Anyone who knew anything about Klaus Hauptman and his daughter Stacey had to be aware of their virulent, burning hatred for all things associated with the genetic slave trade. By any measure one cared to use, the Hauptman Cartel was the Star Kingdom’s single largest financial contributor to the Beowulf-based Anti-Slavery League. Not only that, the Cartel had already provided the Kingdom of Torch with well over a dozen frigates. No serious interstellar navy had built frigates in decades, of course, but the latest ships — the Nat Turner-class — Hauptman had delivered to Torch were significantly more dangerous than most people might have expected. Effectively, they were hyper-capable versions of the Royal Manticoran Navy’s Shrike-class LAC but with about twice the missile capacity and a pair of spinal-mounted grasers, with the second energy weapon bearing aft. Their electronics were a downgraded “export version” of the RMN’s (which was hardly surprising, given the fact that they were going to be operating in an area where the Republic of Haven’s intelligence services had ready access), but the Turners were probably at least as dangerous as the vast majority of the galaxy’s destroyers.

According to official reports, the Hauptman Cartel had built them at cost. According to unofficial (but exceedingly persistent) reports, Klaus and Stacey Hauptman had picked up somewhere around seventy-five percent of their construction costs out of their own pockets. Given that there were eight of them, that was a pretty hefty sum for even the Hauptmans to shell out. And according to the last word Kare had picked up before leaving Manticore for Torch, the Torch Navy had just ordered its first trio of all-up destroyers, as well. Even after they were completed, Torch would scarcely be considered one of the galaxy’s leading navies, but the kingdom would have a fairly substantial little system-defense force.

Which just happened to be hyper-capable . . . which meant it could also operate in other people’s star systems.

And the fact that Torch has officially declared war on Mesa isn’t going to make those Manpower bastards feel any happier when they find out the sort of capability the Torches are building up out here, the hyper-physicist reflected with grim satisfaction.

When he’d mentioned that thought to Josepha Zachary on the voyage here, she’d nodded emphatically and added her own observation — that Torch obviously had a well thought-out, rationalized expansion program in mind. It was clear to her that they were using the frigates as training platforms, building up a cadre of experienced spacers and officers to provide the locally trained (and highly motivated) manpower to systematically upgrade their naval capabilities as time, money, crewmen, and training permitted.

“At any rate,” he said out loud, “and returning to my original point, that’s why TJ and I were both a bit surprised that anyone ever managed to pick it up at all. Which, I suppose, could explain why Mesa apparently hadn’t gotten around to surveying it yet. They may have had enough trouble finding it in the first place that they simply hadn’t known it was there long enough.”

“I hadn’t realized it would have been so difficult for them to detect, Doctor,” Jeremy said. “On the other hand, the fact of its existence had become sufficiently common knowledge that Erewhon, at least, knew all about it over two T-years ago. And, frankly, the Ballroom knew about it for at least six months before anyone in Erewhon realized it existed. Given what Captain Zachary’s just said, I’m a bit surprised someone like the Jessyk Combine didn’t get a survey crew in here sooner. If anybody in the galaxy would recognize the potential value to shippers, I’d think Jessyk would.”

“Yes, TJ and I have kicked that around a good bit, too,” Kari replied, “and he’s come up with a theory for why they might not have surveyed it even if they’d known it was there all along, if anyone’s interested.”

“I don’t know about anybody else, but I am!” Queen Berry said, and cocked her head at Wix.

“Well,” Wix rubbed the mustache that was a couple of shades lighter than the rest of his rather unruly beard, “I hope nobody’s going to confuse me with any kind of intelligence analyst. But the best reason I’ve been able to come up with for Jessyk and Manpower’s trying to keep their little wormhole quiet is that they didn’t want to draw any more attention to what they were doing here on Torch.”

Faces tightened all around the table, and Du Havel nodded thoughtfully.

“I hadn’t really considered that,” he admitted, “and I should have. It’s the sort of propaganda factor the ASL’s tried to keep in mind for a long time. But you may well have a point, Dr. Wix. If this wormhole had started attracting a lot of through traffic, then there’d have been a lot more potentially embarrassing Solarian witnesses to the mortality rate among the members of their planet-side slave labor force, wouldn’t there?”

“That’s what I was thinking,” Wix agreed. Then he snorted. “Mind you, that’s a pretty sophisticated motive to impute to anyone stupid enough to be using slave labor to harvest and process pharmaceuticals in the first place! Completely leaving aside the moral aspects of the decision — which, I feel confident, would never have darkened the doorway of any Mesan transtellar’s decision processes — it was economically stupid.”

