often bloodcurdling vengeance, for another. The fact that the liberation of the planet now known as Torch hadn’t simply degenerated into a bloodsoaked chaos of massacre, torture, and atrocity was mostly due to the teenaged girl settling into her own chair at the table, and Kare found himself wondering, again, how such a cheerful-looking slip of a girl had done it. There was no question, according to Admiral Givens’ people at the Office of Naval Intelligence or their civilian counterparts that it had, indeed, been Berry who’d somehow convinced the liberated slaves to forgo the full, bitter dregs of the vengeance to which generations of savage repression and mistreatment had, by any fair measure, entitled them.

On the other hand, the fact remained that she’d had to do that convincing to bring the bloodshed to an end, and it was the atrocities which had already been committed, however merited they might have been, before she managed to intervene which explained why Kare and his mission were only just now arriving in Torch.

They all settled into their chairs around the circular table. Palane sat between Kare and Wix, and Du Havel sat between Wix and Captain Zachary, with Jeremy X. between Kare and Queen Berry, going the other way. There’d been no formal seating chart, but Kare found himself rather doubting that that neat spacing had occurred totally by chance.

“First,” Berry said, without even glancing at Du Havel or Jeremy, “I’d like to start by saying that we’re all very grateful to Mr. Hauptman for assisting us this way. And to Prime Minister Grantville and Queen Elizabeth, of course.”

Well, she’s got her priorities right, Kare thought wryly. He and Wix were officially here as privately paid consultants, on leave from the Royal Manticoran Astrophysics Investigation Agency. If it had been solely up to Klaus Hauptman, the financial backer of this expedition, the two of them would have been in Torch before the smoke had cleared, too. Unfortunately, and despite the Star Kingdom’s official recognition of the Kingdom of Torch, the “taint” of the Ballroom had forced the Star Kingdom to move rather more slowly, even after that idiot High Ridge’s ignominious departure from the premiership, than Kare was confident Elizabeth Winton or her new prime minister would have preferred. The Star Kingdom of Manticore understood more about the genetic slave trade and Manpower, Incorporated, than most star nations did, but even Manticore had been shocked by some of the HD footage which had come out of Torch. It wasn’t just foreign public opinion Elizabeth had been forced to worry about, either.

There were more than a few Manticorans, even among those bitterly opposed to genetic slavery, who nursed serious reservations where the Ballroom was concerned. In fact, if Kare were going to be completely honest, he had a few reservations of his own. Not because he didn’t understand exactly what had produced the Ballroom’s ferocity, but because he was enough of a historian to recognize where that sort of ferocity could lead if something didn’t happen to . . . ameliorate it. And despite everything the Star Kingdom had already seen out of Manpower, there’d been sufficient public revulsion at how some of Manpower’s executives on Torch (and their families, in some cases) had died — and how gleefully they’d been tortured to death — before Berry Zilwicki’s adamant intervention ended the atrocities (or counter–atrocities, perhaps) to make the outlaw transtellar’s propaganda about the barbarism of the ex-slaves at least temporarily convincing to enough men in the street to put the brakes on any official cooperation between Manticore and Torch. Of course, that never-to-be-sufficiently-damned, overbred, under-brained, cretinous excuse for a politician High Ridge hadn’t needed a lot of convincing, given his own attitudes.

Even now, though, the Grantville Government hadn’t officially signed off on the survey effort. For the record, it was a privately funded project, backed by the Hauptman Cartel, which was picking up the complete tab for it. As a matter of fact, Kare and Wix were both receiving comfortable — very comfortable — stipends from Hauptman, and although Harvest Joy was a Navy vessel, the Star Kingdom had “leased” her to Hauptman for the effort and Captain Zachary was officially on half-pay at the moment. Given what Hauptman was paying her, she was actually making close to twice what her salary as an active-duty Queen’s officer would have been, although that had very little to do with her presence in Torch. As the officer who’d commanded the survey voyage that led to the successful exploration and charting of the Lynx Terminus of the Manticoran Wormhole Junction, she brought a unique level of experience with her. Besides, Kare had worked with her on that effort. When it had been made clear to him that the “private venture” in Torch was actually about as private as Mount Royal Palace, he’d known exactly who he wanted as his survey ship commander.

“We’re delighted to be here, Your Majesty,” he said now. “It’s not all that often anyone gets to survey a wormhole. The number of people who’ve gotten to survey two of them — and do it in less than three T-years, at that — could probably be counted on one hand.” He grinned. “Trust me, it’s not going to look bad on our résumés!”

