Mission Of Honor – Snippet 40

Mission Of Honor – Snippet 40

Chapter Twelve

“May I help you, Lieutenant?”

The exquisitely tailored maître d’ didn’t sound as if he really expected to be able to assist two such junior officers, who’d undoubtedly strayed into his establishment by mistake.

“Oh, yes — please! We’re here to join Lieutenant Archer,” Abigail Hearns told him. “Um, we may be a few minutes early, I’m afraid.”

She managed, Ensign Helen Zilwicki observed to sound very . . . earnest. Possibly even a little nervous at intruding into such elegant surroundings, but very determined. And the fact that her father could have bought the entire Sigourney’s Fine Restaurants chain out of pocket change wasn’t particularly in evidence, either. The fact that she was third-generation prolong and looked considerably younger than her already very young age, especially to eyes not yet accustomed to the latest generations of prolong, undoubtedly helped, yet she clearly possessed a fair degree of thespian talent, as well. The maître d’ was clearly convinced she’d escaped from a high school — probably a lower-class high school, given her soft, slow Grayson accent — for the afternoon, at least. His expression of politely sophisticated attentiveness didn’t actually change a millimeter, but Helen had the distinct impression of an internal wince.

“Ah, Lieutenant Archer,” he repeated. “Of course. If you’ll come this way, please?”

He set sail across the intimately lit main dining room’s sea of linen-draped tables, and Abigail and Helen bobbed along in his wake like a pair of dinghies. They crossed to a low archway on the opposite side of the big room, then followed him down two shallow steps into a dining room with quite a different (though no less expensive) flavor. The floor had turned into artfully worn bricks, the walls — also of brick — had a rough, deliberately unfinished look, and the ceiling was supported by heavy wooden beams.

Well, by what looked like wooden beams, Helen thought, although they probably weren’t all that impressive to someone like Abigail who’d grown up in a (thoroughly renovated) medieval pile of stone over six hundred years old. One which really did have massive, age-blackened beams, a front gate fit to sneer at battering rams, converted firing slits for windows, and fireplaces the size of a destroyer’s boat bay.

Two people were seated at one of the dark wooden tables. One of them — a snub nosed, green-eyed officer in the uniform of a Royal Manticoran Navy lieutenant — looked up and waved as he saw them. His companion — a stunningly attractive blonde — turned her head when he waved, and smiled as she, too, saw the newcomers.

“Thank you,” Abigail told the maître d’ politely, and that worthy murmured something back, then turned and departed with what in a less eminent personage might have been described as relieved haste.

“You know,” Abigail said as she and Helen crossed to the table, “you really should be ashamed of the way you deliberately offend that poor man’s sensibilities, Gwen.”

Personally, Helen was reminded rather forcefully of the old saying about pots and kettles, given Abigail’s simpering performance for the same maître d’, but she nobly forbore saying so.

“Me?” Lieutenant Gervais Winton Erwin Neville Archer’s expression was one of utter innocence. “How could you possibly suggest such a thing, Miss Owens?”

“Because I know you?”

“Is it my fault nobody on this restaurant’s entire staff has bothered to inquire into the exalted pedigrees of its patrons?” Gervais demanded. “If you’re going to blame anyone, blame her.”

He pointed across the table at the blonde, who promptly smacked the offending hand.

“It’s not polite to point,” she told him in a buzz saw-like accent. “Even we brutish, lower-class Dresdeners know that much!”

“Maybe not, but that doesn’t make it untrue, does it?” he shot back.

“I didn’t say it did,” Helga Boltitz, Defense Minister Henri Krietzmann’s personal aide, replied, and smiled at the newcomers. “Hello, Abigail. And you too, Helen.”

“Hi, Helga,” Abigail responded, and Helen nodded her own acknowledgment of the greeting as she seated herself beside Helga. Abigail settled into the remaining chair, facing Helen across the table, and looked up as their waiter appeared.

He took their drink orders, handed them menus, and disappeared, and she cocked her head at Gervais as she opened the elegant, two centimeter-thick binder.

“Helga may have put you up to it, and I can’t say I blame her,” she said.” This has to be the snootiest restaurant I’ve ever eaten in, and trust me, Daddy’s taken me to some really snooty places. Not to mention the way they fawn over a steadholder or his family. But you’re the one who’s taking such a perverse enjoyment over thinking about how these people are going to react when they find out the truth.”

