Mission Of Honor – Snippet 41

Mission Of Honor – Snippet 41

“Well, fair’s fair,” Helen said judiciously. They all looked at her, and she shrugged. “Maybe it’s because I’ve spent so much time watching Cathy Montaigne maneuver back home, but it occurs to me that having Thimble crawling with newsies may be the best thing that could happen.”

“Just how do you mean that?” Gervais asked. In the wrong tone, the question could have been dismissive, especially given the difference in their ages and relative seniority. As it was, he sounded genuinely curious, and she shrugged again.

“Politics is all about perceptions and understandings. I realize Cathy Montaigne’s mainly involved in domestic politics right now, but the same basic principle applies in interstellar diplomacy. If you control the terms of the debate, the advantage is all on your side. You can’t make somebody on the other side make the decision you want, but you’ve got a much better chance of getting her to do that if she’s got to defend her position in the public mind instead of you having to defend your position. Controlling the information — and especially the public perception of that information — is one of the best ways to limit her options to the ones most favorable to your own needs. Don’t forget, if the Sollies want a formal declaration of war, all it takes is one veto by a full member star system to stop them. That’s a pretty significant prize for a PR campaign to go after. And, at the moment, the way we want to control the debate is simply to tell the truth about what happened at New Tuscany, right?”

Gervais nodded, and she shrugged a third time.

“Well, if all the newsies in the universe are here in Spindle getting our side of the story, looking at the sensor data we’ve released, and interviewing our people, that’s what’s going to be being reported back on Old Terra. They can try to spin it any way they want, but the basic message getting sent back to all those Sollies — even by their own newsies — is going to be built on what they’re finding out here, from us.”

“That’s more or less what Minister Krietzmann says,” Helga admitted, “although he’s prone to use some pretty colorful adjectives to describe the newsies in question.”

“I think Lady Gold Peak would agree, too, even if she is doing her dead level best to stay as far away from them as possible,” Gervais said, and Abigail and Helen nodded. As Michelle Henke’s flag lieutenant, he was in a far better position to form that kind of judgment than either of them were.

“What about Sir Aivars?” Helga asked. Helen, who was Sir Aivars Terekhov’s flag lieutenant, raised both eyebrows at her, and Helga snorted. “He may be only a commodore, Helen, but everybody in the Quadrant knows how long he spent in the diplomatic service before he went back into uniform. Besides, Mr. Van Dort and the rest of the Prime Minister’s cabinet all have enormous respect for him.”

“We haven’t actually discussed it,” Helen replied after a moment. “On the other hand, he’s passed up at least half a dozen opportunities I can think of to hide aboard the Jimmy Boy to avoid interviews, so I’d say he was doing his bit to shape public opinion.”

Gervais grinned as she used the crew’s nickname for HMS Quentin Saint-James. The brand-new Saganami-C-class heavy cruiser had been in commission for barely five months, yet she’d had her official nickname almost before the commissioning ceremonies concluded. Most ships wouldn’t have managed the transition that quickly, but in Quentin Saint-James’ case things were a bit different. Her name was on the RMN’s List of Honor, to be kept in permanent commission, and the nickname was the same one which had been applied to the first Quentin Saint-James the better part of two T-centuries ago.

And if “Jimmy Boy” was a youngster, she was scarcely alone in that. In fact, aside from Admiral Khumalo’s ancient superdreadnought flagship Hercules, there wasn’t a single ship heavier than a light cruiser in Admiral Gold Peak’s Tenth Fleet which was even a full year old yet. Indeed, most of the destroyers were no older than Quentin St. James and her sisters.

“Well,” Helga said after a moment, “I imagine the Minister will go right on ‘doing his bit’, too. Don’t expect him to like it, though.”

“Some things are more likely than others,” Helen agreed. Then she snorted.

“What?” Abigail asked.

“Nothing.” Abigail looked skeptical, and Helen chuckled. “All right, I was just thinking about how the first newsy to shove his microphone in Daddy’s face would make out. I’m sure Daddy would be sorry afterwards. He’d probably even insist on paying the medical bills himself.”

“I wondered where you got that physically violent disposition of yours,” Gervais said blandly.

“I am not physically violent!”

“Oh, no?” He did his best to look down his longitude-challenged nose at her. “You may recall that I was sent over to Quentin Saint-James with that note from Lady Gold Peak to the Commodore last week?” She looked at him suspiciously, then nodded. “Well, I just happened to wander by the gym while I was there and I saw you throwing people around the mat with gay abandon.”

“I wasn’t!” she protested with a gurgle of laughter.

“You most certainly were. One of your henchmen told me you were using something called the ‘Flying Mare’s Warhammer of Doom, Destruction, and Despair.'”

“Called the what?” Helga looked at Helen in disbelief.

“It’s not called any such thing, and you know it!” Helen accused, doing her best to glare at Gervais.

“I don’t know about that,” he said virtuously. “That’s what I was told it was called.”

“Okay,” Abigail said. “Now you’ve got to tell us what it’s really called, Helen!”

“The way he’s mangled it, even I don’t know which one it was!”

“Well, try to sort it out.”

