Mission Of Honor – Snippet 03

Mission Of Honor – Snippet 03

Of everyone present, she and Rajampet probably personally disliked Manticorans the most. In Rajampet’s case, that was because the Royal Manticoran Navy declined to kowtow satisfactorily to the Solarian League Navy’s supremacy. In Quartermain’s case, it was because of how deeply she resented Manticore’s wormhole junction and its merchant marine’s dominance of the League’s carrying trade. Which meant, among other things, that she had a very clear idea of how much damage the Star Empire of Manticore could do the League’s economy if it decided to retaliate economically for Solarian aggression.

“How many ships did the Manties lose this time?” she continued in a resigned tone, clearly already beginning to reckon up the restitution the Star Empire might find itself in a position to extort out of the League.

“Oh, they didn’t lose any ships,” Kolokoltsov replied.

“What?!” Rajampet exploded. “That’s goddammed nonsense! No Solarian flag officer’s going to roll over and take something like that without –!”

“In that case, Rajani, I recommend you read Admiral Sigbee’s report yourself. She found herself in command after Admiral Byng’s . . . demise, and the Manties were kind enough to forward her dispatches to us along with their note. According to our own security people, they didn’t even open the file and read it, first. Apparently they saw no reason to.”

This time, Rajampet was clearly bereft of speech. He just sat there, staring at Kolokoltsov, and the diplomat shrugged.

“According to the synopsis of Admiral Sigbee’s report, the Manties destroyed Admiral Byng’s flagship, the Jean Bart, with a single missile salvo launched from far beyond our own ships’ effective range. His flagship was completely destroyed, Rajani. There were no survivors at all. Under the circumstances, and since Admiral Gold Peak — who, I suppose I might also mention, turns out to be none other than Queen Elizabeth’s first cousin and fifth in line for the Manticoran throne — had made it crystal clear that she’d destroy all of Byng’s ships if her demands were not met, Admiral Sigbee — under protest, I need hardly add — complied with them.”

“She –?” Rajampet couldn’t get the complete sentence out, but Kolokoltsov nodded anyway.

“She surrendered, Rajani,” he said in a marginally gentler voice, and the admiral closed his mouth with a snap.

He wasn’t the only one staring at Kolokoltsov in horrified disbelief now. All the others seemed struck equally dumb, and Kolokoltsov took a certain satisfaction from seeing the reflection of his own stunned reaction in their expressions. Which, he admitted, was the only satisfaction he was likely to be feeling today.

On the face of it, the loss of a single ship and the surrender of twenty or so others, counting Byng’s screening destroyers, could hardly be considered a catastrophe for the Solarian League Navy. The SLN was the biggest fleet in the galaxy. Counting active duty and reserve squadrons, it boasted almost eleven thousand superdreadnoughts, and that didn’t even count the thousands upon thousands of battlecruisers, cruisers, and destroyers of Battle Fleet and Frontier Fleet . . . or the thousands of ships in the various system-defense forces maintained for local security by several of the League’s wealthier member systems. Against that kind of firepower, against such a massive preponderance of tonnage, the destruction of a single battlecruiser and the two thousand or so people aboard it, was less than a flea bite. It was certainly a far, far smaller relative loss, in terms of both tonnage and personnel, than the Manticorans had suffered when Byng blew three of their newest destroyers out of space with absolutely no warning.

But it was the first Solarian warship destroyed by hostile action in centuries, and no Solarian League admiral had ever surrendered his command.

Until now.

And that was what truly had the others worried, Kolokoltsov thought coldly. Just as it had him worried. The omnipotence of the Solarian League Navy was the fundamental bedrock upon which the entire League stood. The whole purpose of the League was to maintain interstellar order, protect and nurture the interactions, prosperity, and sovereignty of its member systems. There’d been times — more times than Kolokoltsov could count, really — when Rajampet and his predecessors had found themselves fighting tooth and nail for funding, given the fact that it was so obvious that no one conceivable hostile star nation, or combination of them, could truly threaten the League’s security. Yet while they might have had to fight for the funding they wanted, they’d never come close to not getting the funding they actually needed. In fact, their fellow bureaucrats had never seriously considered cutting off or even drastically curtailing expenditures on the Navy.

