Mission Of Honor – Snippet 12

Mission Of Honor – Snippet 12

Chapter Three

“So you’re satisfied with our own security position at the moment, Wesley?”

Benjamin IX, Protector of Grayson, leaned back in his chair, watching the uniformed commander in chief of the Grayson Space Navy across his desk. Wesley Matthews looked back at him, his expression a bit surprised, then nodded.

“Yes, Your Grace, I am,” he said. “May I ask if there’s some reason you think I shouldn’t be?”

“No, not that I think you shouldn’t be. On the other hand, I have it on excellent authority that certain questions are likely to be raised in the Conclave of Steadholders’ New Year’s session.”

Matthews’ expression went from slightly surprised to definitely sour and he shook his head in disgusted understanding.

The two men sat in Benjamin Mayhew’s private working office in Protector’s Palace. At the moment, the planet Grayson’s seasons were reasonably coordinated with those of mankind’s birth world, although they were drifting slowly back out of adjustment, and heavy snow fell outside the palace’s protective environmental dome. The larger dome which Skydomes of Grayson was currently erecting to protect the entire city of Austen was still only in its embryonic stages, with its preliminary girder work looming against the darkly clouded sky like white, furry tree trunks or — for those of a less cheerful disposition — the strands of some vast, frosted spiderweb. Outside the palace dome, clearly visible through its transparency from the bookcase-lined office’s window, crowds of children cheerfully threw snowballs at one another, erected snowmen, or skittered over the steep, cobbled streets of the Old Town on sleds. Others shrieked in delight as they rode an assortment of carnival rides on the palace grounds themselves, and vendors of hot popcorn, hot chocolate and tea, and enough cotton candy and other items of questionable dietary value to provide sugar rushes for the next several days could be seen nefariously plying their trade on every corner.

What couldn’t be clearly seen from Matthews’ present seat were the breath masks those children wore, or the fact that their gloves and mittens would have served the safety requirements of hazardous materials workers quite handily. Grayson’s high concentrations of heavy metals made even the planet’s snow potentially toxic, but that was something Graysons were used to. Grayson kids took the need to protect themselves against their environment as much for granted as children on other, less unfriendly planets took the need to watch out for traffic crossing busy streets.

And, at the moment, all of those hordes of children were taking special pleasure in their play because it was a school holiday. In fact, it was a planetary holiday — the Protector’s Birthday. The next best thing to a thousand T-years worth of Grayson children had celebrated that same holiday, although for the last thirty T-years or so, they’d been a bit shortchanged compared to most of their predecessors, since Benjamin IX had been born on December the twenty-first. The schools traditionally shut down for Christmas vacation on December the eighteenth, so the kids didn’t get an extra day away from class work the way they might have if Benjamin had been thoughtful enough to be born in, say, March or October. That little scheduling faux pas on his part (or, more fairly perhaps, on his mother’s) was part of the reason Benjamin had always insisted on throwing a special party for all the children of the planetary capital and any of their friends who could get there to join them. At the moment, by Matthews’ estimate, the school-aged population of the city of Austen had probably risen by at least forty or fifty percent.

It was also traditional that the protector did no official business on his birthday, since even he was entitled to at least one vacation day a year. Benjamin, however, was prone to honor that particular tradition in the breach, although he’d been known to use the fact that he was officially “off” for the day as a cover from time to time. And it would appear this was one of those times. Events were building towards the formal birthday celebration later this evening, but Matthews was among the inner circle who’d been invited to arrive early. He would have found himself in that group anyway, given how long and closely he and Benjamin had worked together, but there’d obviously been other reasons this year.

The high admiral regarded his protector thoughtfully. This was Benjamin’s fiftieth birthday, and his hair was streaked progressively more thickly with silver. Not that Matthews was any spring chicken himself. In fact, he was ten T-years older than Benjamin, and his own hair had turned completely white, although (he thought with a certain comfortable vanity) it had remained thankfully thick and luxuriant.

But thick or not, we’re neither one of us getting any younger, he reflected.

It was a thought which had occurred to him more frequently of late, especially when he ran into Manticoran officers half again his age who still looked younger than he did. Who were younger, physically speaking, at least. And more than a few Grayson officers fell into that same absurdly youthful-looking category, now that the first few generations to enter the service since Grayson’s alliance with Manticore had made the prolong therapies generally available were into their late thirties or — like Benjamin’s younger brother, Michael — already into their early forties.

It’s only going to get worse, Wesley, he told himself with an inescapable edge of bittersweet envy. It’s not their fault, of course. In fact, it’s nobody’s fault, but there are still a lot of things I’d like to be here to see.

