Mission Of Honor – Snippet 49

Mission Of Honor – Snippet 49

Chapter Fifteen

“Alpha translation in two hours, Sir.”

“Thank you, Simon.”

Lieutenant Commander Lewis Denton had been perfectly aware of that fact, but procedure mandated the astrogator’s report just in case he’d somehow failed to notice. He smiled at the familiar thought, but the smile was brief, and it vanished quickly as he glanced at the civilian in the assistant tactical officer’s chair.

Gregor O’Shaughnessy was doing a less than perfect job of concealing his tension, but Denton didn’t blame him for that. Besides, it wasn’t as if his own surface appearance of calm was fooling anyone, even if the rules of the game required everyone — including him — to pretend it was.

He glanced at the date/time display. Seventy-four T-days had passed, by the clocks of the universe at large, since HMS Reprise had departed from Spindle for the Meyers System, the headquarters of the Office of Frontier Security in the Madras Sector. Of course, it hadn’t been that long for Reprise’s crew, given that they’d spent virtually all of it hurtling through hyper-space at seventy percent of light-speed. But they’d still been gone for just over fifty-three T-days even by their own clocks, and the return leg of their lengthy voyage had seemed far, far longer than the outbound leg.

* * *

“More coffee, Ma’am?”

Michelle Henke looked up at the murmured question and nodded agreement. Master Steward Billingsley filled her cup, checked quickly around the table, topped off Michael Oversteegen’s cup, and withdrew. Michelle watched him go with a smile, then returned her attention to the officers around the conference table in HMS Artemis’ flag briefing room.

“You were saying, Michael?”

“I was sayin’, Milady, that findin’ myself up against Apollo seemed like just a tiny bit of overkill.”

He smiled at her, and although it would have taken someone who knew him very well, Michelle recognized the twinkle deep in his eyes. Not every subordinate flag officer who’d been so thoroughly (one might almost, she admitted, say shamelessly) blindsided by a weapons system the other side shouldn’t have possessed would have found the experience amusing. Fortunately, Oversteegen at least had a sense of humor.

“To be honest, it seemed that way to me, too.” She quirked a smile of her own at him. “I didn’t do it just to be nasty, though. I mean, I did do it to be nasty, but that wasn’t the only reason I did it.”

This time there was a general mutter of laughter, and Oversteegan raised one hand in the gesture of a fencing master acknowledging a touch.

“The other reason I did it, though,” she continued more seriously, “was that I wanted an opportunity to see someone — a live, flesh-and-blood someone, not an AI-administered simulation — respond to Apollo. I couldn’t find anyone here in Tenth Fleet who wouldn’t realize what was happening as soon as she saw it, but I could at least set up a situation in which she — or, in this case, he — didn’t know it was coming ahead of time.”

“And is your lab rat permitted t’ ask how he performed?” he inquired genially.

“Not bad at all for someone who lost eighty-five percent of his total command,” she reassured him, and another chuckle ran around the squadron and division commanders seated at the table with them.

“Actually, Sir,” Sir Aivars Terekhov said, “I thought it was even more impressive that you managed to take out three of the op force’s superdreadnoughts in return.”

More than one head nodded in agreement, and Oversteegen shrugged.

“I remembered readin’ your report from Monica,” he said. “You might say I had a proprietary interest in your actin’ tac officer’s performance. I was impressed by th’ way you used your Ghost Rider platforms t’ reduce th’ telemetry lag for your Mark 16s. Didn’t seem t’ me there was any reason I couldn’t do th’ same thing with Mark 23s.” He shrugged. “It’s not as good as Apollo, but it’s a lot better than nothin’.”

“You’re right about that,” Michelle agreed. “And, by the way, the dispatch boat which arrived this morning had several interesting items aboard. The latest newsfaxes from home — and from Old Terra — among other things.” She made a face, and Oversteegen snorted harshly. “In addition to that inspiring reading and viewing material, however, there were two additional items which I think you’ll all find interesting.”

One or two people sat up straighter, and she saw several sets of eyes narrow in speculation.

“The first is that we should be receiving an entire battle squadron of Apollo-capable Invictuses in about three weeks.” The reaction of almost explosive relief which swept around the table was all she could have asked for. “There was a bit of a glitch in the deployment order, and their ammunition ships will be here a week or so before they are.”

There were quite a few smiles, now, and she smiled back.

“Actually, the missile ships were originally scheduled to arrive two weeks after the wallers,” she continued, “but the squadrons we were supposed to get under that deployment plan wound up going somewhere else, so we had to wait until their replacements finished working up.”