“I’m guessing — and that’s all it is, you understand — that it was probably a combination of the Flying Mare, the Hand Hammer, and — maybe — the Scythe of Destruction.”

“And that’s supposed to be better than what he just said?” Abigail looked at her in disbelief. Abigail herself had become proficient in coup de vitesse, but she’d never trained in Helen’s chosen Neue-Stil Handgemenge. “Coup de vitesse doesn’t even have names for most of its moves, but if it did, it wouldn’t have those!”

“Look, don’t blame me,” Helen replied. “The people who worked this stuff out in the first place named the moves, not me! According to Master Tye, they were influenced by some old entertainment recordings. Something called ‘movies.'”

“Oh, Tester!” Abigail shook her head. “Forget I said a thing!”

“What?” Helen looked confused, and Abigail snorted.

“Up until Lady Harrington did some research back home in Manticore — I think she even queried the library computers in Beowulf and on Old Terra, as a matter of fact — nobody on Grayson had ever actually seen the movies our ancestors apparently based their notions of swordplay on. Now, unfortunately, we have. And fairness requires that I admit most of the ‘samurai movies’ were at least as silly as anything the Neue-Stil people could have been watching.”

“Well, my ancestors certainly never indulged in anything that foolish,” Gervais said with an air of unbearable superiority.

“Want to bet?” Abigail inquired with a dangerous smile.

“Why?” he asked distrustfully.

“Because if I remember correctly, your ancestors came from Old North America — from the Western Hemisphere, at least — just like mine did.”


“And while Lady Harrington was doing her research on samurai movies, she got some cross hits to something called ‘cowboy movies.’ So she brought them along, too. In fact, she got her uncle and his friends in the SCA involved in putting together a ‘movie festival’ in Harrington Steading. Quite a few of those movies were made in a place called Hollywood, which also happens to have been in Old North America. Some of them were actually darned good, but others –” She shuddered. “Trust me, your ancestors and mine apparently had . . . erratic artistic standards, let’s say.”

“That’s all very interesting, I’m sure,” Gervais said briskly, “but it’s leading us astray from the truly important focus we ought to be maintaining on current events.”

“In other words,” Helga told Abigail, “he’s losing the argument, so he’s changing the rules.”

“Maybe he is,” Helen said. “No, scratch that — he definitely is. Still, he may have a point. It’s not like any of us are going to be in a position to make any earth shattering decisions, but between us, we’re working for several people who will be. Under the circumstances, I don’t think it would hurt a bit for us to share notes. Nothing confidential, but the kind of general background stuff that might let me answer one of the Commodore’s questions without his having to get hold of someone in Minister Krietzmann’s office or someone on Lady Gold Peak’s staff, for instance.”

“That’s actually a very good point,” Gervais said much more seriously, nodding at her in approval, and she felt a glow of satisfaction. She was preposterously young and junior for her current assignment, but at least she seemed to be figuring out how to make herself useful.

“I agree,” Abigail said, although as the tactical officer aboard one of the new Roland-class destroyers she was the only person at the table who wasn’t a flag lieutenant or someone’s personal aide, and gave Helen a smile.

“Well, in that case,” Gervais said, “have you guys heard about what Lady Gold Peak is planning to do to Admiral Oversteegen?”

* * *

“It’s time, Admiral,” Felicidad Kolstad said.

“I know,” Admiral Topolev of the Mesan Alignment Navy replied.

He sat once more upon MANS Mako’s flag bridge. Beyond the flagship’s hull, fourteen more ships of Task Group 1.1, kept perfect formation upon her, and the brilliant beacon of Manticore-A blazed before them. They were only one light-week from that star, now, and they’d decelerated to only twenty percent of light-speed. This was the point for which they’d been headed ever since leaving Mesa four T-months before. Now it was time to do what they’d come here to do.

“Begin deployment,” he said, and the enormous hatches opened and the pods began to spill free.

The six units of Task Group 1.2 were elsewhere, under Rear Admiral Lydia Papnikitas, closing on Manticore-B. They wouldn’t be deploying their pods just yet, not until they’d reached their own preselected launch point. Topolev wished he’d had more ships to commit to that prong of the attack, but the decision to move up Oyster Bay had dictated the available resources, and this prong had to be decisive. Besides, there were fewer targets in the Manticore-B subsystem, anyway, and the planners had had to come up with the eight additional Shark-class ships for Admiral Colenso’s Task Group 2.1’s Grayson operation from somewhere.

It’ll be enough, he told himself, watching as the pods disappeared steadily behind his decelerating starships, vanishing into the endless dark between the stars. It’ll be enough. And in about five weeks, the Manties are going to get a late Christmas present they’ll never forget.

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57 Responses to Mission Of Honor – Snippet 41

  1. robert says:

    @50 PLEASE DO NOT POST IT HERE. If any of us want to, we can go to the snerkers only place on the Bar.

  2. Grant says:

    Robert, you can say you don’t think it’s that difficult a problem but I’m not buying it. And it turns out we have a previous incident of Manticoran ships testing their long range targeting accuracy over a ballistic terminal flight path to refer to to get a rough feel for future targeting capabilities here and I just got home and dug it off my bookshelf to nail down the numbers.