He gave himself a mental shake and snorted silently. It wasn’t exactly as if he were going to drop dead of old age tomorrow! With modern medicine, he ought to be good for at least another thirty T-years, and Benjamin could probably look forward to another half T-century.

Which had very little to do with the question the protector had just asked him.

“May I ask exactly which of our esteemed steadholders are likely to be raising the questions in question, Your Grace?”

“Well, I think you can safely assume Travis Mueller’s name is going to be found among them.” Benjamin’s smile was tart. “And I expect Jasper Taylor’s going to be right beside him. But I understand they’ve found a new front man — Thomas Guilford.”

Matthews grimaced. Travis Mueller, Lord Mueller, was the son of the late and (by most Graysons) very unlamented Samuel Mueller, who’d been executed for treason following his involvement in a Masadan plot to assassinate Benjamin and Queen Elizabeth. Jasper Taylor, was Steadholder Canseco, whose father had been a close associate of Samuel Mueller and who’d chosen to continue the traditional alliance between Canseco and Mueller. But Thomas Guilford, Lord Forchein, was a newcomer to that particular mix. He was also quite a few years older than either Mueller or Canseco, and while he’d never been one of the greater admirers of the social and legal changes of the Mayhew Restoration, he’d never associated himself with the protector’s more strident critics. There hadn’t been much question about his sentiments, but he’d avoided open confrontations with Benjamin and the solid block of steadholders who supported the Sword and he’d always struck Matthews as less inclined than Mueller to cheerfully sacrifice principle in the name of “political pragmatism.”

“When did Forchein decide to sign on with Mueller and Friends, Your Grace?”

“That’s hard to say, really.” Benjamin tipped his swiveled armchair back and swung it gently from side to side. “To be fair to him — not that I particularly want to be, you understand — I doubt he was really much inclined in that direction until High Ridge tried to screw over every other member of the Alliance.”

Matthews snorted again, this time out loud. Like Benjamin himself, the high admiral strongly supported Grayson’s membership in the Manticoran Alliance. Not only was he painfully aware of just how much Grayson had profited, both technologically and economically, from its ties with the Star Kingdom of Manticore, but he was even better aware of the fact that without the intervention of the Royal Manticoran Navy, the planet of Grayson would either have been conquered outright by the religious lunatics who’d run Masada or at best have suffered nuclear or kinetic bombardment from space. At the same time, he had to admit the High Ridge Government had proved clearly that the Star Kingdom was far from perfect. In his considered opinion, “screw over” was an extraordinarily pale description of what Baron High Ridge had done to his alliance so-called partners. And like many other Graysons, Matthews was firmly of the opinion that High Ridge’s idiotic foreign policy had done a great deal to provoke the resumption of hostilities between the Republic of Haven and the Star Kingdom and its allies.

As far as the high admiral was personally concerned, that simply demonstrated once again that idiocy, corruption, and greed were inescapable elements of mankind’s fallen nature. Tester knew there’d been more than enough traitors, criminals, corrupt and arrogant steadholders, and outright lunatics in Grayson history! Indeed, the name “Mueller” came rather forcibly to mind in that connection. And for every Manticoran High Ridge, Matthews had met two or three Hamish Alexanders or Alistair McKeons or Alice Trumans, not to mention having personally met Queen Elizabeth III.

And then, of course, there was Honor Alexander-Harrington.

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21 Responses to Mission Of Honor – Snippet 12

  1. Thirdbase says:

    Hey look it’s Grayson, aren’t they going to get a late Christmas present too?

    It’s another planet that is going to have a serious bone to pick with Mesa once the Rogues of the Spaceways return from the amusement park.

    So far we have, the SEM, RoH, Andermani Empire, Grayson, Torch all these have had assassination attempts on members of their governments, some successful, some not.

    Then we have both the Maya sector, and the Solarian League, both had at least on the assassination attempts set up on their capital planet.

    It makes me wonder if the Detweilers are trying to deliberately piss everyone off, or if it is just a natural talent. I think that Masada is the only planet that might actually be on their side.

  2. John Roth says:

    @1 Thirdbase

    I don’t know that the attempt on Honor on Grayson was instigated by Mesa. It’s not their style, or at least the style we know about. Also, what happened on Burning Frog? I suspect you meant Erewhon rather than the Mesa Sector, and again, I don’t think that was Mesa pulling strings. Although it really would be amusing if they had their fingers in the Renaissance Association. Now that I think of it. Hmm…

    Well, Mesa did use a group of Masadan nut-cases, um, mercenaries, but you’ve forgotten Mannerheim. They’re very definitely in Mesa’s corner. And I haven’t seen any real evidence that Mesa has any interests on Masada other than picking up the odd mercenary group.

