Mission Of Honor – Snippet 45

Mission Of Honor – Snippet 45

Chapter Fourteen

“Ms. Montaigne has arrived, Your Majesty.”

Elizabeth Winton looked up from the HD she’d been watching and suppressed a flare of severe — and irrational — irritation. After all, Mount Royal Palace chamberlains were chosen for their positions in no small part because of their ability to radiate calm in the midst of crisis, so it was scarcely fair of her to want to throttle this one for sounding precisely that way, she thought. The reflection was very little comfort on a morning like this, however, when all she wanted was someone — anyone — upon whom to work out her frustrations. She heard Ariel’s soft sound of mingled amusement, agreement, and echoes of her own anger and (she admitted) dismay from his perch beside her desk.

“Thank you, Martin.” Her own voice sounded just as calm and prosaic as the chamberlain’s, she noted. “Show her in, please.”

“Of course, Your Majesty.” The chamberlain bowed and withdrew, and Elizabeth darted a glance of combined affection and exasperation at the ‘cat, then looked back down at the patently outraged talking head on the recorded Solarian newscast playing on her HD.

I cannot believe this crap, even out of those Mesa bastards, she thought. Oh, we were already afraid the Ballroom was involved. And I guess I’m no different from anyone else about having . . . mixed feelings about that. I mean, hell, all the civilian fatalities combined aren’t a spit in the wind compared to what Manpower’s done to its slaves over the centuries. For that matter, you could nuke half the damned planet and not catch up with Manpower’s kill numbers! But nuclear weapons on a civilian target? Even low-yield civilian demo charges?

She shuddered internally. Intellectually, she knew, the distinction between nuclear weapons and other, equally destructive attacks was not only logically flawed but downright silly. And it wasn’t as if nukes hadn’t been used against plenty of other civilian targets over the last couple of millennia. For that matter, Honor Alexander-Harrington, her own cousin Michelle, and other naval officers just like them routinely detonated multi-megaton nuclear devices in combat. But emotionally, Green Pines still represented a tremendous escalation, the crossing of a line the Ballroom, for all its ferocity, had always avoided in the past.

Which is what’s going to make the new Mesan line so damnably effective with Sollies who already distrust or despise the Ballroom . . . or don’t like the Star Empire very much.

For herself, she would have been more likely to buy a used air car from Michael Janvier — or Oscar Saint-Just’s ghost! — than to believe a single word that came out of the Mesa System. Still, she was forced to concede, the Mesan version of their “impartial investigation’s” conclusions hung together, if one could only ignore the source. There might be a few problems with the timing when it came to selling Green Pines as an act of bloody vengeance, but the Solarian public had become accustomed to editing unfortunate little continuity errors out of the propaganda stream. Besides, Mesa had actually found a way to make the timing work for it!

The attack on Green Pines had occurred five days before the abortive attack on Torch by what everyone (with a working brain, at least) realized had been Mesan proxies. Torch, Erewhon, and Governor Oravil Barregos’s Maya Sector administration were still playing the details of exactly how that attack had been stopped close to their collective vest, but there wasn’t much doubt the attackers had been the mercenary StateSec remnants Manpower had recruited since the Theisman coup. Judging from Admiral Luis Roszak’s losses (and according to Elizabeth’s classified Office of Naval Intelligence reports, those losses had been far higher than Roszak or Barregos had publicly admitted) those mercenaries must have been substantially reinforced. They’d certainly turned up with several times the firepower anyone at ONI had anticipated they might possess.

I wonder whether that assumption on our part comes under the heading of reasonable, complacent, or downright stupid? she thought. After Monica, we damned well ought to’ve realized Manpower — or Mesa, or whoever’s really orchestrating things — had more military resources than we’d ever thought before. On the other hand, I don’t suppose the analysts ought to be too severely faulted for not expecting them to provide presumably traceable ex-Solly battlecruisers to StateSec lunatics who’d been recruited in the first place as disposable — and deniable — cat’s-paws. Worse, Pat Givens’ people at ONI have a pretty solid count on how many StateSec starships actually ran for it after the coup. Admiral Caparelli based his threat assessment on the numbers we knew about, or we’d never have expected Roszak and Torch to deal with it on their own. We’re all just damned lucky they managed to pull it off, after all.

She thought about her niece Ruth, and what would have happened to her if Luis Roszak’s men and women had been unwilling to pay the price demanded of them, and shuddered.

