Mission Of Honor – Snippet 25

Mission Of Honor – Snippet 25

The shuttle touched down in a smooth whine of power, and Pritchart suppressed an urge to scurry forward as the boarding ladder extended itself to the airlock hatch. Instead, she made herself stand very still, hands clasped behind her.

“You’re not the only one feeling nervous, you know,” a voice said very quietly in her right ear, and she glanced sideways at Thomas Theisman. The admiral’s brown eyes gleamed with the reflected glitter of the shuttle’s running lights, and his lips quirked in a brief smile.

“And what makes you think I’m feeling nervous?” she asked tartly, her voice equally quiet, almost lost in the cool, gusty darkness.

“The fact that I am, for one thing. And the fact that you’ve got your hands folded together behind you, for another.” He snorted softly. “You only do that when you can’t figure out what else to do with them, and that only happens when you’re nervous as hell about something.”

“Oh, thank you, Tom,” she said witheringly. “Now you’ve found a fresh way to make me feel awkward and bumptious! Just what I needed at a moment like this!”

“Well, if being pissed off at me helps divert you from worrying, then I’ve fulfilled one of your uniformed minions’ proper functions, haven’t I?”

His teeth gleamed in another brief smile, and Pritchart suppressed a burning desire to kick him in the right kneecap. Instead, she contented herself with a mental note to take care of that later, then gave him a topaz glare that promised retribution had merely been deferred and turned back to the shuttle.

Theisman’s diversion, she discovered, had come at precisely the right moment. Which, a corner of her mind reflected, had most certainly not been a simple coincidence. Maybe she’d rescind that broken kneecap after all. Their little side conversation had kept her distracted while the hatch opened and a very tall, broad shouldered woman in the uniform of a Manticoran admiral stepped through it. At a hundred and seventy-five centimeters, Pritchart was accustomed to being taller than the majority of the women she met, but Alexander-Harrington had to be a good seven or eight centimeters taller even than Sheila Thiessen, and Thiessen was five centimeters taller than the president she guarded.

The admiral paused for a moment, head raised as if she were scenting the breezy coolness of the early autumn night, and her right hand reached up to stroke the treecat riding her shoulder. Pritchart was no expert on treecats — as far as she knew, there were no Havenite experts on the telempathic arboreals –but she’d read everything she could get her hands on about them. Even if she hadn’t, she thought, she would have recognized the protectiveness in the way the ‘cat’s tail wrapped around the front of his person’s throat.

And if she’d happened to miss Nimitz’s attitude, no one could ever have missed the wary watchfulness of the trio of green-uniformed men following at Alexander-Harrington’s heels. Pritchart had read about them, too, and she could feel Sheila Thiessen’s disapproving tension at her back as her own bodyguard glared at their holstered pulsers.

Thiessen had pitched three kinds of fits when she found out President Pritchart proposed to allow armed retainers of an admiral in the service of a star nation with which the Republic of Haven happened to be at war into her presence. In fact, she’d flatly refused to allow it — refused so adamantly Pritchart had more than half-feared she and the rest of her detachment would place their own head of state under protective arrest to prevent it. In the end, it had taken a direct order from the Attorney General and Kevin Usher, the Director of the Federal Investigation Agency, to overcome her resistance.

Pritchart understood Thiessen’s reluctance. On the other hand, Alexander-Harrington had to be just as aware of how disastrous it would be for something to happen to Pritchart as Pritchart was of how disastrous it would be to allow something to happen to her.

What was it Thomas told me they used to call that back on Old Earth? ‘Mutually assured destruction,’ wasn’t it? Well, however stupid it may’ve sounded — hell, however stupid it may actually have been! — at least it worked well enough for us to last until we managed to get off the planet. Besides, Harrington’s got a pulser built into her left hand, for God’s sake! Is Sheila planning to make her check her prosthesis at the door? Leave it in the umbrella stand?

She snorted softly, amused by her own thoughts, and Alexander-Harrington’s head turned in her direction, almost as if the Manticoran had sensed that amusement from clear across the landing pad. For the first time, their eyes met directly in the floodlit night, and Pritchart inhaled deeply. She wondered if she would have had the courage to come all alone to the capital planet of a star nation whose fleet she’d shattered in combat barely six T-months in the past. Especially when she had very good reason to feel confident the star nation in question had done its level best to assassinate her a T-year before she’d added that particular log to the fire of its reasons to . . . dislike her. Pritchart liked to think she would have found the nerve, under the right circumstances, yet she knew she could never really know the answer to that question.