  3. Thirdbase says:

    The attack on Honor on her flagship, was the attack I was talking about.

    The guy that tried to kill Queen Berry was infected(?) on Burning Frog. That is the Capital of the Maya sector.

    Masada would be happy with Mesa, because they are attacking everyone that they don’t like, Grayson, Manticore, and Haven. Actually they don’t like anyone, but that isn’t the point.

    I had forgotten about the first attack on Berry and Ruth, so that would add Erewhon. Plus the attacks on Erewhonese shipping.

    So Mesa is picking fight with, the 5 or 6 or 7 biggest Fleets in existence and their friends.

  4. Summercat says:

    @3 –

    Biggest fleet in existence is the SLN.

    You might want to mean the 5, 6, and 7th most effective Fleets in the known universe =P

    …oh, and Beowulf.

  5. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Remembering the problems with this book and Amazon.com, Amazon.com has messed up several of Baen’s upcoming releases. They aren’t available for pre-order. Toni now knows about them.

    Personally, I’d suggest people visit Barnes & Noble’s online site.

    Oh, Barnes & Noble says that Mission of Honor will be shipped June 22nd.

  6. Thirdbase says:

    Summercat, I was including the Sollie fleet. Besides setting up all the crap going on int Talbott, Mesa has also assassinated a foreign dignitary on Earth. I would think that this would get the Sollies involved in an operation against Mesa.

    That should have been Smoking (not Burning) Frog.

    Thanks Drak.

  7. Thirdbase says:

    Drak,

    Interestingly Amazon has the proper publication date for MoH. I have sent an email to Amazon asking for clarification on the difference in publishing and release dates. I’ll let you know what they say.

  8. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Thirdbase, so it does. It will be ‘interesting’ to see how long the other problems will take to fix.

  9. Robert H. Woodman says:

    Thirdbase

    The behavior of the Detweilers could be seen as extreme hubris, which usually precedes a great fall. They KNOW they are superior to every other human in the galaxy, so they can take greater risks because (obviously) they will overcome their enemies. I don’t think that’s the answer, though, or at least, not nearly the whole answer. We know that Mannerheim is on Mesa’s side (thanks, John Roth, for reminding me of that). I would not be surprised to find that Mesa has a not-insignificant number of reasonably powerful star nations in its corner. Mesa also has superior stealth technology and faster ships. They are working on missile tech parity, although as the Battle of Torch made clear, they have a long way to go.

    Assuming that the Detweilers are neither completely nuts nor completely stupid, and assuming that DW is not going to make it easy for SEM, the Manticoran Alliance, and Haven, then there are some as-yet-to-be-revealed plot twists that Mesa has kept well hidden (even from us ).

  10. John Roth says:

    #9 Robert Woodman

    There’s a statement a couple of characters keep making to the effect that surprises are due to things you’ve seen but have misinterpreted.

    I think we have seen enough to figure out what their grand strategy is all about. We just haven’t properly interpreted it. And if “The Short Victorious War” had been able to overrun Manticore, the Seldon (oops, I meant Detweiller) Plan would still be working. The closer you are to the finish line, the harder it is to deal with random events – and the deviation only occurred 20 years previously in a 300 to 600 year long plan.

  11. Thirdbase says:

    Drak and others,

    I received a response from Amazon. There was no explanation for the delay, but I was informed that the new new shipping date is June 22.

    I see we sent you an e-mail message about the unexpected delay in obtaining “Mission of Honor (Honor Harrington).” I realize this has been a frustrating experience, and I’m sorry about this.

    I’ve upgraded the method of shipment for this order to Standard Shipping to help make up for the delay. There’s no charge for this. The new revised shipping date for your order is June 22.

    So it looks like it may have been some sort of data entry error on their part. So I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

    @ Robert H. Woodman,

    I seem to remember A. Detweiler saying, that while the average Mesan is superior to most of the rest of humanity, there are individuals out there that in some ways that are superior to Mesans. There are examples of this, Zilwicki and Ruth are superior to the best cyberneticists on Mesa, Honor is most likely superior to Mesa’s best Naval officers, Honor’s parents are probably at least equal to the top Mesans in their fields, etc.

  12. John Roth says:

    @11 Thirdbase

    Yeah, that’s a consequence of the size of the galaxy. The more people you’ve got, the more likely it is that the most extreme people will be really, really far out on the curve. And if it’s a field where that matters, they’re more likely to rise to prominence. Mesa is a very small proportion of the human population, so if you plotted the curve for humanity as a whole, they’d be a relatively small bump at the far right, but there would still be exceptional individuals to the right of them.