Partly, that was because no matter how big Frontier Fleet was, it would never have enough ships to be everywhere it needed to be to carry out its mandate as the League’s neighborhood cop and enforcer. Battle Fleet would have been a much more reasonable area for cost reductions, except that it had more prestige and was even more deeply entrenched in the League’s bureaucratic structure than Frontier Fleet, not to mention having so many more allies in the industrial sector, given how lucrative superdreadnought building contracts were. But even the most fanatical expenditure-cutting reformer (assuming that any such mythical being existed anywhere in the Solarian League) would have found very few allies if he’d set his sights on the Navy’s budget. Supporting the fleet was too important to the economy as a whole, and all the patronage that went with the disbursement of such enormous amounts was far too valuable to be surrendered. And, after all, making certain everyone else was as well aware as they were of the Navy’s invincibility was an essential element of the clout wielded by the League in general and by the Office of Frontier Security, in particular.

But now that invincibility had been challenged. Worse, although Kolokoltsov was no expert on naval matters, even the synopsis of Sigbee’s dispatches had made her shock at the effective range — and deadliness –of the Manticoran missiles abundantly clear even to him.

“She surrendered,” Permanent Senior Undersecretary of the Interior Nathan MacArtney repeated very carefully after a moment, clearly making certain he hadn’t misunderstood.

Kolokoltsov was actually surprised anyone had recovered that quickly, especially MacArtney. The Office of Frontier Security came under the control of the Department of the Interior, and after Rajampet himself, it was MacArtney whose responsibilities and . . . arrangements were most likely to suffer if the rest of the galaxy began to question just how invincible the Solarian Navy truly was.

“She did,” Kolokoltsov confirmed. “And the Manties did board her ships, and they did take possession of their computers — their fully operable computers, with intact databases. At the time she was ‘permitted’ to include her dispatches along with Admiral Gold Peak’s so we could receive her report as promptly as possible, she had no idea what ultimate disposition the Manties intend to make where her ships are concerned.”

“My God,” Quartermain said again, shaking her head.

“Sigbee didn’t even dump her data cores?” MacArtney demanded incredulously.

“Given that Gold Peak had just finished blowing one of her ships into tiny pieces, I think the Admiral was justified in concluding the Manties might really go ahead and pull the trigger if they discovered she’d dumped her data cores,” Kolokoltsov replied.

“But if they got all their data, including the secure sections . . . .”

MacArtney’s voice trailed off, and Kolokoltsov smiled thinly.

“Than they’ve got an enormous amount of our secure technical data,” he agreed. “Even worse, these were Frontier Fleet ships.”

MacArtney looked physically ill. He was even better aware then Kolokoltsov of how the rest of the galaxy might react if some of the official, highly secret contingency plans stored in the computers of Frontier Fleet flagships were to be leaked.

There was another moment of sickly silence, then Wodoslawski cleared her throat.

“What did they say in their note, Innokentiy?” she asked.

“They say the data they’ve recovered from Byng’s computers completely supports the data they already sent to us. They say they’ve recovered Sigbee’s copy of Byng’s order to open fire on the Manticoran destroyers. They’ve appended her copy of the message traffic between Gold Peak and Byng, as well, and pointed out that Gold Peak repeatedly warned Byng not only that she would fire if he failed to comply with her instructions but that she had the capability to destroy his ships from beyond his effective range. And, by the way, Sigbee’s attested the accuracy of the copies from her communications section.

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26 Responses to Mission Of Honor – Snippet 03

  1. robert says:

    “But even the most fanatical expenditure-cutting reformer (assuming that any such mythical being existed anywhere in the Solarian League) would have found very few allies if he’d set his sights on the Navy’s budget. Supporting the fleet was too important to the economy as a whole, and all the patronage that went with the disbursement of such enormous amounts was far too valuable to be surrendered. And, after all, making certain everyone else was as well aware as they were of the Navy’s invincibility was an essential element of the clout wielded by the League in general and by the Office of Frontier Security, in particular.”

    The Military-Industrial Complex. Two millenia from now.

  2. no one says:

    11,000 superdreadnoughts? It might be necessary to repair and commission those Havenite prize SD(P)s after all, even if they are junk compared to the newest marks.

