“Third, one way or the other, within the next few months, it’s going to start becoming evident that the Monican Navy ended up coming into possession of over a dozen Solarian battlecruisers, courtesy of Manpower, Technodyne, and the Jessyk Combine. That being the case, I doubt anyone’s going to be all that surprised if it turns out that we had — I’m sorry, that Manpower had — a handful of additional battlecruisers lying around and handed them over to a bunch of ‘pirates’ it could be pretty sure would use them against Manty interests somewhere else, maybe a little closer to home.

“And, fourth, if we keep them somewhere handy, where we can keep an eye on them and they aren’t going to be flailing around the spaceways making potential problems for us, we remove at least one distracting element from the equation. And if it happens we decide never to mount the operation at all, then we simply detonate those little suicide charges none of them realize ‘Manpower’s’ put aboard their vessels. They all blow up simultaneously in a star system where nobody else is going to know anything about it, and our potential security problem goes away. For that matter, I’ve been increasingly inclined ever since Clignet’s journals surfaced to go with Wooden Horse anyway, if we do mount the operation.”

Benjamin pursed his lips thoughtfully. The chance of any of their ex-StateSec puppets ever discovering the suicide charges which had been built into each of their ships during routine maintenance overhauls ranged somewhere between ridiculously minute and zero. Personally, if he’d been aboard one of those ships, he would have been going over it with a fine toothed comb, given all of the many sets of circumstances he could think of under which it would be convenient for ‘Manpower’ if their mercenary pirates simply . . . went away, as his father had put it. The fact that people who’d been StateSec officers didn’t seem to be even considering the possibility was only one more indication, in his opinion, of how far they’d fallen since Thomas Theisman’s restoration of the Old Republic had turned them into interstellar orphans.

But, as his father had just pointed out, the fact that those charges were there was the underlying premise of Operation Wooden Horse. Once the ‘StateSec renegades’ had attacked Verdant Vista and carried out a flagrant violation of the Eridani Edict, every space navy’s hand would be turned against them . . . including that of the small Mesan Space Navy. On the other hand, the problem might never arise if a single Mesan vessel with the activation codes for those suicide charges should just happen to arrive at their post-Verdant Vista rendezvous and transmit them while all those nasty genocidal StateSec fanatics were in range.

“Let me see if I’ve followed your devious thinking properly here, Father,” he said after a moment. “You’re thinking that we go ahead and mount Operation Ferret and use our reinforced StateSec refugees to take out Verdant Vista. They go ahead and blow out the defenders, then take out the planet itself. As soon as they’ve done that, we deliver their severance checks and all their ships blow up. The planet is so wrecked nobody in his right mind would ever want to live there again, so the only inherent value the system has any longer is the wormhole terminus, which has just been demonstrated to be exceedingly dangerous. At the same time, we take out a huge chunk of the Ballroom’s organized support and body slam its morale — and that of the ASL in general — throughout the galaxy. And because nobody’s going to have any interest on living on the planet, most of the galaxy probably won’t be too surprised — or get too worked up — if Mesa, not Manpower, presses its claim to what’s left. Most folks will probably figure that it’s just Mesa trying to recoup a little of the humiliation it suffered after being thrown out in the first place.”

“More or less,” Albrecht agreed. “And even if it doesn’t work out with Mesa regaining formal sovereignty over the star system, it should throw things into confusion long enough for nobody to have possession of it — or be mounting any more survey expeditions — before Prometheus rolls over them.”

“Neat,” Benjamin said, his eyes slightly unfocused as he considered permutations. “There is the little matter of the Eridani violation, though.”

“We’ve talked about that before, Ben,” Albrecht pointed out. “Either there’s going to be evidence it was the StateSec renegades — who don’t have a star nation anymore — or else there are going to be too few survivors, if any, to identify the attackers at all. In the first case, obviously Manpower’s going to come in for the lion’s share of suspicion, especially after Clignet’s confirmation that it’s been recruiting StateSec mercenaries. That could be . . . unpleasant, but Manpower is only a transstellar corporation, not a star nation, and nobody’s going to be able to prove Manpower gave the order, anyway. That’s going to create enough ambiguity and confusion for our ‘friends’ in the League to derail any effort to apply the edict’s penalties against the star nation of Mesa. There may be demands that Manpower be punished by Mesa, but those can be obfuscated and delayed for however long we need them to be delayed. For that matter, the Alignment doesn’t really care what happens to Manpower at this point, and once a full-scale Prometheus is launched, punishing ‘Manpower’ isn’t going to be especially high on most people’s agendas come anyway. And then there’s the fact that the only actual star nation directly associated with these people, ever, is going to have been the People’s Republic of Haven. I suspect Mesa’s best tactic is going to be to argue that those nasty planet-killing renegades were initially created and enabled by Haven, and that Theisman’s failure in letting them escape with the Havenite warships in their possession is the real ultimate culprit in this whole tragic affair.”