Obviously, there’s at least one batch of Sollies who cut against the stereotype, aren’t there, Beth? She thought. On the other hand, if Pat and Hamish are right, maybe they aren’t going to be “Sollies” all that much longer. And Torch’s and Erewhon’s willingness to help cover exactly whose navy lost what stopping the attack suggests all sorts of interesting possibilities about their relationships with Barregos, too, when you think about it. I wonder if that idiot Kolokoltsov even suspects what may be cooking away in that direction?

But whatever might or might not transpire in the Maya Sector, and despite any threat assessment errors which might have come home to roost for Admiral Roszak and his people, the fact remained that Mesa had neatly factored its own failed attack on Torch into its new propaganda offensive.

After all, its mouthpieces had pointed out, the Kingdom of Torch had declared war on the Mesa System, and a huge chunk of the Kingdom of Torch’s military and government leadership had long-standing personal ties to the Audubon ballroom. Obviously, Torch had figured out the Mesan attack was coming well in advance, since it had formally requested Roszak’s assistance under the provisions of its treaty with the Solarian League. (It hadn’t, but no one outside the immediate vicinity knew that . . . or was likely to believe it.) So the Mesan argument that Torch had orchestrated the Green Pines attack through the direct Ballroom links it had officially severed as an act of government-sponsored terrorism in retaliation for a legitimate attack by conventional military forces on a belligerent star nation had a dangerous, dangerous plausibility. Especially for anyone who was already inclined to distrust an outlaw regime midwifed in blood and massacre by that same “terrorist” organization.

Which also explains why the Ballroom finally crossed the line into using “weapons of mass destruction” against civilian targets, at least according to the Gospel according to Mesa, Elizabeth thought grimly. Torch’s formal declaration of war represents a whole new level in the genetic slaves’ battle with Manpower and Mesa. Effectively, it’s a major escalation in kind, so why shouldn’t they have escalated the weapons they’re willing to use, as well? Especially if they truly believed (wrongly, of course!) Manpower intended to genocide their own home world? Never mind the fact that they’re supposed to have killed thousands of their fellow genetic slaves and Mesan seccies at the same time. And never mind the fact that if they could get to Green Pines, they could almost certainly have gotten to dozens of far more militarily and industrially significant targets, instead. Every right-thinking, process-oriented, comfortably insulated, moralistic cretin of a Solly knows they’re terrorists, they think in terroristic terms, and they’d far rather kill civilians in a blind, frenzied orgy of vengeance than actually accomplish anything. God forbid anyone should think of them as human beings trying to survive with some tattered fragment of dignity and freedom!

She realized she was grinding her teeth and stopped herself. And, she reminded herself again, the fabrication Mesa had woven really did have a damning plausibility. For that matter, Elizabeth couldn’t shake her own strong suspicion that —

Her thoughts hiccupped as her office door opened once more.

“Ms. Montaigne, Your Majesty,” the chamberlain announced.

“Thank you, Martin,” Elizabeth said once more and rose behind her desk as Catherine Montaigne crossed the carpet towards her.

Montaigne had changed even less than Elizabeth — physically, at least — over the decades since their close adolescent friendship foundered on the rocks of Montaigne’s strident principles. Even now, despite the way their relationship had cooled over those same decades, Elizabeth Winton the woman continued to regard Montaigne as a friend, even though Montaigne’s involvement with a legally proscribed terrorist organization continued to prevent Elizabeth Winton the Queen from officially acknowledging that friendship. It couldn’t have been any other way, given all the thorny difficulties Montaigne’s effective endorsement of the aforesaid legally prescribed terrorist organization created where the Manticoran political calculus was concerned. Especially since the ex-Countess of the Tor had become the leader of what remained of the Manticoran Liberal Party.

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19 Responses to Mission Of Honor – Snippet 45

  1. Mike says:


  2. 4th Dimension says:

    Elisabet is going to break her teeth by grinding them, when she hears that next story from the last chapter, if this one pisses her off this much.

  3. robert says:

    If Mesa is putting out the story then they must also be telling all that the notorious Anton Zilwicki is dead. How come Elizabeth, who knows about the relationship with Anton (who doesn’t?) isn’t being a little more thoughtful about Cathy’s loss? Nobody will know anything about the two super spies for at least another 3 or 4 months.

    And while Mesa gloats in public, despite the loss of civilian lives, unbeknown to them their whole Haven vs. Manticore elaborate plan is going up in flames as peace is being negotiated.

  4. heath says:

    Whatever happened to the remaining Mesan Navy officer?

