Mission Of Honor – Snippet 37

Mission Of Honor – Snippet 37

Chapter Eleven

“Good morning, Michael,” the very black-skinned woman said from Rear Admiral Michael Oversteegen’s com display.

“Mornin’, Milady,” Oversteegen drawled, and smiled slightly as her eyes narrowed. His chosen form of address was perfectly appropriate, even courteous . . . no matter how much he knew it irritated Vice Admiral Gloria Michelle Samantha Evelyn Henke, Countess Gold Peak. Especially in that upper-crust, languid accent. Of course, the fact that she knew he knew it irritated her only made it even more amusing.

Serves her right, he thought. All those years she managed t’ avoid admittin’ she was only half-a-dozen or so heartbeats away from th’ Throne. Not anymore, Milady Countess.

It wasn’t that Oversteegen had anything other than the highest respect for Michelle Henke. It was just that she’d always been so aggressive in stamping on anything that even looked like the operation of nepotism in her behalf. Oh, if she’d been incompetent, or even only marginally competent, he’d have agreed with her. The use of family influence in support of self-interest and mediocrity (or worse) was the single greatest weakness of an aristocratic system, and Oversteegen had studied more than enough history to admit it. But every social system had weaknesses of one sort or another, and the Manticoran system was an aristocratic one. Making that system work required a recognition of social responsibility on the part of those at its apex, and Oversteegen had no patience with those — like his own miserable excuse for an uncle, Michael Janvier, the Baron of High Ridge — who saw their lofty births solely in terms of their own advantage. But it also required the effective use of the advantages of birth and position to promote merit. To see to it that those who were capable of discharging their responsibilities, and willing to do so, received the preference to let them get on with it.

He was willing to concede that the entire system disproportionately favored those who enjoyed the patronage and family influence in question, and that was unfortunate. One of those weaknesses every system had. But he wasn’t going to pretend he didn’t see those advantages as a rightful possession of those who met their obligations under it . . . including, especially, the enormous obligation to see to it that those advantages were employed on behalf of others, in support of the entire society which provided them, not simply for their own personal benefit or the sort of shortsighted class selfishness of which aristocrats like his uncle (or, for that matter, his own father) were altogether too often guilty. In particular, one of the responsibilities of any naval officer was to identify and groom his own successors, and Oversteegen saw no reason he shouldn’t use his influence to nurture the careers of capable subordinates, be they ever so commonly born. It wasn’t as if being born into the aristocracy magically guaranteed some sort of innate superiority, and one of the greater strengths of the Manticoran system from its inception had been the relative ease with which capable commoners could find themselves elevated to its aristocracy.

Mike ought t’ recognize that if anyone does, he reflected, given that her best friend in th’ galaxy is also th’ most spectacular example I can think of of how it works. When it works, of course. Be fair, Michael — it doesn’t always, and you know it as well as Mike does.

“What can I do for you this fine mornin’?” he inquired genially, and she shook her head at him.

“I was going to invite you to observe a little command simulation over here aboard Artie in a couple of days,” she said, using the nickname which had been bestowed upon HMS Artemis’ by her flagship’s crew. “But given how feisty you’re obviously feeling, I’ve changed my mind. Instead” — she smiled nastily — “I think you’d better join me for lunch so we can discuss the defenders’ role. You’ve just inspired me to let you play system-defense force CO in our little exercise instead of Shulamit.”

“I’d hate t’ be quoted on this, Milady, but that sounds just a mite . . . I don’t know . . . vengeful, perhaps?”

“Why, yes, I believe it does, Admiral Oversteegen. And, speaking as one decadent, effete aristocrat to another, isn’t vengefulness one of our hallmark traits?”

“I believe it is,” he agreed with a chuckle.

“I’m glad it amuses you, Admiral,” she said cheerfully. “And I hope you’ll go right on feeling equally amused when it turns out the other side has Mark 23s, too, this time.”

“Why do I have th’ impression you just this minute decided t’ add that particular wrinkle t’ th’ sim, Milady?”

“Because you have a nasty, suspicious mind and know me entirely too well. But look at it this way. It’s bound to be a very enlightening experience for you.” She smiled sweetly at him. “I’ll expect you at oh-one-thirty, Admiral. Don’t be late!”

