“No, I don’t guess it is,” she agreed with a smile of her own. Then she glanced at Du Havel and Jeremy before looking back at Kare.

“Obviously, we’d like to get started as quickly as possible,” she said. “For one thing, we’re not at all sure how much Mesa really does or doesn’t know about the wormhole.”

“You didn’t find anything at all in their databases, Your Majesty?” Zachary asked.

“Nothing,” Jeremy responded for Berry. Zachary looked at him, and he shrugged. “I’m afraid Captain Zilwicki isn’t on-planet at the moment, but if you’d like to discuss our data search with Ruth Winton we’ll be happy to make her available to you. For that matter, if you — or Dr. Kare or Dr. Wix — could provide any clues or hints that might help us spot something we’ve missed, we’d be delighted to hear about them.”

He held Zachary’s eye for a moment, waiting until she gave him an ever so slight nod, then continued.

“I don’t know how familiar you are with Manpower’s procedures, Captain,” he continued, and his voice had assumed a slightly distant tone, almost a professional chill. “Especially since the Ballroom started successfully attacking their depots whenever we — I mean, whenever it — could, Manpower’s gotten even more security conscious. By now, their practice is to restrict the data available to any of their operations to what they figure that particular operation is going to need — a strict ‘need-to-know’ orientation, you might say. And in the last couple of T-years, they’ve improved their arrangements for wiping data, as well.”

He shrugged.

“Although the initial claim to ‘Verdant Vista’ was backed by the Mesa System’s government, everyone knew it was actually a Manpower and Jessyk operation. Of course, everyone also knows that the Mesan ‘government’ is actually pretty much owned outright by the Mesa-based transstellars, so the Mesan Navy’s involvement probably shouldn’t have come as quite as much of a surprise as it did for some people.

“At any rate, the management here in-system handled their data storage in accordance with Manpower’s established policies. I’m sure they never in their worst nightmares expected what Captain Oversteegen and Captain Roszak — excuse me, Commodore Oversteegen and Rear Admiral Rozsak — helped us do here, but we found several largish chunks of their computer banks slagged down when we finally got possession of them. So we don’t really have any idea how much effort they put into studying the wormhole here.”

“Jeremy’s right about that,” Du Havel put in. “What we can tell you, though, is that we haven’t found anything outside the computers to suggest there was any ongoing survey effort. And none of the Mesan survivors who decided to stay on here ever heard anything about that kind of effort. In fact, several of them have told us they’d been specifically told by their superiors that it hadn’t been surveyed yet.” It was his turn to shrug. “Of course, none of them were hyper-physicists. Almost all of them were involved in pharmaceutical research, so it wouldn’t have been their area of expertise, anyway.”

“As far as we can tell, though, Captain,” Thandi Palane said, “everything they’ve told us is the truth. We’ve got a few treecats of our own here on Torch these days, and they confirm that.”

Zachary nodded, and so did Kare. That tracked with what his own briefings on Manticore had suggested. And he was relieved to hear the tone in which Du Havel and Palane had talked about the Mesan survivors in question. The fact that an entire research colony of Mesans — of scientists who weren’t Manpower or Mesa Pharmaceuticals employees and who’d actually treated the genetic slaves assigned to their efforts like human beings — had been not only spared but actively protected by those slaves during the chaotic bloodlust of the system’s liberation had been a not insignificant factor in the ability of Torch’s friends in the Star Kingdom to get this effort cleared. And he found the fact that the Queen of Torch and her senior advisors clearly thought of those scientists as fellow citizens, not dangerously suspect potential enemies, personally reassuring.

“That’s interesting,” he said out loud. “Especially given the persistent rumors before the liberation that Torch was ‘at least’ a three-nexii junction. What you’ve just told us certainly agrees with everything official we’ve been able to find, but I can’t find myself wondering where that specific number — three, I mean — came from in the first place.”

