Mission Of Honor – Snippet 47

Mission Of Honor – Snippet 47

Her voice broke off, and Elizabeth’s felt her own eyes widen.

“You think they caught him,” she said gently.

“Yes. No!” Montaigne shook her head, her expression showing an uncertainty and misery she would never have allowed herself to display in public.

“I don’t know,” she admitted after a moment. “I haven’t spoken to him in almost six T-months — not since June. He and . . . someone else were headed for Mesa. I know they got there, because we got a report from them through a secure conduit in late August. But we haven’t heard a word from them since.”

“He was on Mesa?” Elizabeth stared at her, stunned by the notion that Zilwicki had voluntarily walked into that snake pit. “What in God’s name was he thinking?”

Montaigne drew a deep breath, visibly forcing herself back under control. Then she sat for several seconds, considering the queen with an edge of calculation.

“All right, Elizabeth — truth time,” she said finally. “Six months ago, you weren’t exactly . . . rational about the possibility that anyone besides Haven could have been behind Admiral Webster’s assassination or the attack on Torch. I’m sorry, but it’s true, and you know it. Don’t you?”

Brown eyes locked with blue, tension hovering between them for a dozen heart beats. Then Elizabeth nodded grudgingly.

“As a matter of fact, I’m still not convinced — not by a long chalk — that Haven wasn’t involved,” she acknowledged. “At the same time, I’ve been forced to admit there are other possibilities. For that matter, I’ve even been forced to concede my own anti-Haven prejudices probably help account for at least some of my suspicion where Pritchart is concerned.”

“Thank you.” Montaigne’s eyes softened. “I know you, Beth, so I know how hard it was for you to admit that. But at the time, Torch and the Ballroom had pretty compelling evidence that whatever might have been the case with Admiral Webster, Haven wasn’t involved in the attack on Berry and Torch. Which suggested someone else had to be, and that led in turn to their taking a very hard look at Mesa.

“You just admitted your ‘anti-Haven prejudices’ might predispose you to assume Pritchart was behind it. Well, fair’s fair, and I’ll admit that our prejudices naturally predispose us to feel the same way about Manpower. But there was more to it, and a lot of that ‘more’ came from Anton and Ruth, not the Ballroom.”

“What kind of ‘more’?” Elizabeth asked, frowning intently.

“Well, the first thing was that we knew — and I mean knew, Beth, with absolute, goldplated certainty — Haven hadn’t been involved in the Torch operation. And the more Ruth and Anton modeled Manpower’s behavior in Monica, the less its actions looked like those of any plausible transstellar — even of a renegade, outlaw transstellar. They were more like something a star nation would have been doing.”

Elizabeth nodded slowly, her eyes narrow. She recalled Michelle Henke’s suggestion to the same effect after she’d broken Josef Byng’s New Tuscany operation. It had seemed preposterous, but both ONI and SIS had come, at least tentatively, to the conclusion Michelle was onto something. As of yet, no one had any idea exactly what she was onto, unfortunately.

“Assuming it was Manpower — or Mesa, assuming there’s even as much difference between the two as we thought there was — the attacks seemed to fit in neatly with Manpower’s obvious ambitions in Talbott. In fact, they seemed to imply that everyone was still just scratching the surface of what those ambitions might really be. And, frankly, Torch’s position as an at least semi-official ally of the Star Empire, the Republic, Erewhon, and the Solarian League — or the Maya Sector, at least—had Anton and . . . Jeremy wondering just how many birds Manpower was trying to hit with a single stone.”

Now whose name, I wonder, did she’d just substitute Jeremy’s for? Elizabeth thought. She considered pressing the point, but not very hard.

“Under the circumstances, they decided someone needed to take a good, hard look at Manpower from inside the belly of the beast, as it were. They didn’t have a specific action plan, beyond getting inside Mesa’s reach. They wanted to be close enough to be hands-on, able to follow up leads directly instead of being weeks or even months of communications time from the investigation. I think they were probably thinking in terms of setting up a permanent surveillance op, if they could figure out a way to pull it off, but, mostly, they were looking for proof of Manpower’s involvement in Webster’s assassination and the attack on Berry.”