But whether she would have had the courage or not, Alexander-Harrington obviously did, and at a time when the Star Kingdom’s military advantage over the Republic was so devastating there was absolutely no need for her to do anything of the sort. Pritchart’s amusement faded into something very different, and she stepped forward, extending her hand, as Alexander-Harrington led her trio of bodyguards down the boarding stairs.

“This is an unexpected meeting, Admiral Alexander-Harrington.”

“I’m sure it is, Madam President.” Alexander-Harrington’s accent was crisp, her soprano surprisingly sweet for a woman of her size and formidable reputation, and Pritchart had the distinct impression that the hand gripping hers was being very careful about the way it did so.

Of course it is, she thought. It wouldn’t do for her to absentmindedly crush a few bones at a moment like this!

“I understand you have a message for me,” the president continued out loud. “Given the dramatic fashion in which you’ve come to deliver it, I’m prepared to assume it’s an important one.”

“Dramatic, Madam President?”

Despite herself, Pritchart’s eyebrows rose as she heard Alexander-Harrington’s unmistakable amusement. It wasn’t the most diplomatic possible reaction to the admiral’s innocent tone, but under the circumstances, Pritchart couldn’t reprimand herself for it too seriously. After all, the Manticorans were just as capable of calculating the local time of day here in Nouveau Paris as her own staffers would have been of calculating the local time in the City of Landing.

“Let’s just say, then, Admiral, that your timing’s gotten my attention,” she said dryly after a moment. “As, I feel certain, it was supposed to.”

“To be honest, I suppose it was, Madam President.” There might actually have been a hint of apology in Alexander-Harrington’s voice, although Pritchart wasn’t prepared to bet anything particularly valuable on that possibility. “And you’re right, of course. It is important.”

“Well, in that case, Admiral, why don’t you — and your armsmen, of course — accompany me to my office so you can tell me just what it is.”

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19 Responses to Mission Of Honor – Snippet 25

  1. no_one says:

    The message is very simple: Give us a decent peace treaty or we’ll blow everything in this star system to radioactive debris and then start on your other systems.

  2. JMN says:

    More than that, “The Queen wanted to send me to distroy you, but we talked her out of it. We have bigger problems than that.”

    What remains to be seen is how Haven reacts to the bombing of the orbital infrastructure at Manticore, and how the negotiations play out after that.


  3. robert says:

    Gee Eloise, sorry to have gotten you out of bed in the middle of the night, but…

  4. Thirdbase says:

    I think that the message is bit more complex, since Honor has wanted the war to end for a while now.

    Don’t forget that they still have no idea where Bolthole is.

    I imagine it will go more like, I want this to end, I am pretty sure that Theisman wants this to end, now do you Pres. Pritchart want this to end? This is what we need to end this war…

    I doubt that any mention of threats will be ever made.

  5. Daryl says:

    @2 JMN from the timeline my understanding is that the negotiations will be essentially finished before either finds out about the bombing of Manticore’s orbital infrastructure. If that is the case then hopefully the agreement will be fair and honorable enough that Pritchard will still hold to it even with the sudden shift of relative power. Then the Sollies launch their first doomed attack, then the two lads return with their Mesa news and it’s game on, neobarbs versus the corrupt centre and Mesa.

  6. Thirdbase says:

    @ Daryl,

    I think that Theisman will make her keep to any treaty, that doesn’t destroy the Republic. If the Republic is required to pay restitution that would bankrupt it, then they might rethink the treaty, but I don’t think that Honor would require that. There will probably be restitution for the minor Allies, and token amounts to Manticore and Grayson and Anderman.

    The interesting thing is that assuming the Republic Constitution is similar to the US Constitution, which it so far has seemed to be, that Congress will have to ratify any treaty. Keeping them in line could be a problem.

    I think that Zilwicki and Cachat will get back prior to the Sollie attack on Manticore, but after OB. This will head off any repudiation of a treaty, signed or not.

    I wonder if the treaty will require plebiscites on current/former Havenite worlds about whether they want to remain/rejoin the Republic.

  7. Daryl says:

    @6 Thirdbase, very good points and on reconsideration I agree with your timetable. Possibly the crunch will be for Haven to be fully committed before the second Sollie attack on Manticore, as the damage caused by OB will then be causing supply problems for Manticore.