Michelle terminated the connection and tipped back in her flag bridge chair, shaking her head wryly.

“Are you really going to give the aggressor force Mark 23s, Ma’am?” a voice asked, and Michelle looked over her shoulder at Captain Cynthia Lecter, Tenth Fleet’s chief of staff.

“I’m not only going to give the op force Mark 23s, Cindy,” she said with a wicked smile. “I’m probably going to give it Apollo, too.”

Lecter winced. The current iteration of the Mark 23 multidrive missile carried the most destructive warhead in service with any navy, and it carried it farther and faster than any missile in service with any navy outside what was still called the Haven Sector. That was a sufficiently significant advantage for most people to be going on with, she supposed, but when the faster-than-light command and control link of the Apollo system was incorporated into the mix, the combination went far beyond simply devastating.

“You don’t think that might be a little bit of overkill, Ma’am?” the chief of staff asked after a moment.

“I certainly hope it will!” Michelle replied tartly. “He deserves worse, actually. Well, maybe not deserves, but I can’t think of a word that comes closer. Besides, it’ll be good for him. Put a little hiccup in that unbroken string of four-oh simulations he’s reeled off since he got here. After all,” she finished, lifting her nose with a slight but audible sniff, “it’s one of a commanding officer’s responsibilities to remind her subordinates from time to time of their own mortality.”

“You manage to sound so virtuous when you say that, Ma’am,” Lecter observed. “And you can actually keep a straight face, too. I think that’s even more remarkable.”

“Why, thank you, Captain Lecter!” Michelle beamed benignly and raised one hand in a gesture of blessing which would have done her distant cousin Robert Telmachi, the Archbishop of Manticore, proud. “And now, why don’t you sit down with Dominica, Max, and Bill to see just how devious the three of you can be in putting all of those unfair advantages into effect?”

“Aye, aye, Ma’am,” Lecter acknowledged, and headed off towards the tactical section, where Commander Dominica Adenauer was discussing something with Lieutenant Commander Maxwell Tersteeg, Michelle’s staff electronic warfare officer.

Michelle watched her go and wondered if Cindy had figured out the other reason she was thinking about giving the op force Apollo. They weren’t going to find a more capable system-defense CO than Michael Oversteegen, and she badly wanted to see how well the Royal Manticoran Navy’s Apollo — in the hands of one Vice Admiral Gold Peak and her staff — could do while someone with all the Royal Manticoran Navy’s war-fighting technology short of Apollo pulled out all the stops against her.

Her own smile faded at the thought. None of her ships currently had Apollo, nor did they have the Keyhole-Two platforms to make use of the FTL telemetry link even if they’d had the Apollo birds themselves. But unless she missed her guess, that was going to change very soon now.

I hope to hell it is, anyway, she reflected grimly. And when it does, we’d damned well better have figured out how to use it as effectively as possible. That bastard Byng may have been a complete and utter incompetent — as well as an asshole — but not all Sollies can be that idiotic.

She settled back, contemplating the main plot with eyes that didn’t see it at all while she reflected on the last three T-months.

Somehow, when she’d just been setting out on her naval career, it had never occurred to her she might find herself in a situation like this one. Even now, it seemed impossible that so much could have happened in so short a period, and she wished she knew more about what was going on back home.

Be glad of what you do know, girl, she told herself sternly. At least Beth approved of your actions. Cousin or not, she could’ve recalled you as the sacrificial goat. In fact, I’m sure a lot of people think that’s exactly what she should’ve done.

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24 Responses to Mission Of Honor – Snippet 37

  1. Thirdbase says:

    Hey did you know that some aristocrats take advantage of their birth?

  2. John Roth says:

    Hm. Looks like we might see Admiral Crandall get turned into sauce before we see Oyster Bay.

  3. John Roth says:

    Hm. Looks like we might see Admiral Crandall get turned into sauce before we see Oyster Bay.

  4. robert says:

    Knowing Weber I would expect the dust up with Crandall to be much later in the book unless there is another battle vs. the SL or Mesa.