“I tend to agree with you,” Du Havel said. “On the other hand, breeding slaves is pretty damned cheap.” His voice was remarkably level, but his bared-teeth grin gave the lie to his apparent detachment. “They’ve been doing it for a long time, after all, and their ‘production lines’ are all in place. And to give the devil his due, human beings are still a lot more versatile than most machinery. Not as efficient at most specific tasks as purpose built machinery, of course, but versatile. And as far as Manpower and Mesans in general are concerned, slaves are ‘purpose built machinery,’ when you come down to it. So from their perspective, it made plenty of sense to avoid the initial capital investment in the hardware the job would have required. After all, they already had plenty of cheap replacement units when their ‘purpose built machinery’ broke, and they could always make more.”

“You know,” Kare said quietly, “sometimes I forget just how . . . skewed the thinking of something like Manpower has to be.” He shook his head. “It never would’ve occurred to me to analyze the economic factors from that perspective.”

“Well, I’ve had a bit more practice at it than most people.” Du Havel’s tone was dry enough to create an instant Sahara . . . even on Torch. “The truth is that slavery’s almost always been hideously inefficient on a production per man-hour basis. There’ve been exceptions, of course, but as a general rule, using slaves as skilled technicians — which would be the only way to make it remotely competitive with free labor on a productive basis — has had a tendency to turn around and bite the slaveowner on the ass.”

He smiled again, chillingly, but then the smile faded.

“The problem is that it doesn’t have to be efficient to show at least some profit. A low return on a really big operation still comes to a pretty impressive absolute amount of money, and their ‘per-unit’ capital costs are low. I’m sure that was a major element in their thinking — especially when you consider how much capital investment in slave-production facilities Manpower would have to write off if it were even tempted to ‘go legitimate.’ Not that I think it would ever occur to them to make the attempt, you understand.”

“No, I guess not.” Kare grimaced, then gave himself a shake. “On the other hand, whatever the Mesans’ motives for leaving this particular wormhole unexploited, it gives me a certain warm and fuzzy feeling to reflect on the fact that when it starts producing revenue for you people, that cash flow’s going to find itself being plowed into your naval expansion.”

“Yes,” Thandi Palane agreed, and her smile was even colder than Du Havel’s had been. “That’s a possibility I’ve been spending quite a bit of my own time contemplating. We’ve already managed a couple of ops I’m pretty sure have pissed Manpower off, but if we can get our hands on a few more hyper-capable ships of our own, they’re going to be very, very unhappy with the results.”

“In that case,” Kare replied with a smile of his own, “by all means, as Duchess Harrington would put it, ‘let’s be about it.'”

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23 Responses to TORCH OF FREEDOM — Snippet 31

  1. Thirdbase says:

    “Not only that, the Cartel had already provided the Kingdom of Torch with well over a dozen frigates.”
    “Given that there were eight of them,”

    Well over a dozen does not equal 8 in any math system I know of.

  2. Lars says:

    4 older Frigates und 8 brabd-new, expensive “Nat Turner” Class Frigates?

  3. Willem Meijer says:

    seventy-five percent of twelve is eight, in my math.

  4. saladin says:

    hm in an older snippet the torchies talked about the internal memos of the former owners which said that using slaves maed no economic sense
    and now they have the added reason of the wh to not use slaves on torch (to reap the potential income of the wh)

    so something doesn´t add up
    i hope they will discuss it when the manticoreans are gone

  5. John Roth says:

    @4 Saladin

    It wasn’t that it made no economic sense to use slaves, it was that the way they were using them had too high an attrition rate. The local managers wanted permission to change procedures, which would have presumably increased efficiency and cut costs. There was no reason given for why their request was denied.

  6. RobertHuntingdon says:

    @1 & @2 all told the cartel has provided well over a dozen frigates. Which means about 18-20. IIRC there were 10 of the original class that they produced for the Anti-Slavery League (officially for the ASL, that is, they were actually for the Ballroom before the Torch branch lapsed into respectability) and the Pottowatomie Creek was a member of that original class. Now there are 8 new “Nat Turner” class frigates they’ve recently produced.

    @4 Actually saladin they said it was not efficient and they were worried about the potential for losing their sweetheart deal that made it economically feasible to continue to waste their “assets” at ridiculous rates. Not that it made “no” sense. It wasn’t wise, it wasn’t the best decision, but that didn’t mean it made “zero” sense. Just less than optimal and in this particular case also extra risky.

    It’s a very technical & nit-picky — but also very key — point of accuracy to keep in mind. Slavery is not the “best” decision in the Honorverse… not by a long shot. But to say it makes “no” sense is an overstatement that leads you into logical fallacies that lead you off the deep end.


  7. JN says:

    @1 “Cartel had already provided the Kingdom of Torch with well over a dozen frigates. No serious interstellar navy had built frigates in decades, of course, but the latest ships”…

    The latest ships were the eight Nat Turner class. They more than four older designs, and eight of the new, upgraded ones.


