Mission Of Honor – Snippet 50

Mission Of Honor – Snippet 50

And they damned well gave him the right flagship, too, she reflected, remembering how tears had prickled at the backs of her eyes when she first saw the name HMS Alistair McKeon listed in the Admiralty dispatch announcing CruDiv 96.1’s assignment to Tenth Fleet. She didn’t know what the ship’s original name had been supposed to be, but she understood exactly why she’d been renamed after the Battle of Manticore.

And why Tremaine had chosen her as his flagship.

“Well, I hope my reaction was up to your expectations, Ma’am,” he told her now, his smile less crooked than it had been.

“Oh, I suppose it was . . . if you really like that stunned ox look,” Michelle allowed. Then it was her turn to shake her own head. “Not, I ought to admit, that you looked any more stunned than I felt when the dispatch got here. I imagine that’s pretty much true for all of us.”

“Amen,” Rear Admiral Nathalie Manning said softly.

Manning commanded the second division of Oversteegen’s Battlecruiser Squadron 108. She had a narrow, intense face, brown eyes, and close-cropped hair, and the Admiralty wasn’t picking Nike-class divisional COs at random. In fact, aside from the shape of her face and her height, she reminded Michelle of a younger, harder-edged Honor Alexander-Harrington in a great many ways. Now Manning smiled briefly at her, but there was a hint of alum behind that smile, and Michelle arched an inquiring eyebrow.

“I was just thinking, Ma’am,” Manning said. “After the last few months, I can’t help feeling just a bit apprehensive when things suddenly start going so well.”

“I know what you mean,” Michelle acknowledged. “At the same time, let’s not get too carried away with doom and gloom. Mind you, I’d rather be a little bit overly pessimistic than too optimistic, but it’s always possible things really are about to get better, you know.”

* * *

Maybe I shouldn’t have been quite so quick to discourage Manning’s pessimism, Michelle thought thirty-seven hours later.

She was back in the same briefing room, but this time accompanied only by Oversteegen; Terekhov; Cynthia Lecter; Commander Tom Pope, Terekhov’s chief of staff; Commander Martin Culpepper, Oversteegen’s chief of staff; and their flag lieutenants. It was not only a considerably smaller gathering, but a much less cheerful one. Terekhov and Oversteegan had come aboard Artemis for supper and to discuss the most recent news from Manticore, and their after-dinner coffee and brandy had been rudely interrupted by the burst-transmitted message they’d just finished viewing.

“I really, really hate finding out how many alligators are still in that swamp we’re trying to drain,” she said, and Oversteegen chuckled harshly.

“I’ve always admired your gift with words, Milady. In this case, however, I can’t help wonderin’ if it’s not really a question of how many hexapumas there are in th’ underbrush.”

As usual, he had a point, Michelle reflected, wishing she could recapture some of the confidence she’d felt after the post-exercise debrief. Unfortunately, she couldn’t, and she shuddered internally as she considered the one-two punch which had just landed here in the Spindle System.

Personally, Michelle Henke wouldn’t have believed water was wet if the information had come from Mesa, but she was unhappily aware that quite a few Solarians failed to share her feelings in that regard. Those people probably were going to believe Mesa’s version of the Green Pines affair . . . and the linkage between the “calculated Ballroom atrocity and a known Manticoran spy” was going to resonate painfully with the people who already hated the Star Empire. That much was evident just from the Solly newsies’ strident questioning. News of the Mesan “shocked discovery” of Manticoran involvement in the attack had reached Spindle less than fourteen hours ago, and Tenth Fleet’s public information officers had already been deluged with literally scores of requests — and demands — for an interview with one Admiral Countess Gold Peak.

As if I could possibly know one damned thing they don’t know. Jesus! Is a lobotomy a requirement for a job in the Solly media?

She realized she was trying to grind her teeth together and stopped herself. Actually, she reminded herself, the newsy feeding frenzy was probably understandable, however stupid. They had to be frantic for any official Manticoran response. In fact, she hated to think what it must be like for Baroness Medusa’s and Prime Minister Alquezar’s official spokesmen right now. And she had to admit Mesa’s fabrication really did have a certain damning plausibility. Until, that was, they inserted Anton Zilwicki into the mix. Michelle had met Anton Zilwicki. More than that, she’d known him and his wife well before Helen Zilwicki’s death, back when they’d both been serving officers of the Royal Manticoran Navy. She never doubted Zilwicki possessed the ruthlessness to accept collateral civilian casualties to take out a critical target, but the man she knew would never — not in a thousand years — have set out deliberately to execute a terrorist attack and kill thousands of civilians purely to make a statement. Even if he’d become afflicted with the sort of moral gangrene which could have accepted such an act in the first place, he was far too smart for that. The man who was effectively Cathy Montaigne’s husband had to be only too well aware of how politically suicidal it would have been.