“What truth would that be?” Gervais inquired more innocently yet. “You mean the fact that I’m a cousin — of some sort, anyway — of the Queen? Or that Helen here’s sister is the Queen of Torch? Or that your own humble father is Steadholder Owens?”

“That’s exactly what she means, you twit,” Helga told him, blue eyes glinting with amusement, and leaned across the table to whack him gently on the head. “And much as I’m going to enjoy it when they do find out, don’t think I don’t remember how you did exactly the same thing to me!”

“I never misled you in any way,” he said virtuously.

“Oh, no? If I hadn’t looked you up in Clarke’s Peerage, you never would’ve told me, would you?”

“Oh, I imagine I’d have gotten around to it eventually,” he said, and his voice was considerably softer than it had been. He smiled at her, and she smiled back, gave his right hand a pat where it lay on the table between them, then settled back in her chair.

If anyone had suggested to Helga Boltitz eight months ago that she might find herself comfortable with, or actually liking, someone from a background of wealth and privilege, she would have laughed. The idea that someone from Dresden, that sinkhole of hardscrabble, lower-class, grub-for-a-living poverty could have anything in common with someone from such stratospheric origins would have been ludicrous. And, if she were going to be honest, that was still true where the majority of the Talbott Quadrant’s homegrown oligarchs were concerned. More than that, she felt entirely confident she was going to run into Manticorans who were just as arrogant and supercilious as she’d always imagined they’d be.

But Gervais Archer had challenged her preconceptions — gently, but also firmly — and, in the process, convinced her that there were at least some exceptions to the rule. Which explained how she found herself sitting at this table in such monumentally well-connected company.

“Personally,” Helen said, “my only regret is that I probably won’t be here when they do find out.”

At twenty-one, she was the youngest of the quartet, as well as the most junior in rank. And she was also the non-Dresdener who came closest to sharing Helga’s attitudes where aristocrats and oligarchs were concerned. Not surprisingly, given the fact that she’d been born on Gryphon and raised by a Gryphon highlander who’d proceeded to take up with the closest thing to a rabble-rousing anarchist the Manticoran peerage had ever produced when Helen was barely thirteen years old.

“If you really want to see their reaction, I suppose you could tell them yourself this afternoon,” Abigail pointed out.

“Oh, no way!” Helen chuckled. “I might want to be here to see it, but the longer it takes them to figure it out, the more irritated they’re going to be when they finally do!”

Abigail shook her head. She’d spent more time on Manticore than she had back home on Grayson, over the last nine or ten T-years, but despite the undeniable, mischievous enjoyment she’d felt when dissembling for the maître d’, there were times when she still found her Manticoran friends’ attitude towards their own aristocracy peculiar. As Gervais had pointed out, her father was a steadholder, and the deepest longings of the most hard-boiled member of Manticore’s Conservative Association were but pale shadows of the reality of a steadholder’s authority within his steading. The term “absolute monarch” fell comfortably short of that reality, although “supreme autocrat” was probably headed in the right direction.

As a result of her own birth and childhood, she had remarkably few illusions about the foibles and shortcomings of the “nobly born.” Yet she was also the product of a harsh and unforgiving planet and a profoundly traditional society, one whose deference and rules of behavior were based deep in the bedrock of survival’s imperatives. She still found the irreverent, almost fondly mocking attitude of so many Manticorans towards their own aristocracy unsettling. In that respect, she was even more like Helga than Helen was, she thought. Hostility, antagonism, even hatred — those she could understand, when those born to positions of power abused that power rather than meeting its responsibilities. The sort of self-deprecating amusement someone like Gwen Archer displayed, on the other hand, didn’t fit itself comfortably into her own core concepts, even though she’d seen exactly the same attitude out of dozens of other Manticorans who were at least as well born as he was.

I guess you can take the girl off of Grayson, but you can’t take Grayson out of the girl, she thought. It wasn’t the first time that thought had crossed her mind. And it won’t be the last, either, she reflected tartly.

She started to say something else, then paused as their drinks arrived and the waiter took their orders. He disappeared once more, and she sipped iced tea (something she’d had trouble finding in Manticoran restaurants), then lowered her glass.