Father and son looked at one another for a moment, then Benjamin shrugged.

“All right, Father. I’m still not sure it’s a wonderful idea, you understand, but you’ve managed to deal with most of my reservations. And, for that matter, you’ve got a pretty good track record for spotting and backing operations against ‘targets of opportunity’ most of the rest of us hadn’t noticed. I think we can go ahead and start organizing things, even if it turns out we never launch Ferret at all. Like you say, getting all of them into the same place will make cleaning up easier if we decide to just write the entire notion off, too. Before we actually start handing them modern Solly battlecruisers, though, I’d like to get Collin and Isabel’s input, though.”

“By all means.” Albrecht nodded vigorously. “I’m inclined to think this is something we are going to have to take care of substantially sooner than we’d thought we were, but I’m not prepared to start rushing in without thinking things through first. We’ve come too far and worked too hard for too long to start taking foolish, unnecessary chances at this late date.”

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20 Responses to TORCH OF FREEDOM — Snippet 39

  1. Thirdbase says:

    Aren’t these people required at some point to capture Honor, strap her into a death trap and then explain in intricate detail their plans to control the universe?

  2. Zathras says:

    “punishing ‘Manpower’ isn’t going to be especially high on most people’s agendas come anyway.”

    But it will be high on the list of a very small, very motivated group. One that already is starting to notice that things don’t smell right with Manpower. Or rather, things spenn differently than expected.

    And does anybody think Jeremy X has all his eggs in one basket. He probably wants the Torch experiment to work, but if it does not, he probably has a plan B, which is not physically on Torch.

  3. William McLamb says:

    Ok, I was wrong about who or what was going to kill the torchies.

    So how did the SS pirates learn about the wormhole’s other termini? Haven I suppose.

    And Haven doesn’t want prove they didn’t tell and the Manties don’t want to prove they did. Gotcha, right.

    And neither thinks it might provide a back door into Havenite space.

    What am I missing?

  4. Jj says:


    I would suspect that alot of Ballroom members floating around the galaxy would Eridani Mesa… They should have thought of that. If Manpower is willing to violate the Eridani Edict, then, turnabout is fairplay, and it doesn’t matter to them if it’s never proved Manpower was the culprit.

    Ballroom isn’t a star nation either. And after Verdant Vista is taken out, it isn’t a star nation either.

    Though those battlecruisers are going to face ”LACs with hyperdrives” (frigates)… and that Battle of Hancock shows that they’d be dead, especially if actual LACs have been emplaced already, since they’re smaller and more maneuverable. (and require a higher level of suspension of disbelief, approaching the level of suspension necessary for Manticore missile systems technology, or any missile technology in a pod battle)

  5. Thirdbase says:

    @ #3 Where did you get the idea that the SS pirates know about the other end of the wormhole?

    What are you trying to say with the rest of your post?

  6. John Roth says:

    @3 William McLamb

    Right now, nobody knows where the wormhole goes – except Mesa.

    @4 Thirdbase. It’s possible that Mesa may have them attack through the wormhole. However, I don’t know why they’d do that — the wormhole is a light-hour out, and the system’s hyper limit is only about 25 or so lm out. Doesn’t seem like good tactics to me.

    Strategically it also doesn’t make sense – they’d be giving the pirates the location of the other end for free, and even that’s something Mesa isn’t going to let them live to tell about.

  7. John Roth says:

    @5 Oops.

    Make that read “and even those pirates would realize that’s something Mesa”…

  8. Summercat says:

    Anyone find it interesting that they are ignoring the fact that a small handful of people will ‘know’ exactly who caused the death of Torch…

    And that those people include such as, oh, the Queen of Manticore, the Protector of Grayson, the President of Haven, the Quadfecta of Erewhon, and the Governor of Maya?

    Y’know, people who would have enough pull to send a fleet to go ‘deal’ with Mesa, once and for all?

  9. JN says:

    @1 I thought that is what they just did, sans the slower than necessary death trap.


  10. ET1swaw says:

    State Sec not finding suicide charges? Since this is the SECOND set emplanted (Remember Shannon Foraker’s OOPS), I can see that.
    Getting to Torch for an EE? Torch Navy frigates that Mesa dismisses as hyperdrive LACs (they’re thinking old style (not even RoH Cimiteeres much less RMN Ferrets etc)) are to SLN frigates what the RMN Rolands are to SLN destroyers. With by treaty backup by any Maya Sector Navy, Erewhon Navy, RMN, or RHN ships/squadrons in system: Pirates meet Buzzsaw!!
    Timing for this snip seems between Monica and New Tuscany, but before or after Rat Poison or Battle of Manticore?