She paused, with the look of a woman deciding against mentioning something else, and despite her focused intensity, Elizabeth smiled ever so slightly.

Unwontedly tactful of you, Cathy. Don’t want to come right out and say ‘And they wanted that proof to be good enough it could convince even you to think logically about other candidates, Elizabeth,’ now do you?

“At any rate,” Montaigne went on more briskly, “the one thing they weren’t going to do was link up with any ‘official’ Ballroom cells on Mesa. We have reason to believe, especially in light of a few recent discoveries, that any Ballroom cell on the planet is likely to be compromised. So there’s zero possibility Anton or . . . any of his people were involved in any Ballroom operation against Green Pines. They were there expressly to keep a low profile; the information they were after — especially if it confirmed their suspicions — was far more important than any attack could have been; and they were avoiding contact with any known Ballroom operative.”

Elizabeth’s eyes had narrowed again. Now she leaned back and cocked her head to one side.

“Would it make this any simpler for you, Cathy,” she asked almost whimsically, “if you just went ahead and said ‘Anton and Agent Cachat’ instead of being so diplomatic?”

It was Montaigne’s eyes’ turn to narrow, and the queen chuckled, albeit a bit sourly.

“I assure you, I’ve read the reports on just exactly how Torch came into being with a certain closeness. And I’ve had direct reports from Ruth, too, you know. She’s done her best to be . . . tactful, let’s say, but it’s been obvious Agent Cachat’s still something of a fixture on Torch. And, for that matter, that he and Captain Zilwicki have formed some sort of at least semi-permanent partnership.”

“It would make it simpler, as a matter of fact,” Montaigne said slowly. “And since this seems to be cards-on-the-table time, I suppose I should go ahead and admit that the reason I hadn’t already brought Victor up is that I wasn’t certain it wouldn’t prejudice you against anything I had to say.”

“I’m a good and expert hater, Cathy,” Elizabeth said dryly. “Reports to the contrary notwithstanding, however, I’m not really clinically insane. I won’t pretend I’m happy to hear about shared skulduggery, hobnobbing, and mutual admiration societies between someone who used to be one of my own spies and someone who’s still currently spying for a star nation I happen to be at war with. But if politics makes strange bedfellows, I suppose it’s only reasonable wars should do the same. In fact, one of my closer associates made that point to me — a bit forcefully — not so long ago.”

“Really?” Montaigne’s eyebrows arched, and Elizabeth could almost see the wheels and the gears going around in her brain. But then the ex-countess gave herself a visible shake.

“Anyway,” she said, “Victor was the reason we knew Haven hadn’t ordered Torch attack. Or, at least, that no official Havenite intelligence organ was behind it, since he would have been the one tasked to carry it out if Pritchart had sanctioned it. And you’re right about the kind of partnership he and Anton have evolved. As a matter of fact, the way their abilities complement one another makes both of them even more effective. Victor has an absolute gift for improvisation, whereas Anton has a matching gift for methodical analysis and forethought. If anyone was going to be able to pry the truth out of that fucking cesspool, it was going to be them.”

Her nostrils flared. Then she paused again, lips tightening.

“But you haven’t heard from them in almost five months,” Elizabeth said gently.

“No,” Montaigne admitted softly. “We haven’t heard from them, we haven’t heard from the people responsible for transporting them in and out, and we haven’t heard from the Biological Survey Corps, either.”

“Whoa!” Elizabeth straightened suddenly in her chair. “Beowulf was involved in this, too?” She half-glared at Montaigne. “Tell me, was there anybody in the entire galaxy who wasn’t sneaking around behind my back to keep me from getting my dander up?”