  3. Anthony says:

    I’m not sure how many of the Tourville’s surrendered SD(P)s are actually viable or worth repairing. They took some pretty heavy damage from Home Fleet and 3rd Fleet before Harrington forced their surrender. And there wasn’t anything left of Chinn’s fleet, they either died or escaped (mostly died).

    The SL bureaucrats just found out the the League’s foundation is made of sand, and it looks like the tempest has come. The question is can they hold it together long enough to make new ships that can fight Manticore, will they even be capable of making the changes necessary in the fleet, or will Harrington be able to slice enough planets away before they can accomplish this.

    By far the best decision for the League would be to denounce Byng’s actions in the worst possible way, and put the brakes on any farther hostilities. To bad they already have another admiral with seventy or eighty SDs on her way with blood in her eye.

  4. On might wonder how modern those SDs laid up in ordinary are. The policy of upgrading the oldest mothballed ships first, as established in some prior book, means that the worst are not as bad as they might have been, and technical paralysis means that they have not dated as fast as present era surface warships, but the least modernized might still for example only be able to fire contact-nuclear missiles and only be able to pull 250 gees after overloading their compensators. Fortunately, the SLN is omnipotent and hence sure of victory.

    I will leave it to someone else to decide whether there is any way to keep Admiral Crandall from showing up wherever and express her annoyance with the RMN.

  5. Rod says:

    One must only assume Crandall will indeed show up with the aforementioned blood in eye and get alot of people killed. Mostly Soloarians, unfortunately for them. But what I wonder is if the Solarian beauracrats actually have enough power to stop this war from happening. Clearly it is all part of Mesa’s scheme to eliminate the league can the undersecretaries and friends realize in time what a war my lead to and put a stop to it?

  6. Summertime says:

    The Solar League has little idea what Mesa has been up to and plans to do, just as they have little idea how much the military capabilities of Manticore have improved as a result of the wars with Haven. Matters on the edge of the League’s dominion have been pretty much ignored by the powers that be. Those who tried to bring such things to the fore, like Maitland Askew in the last book, have been forcibly muzzled. The doughty few in Manticore, and maybe Haven or other small star nations, will have to save humanity from the machinations of the mad Mesan manipulators.

  7. robert says:

    “Than they’ve got an enormous amount of our secure technical data,” he agreed.
    Oooo. Does that mean that Manticore can catch up to the SL’s superior tech? Oooo.

  8. robert says:

    @7 And that is why I never buy an ARC. “Than” indeed. I sure hope the Baen editor catches this stuff because it drives me nuts!

  9. John Roth says:

    @7 robert

    Well, there are some things in there it might be nice to know, like Halo (see Torch of Freedom for the reference.) It’s more likely that the Frontier Fleet “contingency plans” are going to cause someone some grief if they’re ever released. As a pure speculation, this might include things like how to cook “honest” plebiscites.

    @3 Anthony

    The bureaucrats have absolutely no idea that they might not be able to destroy Manticore if they throw a large enough wave of SDs at it. They’re not thinking in terms of “what if we lose?” In their minds, they can’t possibly lose, although they might not like the cost. And, of course, Quartermain would like nothing better than to get her hands on the wormhole nexus, regardless of the cost.

  10. robert says:

    So they are more concerned with the data that was captured than with the fact that Henke destroyed Byng’s flagship with ease and showed how superior Manticore’s weaponry is.

    Rajampet will be busy covering his ass instead of trying to get back control of everything and calm the situation.

  11. John Roth says:

    @10 robert

    That’s two different things they’re worried about. Those “contingency plans” are quite likely to blow the lid off of the “moral superiority” that they’ve been lulling the core worlds with. I have no idea what’s in them, but from MacArtny’s reaction they’re dynamite.

    The fact that Frontier Fleet is stretched very thin is the reason that Maya sector, for example, has been able to do its military buildup right under Sol’s nose, and get away with it.

    Meanwhile, Detweiller is sitting back and watching the dominoes fall in the direction he, and the Strategy Board, have planned.

    And those 8,000 plus SDs in the reserve? Where are they going to get the seasoned crews for them on short notice? Manticore and Grayson have the automation, the Sollies don’t. I won’t say their first attempts to actually activate the reserve will have “flying in formation” mean “roughly the same direction sometime on the same day,” but it ought to be comical.