  5. js says:


    Haven Sector, if no one outside of Haven Sector has missiles like Mk23’s… then what’s in Haven Sector? I’d have to assume that the Andermani Empire, and Talbott Cluster are both in Haven Sector… but isn’t Andermani on the far side of the Silesia Sector?

  6. Robert H. Woodman says:

    I’m looking forward to seeing how Oversteegen does defending against Apollo. I wonder if DW has written in some weaknesses for Apollo that Oversteegen can exploit?

  7. JMN says:

    @4 Perhaps. On the other hand, dusting up Crandall’s dreadnaughts, with battle cruisers, may get the attention on Earth.


  8. robert says:

    @5 Doesn’t Haven have something akin to the MK23, but because they have not got the tech they had to make them way bigger? Or what am I confusing them with?

    @7 Yes, but the SL is already planning to send a BIG fleet directly to Manticore, if I recall the rather slight mention of an Admiral Filareta on maneuvers someplace or other in Storm From the Shadows. And remember the opening chapters of this book where Rampajet (?) plans to send more ships against Manticore than Manticore has missiles. So the Earthlings already have noticed that they are technologically way behind.

    I need to go back and find that part about Filareta in Storm.

  9. fester says:

    @ #5 Haven Sector is an interesting term in its flexibility. I guess its broadest usage from a Solarian POV is the same usage as we use the Middle East in that it denotes several very large, culturally different groupings under one category of “Way Over There.” The different groupings in the Haven Sector have a history of interactions and cultural/economic ties to and through each other, as well as a long history of conflict. The core of the Haven Sector is of course, Haven (at least it was in 1600PD) with a secondary core of Manticore-Binary. The expanded version of the Haven Sector is basically all systems that are within the combined Manticoran-Havenite alliance systems which are connected through either’s territorial space as of 1905 PD or through the non-Beowulf termini of the MWJ.

    So in that expanded definition from the Sollie POV, Manticore, Haven, Grayson, and the Andermanis’ are definately in the Haven Sector. Erewhon is on the edge of the sector because it is 12 light hours or less from the League’s Core @ Joshua, and Talbott is an unresolved border dispute that Manticore is attempting to pull into the Haven Sector’s sphere of influence and commerce through its annexation drive.

  10. lethargo says:

    @9,fester – I like that phrase, “annexation drive”. Reminds me of blood drive, pledge drive, etc. It makes my mind start wandering to strange places like… Manticoran Public Radio having a pledge drive week to support expanding reporting coverage to Talbott… or groups of little old ladies knitting mittens for poor children on Dresden… or a SOGGy Fun Run raising money for the Silesian Outreach for Good Governance program… or a bearded guy on HD talking over a lugubrious soundtrack about poor children with no hope of prolong to raise money for Save the Verge Children… or a monster air car rally and tractor beam pull with people hawking T-shirts showing air cars with ridiculously oversized counter-grav generators lifting big block letters reading “Screw the League!”… or … sorry if I got too carried away or offended anyone :-)

  11. lethargo says:

    So a question for everyone else: what small pieces of pop culture do you envision on Manticore that haven’t been significant enough for David Weber to include in the books?

  12. Robert H. Woodman says:

    @11 —

    Music. DW has given us tidbits of musical culture in his books, but he hasn’t really given us an all-out description of the music scene. We know that Grayson has country music (“Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be spacers!”). Did that get imported to Manticore? We know that there are a variety of genres of rock music. But what qualifies as “classical”? And what music in the Alliance is considered “cutting edge”?

    Art. I’m sure the art culture scene has got to be just fascinating.

    Marketing/Advertising. What are the Manticoran, Grayson, and Havenite equivalents of billboards and infomercials?

    What is college life like in this time frame? The clash between town and gown goes back almost to the founding of the first universities. Has it changed? If so, how?

    Another thing that I really, really wish DW would write about is the professional scientific/engineering class in Manticoran and Grayson societies. As a professional scientist, I’m curious to know how DW envisions that the class of professional scientists and engineers have developed and how they are still the same as now.