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19 Responses to TORCH OF FREEDOM — Snippet 28

  1. Maxim says:

    I’m glad Mr. Hauptmann made his peace with Honor.

  2. dac says:

    As the officer who’d commanded the survey voyage that led to the successful exploration and charting of the Lynx Terminus of the Manticoran Wormhole Junction, she brought a unique level of experience with her.

    Click, another piece of the puzzle falls into place

  3. JN says:

    My question is, does the Queen smells a rat, or whather this is just an attempt to find more blind termini? Obviously Hauptmann is in it for the money. But, supposedly, the military uses had already been fully explored, so why the Crown has an interest is not obvious.


  4. D says:

    @3 The alignment knows about the junction, Torch does not, that’s why they are there. It could also be a very nice little money spinner for the new kingdom depending on what they find.

  5. Thirdbase says:

    @3 It’s also a bit of noblesse oblige (or however it’s spelled). The Queen, Haven, Erewhon, and others want Torch to become strong and self-sufficient, the quickest way to do that is to start up trade routes. They also don’t want Mesa/Manpower/whatever they are being called this week, to recapture Torch. Also remember that in Sword we found out that Rear Admiral Rozsak defeated an attack by ex-Peep ships on Torch. Also if it goes someplace very useful, it will increase shipping through the Star Empire.

    The biggest problem is if the Harvest Joy drops in on a Mesan task force.

    Of course it is doubtful that Captain Zachary will have to stomp all over a politician this time.

  6. robert says:

    @3 JN: Do not forget that behind this and as yet unknown, is the fact that the new and so far secret Mesan propulsion tech was discovered as a result of what the junction holds and that is why Mesa is trying to recapture Torch. Remember, we are, in the Honorverse timeline, before the Manticore-haven truce was ended. The assholes are still in power on Manticore so the Queen has to go around end to do this. The Hauptmann cartel is being used as a frontman for the Elizabeth, whose niece is Torch’s intel chief.

  7. Thirdbase says:

    @#6 robert, “It was barely fifteen T-months old (counting from Berry’s coronation),” this is well after the switch in Governments on Manticore. Haven restarted the war about one month after Berry’s coronation.

  8. John Roth says:

    @6 Robert.

    Granted, Hauptman wouldn’t be doing that if the Crown was against it, but I doubt very much if the Crown did more than plant a suggestion in his ear – if that. For a major shipping cartel to want to open a new wormhole that’s only a few hours from the Erewhon wormhole nexus is a real no-brainer. Remember that the Erewhon nexus connects to Manticore with only one jump – through Phoenix. (The other wormhole from the Erewhon nexus goes to Sagebo, wherever that is.)

    @5 Thirdbase

    Which story? The Service of the Sword is an anthology, and as far as I can tell, all six stories are too early to qualify for a battle around Torch. I don’t remember another Honorverse story with Sword in its name.

  9. Bryan says:

    @6 Robert
    High Ridge and Co. aren’t still in power. This very snippet says so in the 4th to last paragraph and it refrences the -Grantville- government in the 2nd to last paragraph. Elizabeth and Grantville are walking carefully because of public opinion.

    @7 John
    I agree with you about Hauptman’s incentives to open new wormhole juntions. I forget where it was, but I remember a conversation in one of the earlier books that talked about the biggest advantage of the Mantie Merchant Marine as its access to the Wormhole ‘Network’. I took that to mean their access to not just The Junction, but also their access to the associated areas such as Pheonix and Erehon (not to mention other unnamed points). Anything that Manticore can do to grow this network will benifit them. Making sure that the polities that control the junctions are indebted to them is just good buisness sense for the Cartels.

    The conversation that Thirdbase is talking about is not in “Sword” it’s in “Storm From the Shadows”. The conversation was torward the very end and refrenced a close victory by Rozak over a SecState fleet. The scene was with Elizabeth sitting in council. It might not have made it into the Oopsie.

  10. John Roth says:

    @9 Brian.

    There are a couple of infodumps about the economic and other advantages of the Manticore Wormhole Junction. Go to, go to the bottom of the page and click on infodumps. Select Honor Harrington and enter ‘wormholes’ in the query box. You want “the spillover effect” and “more on the sources of Manticoran Wealth.” Neither of these contain any spoilers.

    HOWEVER – the second entry in the query results – on Harvest Joy – IS A SPOILER. Don’t go there if you want to wait for that story arc to come in its own good time.

    Also – now that you mention it, I vaguely remember something about a battle at Torch in SotS.

  11. Thirdbase says:

    @#8 Sorry, I meant Storm from the Shadows, chapter 44. Too many books with too many similar names.