“Leaving aside the ignoble, although I’ll grant you entertaining, contemplation of the coronaries certain to follow the discovery of our despicable charade, I shall now turn this conversation in a more sober minded and serious direction.”

“Good luck with that,” Helen murmured.

“As I was about to ask,” Abigail continued, giving her younger friend a ferocious glare, “how are things going dirtside, Helga?”

“As frantically as ever.” Helga grimaced, took a sip from her own beer stein, then sighed. “I guess it’s inevitable. Unfortunately, it’s only going to get worse. I don’t think anyone in the entire Quadrant’s ever seen this many dispatch boats in orbit around a single planet before!”

All three of her listeners grimaced back at her in understanding.

“I don’t suppose we can really blame them,” she went on, “even if I do want to shoot the next newsy I see on sight! But exactly how they expect Minister Krietzmann to get anything done when they keep hounding him for ‘statements’ and ‘background interviews’ is more than I can imagine.”

“One of the less pleasant consequences of an open society,” Gervais said, rather more philosophically than he felt.

“Exactly,” Abigail agreed, then smiled unpleasantly. “Although I’d like to see the newsy back home on Grayson who thought he could get away with ‘hounding’ Daddy!”

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38 Responses to Mission Of Honor – Snippet 40

  1. robert says:

    Um. I guess I am just thick these days, but what is going on here?

  2. hank says:

    @1 Robert: Juniors nite out? Getting a different perpective on what’s going on on Spindle re newsies
    not to mention catching up on/advancing the plotline on some of our up & coming stars!

  3. Thirdbase says:


    I thought these people had their own series though.

  4. Rancke says:

    Maybe it’s a cameo.


  5. Paul says:

    But all the series are interconnected, so it makes sense to see them show up.

  6. Daryl says:

    Two purposes for this snippet, some exposure to the next generation of heros in the series, and making us all sweat over the weekend when we had hoped to get the start of the Battle of Spindle.

  7. JMN says:


    The baattle of Spindle, if it really is a bettle, will be in the last few chapters of the book, and not in these snippets. We may get to see the prebattle positioning.

    OTOH, if it is shooting ducks on a pond, it might be soon.


  8. John Roth says:

    We’re in Chapter 12 of 43, and it’s part way through January. Do you really think that Oyster Bay and the (still hypothetical) Battle of Spindle are enough to occupy another 31 chapters?

    The significant issue in this piece seems to be “the newsies.” I wonder if someone has their fingers in that pot, stirring oh, so gently.

  9. John Roth says:


    According to the Baen web site, the book goes through May. Given how fast Crandall intended to leave Meyers back in November, do you really think she’s going to wait that long to do whatever she’s going to do?

  10. Thirdbase says:

    We have the Battle of Spindle, or at least the sudden appearance of 71 Sollie SDs, Oyster Bay (both Manticore and Grayson), Honor’s negotiations, the Detweilers going gaga over their success (?) of OB, the return of Cachat and Zilwicki possibly. The rulers of Earth and what they are doing, possibly a comment on what is going on in the Maya sector and surroundings.

    We have about 18 snippets to go before the book is in the publics hands, which should get us another 5 chapters or so? Unless one of those chapters covers Cachat and company playing Hold-Em for a couple months while they wait for their ship to repaired, I think we will see the Battle of Spindle before the ends of the snippets.

  11. justdave says:

    we’ll probably get either BoS OR HH finishing up on Haven in the remaining snippets

    after that it’ll be whichever of those is left, then OB etc and the cliff hanger in the last few chapters will be the return of the Dynamic Duo

    this will set up the next HH novel, which MWW has hinted will actually pull together all three story lines

  12. Pam K says:

    Possible action (or nonaction) between Commodore Sung’s OB scouts and the Grayson Navy in Yeltsin space should take up a chapter. In snippet 32 they were within hours of their closest approach so we should see something about them soon.

  13. robert says:

    @10 Thirdbase. Right! There is plenty going on in this book, and one more thing, too: what is going on among the dunces, dupes and Mesan agents in the SL bureaucracy. So what is this snippet about? If it is the budding romance between Helga and Gwen, OK. But why involve the two Saganamies in that subplot?

    I know that the Shadow series and the mainline series are drawing together, and the return of Cachet and Zilwicki will draw the Torch series closer or directly into the mainline, but unless this conversation between the very bright and up and coming young ‘uns turns into more than gossip about the “newsies” it is merely filler.