    It also means that Mesa hasn’t really discovered anything unique.

  13. Thirdbase says:

    The question about whether or not they have discovered anything unique, could really only be answered by allowing the Mesan population to reproduce naturally for the next n generations and then see where it fits on that curve of humanity. If after those generations the population stays at the end of the curve, then they have discovered something somewhat unique, consistency. If they slide back into the general human population curve, then they haven’t discovered squat.

  14. jgnfld says:

    @13 Heavens no! Or Heanvens not exactly! If you’re going to do selective breeding, the LAST thing you want to do is allow uncontrolled breeding. The population genetics would reassert itself in short order. This was the fallacy behind forced sterilizations for the “feeble-minded” during the eugenics movement. Elementary population genetics shows that the equilibrium might be shifted a bit, but the trait will remain (basically due to recessive genes). The act of selection is what is preserving the difference in the first place.

    As another example, dogs would revert to a relatively look-alike “wild type” form in a short number of generations should people disappear.

  15. John Roth says:

    @14 jgnfld

    I think you’re missing my and Thirdbase’s point. “Something new” isn’t just a new combination of what’s out there. It’s something that really is new: a functional connection between two brain areas that wasn’t there before, or a different metabolic pathway that metabolizes alcohol so it doesn’t create acetalhyde (which is the bigger problem) as the intermediate. Or something. Natural or artificial selection has to work on what’s there, and if what you want isn’t in the gene pool, no amount of selection is going to get it there.

    The eugenics experiments might have worked if they were continued for enough generations, because what they were doing was decreasing the fitness of those combinations of alles that produced that collection of phenotypes. Enough generations, though, is probably on the order of thousands.

    Frankly, from what I know now, I find the Mesans to be pitifully inept at genetics. But then, the authors can’t be experts at everything, and the series (including the genetic slavery and superman themes) was created around 15 years ago.

  16. jgnfld says:

    @15 Read up and STUDY some population genetics (the original equations date back to not all that long after the discovery of Mendel–1910 or so–see “Hardy”). It is very, very, very difficult to extirpate genetic material from the genome. That is actually a good thing if you think about it Darwinianly.

  17. jgnfld says:

    (cont.) that’s REdiscovery.

  18. saul says:

    errr, if you did dna tests and removed everyone with recessive genes for x (ie sickle cell, or blue eyes), it would not magically re-appear once you stopped selecting. A similar mutation might re-appear, but the odds are low and it would have to be advantages to spread.

    Eugenics prior to dna tests would not be the same as after. Your examples reflect the 1920’s and an inability to detect recessive genes. (I know this only applies to some conditions)

    If you took a mixed city in America and removed all the non-southeast asians. Then, left them alone for 10 generations. Are you claiming the city would revert to the old mean of a mixed white/black/asian/hispanic population? (barring immigration of course)

    Whats more likely is that your controlled population is absolutely packed with sickle cell type mutations. So, while monitored, everyone gets just one copy. This population is all ubermen, with various advantages from their genes. If the monitoring stops, all the kids are struck with multiple genetic illness’s due to bad combinations, or 2 copies of the same gene.
    ie, imagine a population where every adult is born with 1 sickle cell gene. (or for mesa, an IQ gene). 1 Generation of free breeding, and 100% of the children would be born with a fatal genetic disease that would kill them in their early 20’s.

  19. Summertime says:

    ‘Darwinianly’? Love that word!

  20. justdave says:

    the was a comment in the thread on the Amazon delay at Toni’s table in the Bar

    the middleman between Baen and Amazon had a computer problem that caused the delay

  21. John Roth says:

    @16 jgnfld

    Rudeness objection. What makes you think I don’t know what I’m talking about, other than that you can’t seem to get the idea that “thousands of generations” is sufficiently long to drive an allie to extinction. Or to 100% penetration. Take lactase persistence as an example of the latter.

    @18 Saul

    Good analysis. The thing people are missing is that the technology exists to make precise changes to a person’s genome, which are then inherited. See Grayson as one example, the “Meyerdhal” genome as a second, the Winton genome as a third, and the Mesan change to allow people to even live on the planet (it would be a death world otherwise.) And then add that Honor’s mother is in that business herself.

    So we are not talking selection. We are talking genetic engineering. Any group with the technology that Mesa has demonstrated that deliberately doesn’t extirpate known deleterous mutations from the population, and keep them out when the de novo mutations occur, deserves whatever happens to them.

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