“Well,” Montaigne admitted, smiling crookedly despite her own obvious deep concern, “actually, beyond a certain amount of Erewhonese assistance, that’s just about everybody. I think.”

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22 Responses to Mission Of Honor – Snippet 47

  1. Thirdbase says:

    A summary for anyone that hasn’t read Torch of Freedom, minus what actually happened on Mesa.

  2. Vince says:

    It wraps up most of Torch of Freedom in maybe a chapter, without all of the details. Imagine if David & Eric hadn’t written ToF and David had to shoehorn all of ToF into MoH. I would expect readers to scream about how the book was too slow, too long, too jumpy, too …

  3. robert says:

    And that is the right way to do it. It is much more fun and way more readable than pages of interior monologue. A conversation with snatches of thoughts. And plenty of tension, I think.

  4. Robert H. Woodman says:

    “I’m a good and expert hater, Cathy,” Elizabeth said dryly. “Reports to the contrary notwithstanding, however, I’m not really clinically insane.

    When it is discovered that Mesa, or more properly, the Mesan Alliance, is behind Oyster Bay and the current war between the SEM and its allies, Haven, and the Solarian League, I wonder just how thoroughly angry Elizabeth is going to be. We’ve had a snippeted hint of Honor’s reaction to Oyster Bay. Elizabeth’s reaction is going to be quite interesting to watch. I won’t feel sorry for the MAlign, though. :-)

  5. jason l. says:

    “We’ve had a snippeted hint of Honor’s reaction to Oyster Bay.”

    did i miss something? =( I thought Oyster Bay was still operating in secret? Was there a sign Honor knows about Oyster Bay? Which snippet was that in?

    Cheers. =)

  6. dcott says:

    Is it possible Elizabeth doesn’t survive Oyster Bay?

  7. Daryl says:

    I believe that this prepares Elizabeth so that she doesn’t automatically blame Haven for Oyster Bay and shut her mind in rage to any other possibilities. Then when Zilwicki and Cachat’s story breaks all the pieces fall into line and it’s game on in the right direction. Unfortunate for Mesa, but when you forget KISS it’s time for Murphy to step in. @5 no.

  8. JMN says:

    @1 No. There is significant new information.

    A lot is in the form of official notice. We have notice that Anton and Victor were not coordinationg with the Ballroom. We have offical notice of Beowulf’s involvement. We have semi official denial of the Ballroom’s involvement. Montaigne gets notice of Honor’s attitudes, which is potentially significant.

    Most significantly (probably), we have another group, independantly, presenting to Elizabeth, ie the decision maker, the notion that Mesa is an enemy nation. With Oyster Bay about to explode, that is very significant in the aftermath decisions. There are also refinements of the facts, in the form of perceptional filters. For example, Elizabeth makes plain her acceptance of Cachat, and by extension Haven, as allies.

    In the story arc, we have a refinement of the timeline. Victor and Anton went 5 months before this conversation. IIRC they were gone 6-7 months in all. That in turn places them either at Torch, or soon to arrive at Torch, when Oyster Bay goes down.

    This is a much better passage than the last couple. Some real meat for a change.

  9. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Jason, the snippet concerning Honor’s reaction to Oyster Bay was posted by David Weber on the Bar a while back.

    It was obviously set after the events of Oyster Bay and was Honor’s reactions to the events.

  10. robert says:

    @5 Jason
    The famous Salamander snippet was reposted to DWs Snippets Forum:

  11. robert says:

    Oh my. I should have said that it (@10) was in the nature of a SPOILER, so beware.

  12. Thirdbase says:


    I don’t believe that Ms. Montaigne can speak ‘officially’ for the Ballroom, and I know she can’t speak for Beowulf, so while Elizabeth has now been told of various things none of them are official. I’m also somewhat sure that Ms. Montaigne was aware of Honor’s attitudes, at least where Mesa and Manpower are involved, and probably Haven, seeing as how it appears that there was communication between Zilwicki and Montaigne after the Dynamic Duo’s meeting with Honor.