    What looks like is going on in the last two snippets is Weber stating his distaste for the kind of ‘journalism’ that has been going on since Gutenburg. And I am sure that he is right and that it will last another 2K years. But if that is all this conversation is, then Stop David, the horse is dead and yet, it will never die, human nature and all that, Hearst lives, etc.

  14. Vince says:

    @1, @6, @13 If Crandall heads directly for Spindle, it looks like whatever takes place (from surrender demands to actual shooting) will take place under the eyes of the journalists (presumably some of them Solarian). This will probably contribute to events spinning out of control of the Solarian bureaucrats and SLN personnel back on Earth that we saw in the beginning of the snippets.

  15. robert says:

    @14 Vince.
    If Henke is not quite as kind as she was at New Tuscany, then all those POWs (assuming she does not hang them for piracy, which she could do since war isn’t declared) being brought down to Spindle under the eyes of the SL reporters ought to have some effect back on Earth. But what? We can speculate but not snerk.

  16. Daryl says:

    @7 JMN, the only way the timeline will work is if action at Spindle occurs soon (as within about 3 weeks). I’ll be disappointed if we don’t see some action within the next week of snippets. Lots to happen after this so it won’t be at the end of the book.

  17. John Roth says:

    @13 Robert

    David is not flogging a dead horse here. Wouldn’t it be interesting if a couple of those newsies were actually Mesans with streak drive ships that look like courier boats?

  18. d says:

    I suspect Crandall will arrive in Spindle just after the end of the snippets.

  19. robert says:

    @17 John, I meant the exasperated criticism of the reporters. They are what they always were. But yes, that would be interesting, but I can’t figure out whether that would be because they are saboteurs or just spies reporting on the successful outcome of this part of the Mesan plan.

    @16 There is plenty going on in this book. We have one or more snippets to go in this thread. Then what will happen is that we will cut away before the battle to Haven and the peace conference, or to Manticore and the just-before-the-attack goings on aboard the station, with Ginger Lewis, etc., or aboard the last day(s) or hour(s) of Hexapuma, or some conversation in the Royal Palace, or Henke doing post-sim critique, or where’s Paolo in all this, or all of the above. I do not expect the battle to show up here very soon, if at all.

    We have 15-18 more snippets left before publication. I say “No Battle.”

  20. robert says:

    How come Honor goes nowhere without her Armsmen in tow and Abagail gets to go everywhere without her’s?

  21. John Roth says:

    @19 Robert

    I think we’re going to have to disagree and see what happens on this one. As far as I’m concerned, Crandall would have to break out the oars to take more than two months to get to Spindle, and from the way she was spouting fire, she ain’t going to dawdle along the way.

    Assuming two more snippets in this chapter, 17 snippets will take us to the end of chapter 17, which is the end of January, 1921 PD.

    As far as exasperated criticism, that’s just characterization. Remember that Henke has never liked the political game, and she’s been reamed out on that by Honor more than once. Dealing with the press is part of the political game.

  22. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Robert, just because he’s not mentioned doesn’t mean he’s not there.

    The maître d’ might also not think a *single* bodyguard means anything.

    His usual customers would have more than one bodyguard (or not have any).

    He sees a lowly Lieutenant (and Ensign) who (in his mind) aren’t his usual customers.

  23. robert says:

    @22 So he is sitting at the bar having a Shirley Temple and keeping an eye on things?

  24. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Now Robert, the Bar of this restaurant might not be the best place to keep an eye on things. [Wink]

    Oh, he likely isn’t drinking anything.

    Somebody might slip a drug into his drink. [Evil Grin]

  25. Robert Krawitz says:

    @Drak, the maitre d’ might not have noticed the bodyguard (although if I recall Mateo Gutierrez is hard to miss), but Abigail wasn’t in the habit of ignoring him (remember the beginning of Shadow of Saganami) and Helen and Helga (at least) aren’t likely to be in the habit of treating noncoms as “seen but not heard”.

    Not that it’s likely to be terribly important for the story (unless there’s an off-stage assassin about to strike), but we David Weber fans *hate* this kind of small but glaring inconsistency.