She paused again, and Commodore Shulamit Onasis, the CO of Battlecruiser Division 106.2, frowned thoughtfully.

“I know that ‘cat-in-the-celery-patch look, Ma’am,” she said after a moment. “Why do I have the sense another shoe hanging in midair somewhere?”

“Well, I guess it might be because there is,” Michelle admitted cheerfully. She had everyone’s full attention again, she observed, and glanced at Cruiser Division 96.1’s commanding officer from the corner of one eye. “It seems that although somehow the newsies haven’t picked up on it yet, the reason our original reinforcing squadrons went somewhere else is that Duchess Harrington and Eighth Fleet have gone somewhere else, as well. To the Haven System, as a matter of fact.”

The youthful senior-grade captain she’d been watching stiffened, and there was a sudden and complete silence. Her own smile slid into something much more serious, but she shook her head.

“No,” she said. “She wasn’t planning on attacking the system. In fact, unless something went very wrong, about three weeks ago she delivered a personal message from the Queen to President Pritchart. Apparently our discoveries about Manpower’s involvement out here in New Tuscany have inspired a certain rethinking of who might actually have been behind Admiral Webster’s assassination and the attack on Queen Berry. On that basis,” she drew a deep breath and looked around the table, “and in light of the worsening situation with the Solarian League, Her Majesty has decided to pursue a negotiated settlement with the Republic after all, and she’s chosen Duchess Harrington as her lead negotiator.”

“My God,” Captain (SG) Prescott Tremaine, CruDiv 96.1’s CO, murmured. She turned her head to look at him fully, and he shook his head, like a man shaking off a stiff right cross, then gave her a crooked smile. “You were certainly right when you said you had a couple of things we might be interested in, Ma’am!”

“I thought that would probably be true, Scotty,” Michelle said with a grin. “In fact, I should probably go ahead and admit I saved that particular little tidbit until I could watch your expression.”

Most of the others chuckled at that one. Scotty Tremaine had been one of Honor Alexander-Harrington’s protégés ever since her deployment to Basilisk Station aboard the old light cruiser Fearless. Michelle wondered if he’d been as surprised as she was when she discovered that the Admiralty, in its infinite wisdom, hadn’t merely transferred him from the LAC community (where he’d not only made a considerable name for himself but actually survived the Battle of Manticore) but chosen to give a new-minted captain of the list such a plum assignment. Once she’d had time to think about it, however, she’d realized exactly why they’d done it. Even in a navy expanding as rapidly as the RMN, a flag officer had to have at least some experience in command of conventional starships, and aside from a brief stint in the “Elysian Space Navy” during the escape from Cerberus (where, admittedly, he’d performed extremely well), Scotty didn’t have any. Obviously, Lucien Cortez had decided to rectify that situation, even if giving him a division of Saganami-Cs had to have stepped on the toes of quite a few captains — or even commodores — with considerably more seniority.

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21 Responses to Mission Of Honor – Snippet 49

  1. Vince says:

    I think we’re getting closer to when the fecal matter hits the rotary air impeller.

    On a technical/editorial note: “…hurtling through hyper-space at seventy percent of light-speed.”

    Has anyone noticed that particle shielding in the Honorverse seems to have gotten better (without any specific announcement of the fact) since the beginning of the series? The technical appendix in More Than Honor (and mention of speeds in the earlier books) said the limiting speed for vessels was the particle shielding. Military vessels (and certain civilian vessels like liners, yachts, and mailboats with military grade particle shielding) in normal space had a maximum velocity of 80% lightspeed, with the hyperspace maximum velocity 60% lightspeed due to the higher particle density in hyperspace. Civilian vessels (merchant cargo vessels) with civilian grade particle shielding were limited to a maximum velocity of 60% of lightspeed in normal space, with the hyperspace maximum velocity limited to 50% of lightspeed. The later books (not just the above quote from this snippet of MoH) show a velocity creep upwards at least in hyperspace. Either the shielding has gotten better without a big announcement, or David or his editor slipped up.

  2. Robert H. Woodman says:

    @1 – Vince

    In the course of war we can reasonably expect both sides to experience technical improvements in all areas where technical improvements are possible, and improving the shielding so that ships can travel more quickly is a normal and expected development for a wartime navy.

    My suspicion is that it began as an editorial slip, but if we ask about it now, we will be told something along the line of my first sentence.