  12. Maxim says:

    I wonder if perhaps there will be a connection to the Talbot cluster through the wormhole.

  13. John Roth says:

    @12 Maxim

    Nothing that’s been revealed so far indicates that there’s a second wormhole in the Talbot cluster. That doesn’t mean there isn’t, just that it hasn’t been mentioned.

    A wormhole to somewhere else in the Talbot cluster would definitely be interesting. Right now there’s a route Torch — Erewhon === Phoenix — Phoenix === Manticore === Lynx. (The === indicate a wormhole, the — indicate a short (several hours, perhaps several days) journey through hyper.) Given the distances in the Talbot cluster from Lynx, a second wormhole could open up a lot of additional traffic.

  14. robert says:

    Sorry all. Brain cramps occur more often these days.

    @12,13 Or…the wormhole could go someplace even more interesting. Human-occupied space is only a very small area of the galaxy, as David Weber has written. Even with the vast distances that are instantly covered via wormhole transits, that small part of the galaxy is fairly well known. I would like it better if Dr. Kare found, in the words of Monty Python, something completely different. Besides, a Talbot terminus would just make a kind of circle:
    Torch — Erewhon === Phoenix — Phoenix === Manticore === Lynx – (somewhere in vicinity of) Lynx===Torch – Erewhon === Phoenix — Phoenix === Manticore===etc.
    Or am I missing something…again.

  15. RobertHuntingdon says:

    Well, hmm, these questions are hard to answer without snerking. Let’s see what I can say…

    I would think it is safe to say that you should keep in mind that no matter how well known humanity’s corner of the galaxy may appear to be at a high level, at the detail level it actually is not. Think back to the way we’ve had mentions of “finding” neobarb societies in previous books that are leftovers of previous colonization efforts that didn’t work out so well. Also think back to what the BSC thought about the Parmley Station on approach and what they mentioned about where you can find slavers. Also think back on how much surveying the RMN had to do in Talbott when they first showed up. That didn’t happen just because they were bored… even the locals didn’t always have good charts. Do you think the SL does if the people actually living there did not? I don’t think so. Then look at just how big the Talbott cluster is in physical size vs. just how few systems are actually inhabited. Do you really think the rest of all that space is just empty? I don’t know for sure, but I highly doubt it. I’d bet there are quite a few “dead end” stars out there that we haven’t heard about because they are truly worthless from an economic viewpoint because they are uninhabited and there are closer sources of resources. (Or perhaps they merely haven’t been worth mentioning yet.) Add it all up and you can say with confidence that inhabited systems are sometimes quite well known, but not even then are they always well known to everybody. And if the system is not inhabited (or even simply not known to be inhabited) then the galaxy at large knows jack squat about it, with a relative few sometimes knowing a little bit more and nobody truly knowing “everything”.

    So as a very mild hint, let me say that this wormhole is in fact both “something completely different”… and in some ways completely boring. And the rest you’ll just have to wait to find out about.


  16. John Roth says:

    @14 Robert.

    Since the authors have been dropping hints the size of a giant’s anvil that there’s something different about it, I’ll just echo RobertHuntingdon’s comment – it’s weird enough that the Mesan astrophysicists are still scratching their heads about some aspects of it. Otherwise, it’s completely boring. It doesn’t connect to an alien race, another universe or anything like that.

    Just to throw out a few numbers, if we assume that the diameter of sorta-maybe explored space is a thousand lightyears, then the volume is somewhere around 600 million cubic lightyears. If we assume one real star (not a brown dwarf, free planet, white dwarf, black hole, etc) per cubic light year, you can see how likely it is that anyone has visited enough of them to even lightly scratch the surface.

    However, everything within the Solarian League’s volume, as well as most of the stars in the Verge, are undoubtedly neatly cataloged and numbered with their identifying characteristics (spectrum, etc.) Ain’t computers wonderful?

  17. robert says:

    @15 and 16 Oh, foo. Nuts! How disappointing! But wait…you said completely different, right. Hmm.

  18. Maxim says:

    @15 RobertHuntington, I can’t imagine something realy boring which is at the same time that important as this wormhole got to be(given the investment the alignment makes to keep the secret) I can’t expect to see what you mean. (But do not tell, I do not want to spoil my reading of the snippets)

    Something realy different.. Hm.. What could it be? Timetravel? I think not, first it would be something which I think doesn’t fit in the story, and second this would not be boring. Connection to the Alienspace? This would surely not be be boring. My imagination fails me at this point.

  19. Maxim says:

    @16 John Roth, I would go that far to call the computers wonderful. They are certainly useful, but they are also extremly annoying and nerveconsuming very often.

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