  12. dcchipper says:

    @7 I would think that they are also concerned with all of the information that is in there on their tactical equipment; Setting for ECM equipment, SOP for battle, exact ranges for CM and ASM, etc. All sorts of stuff that would allow someone with a lesser tech base to gain something of an advantage. I know the RMN doesn’t need that information to be superior to the SLN but that is part of thought process. If nothing else that will save the RMN time in testing to learn all of that. I assume that they will do that testing anyway, but this will let them start implamenting planning faster in Talbot without haveing to wait for all of that information to come back from Manticore. That may end up being important if Henke ends up facing 72 SD’s on her own.

  13. Alsadius says:

    @4, you have that exactly backwards. The SLN’s policy is not to bother upgrading the reserve fleet, because they figure the upgrades will be obsolescent when the war comes. I’m pretty sure there’s been comments in previous books about just how dated their reserve ships are.

    @11, I imagine they’d do what any other military does when it mobilizes – call up the reservists, build a bunch of cadres for training and to keep the stupid things running until the training takes hold, and wait for all the really stupid ones to either die or learn how to do it right.

  14. Past books or author comments are quite specific that the SLN does regular upgrades of the reserve fleet starting with the oldest ships.

    Among other captured things is probably a complete and exact TO&E of the SLN, every ship, including the BBs armed with gunpowder cannon firing solid shot (8^)). After all, there is no reason for operational security, since the files are on board SLN ships, and the SLN is omnipotent.

    I am surprised to read that the SLN has not lost a ship in centuries. The SLN DD or FG overhauling a pirate and finding out a bit late that it is a pirate CL ought to have been vulnerable.

  15. robert says:

    @11 John, you say:
    “Meanwhile, Detweiller is sitting back and watching the dominoes fall in the direction he, and the Strategy Board, have planned.”

    But, in fact, their plans are about to go south when Anton and Victor, who Detweiler & Co. think have been atomized, show up with McBryde’s data chip and Herlander S. in tow. If not the whole plan, then a big piece of it are toast. Unfortunately the SL dunderheads are or will be in the way of getting at the MA, so that part of the plan is working. But remember the conversation thet Honor had with Elizabeth near the end of Storm from the Shadows where Honor convinces the Queen to make a peace overture to Haven. That part of the MA plan is also going south, it seems.
    Even more unfortunate is that we will have to wait years for a successful resolution based on DWs writing plans.

  16. Anthony says:

    Overhaul a pirate? that sound suspiciously like real work, and We can’t have the invincible SLN doing that. Besides they may not consider destroying pirates to be combat, maybe they consider it a “police action.” After all its easy not to have a soldier die in a war if there is no war. Just start those police actions and ignore body counts.

    @ 9 John I believe your assumptions about the bureaucrats is correct, but they have just been handed ample evidence that the cost may be more than they will want to pay. Even they should be able to recognize that from the sensor data.

    @14 George They have kept upgrading older ships in the reserves, but they also mentioned that there wasn’t enough money to upgrade as much as they should. Either way they aren’t pod ships.

  17. robert says:

    @14 “…the SLN does regular upgrades of the reserve fleet starting with the oldest ships.”
    Isn’t it every 100 years that they do the upgrade? I read that somewhere. And how much of an upgrade can you do when the new tech won’t fit into the old ships? Do you whittle down the upgrade, scrap the ships, buy new ships, what? There is a reason that the surviving Haven ships from the Battle of Manticore were sent to the breakers.

  18. robert says:

    As we saw at the Battle of Torch and at New Tuscany, the SL does not have the missile range to engage the SEM Navy at anything like the range they need. That is why the blood in Crandall’s eye will soon be splattered all over her command deck. We know what Torch did with the prisoners that Roszak captured at the Battle of Torch, but what will Henke do with all those SL prisoners from the (I assume) Battle of Spindle?

  19. Thirdbase says:

    @14 I can see the list of ships now:

    Argonaut, HMS Victory, USS Constitution, USS Missouri, Vasa, U-505, HMS Holland 1, Mikasa, etc.

  20. Shadow says:

    @14 “Past books or author comments are quite specific that the SLN does regular upgrades of the reserve fleet starting with the oldest ships.”