  8. robert says:

    The main point of contention will be about the responsibility for who diddled the diplomatic communiques. Since Prichart is aware that that is the fault of their own Foreign Secretary, now dead by misadventure, and since Nimitz is on the spot, it will not be a problem.

  9. Ed says:

    Hmm think the attack on Manticore has occured, and all those supposed collier ships are actually holding the R&D personal of MAnitore to be hidden in Bolthole as Manticre system is a real mess. Yes, it’s the Neobarbs against the Mesa/Sollies

  10. John Roth says:

    @8 Robert

    Misadventure? Snort. That was so obviously a Mesan assassination. The big question on that is whether they’re going to get the security guy who seems to be a Mesan plant, and who’s working on one of the other cabinet members.

  11. Javahead says:

    I don’t think the attack has occurred yet, but I think Ed has hit an important point: Bolthole won’t be attacked.

    Prediction: Haven and Manticore will make peace (easy prediction now), and – after the attack on both home systems – will move the Manticore tech (and any surviving researchers) to Bolthole. Which will be churning out Apollo-capable warships ASAP.

  12. Thirdbase says:

    John Roth,

    No the death of the Secretary of State, was an accident. He was killed by a drunk driver. His assistant was killed by Mesa.


    While DW’s timelines may not be the easiest to follow, he does put actions in chronological order. So since we had the OB commander talk about still waiting for the attack, and Honor already at Haven, OB can’t have happened.

  13. John Roth says:

    @11 Ed.

    How sure are you that the guy was actually drunk? I know that’s what they thought, but…

  14. Thirdbase says:

    From AAC,

    {today it had been time for the “going away party” his buddies and fellow workers at the yard had put together for him. The alcohol had flowed freely, there’d been laughter, and some tears, but no one had really been surprised. And since he was under orders to report the next day, he’d decided it was time for him to turn in early and sleep off as much of the conviviality as he could.}

    {“According to the forensics team’s preliminary, the other driver—an Axel Lacroix,” Usher said, consulting his memo pad’s display “—was well over the legal limit for blood-alcohol. Basically, he was simply flying on manual, rather than under traffic control, and he failed to yield and broadsided Giancola’s limo at a high rate of speed.”}

    I would say that that is fairly definitive. Since DW has pretty stated every Mesan on scene assassination was one, hiding this one would be way out of character.

  15. John Roth says:

    @14 Thirdbase

    I’m aware of all that. What’s even more out of character, though, is for David to kill off a major character to satisfy a plot point by staging a random Act Of Chaos.

    I’m one of these cynics who sometimes counters the ‘gee whiz, technology is wonderful and will solve all our problems’ crowd by asking them: “where’s my flying car? I was promised it back in the 1950s.”

    That’s started some interesting discussions about air traffic control in major metropolitan areas. I can’t get myself to believe that someone who’s drunk would be allowed to disconnect their automatic controls in a heavy traffic area in a major metropolitan center. Or, for that matter, even take off in a car that had the slightest possibility of having the air traffic controls disabled.

    People see what they expect to see. I don’t believe that the Havenites had come to the conclusion that there was a Mesan assassination weapon at that point, or they might have done a much more thorough investigation.

    I could be wrong, of course.

  16. Daryl says:

    Massive show of faith for Honor to negotiate a not excessively punitive peace settlement, followed by equal show of faith for Haven to not renege on agreement after Manticore loses production capabilities, then followed up more so by Manticore entrusting Haven with Apollo as Javahead @11 predicts. The good karma this provides will be rewarded as the tide turns in the strategic situation.

  17. robert says:

    Until proven or written otherwise, I still say “misadventure.” But the other killing was Mesan and that security guy is going down–sooner or later. Usher is closing in…

  18. Vince says:

    @14 @15 @17 I can’t remember where or when I read it (or if it was a direct quote or not), but David Weber was described as cackling with glee over how his readers (especially the ones active on the Bar) would go into a tizzy over the death of the Haven Secretary of State, when it was written by him as an actual pure accident.

  19. robert says:

    It was an accident, but it was not without plot ramifications. When the late Minister’s assistance was killed in what was definitely not an accident, Usher & Co. could all but smell the skunk. And so the investigation began and it did, at least, uncover the fiddling with the communiques from Manticore. We shall see whether the real reasons cme out when the superspies make their long-awaited return.

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