  11. asdf says:

    re:#8 – Summercat

    I think that homicidal ex-slave bent on revenge might be a bit more worrisome than Manticore, Haven and Erewhon, since if they turn Mesa into a ball of magma, they don’t have to worry about the Solarian Navy showing up and trying to taken out their home systems, for a Eridani Edict violation.

    Come to think of it, I wonder why some Ballroom nutcase hasn’t already tried to do a speed-of-light assault on Mesa with some fully loaded freighters…

  12. Thirdbase says:

    #10 This is approximately the same time as Monica, well before Rat Poison and the Battle of Manticore.

    #9 They are supposed to explain it to Honor, so she can break free of the inescapable death trap and foil their nefarious plans.

  13. John T Mainer says:

    Peep Battlecruisers could control tow heavy pod loads. Like the Mars Class cruisers, they were developed with more power than their compensators could actually handle, so can tow heavier podloads than similar size vessels should without loss of speed.

    Frigates are not even destroyer size, and using export legal sensors not much better than the Peeps. Battlecruisers pack a lot more punch than frigates, left alone it would be a short battle. With certain Solarian Admirals and friendly local governors willing to lend a hand or flotilla, the battle looks different.

    Light Cruiser size “destroyers” against battle cruisers, pitting better sensors and longer range weapons against heavier throw weight and better armour is the formula for a possible victory. As long as the Destroyer flotilla uses its sensor reach and better ECM to achieve strategic surprise, they might have enough force multipliers to win. On the other hand, it will cost heavy. Missiles launched by dead ships still kill when they hit, and you don’t need that many hits to kill a tin can, even a big one.

  14. D says:

    @11 don’t forget about all the slaves on Mesa that you would take out at the same time.

  15. John Roth says:

    @13 John T. Mainer

    I’m not sure where you’re going with this. Albrecht’s plan seems to be to equip Luff and his “People’s Navy in Exile” with new Solarian Indefatigable class battlecruisers. These are the ones that Teherakhov is presently destroying at Monica. They’re not the same class that Oversteegen took out at Tiberian; those were heavy cruisers. The only connection with Haven is that the crews will be Peeps rather than Monica’s naval crews or Sileasian pirates. That’s definitely a plus over the Sileasians, but it may or may not be a plus over the Monicans. I’m tempted to think they’ll not be as good.

    Then they’ll be used to attack Torch, and subsequently destroyed with the hidden suicide charges. The ships at Tiberian were also equipped with them, for use in the same circumstances.

    So the attack won’t be made with Peep battlecruisers, it will be made with Solly battlecruisers. Solly battlecruisers are only slightly larger than Havenite or Manticoran heavy cruisers, but their sensors, EW and so forth is much better than the Havenites and only slightly inferior to the Manticorans. On the other hand, the Torch frigates are also equipped with much better sensor suites than one would expect for the class.

    I think we can reasonably expect a third force – the author isn’t, after all, planning to have Torch burned off at this point! However, we don’t know what it will be. There are four navies interested in the situation: Haven, Erewhon, Manticore and the Maya Sector of the Solarian League.

  16. dcchipper says:

    @ 15 Based on the amount of time that was spent on the new ships for the Maya Sector in earlier snippets I suspect that the new ships will be working up around Torch when the attack comes in and that that will be the defending force. I also suspect that they will take fairly heavy losses as they will be mostly CA and smaller but that the modified freighters will be the key to the Maya Sector Fleet wining the battle.

  17. robert says:

    @15 John, you write “new Solarian Indefatigable class battlecruisers.” I thought that the warcraft that Mesa provided to Monica, and that Terherakov is destroying (or has just destroyed or will soon destroy) were ships that were discontinued by the SL and bound for the breakers, waylaid by Mesan agents and refitted and upgraded by Mesan or Solarian techs on Monica. Are you assuming that the craft given to Luff were also upgraded? Where and when? And why would Detweiler bother if his information on the Torch space forces is lousy and he is going to press the button on Luff anyway?

  18. John Roth says:

    @17 robert.

    You could be right about them being the last generation.

    However, the reason for the refit wasn’t to upgrade them, it was to disguise them. Since Detweiller is planning on disposing of the evidence, he’s probably not going to bother this time.

    @16. dcchipper.

    Hm. Good thought. David really is obsessive about Chekov’s Gun, isn’t he?

  19. Mark L says:

    @15 What would be fun is a situation where RMN and RoH naval forces team up to destroy the Peeps off Torch — either just before or just after the war between Manticore and Haven goes ballistic. It would be a way for Weber to punctuate the senselessness of this final war between Manticore and Haven, while foreshadowing a future alliance.

  20. Richard says:

    Why all the speculation about who defends Torch. We already know from coments at the end of STORM FROM THE SHADOWS that it will be the Maya sector fleet.

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