    The Dynamic Duo are still on Parmley’s Folly in April, without apparently having yet been informed of OB, because it wasn’t mentioned. Last chapter of Torch.

  13. robert says:

    This scene is in Chapter 14 of the book and takes place in January 1922 PD according to the ToC of the ARC (that sounds almost as silly as it reads). In April 1922 PD the two super-spies will arrive at Parmley Station, having just returned from Mesa and are completely unaware of OB. So it will be about 10 weeks after OB before anyone learns who the perpetrators actually were, assuming OB occurs in the late January – early February time frame and it takes a few weeks for Zilwicki and Cachet to get to either Haven (most likely) or Manticore after that.

  14. hank says:

    robert @12. “…10 weeks after OB…” you’re also assuming that the Dynamic Duo are the only possible source for the info. There is always the chance that one (or more) of the MA ships get caught by either Grayson or Manticore before they manage to beat feet in the aftermath.

  15. John Roth says:

    @11 Thirdbase

    I think you’re being way too conservative. QE III now has enough information to light a fire under Naval Intelligence and SIS about monitoring Mesa. Also, since OB is almost certainly going to be using Cataphracts, it’s going to be really obvious who did it, at least when they compare notes with Torch. That last stage on a Cataphract doesn’t look at all like a Havenite MDM.

    @12 Robert
    @13 Hank

    The Hali Sowli arrives at Parmley Station sometime in April, and the Beowulf ship was going to make a “quick hop” to get repair parts. Assuming that’s to Erewhon, they’ve got a quick link to Manticore via Phoenix and then to Trevor’s Star, and then two weeks to Haven. MoH ends in May with just three chapters. (April only has three chapters as well.) I think we can assume that Cachet and Zilwiki are informed of OB as soon as they arrive, and they head for whichever destination they consider most likely to be useful.

  16. Thirdbase says:

    John Roth

    I’m not saying that she can’t or won’t do anything with what Ms. Montaigne told her, I’m just saying that it isn’t ‘official.’ I fully expect her to get her intelligence services hot on finding out what’s going on.

    Do we really know about where Parmley Station is, other than in the Verge?

  17. robert says:

    @14 hank.
    I am assuming that there are no Mesan ships, as such, in system during the OB attack. If memory serves, which is problematic these days, they released a bunch of pod-type devices aimed for Manticore from pretty far out and then they went away. If I am wrong somebody please correct me and tell me what they actually did. If I am right then nothing can be captured pointing directly to Mesa and only the two super-spies and the documentation they have from McBryde, along with Simoes, will point to who dunnit.

  18. robert says:

    @15 John. I need to go look at a junction map again. I could have sworn that they would head for Haven first, being closest and also the most manipulated by Mesa. Is there a map that even shows where the station’s star is?

  19. justdave says:

    IIRC Z&C decided to take their ‘take’ to Haven as Cachet has official status and higher level access in the RH

  20. John Roth says:

    @18 Robert

    I have no idea how close Parmley Station is to anywhere. The reason I said Erewhon is that ToF suggested that the Beowulf Biological Survey Corps ship was possibly going to where they’d gotten the freighter from originally.

    @19. justdave

    We won’t officially know where they decided to go first until the end of MoH. It’s definitely a snerk to post information about that here. There are only six chapters for all of April and May.

  21. John Roth says:

    @17 Robert

    IIRC, the Sharks released the pods and then continued decelerating using the Spider drive so they couldn’t be detected. I just checked, and upward hyper transitions are effectively undetectable from the lower end, so the Sharks could have gone into hyper and headed home right away. So why didn’t they?

  22. robert says:

    @21 How do we know that they didn’t hyper out? I am really confused. I truly thought that based on the known information we have, the whole idea was to do the attack without anyone knowing where it came from. Then Manticore might blame either Haven or the SL, and that would be fine with Detweiler.

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