  26. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Well Robert, David Weber fans have, from time to time, made mountains out of moleholes. [Grin]

  27. Robert Krawitz says:

    Like I said :-)

  28. Thirdbase says:

    Any assassin that attacks Helen and Abigail deserves what they get, and so does what ever idiot hired them. Assuming the assassin survives, which I would doubt, the assassin and his hirer would now have Zilwicki, Torch, the Ballroom, and all the resources a Grayson Steadholder can muster to find and eliminate them. Besides Mateo is probably nearby disguised as a small bus or maybe a shop, or an SD or something else innocuous. Does the planet have a moon?

    Drak, what’s going to happen to all those Havenite SDs? :D

  29. robert says:

    @28 3rdbase, are we doing the Havenite SDs again? I thought that was settled when DW wrote his fuggedaboudit post! I think they must have been scrapped already. Soon they will have an even more obsolete bunch of SDs (if any survive) to scrap.

    I know that you must be kidding. Right?

  30. Thirdbase says:

    That would be what the big grin is for. It was a response to Drak’s mountains out of molehills comment.

  31. 4th Dimension says:

    A tought occurs to me. WOuldn’t scrapping an SD be quite an operation. I mean it’s not like it’s a car and they can simply throw it into a breaker. Considering how strapped for manpower and building space Manticorians are, I would sooner expect them to simply strip them of anything that’s not bolted down (circuits, and such tech that might be reusable or might contain rare materials), and simply leave the husk floating in space.

  32. robert says:

    @31 4D: If you can mine and smelter ore in space, it should not be any more difficult to break up and melt down SL “space junk.” And I would think that there’s plenty of room in orbit at any of the Talbot Quadrant systems. Nobody is going to bother transporting the hulls to the Lynx junction and to Manticore for scraping. Were I an entrepreneur living in the Quadrant, I’d bid the job.

  33. 4th Dimension says:

    I think there is a big difference between smallish asteroids that can be broken into pieces and then processed by something not much different than ur smelters. But a SD is a whole different animal. Think abot it’s armor, and what pain in the a$$ it would be to break something designed to withstand nukes.

    Though I was referring to Havenite SDs, and probable lack of manpower to disassemble them knowing that Manticorians are probably throwing every able space engineer into new construction, so they wouldn’t be that eager to waste time disassembling Havenite junk.

    On the other hand, Talbot is a whole another thing. They might even keep those SDs. At least as a stopgap measure to train future manty navy Talbotians on actual ships. And this might be a nice warm up for fledging Talbot space industry. Their space engineers might learn a thing or two about ships by disassembling this old junk.

  34. no_one says:

    Keep in mind there is a shipyard at Rembrandt. A small private one, that’s been building merchant hulls, but a shipyard, nonetheless. It’s a starting point, and I wonder why they don’t have a contract to start building cruisers.

  35. justdave says:

    me thinks Abigail has ‘slipped the leash’ so to speak, if Gutierrez was there he’d have been referred to, as has been stated

    also, no hoity-toity maître d’ would have missed that clue as to whom the young lady in the GSN uniform is even if that fact alone didn’t identify her

    all of which would defeat the purpose, what ever MWW is up to, for the gleefully expressed anticipation of the staff catching on

  36. justdave says:

    I know it’s beating a dead horse but w/20-20 hindsight the RHN SDs from BoM would go thru the SLN like a hot knife thru butter AND we could have the delicious sight of Tourville commanding them as part of HH’s fleet at the 2d BoM

  37. Robert Krawitz says:

    Manties might not be familiar with the fact that steadholders and their heirs have armsmen that are supposed to accompany them everywhere (remember from Service of the Sword that a lot of Manticore citizens think of Graysons as neobarbs, and Manticore aristocrats don’t have the same rule — Mike Henke never had anyone). Still, having a very obvious retainer (how often do officers hang out socially with non-coms, particularly when the latter have a very obvious protective function) would surely have been a tipoff that Abigail was Someone.

  38. robert says:

    @37 Robert, by now most Manticorans know about armsmen from all the ink that Honor has gotten, including the shootout at the restaurant on Landing prior to her duel (Field of Dishonor). But if you mean that the Taboters (or whatever people from Spindle are called–Spindlerians?) don’t know about armsmen, then yes indeed, very few probably know about that, much less have any knowledge at all about Grayson.

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