“We’ve wondered the same thing,” Du Havel replied. “So far, we haven’t found anything to suggest a reason for it, though.” He shrugged. “Given the fact that it really hasn’t made any difference one way or the other as far as our decision-making priorities go, though, it’s been mostly a matter of idle curiosity for us. We’ve been too busy clubbing alligators to worry about what color the swamp’s flowers are.”

He grinned wryly, and Kare chuckled at the aptness of the metaphor, especially given how well it suited Torch’s biosphere.

The F6 star now officially known as Torch was unusually youthful, to say the least, to possess life-bearing planets at all. It was also unusually hot. Torch, almost exactly twice as far from Torch as Old Earth lay from Sol, could be accurately described as “uncomfortably warm” by most people. “Hotter than Hell,” while less euphemistic, would probably have been more accurate. Not only was Torch younger, larger, and hotter than Sol, but Torch’s atmosphere contained more greenhouse gases, producing a significantly warmer planetary surface temperature. The fact that Torch’s seas and oceans covered only about seventy percent of its surface and that its axial inclination was very low (less than a full degree) also helped to account for its rain forest/swamp/mudhole-from-Hell surface geography.

The star system’s original survey team had obviously possessed a somewhat perverse sense of humor, given the names it had bestowed upon Torch’s system bodies. Torch’s original name — Elysium — was a case in point, since Kare could think of very few planetary environments less like the ancient Greeks’ concept of the Elysian Fields. He didn’t know why Manpower had renamed it “Verdant Vista,” although it had probably had something to do with avoiding the PR downsides of turning a planet named “Elysium” into a hot, humid, thoroughly wretched purgatory for the hapless slaves it intended to dump there. Personally, Kare was of the opinion that “Green Hell” would have been a far more accurate name.

And it would have suited the local wildlife so well, too, he thought with a mental chuckle. The chuckle faded quickly, however, when he reflected upon how many of Manpower’s slaves had fallen prey to “Verdant Vista’s” many and manifold varieties of predator.

Another little point the bastards might have wanted to bear in mind, he reflected rather more grimly. People who survive this kind of planetary environment aren’t likely to be shrinking violets. Given where their settlement pool is coming from in the first place, the locally produced generations are probably going to be an even uglier nightmare for those bastards. Pity about that.

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14 Responses to TORCH OF FREEDOM — Snippet 29

  1. Echo says:

    Hmm. I wonder if, in the long term, Torch will have the same effects on its residents as the Ndebele hellworlds did on theirs. The genetic makeup of some of those residents (Manpower used some Ndebele genes) might even amplify that.

    Makes you wonder . . .

  2. Thirdbase says:

    No, because Torch will continue welcome new immigrants from anywhere. So the gene pool will keep getting bigger.

  3. John Roth says:

    @2 Thirdbase

    I disagree. You’re making the assumption that immigrants will be a randomly selected representation of the entire species. I suspect that, once the current genetic slavery thing is settled, immigrants will be self-selected to be people who are likely to do well in the environment.

  4. John Roth says:

    @3 Now I’m talking to myself. Bummer!

    I’d also like to point out that, now that you’ve brought it up, I’ve got some doubts about the Mfecane worlds. Basic evolutionary theory says that selection operates on the _existing_ pool of variation, it does not conjure variation up where it does not exist in the first place.

    The amount of variation depends both on the population size and the length of time it’s had to accumulate variation. A settlement event followed by a major die-off is a bottleneck that _reduces_ variation. The number of random mutation events per time period is going to be proportional to the size of the population. Once a beneficial mutation gets past the first hurdle, it can move through the population with startling rapidity, but that still doesn’t mean that it’s _rapid_ from our perspective. Consider that lactose tolerance, which is certainly beneficial to any population that drinks milk as adults on a regular basis, still has not reached complete penetration in the European population – and that started several millenia ago (it is above 90% though). The Honorverse doesn’t have that depth of history.

  5. robert says:

    @4 John, I have heard or read, probably some time ago, that lactose tolerance is more likely to occur in populations and regions where daily raising is prevalent. Also, it seems that I am noticing more and more people with lactose intolerance (like me) and seeing an awful lot of Lactaid in the dairy coolers of many markets.
    But the issue of the Mfecane variation is whether it was present in the some/any of original population and how prevalent it was. And how isolated they were.
    Have a great 3-day weekend all.