    If I remember correctly, frontier ship fleets are updated on a fairly regular basis, but battle fleet isn’t, and the Reverse even less. Especially where missile warfare is concerned, since the League never fought a serious missile-heavy engagement. Why, some of the Reserve’s SD still use autocanons for point defense. The League’s SD currently in commission have laser clusters, but the relatively low number of launchers they have on each broadside still mean much less firepower than, say, a Saganami-C. The same goes for their number of counter-missiles tubes and laser clusters.

  21. @14 I would guess once a century for upgrades may be optimistic. On the smaller ships, there may be fewer upgrades, but all six point defense — do you really mean “autocannon” whoever said that? — units were upgraded. An interesting question is whether you can be sure that; the missiles do still fit, because a constraint on new missiles is that they fit in the old launch tubes.

    I have the impression that the SLN pod position is that they really are not useful for system defense, and by the way it is impossible to fire pods from a warship.

    After all, the omnipotent Solarian League Navy needs not worry about these issues.

  22. John Roth says:

    @18 Robert

    I presume she’s going to do the same thing that Torch and Haven did: find a decent sized island that’s far enough away from anything else to be secure, and dump them to look after themselves. It doesn’t have to be on Spindle: she’s got over a dozen planets to choose from. Although I presume she’ll want the upper echelon officers close at hand.

    @17 Robert.

    And how effective are those upgrades going to be? I assume that the upgrade budget is a prime target for graft and corruption.

    @16 Anthony

    Frontier Fleet does a lot of anti-piracy work, and most pirates aren’t going to have anything larger than a CL. In fact, Manticore seems to believe that CLs and DDs are perfectly adequate for anti-piracy work except in very unusual cases. That’s why the official Frontier Fleet in the Maya sector is composed exclusively of DDs.

  23. robert says:

    It was a FF task force that Byng was commanding, wasn’t it? And after he was atomized, they surrendered, right? Because they were clearly outgunned. So we may assume the same will happen to Crandall. FF may be a better and more battle hardened force than BF, but when you are just putting down local rebellions and killing pirates it is not the same as really engaging in a heavy missile exchange with a real navy. As I remember Admiral Roszak’s musings as he was about to engage in the Battle of Torch, this was not anything he had ever done for real before as commander of the Mayan System Defense Force. And his losses were awful.

    Didn’t we read in Storm From the Shadows that the funding for the latest improvements in the fleet went essentially for a coat of paint, a lot of A/V propaganda and fair chunk of graft?

  24. John Roth says:

    @23 Robert

    Admiral Roszak’s losses were mostly due to letting the enemy get inside their effective missile range – which was a lot longer than he thought because of the MA’s Cataphract missiles. Also, the Cataphract missiles’ second stage was an anti-missile drive, which gave it real crazy acceleration at the tail end — something that didn’t do his own anti-missile defenses any good. If it hadn’t been for the Cataphracts, Roszak would have pounded the crap out of the attackers.

    Not exactly. Byng (I think) was impressed by the larger displays on the flag bridge, but Roszak was more impressed by Halo, Ageis, more modern electronics and a number of other improvements. There were also at least two new ship designs in the last decade – one battlecruiser and one destroyer. The Sollies are not standing still. Their basic problem isn’t technology — it’s that they don’t have any real battle experience to test it against, so they’re designing against their fantasies instead of reality.

  25. robert says:

    Yes, I agree about Roszak. What was cogent was that there was no change in his plan as a result of the change in what he faced and he did not take all contingencies into account. But who could?

    With the new intelligence gained from the surrendered ships at New Tuscany I think that Halo, Ageis, etc. are not going to surprise anyone else. And the reason that they have no real experience, or even sim experience, is that their gaming is rigged for political purposes.

  26. John Roth says:

    @25 Robert

    By the time he found out about Cataphract, he was already committed. Even committing Anvil Force early wouldn’t have made a darn bit of difference. The big problem was that he isn’t plugged into the Torch intelligence assessments, or he’d have had a suspicion that he wasn’t facing just Manpower, but something deeper, darker and more buried. For Manpower to have created new MDM missiles wasn’t in the cards, for something else lurking in the background, could be.

    They shouldn’t surprise Manticore, although it remains to be seen how much of that intelligence gets digested and integrated before they have to face Cranberry – oops, I mean Crandall. And then how much gets distributed to other interested parties, and how soon. Grayson and the Anderman Empire, yes. Torch knows about it, and presumably they’ll tell Erewhon.

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