  8. dac says:

    Slavery has nothing to do with economic reasons to Mesa – it has everything to do with producing a super, or next race

    Financial is the cover – Using the program to engineer super humans to rule the galaxy is the goal

    When everyone else discovers that, and then what happens in response, is the big question

  9. saladin says:

    true, you can turn a profit on torch with slavery (ecspecially with the sweetheartdeal they had with manpower) and considering human nature this is enough to use it for some (its just the way we do it )
    but a wh means BIG income
    to forgo the income of the wh just to keep slavery on torch makes no economic sense
    the new management of torch knows that so they have to smell the fish
    beside: not using the wh economically may be argued (well i don´t think so, but anyway), but that is no reason for not surveying it
    so if the ballroom knew about the wh for 2 and a half year (by the way, does anyone know how long torch was used by mesa?) – and rumors about the wh were widespread for at least 2 years we have to asume that the wh was discovered quite a time before (how long does it take for such a secret to become public)

    so i don´t think it makes sense to assume that the wh was not surveyed

  10. John Roth says:

    @9 Saladin

    Remember that we’re balancing two different viewpoints. Mesa knew about the wormhole for a good long time – see Chapter 5 where the McBryde brothers on Mesa are discussing the situation. The Alignment has a very good reason for not exploiting it.

    The issue here is what the people on Torch know. Apparently the information about the wormhole slipped out (probably via the Ballroom’s intelligence operations on Mesa) only a couple of years previously. And according to the discussion in Chapter 5, the Manpower reps on the planet were told nothing about it.

    I presume that Verdant Vista had been in operation for some time. It takes time to gear up to find things to exploit and then exploit them. Even though from the Alignment’s viewpoint the entire operation on Verdant Vista is a bit of misdirection to keep people from even suspecting the wormhole’s existance.

  11. saladin says:

    @10 roth john

    yea i know
    i tried to present the point of view (and knoeledge) that the people on torch can have
    (we know that the wh is explored and that on the other side of it tum the tum tum)

  12. robert says:

    Or the wormhole goes nowhere interesting from a shipping and trade point of view, but has something or goes somewhere (the real “tum the tum tum”) that has given them (Mesa) the science to produce the nasty space vessels that will soon be attacking Manticore. So they did not exploit it because it had no economic value, but they did explore it, discovered its um…tum de tum, and kept everything secret because of its scientific/military value.

  13. robert says:

    @12 That was just me summarizing and trying to get it all straight in my own mind. Sorry.

  14. John Roth says:

    @12 Robert

    Maybe it does have economic value, but they didn’t exploit it because it has more military value – for the moment. Remember that these people like to think they have more important things to do than chase a few hundred billion credits…

  15. Maxim says:

    I wasn’t aware that Klaus and Stacey Hauptmann take the antislavery efforts that seriously. I would be happy to see them play a greater role in this book.

    The next snippet will probably include the meeting of Jeremy X with the “clan”. Perhaps Queen Berry and others will also participate on the meeting.

  16. Maxim says:

    Now a completely different question.

    How does this phrase sound to you:”‘let’s be about it”? I mean the native English speaker. Do you think it is a cool phrase? Would you use it in a conversation?

    As English is only my third language it is difficult for me to judge this.

  17. John Roth says:

    It’s a personal expression that Honor Harrington uses to signal the end of a discussion and the beginning of implementation of whatever was agreed on. Most people don’t use that particular expression. Some do.

  18. robert says:

    @16 The expression is found in literature and rarely in normal conversation. But the more interesting question is how does Dr. Kare know that it is used by Honor? When has he observed her using it in command situations? Has it become a sort of legendary expression because so many of her subordinates over the years have gotten the word out? Or have our favorite authors sort of carelessly plucked this out of their heads?

  19. Mark L says:

    @18 “But the more interesting question is how does Dr. Kare know that it is used by Honor?”

    Isn’t it obvious? It’s bound to be a tag line in holodramas about the Salamander. Just because readers don’t normally watch Manticoran holodramas . . .

  20. robert says:

    @19 Mark Is it on cable? I don’t have cable. Maybe I should get cable just for that.
    Seriously, would Dr. Kare even watch such junk? maybe the equivalent of Nova, but not The Adventures of the Salamander.

  21. Drak Bibliophile says:

    The good Doctor might find the Honorverse version of Nova too simplistic. [Wink]

    Seriously, do scientists never read/watch something unrelated to their work?

    He may enjoy light entertainment from time to time.

  22. robert says:

    @21 Speaking of a TV series, wasn’t there supposed to be an Australian series based on the Harrington novels? Whatever happened?

  23. Robert Krawitz says:

    Didn’t Dr. Kare interact with Honor or some of her people when investigating the new terminus of the “main” wormhole? Somehow, it wouldn’t surprise me if a lot of her people use that expression and he would have picked up on it.

    It’s rather difficult when the story is progressing at slower than real time, isn’t it…

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