  3. Robert H. Woodman says:

    I wonder if Sir Horace is serving with Scotty. That’s got to be interesting! :-)

  4. John Roth says:

    @1 Vince

    Or else they needed that velocity to make sure that Michelle knew there was a big, bad Battle Fleet contingent at Meyers. And I think we can guess when they’re going to arrive — David does have a habit of lampshading his Checkov’s Guns.

  5. no_one says:

    lampshading his Checkov’s Guns. ?!?!?!?! What language is that?

  6. Tabasco says:

    @ 5

    Obligatory link:

    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/HomePage

    Be warned, I’ve had whole afternoons vanish after clicking that link.

  7. Thirdbase says:

    Well they are about to get a rude awakening.

    Two weeks for the ammo ships, and three weeks for Invictuseseses, looks like they will miss the battle. I wonder if they get to go conquer Meyers?

    Robert, Of course Sir Horace is with him, he reprogrammed BuPers computer to always assign him to the same place Scotty goes.

  8. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Now Thirdbase, Sir Horace said that he’s stopped doing that.

    Of course, we didn’t ‘see’ his thoughts on that matter. [Evil Grin]

  9. Terranovan says:

    @5 no_one: “Lampshading” is acknowledging a literary flaw in-story. “Chekhov’s Gun” is a flaw/device used to refer to overly obvious foreshadowing. Here are a pair of links to clarify:
    tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/LampshadeHanging
    tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ChekhovsGun

  10. robert says:

    @7 Better you should wonder whether they get there before OB. I wonder if they will even get there. or get to stay there, after OB and the potential need to defend the home system.

  11. Thirdbase says:

    Drak, he said he stopped, he didn’t say he went back and undid what he had already done.

  12. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Agree.

    On the other hand, Scotty is getting high enough in rank that if he wanted Sir Horace, his request would be carefully considered by the humans of BuPers.

    Of course, considering their exploits, even the humans of BuPers might not want to ‘break up’ this ‘winning team’.

    For that matter, while we know Sir Horace believes it was his meddling with the BuPers that kept them together, I wonder if somebody in BuPers realized what he had done long time ago but decided to ‘let it stand’. [Smile]

  13. Vince says:

    @2 I think it was a slip up by David that got by his editor. Interesting though that we have not seen the increase in normal space, although that might a result of ships not needing to get to their top speed in normal space because the hyper limit (where most translations occur just beyond) isn’t far away enough from whatever in-system the target/destination is for a ship at maximum acceleration.

  14. DG says:

    @12, well, it least in the real Navy, there just aren’t that many billets for senior warrant officers, but you can always cram one in a LCDR or LT’s staff billet if you know (i.e. have incriminating pictures of) the right detailer and there aren’t open billets where they are supposed to go.

  15. Thirdbase says:

    DG right now I think the Manticoran Navy has more billets than trained people. If Sir Horace isn’t careful, he may end up as Scotty’s XO of Flag Captain.

  16. robert says:

    @15 That is funny. He is the antithesis of what a good XO should be.

  17. Kenny says:

    I thought 80% light speed was the theoretical limit for a warship, with some places having less

  18. Stewart says:

    Consider now the possibilities — Harkness and Billingsly in the same quadrent and (right now) possibly on the same ship ……..

  19. Robert Krawitz says:

    The problem with refusing to break up a team like this is that it keeps knowledge and skills concentrated, where they really need to be spread around. Scotty and Harkness have a rather interesting combination of skill sets that would be very useful to spread more broadly in certain kinds of situations — not in pitched battles, but in “police action” settings, their ability to see through enemy sneakiness could come in handy.

    The problem here is that keeping them together like this (and surely Sir Lucien knows what’s going on — sure, Scotty is only a captain, but he’s the protege of some rather highly placed people, like HH and Alice Truman) is that these skills don’t spread around. Scotty needs to learn to work with other people and not have to rely on Harkness, and Harkness needs work for other people to spread his skills around.

  20. Stewart says:

    Harkness wouldn’t work as an XO — Commissioned vs Warrant ; but with his enlisted background he could fit (and be accepted by the Chief’s) as ship’s Bosun (current USN position of Command Master Chief). from there contact / influence with the CPO Mess. — Just a thought — USN Retired

  21. Jeremy DuCharme says:

    I wonder if the CLACs Mike short stopped (in snippet 39) are new enough to carry Keyhole II? Sure it’s just four of them, but that gives at least some Apollo capacity if they use the pods as system defense platforms.

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