  6. robert says:

    Oh, funny. DAIRY raising.

  7. Thirdbase says:

    @ #3 Except that they are also going to be attracting a large number of Genetic Slaves, and there is a large variation among types, combat, heavy work, entertainment, (Consider Hugh, WEB and Jeremy), plus they will be getting ex-Scrags, people from the Mfecane worlds, and I imagine that once they have a stable economy they will be offering incentives for people to immigrate, unfortunately the same sort of people that Manticore needs to immigrate to Talbott.

    Plus unlike the Mfecane worlds, Torch is not going to be isolated.

  8. Maxim says:

    @7 I do not agree with you Thirdbase, that the Manticore needs people to immigrate to Talbott.

    In Talbott the population base is already large enouph

  9. KenJ says:

    @7&8 What is needed in Talbot rather than immigrants is EDUCATORS. People to teach the locals “modern” (read Manticoran) science and engineering and help them apply it to their local worlds and economies. It probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to get a few treecat colonies out there to…

  10. Thirdbase says:

    @ #8&#9 What Talbott needs is EDUCATORS & Physicians & Engineers all trained with the top Manticoran or Sollie methods and knowledge, which is exactly what Torch also needs. In the case of Talbott it would be a temporary immigration, a few decades at most, Torch would need a longer immigration, because the infrastructure isn’t in place. Even Dresden has schools and hospitals, they just need to modernized. Torch though, probably has time for teachers and schools to be created, the population on the planet is probably very skewed toward adults.

  11. robert says:

    @10 There is rarely a “temporary immigration.” What happens is that the people who go off to do the job find themselves making a home, making friends, falling in love, etc., in the new place, especially if they are young, and it ends up being a life. I cannot say that in the 1920’s PD that personal mobility is like it was since the 1940’s AD in the USA, but I am certain that is what will happen.

  12. John Roth says:

    I suspect that Torch had (and note the past tense) a fairly modern educational infrastructure, oriented toward Mesans. There were children among the survivors of the revenge killings after Torch was liberated, after all.

    There was probably also a decent medical infrastructure, oriented toward emergency medicine rather than the full spectrum of services.

    At the same time, most of the people on Torch know about, even if they’ve not been the beneficiary of, modern methods. The same is not true of Talbot: on a lot of the Talbot Cluster planets what the average person knows about modern methods probably resembles what a hunter-gatherer knows about photography. Or what a 19th century engineer would know when faced with a modern micro-processor driven control system. I’d suspect that the biggest problem there would be a result of Clarke’s Law: any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

    What Torch needs is money. It can hire the specialists, and it either knows what it needs, or it has ready access to people who know. MWW hasn’t specified Torch’s economic parameters, but if the population exceeds a couple of million, I’d be very surprised.

  13. Thirdbase says:

    @ #12 Torch may have some modern facilities, but the number and size would be tiny. It’s hard to say how big the population of Torch was before it became Torch, but the entire surviving Mesan population is being transported away by 1 freighter, 18 destroyers, and a light cruiser. They would not have had a very big modern educational infrastructure. Their medical facilities were probably also small, although there was probably a single facility for Prolong, assuming the slaves weren’t treated. Fortunately education wise, they have years to build up the infrastructure they will need for children. They do need the teachers to teach future teachers though.

    Talbot is not as bad off as you think. Even on Dresden they know about the better technology, some of their citizens have even been treated with Prolong. What they need is for Manticore to send the modern equipment and people that know how to use it, and more importantly the people that know how to teach others how to use it. They have schools, they just need the computers and internet (equivalent). They have hospitals, they just need MRIs, etc. Talbot is closer to Grayson before Manticore arrived. Look at how fast Grayson’s construction exploded compared to the medical, the difference between Honor’s funding and Hauptmann’s with Manticoran and Grayson tax credits.

  14. i also have lactose intolerance that is why i always avoid dairy products.-;.

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