  13. Thirdbase says:

    We also haven’t heard about a holovid series about a guy with a blue box.

    lethargo, you forgot about the college students with long scarves and floppy hats raising money on the local PBS station…

  14. wyrm says:

    Somewhat off-topic, but we may not need to wait 2000 years for prolong


  15. Anthony says:

    I have an ide for a weakness in Apollo. You place your Ghost Rider drones between you and the Appollo capable vessels, and when the missiles pass the drones, have the drones begin sending grav pulses back to the launching ships. The ships MAY not be able to distinguish the Appollo system signal from the mess your drones are making. This is complicated by the fact that Apollo missiles can be controlled by any ship that can “see” them.

  16. no_one says:

    As Heinlein wondered in one of his books: do they still have popcorn in movie theaters? Do they even HAVE movie theaters? What would their games be like? Imagine a Manticoran pinball game. We know they don’t play baseball on Manticore, but what about football? Or soccer? Do they have Olympiads? There’s so much to ask, and no need to hear about the hotels in Haven.

  17. Robert Krawitz says:

    @14, presumably encryption’s pretty good by then (if grav pulses can be modulated well enough to carry lots of information, that information can be encrypted both ways).

    However, I do wonder if defenders could emit enough grav pulse “noise” to jam the transmission channel. On the flip side, perhaps spread spectrum could be used to make it a bit harder to jam?

  18. robert says:

    “Just possibly it could give us an opportunity to answer the question of why we are mortal.”

    Too late, alas.

  19. Thirdbase says:

    @16, no_one,

    We know they have soccer, it’s mentioned every once in a while. Honor mentions Golf. Swimming, hang-gliding, rock/mountain climbing. Frisbee. Wrestling and weightlifting.

    Earth still has the Olympics, and Manticore seems to have it’s equivalent, Zilwicki was a multiple time champ.

    Since Emily Alexander was a holo-drama star, apparently some sort of visual media exists, although Manticore and Grayson have lost the term movie, it seems that Haven and Earth haven’t.

    I wonder if the have UFO sightings?

  20. Robert Krawitz says:

    Baseball’s big on Grayson.

  21. Robert H. Woodman says:

    @15 — Years ago when I went through AFROTC, I remember my detachment commander making this statement, “If Man can build a weapon, then Man can build a counter-weapon to defeat that weapon, and the process never ends.” There MUST be a weakness in Apollo. G*d didn’t build the weapon, so a counter to it must exist.

    I think the idea of interrupting the flow of data between the control missile and the controlling ship is a good first start to defeating Apollo. I like the idea of sending interrupting data, but why not do something simpler? Why not just place drones in space and have them emit intense bursts of gravitational pulses aimed at the opposing ships? In other words, instead of trying to interrupt a specific data stream, just flood the entire spectrum with noise that drowns out all other communication. You don’t have to defeat any encryption. All you have to do is make any gravitational pulse FTL communication impossible by completely saturating all data channels.

    That’s a germ of an idea and certainly it needs development, but what do you think?

  22. robert says:

    @21 If I knew what a gravitational pulse was, and only Weber knows what HE is writing about, I could tell you if it would work. I can’t even imagine how they would be generated. Or how an anti-gravity thingamabobble would work. Or what gravity really is. Weber has invented a whole bunch of stuff for which there is no science, just his imagination.

  23. John Roth says:

    @21 Robert H. Woodman

    Apollo is actually rather simple in concept. It allows shipboard control of the missile at extreme range where the fact that gravity goes at 64x light speed makes a major difference in the control linkage. It also puts a much better AI out there with the cluster of missiles, so the cluster can operate much better on its own than any single missile has ever been capable of.

    Beyond that, those missiles have better laser heads, but they’re still missiles, and they’re still subject to counter-missile fire and close in laser and graser shots. The whole tactical advantage is that you can be well outside of the other guy’s controllable missile envelope and still have the kind of control you used to have a point-blank range.

  24. Thirdbase says:


    While Manticore and its allies could possibly create such a drone, the Solarian couldn’t and I don’t think that Haven could either. Remember that Manticore had to invent a superdense, super small, fusion plant to just make the first recon drones with FTL communication. So for either of them to build something that small would not be possible at ‘this’ time.

    One possible defense would be to mount jammers on the ships and broadcast the “static” from there.

    Another defense is to get in close, while it doesn’t stop the control that Apollo has, it does mean that you get to fight back.

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