  5. JMN says:

    Yawn. There has to be a better way to do this.


  6. John Roth says:

    @5 JMN

    David needs an editor who can tell his #1 selling author that he needs to improve his handling of background information. It’s not that he doesn’t know this — people have been complaining about his infodumps for years.

    On the other claw, some of this is probably due to the currently fashionable “show, don’t tell” mantra that writing teachers try to drum into their students. IMO, it leads to grossly bloated books. It should be possible to handle everything that’s needed before the part about Kathy Montague in a single paragraph.

  7. robert says:

    Ten paragraphs to be skimmed. And that is just in this snippet. Weber must think that many, many readers of this book will be first timers. It has always been clear that once he gets going explaining everything he cannot stop, but lately it has been way.too.much. I think that ever since Jim Baen passed away there is nobody tough-minded enough at Baen to get him to part with any of his prose. Pity, because this is looking to be a really good story.

  8. justdave says:

    @7 has it right, as a professional writer MWW realizes not everyone who buys MoH has read the whole canon several times and he provides the background these newbies need to fully enjoy the book

    now on the subject of how much background is actually needed and how detailed, you all may have a point

    for myself, I’m a glutton, the more MWW the better!

  9. Vince says:

    Keep in mind the snippets come from the EARC. Hopefully the final edit will be a little tighter.

  10. I think it is a fine piece of psychological portrayal.

  11. tootall says:

    Speaking of FROM THE HIGHLANDS, I’ve always wondered if Zilwicki and daughter were initially the focus but then a minor character named Victor Cachet sort of took over the story from Mr Flint. Or were Victor, Ginny and Kevin Usher, (and the Peeps) the focus? Clearly, Victor is “the guy” by the end of the story. But was that the original intent? Did Eric have a story arc in mind when he did a “mere” short story for one of David’s collections, or did Victor keep whispering into Eric’s mind- “Hey, there’s a lot more to my story!!” ?

    Is there a way to ask Eric-or has someone already done so-and where would I find that?

  12. robert says:

    @10 George, yes, it would be if we didn’t already know Elizabeth so well. And if, as has been stated in comments here and in other snippets, it did not take so many words. But if I knew how to write and make best sellers like DW then I could talk. Or complain.

    @11 Eric is a master of characterization and the characters he creates and gets into are all people I want to know more about. And so does he, apparently. Remember that Anton and Helen Zilwicki were minor characters of Weber’s in one of the novels where his wife, her mother, the captain of a destroyer, was killed defending the passenger vessel the two were traveling in. It was all of 2 to 4 pages, and that was all there was of them until the Highlands story. I don’t know whose idea it was to use the Zilwickis, whether DW gave them to Eric and said “here, make a story” or if Eric found them and made a story. And I don’t know if Victor’s character in Highlands was created by Eric before he wrote the short story Fanatic in the Service of the Sword anthology or after. In Honorverse chronology I think Fanatic came after. But I relish these characters as much as any of the good guys that Weber has created.

  13. Richard says:


    Yes Fanatic came after Highlands. In Fanatic Oscor St. Just questions Victor about the events in Higlands

  14. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Concerning FROM THE HIGHLANDS. From what I heard, Eric Flint wanted to write a story where Haven agents and Manticore agents work together against a common foe.

    David Weber suggested Mesa and Eric had the ‘fun’ of finding minor David Weber characters that were still alive. [Wink]

    Kevin Usher and the Zilwickis were the minor characters that Eric found and Victor is Eric’s creation.

  15. justdave says:

    MWW has stated that after Eric created Victor Cachet, that character caused the basic HH plot line to drastically change

    HH was supposed to die in AAC and the MA threat would be Raoul’s to deal with

    but when VC hooked up with AZ, the Dynamic Duo turned the Honorverse upside down

  16. John Roth says:

    @15 justdave

    I think that was incidental. Eric wanted a villain for the collaboration that would eventually turn into the Torch series, presumably one that both Manticore and Haven could cooperate against. So he brought the Mesa conflict forward by 30 years. I doubt if David would have done it if he hadn’t been considering reorganizing the plot line anyway.

  17. pboer323 says:

    this is not on topic, but in which book is the story of the Manpower invasion of Cathy Montaigne’s residence and Anton’s destruction of said invasion?

  18. Drak Bibliophile says:

    pboer, it has been mentioned several places *but* hasn’t been shown.

    Maybe it will be included in the next Honorverse collection.

  19. robert says:

    @17 It is a story that has not been written and I think I read that there are no plans to write it.

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