    In The Honor of the Queen, White Haven shows up with his battlecruiser force just as Harrington is engaging in her terminal run on the Masadan crewed battlecruiser… and when he realizes neither of them seem to see that he’s there he fires on the Masadans from a little over 100 million kms out.

    The missiles burn out their drives in 12 million kms… but for that first three minutes of their flight time they’re actively tracking on a target that is clearly seen on gravitic sensors and whose course is clearly plotted. They then go ballistic for 14 minutes.

    14 minutes and less than 100 million kms later, of the 84 missiles in the broadside, *5* fly through their attack range of their laser heads. The rest dispersed too far and missed making an attack run. And from earlier in the book when Saladin ambushed Courvosier we know the laser heads on battlecruiser launched missiles have stand off ranges of 20,000 kms.

    So, in 14 minutes and less than 100 million kms of ballistic flight time 94% of the missiles fired didn’t have accurate enough trajectories to hit within 20,000 kms of their target.

    Hitting within 10 million km of a target from 181 billion kms away (which is what the Mesans are trying to do with these pods)takes approximately three times HIGHER accuracy than hitting within 20,00km from 100 million kms away.

    So I’m pretty sure I’m sticking with my original objection. This is a stupid, stupid attack plan if those pods aren’t tracking and maneuvering on the way in… and I’ve seen nobody mention that they built pods with nav systems and a bunch of reaction mass for more than simple station keeping maneuvers in them, which would itself be ridiculous because your *ships* have those things and putting them on pods is a waste of time and space.

  3. Thirdbase says:


    I would point out that we know absolutely nothing about Mesan built weapons. We know very little about Mesan built ships. What we do know is that Mesa has been planning this attack for a very long time. I would expect that during that time they ran both computer simulations and live fire tests in an empty star system. Their pods have to be home built, the Sollies don’t have any, so I imagine they built these to conduct this attack. Purpose built, they can be equipped with whatever they need to do the job. I know I would do it that way if I were planning the attack. Of course I would also arrange for the pods to hit the planets, and other nasty little surprises.

  4. Grant says:

    We know little about Mesan built weapons… but we can infer from what has been said so far. And I’ve seen nothing said to suggest they have some kind of super-accurate ultra-long range targetting advantage over Manticore. For cripes sake, they roll pods off of mechanical rails out big bay doors… how accurately do you think they’re really capable of aiming these things relative to powered missiles fired by Manticoran ships? Given… old Manticoran ships… but old Manty ships were ahead of the curve relative to every other known navy in the inhabited galaxy at the time.

    And my point wasn’t that they *couldn’t* be built with nav systems and appropriate drives… my point was that that’s a purely stupid thing to do when your ships already have those things, do a better job at it than a pod could ever hope to, and individually cramming them into each and every missile pod is at the expense of space for *missiles*. I haven’t seen any mention such a silly pod design was done, and if I do see it later I’m just going to be dissapointed in the intelligence of the Mesans. Of course, that’s true right now.

    There’s no reason for them not to be releasing from WAY further in than they are. The previous point about being inside the sensor envelope at a light day is irrelevent. They’re inside the sensor envelope at a light MONTH, as snippet 14 makes abundantly clear when it describes the Manticoran destroyer division that was sent out there to investigate a sensor ghost that showed up on their net. And the force scouting Grayson in Snippet 32 was halfway inside the hyper limit… that’s within light MINUTES of the primary! They came within two light minutes of a Grayson squadron and althugh they kept their drive down as a safety precaution it was also made abundantly clear that even if they’d powered it up effectively right in front of the Graysons it was, and I quote “enormously unlikely” they would detect it.

    (And to be clear, I am entirely confident all those pods are going to end up miraculously arriving relatively on target. That does not make this any less a stupid plan of attack given what we know about Mesan capabilities at this time.)

  5. justdave says:

    Drak, JR; found it back on the Bar: an info dump on OB and then the short bit w/AF

    when the good guys die are always the hardest parts of MWW books

  6. Thirdbase says:


    We’ll just have to disagree then, because I find the idea of installing a guidance package on pod to be smart, not silly. As an example of a “silly” guidance package. A US fighter has one of the best navigation and guidance systems currently in use on the earth, but we still make smart bombs, with their own guidance systems, that carry submunitions, some of which have their own guidance systems.

    Plus that guidance system isn’t going to take up that much space. You could do it with an optical telescope, a computer, a battery, and a dozen thrusters with fuel.

    Remember that this attack is as much an act of terrorism as a military attack.

  7. Grant says:

    A smart bomb is a missile equivalent, not a pod equivalent. Pods are launchers, not munitions.

    If you want to draw an analogy to a pod, put a nav system on a towed artillery piece… that’s normally designed to be towed around behind a vehicle which has much, much better ability to navigate and maneuver than the nav system you’re installing… just so you can ineffectively have the artillery piece position itself within an extremely limited scope when you were placing it more accurately and far more flexibly before you messed with it.

    I have no idea what relevence you think the last sentence has. People will be less terrified if the ships they never ever see launch the pods from closer in where they can aim them better?

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