Gilded the lily just a bit too richly there, you bastards, she thought now. For anyone who knows Anton or Montaigne, at least. Which, unfortunately, is an awfully small sample of the human race compared to the people who don’t know either of them.

She grimaced, then made herself draw a deep breath and step back. There wasn’t a damned thing she or anyone else in the Talbott Quadrant could do on that front. For that matter, anything that needed to be done about it fell legitimately to Prime Minister Alquezar and Governor Medusa. What Michelle had to worry about, as the commander of Tenth Fleet, was the second thunderbolt which had come slicing out of the cloudless heavens exactly thirteen hours and twelve minutes after the dispatch boat from Manticore delivered its bad news.

“It would seem,” she said dryly, “that our worst-case estimate was too optimistic. I could have sworn the New Tuscans said Anisimovna told them Admiral Crandall only had about sixty ships-of-the-wall.”

“Well, we already knew Anisimovna wasn’t the most honest person in the universe,” Terekhov pointed out dryly.

“Granted, but if she was going to lie, I would have expected her to overstate the numbers, not understate them.”

“I think that’s what all of us would have expected, Ma’am,” Lecter said. Michelle’s chief of staff was still functioning as her staff intelligence officer, as well, and now she grimaced sourly. “I certainly didn’t expect them to have this many ships, and neither did Ambrose Chandler or anyone in Defense Minister Krietzmann’s office. And none of us expected them to already be in Meyers before Reprise even got there with Baroness Medusa’s and Prime Minister Alquezar’s note!”

Michelle nodded in glum agreement and looked back at Lieutenant Commander Denton’s strength estimate. Seventy-one superdreadnoughts, sixteen battlecruisers, twelve heavy cruisers, twenty-three light cruisers, and eighteen destroyers. A total of a hundred and forty warships, accompanied by at least twenty-nine supply and support ships. Upwards of half a billion tons of combat ships, deployed all the way forward to a podunk Frontier Security sector on the backside of nowhere. Until this very moment, she realized, even as she’d dutifully made plans to deal with the possible threat of Solarian ships-of-the-wall, she hadn’t truly believed a corporation like Manpower could possibly have the capacity to get that sort of combat power moved around like checkers on a board. Now she knew it did, and the thought sent an icy chill through her veins, because if they could pull off something like this, what couldn’t they pull off if they put their mind to it?

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31 Responses to Mission Of Honor – Snippet 50

  1. robert says:

    Good question. Vile answer to come.

  2. gg says:

    Hmm… I wonder if Mannerheim is equipped with Cataphract… and System Defence Pods, or whatzit, Mesa’s Bolthole, as well… and the Mesa System Navy…

  3. Thirdbase says:

    Somebody needs to hunt down the cobbler.

    The one that keeps making all the ‘other’ shoes that keep dropping.

  4. John Roth says:

    @2 gg

    Um, no. According to ToF, chapter 50, some of the Mannerheim officers who are aware of the Cataphract are planning to introduce the idea of a “notional” dual drive missile to their tac staffs. Mannerheim is, as far as I know, equipped with first line Solly hardware, but that’s it. They are, however, only 10 ly from the wormhole to Darius, where the Mesa Alignment navy is being built.

    So when the hammer drops on Prometheus, I’d imagine that they’ll be getting it.

    As far as system defense pods, the Apollo ones are quad-drive missiles, with a local controller capable of grav-wave communications (64 times light speed). The big issue is the com link from the controller, wherever it’s stashed, so they either need forward controllers scattered rather thickly through the volume to be defended, grav wave communications to the missiles, or they’ll have to accept horrible losses in the missile swarm.

    Mesa is using the forward controller concept for Oyster Bay, and that’s also sort of the concept used by Maya Sector in their Marksman cruisers. It’s also what Oversteegen just did, but using existing hardware.

  5. Robert H. Woodman says:

    @3 — Thirdbase

    There are enough “other” shoes dropping to make me think that Imelda Marcos is somehow involved in this plot.


  6. Daryl says:

    Looks like a target rich environment is on the way. Normally the military caution is “Remember if the enemy is in range then so are you”. This does not apply here.

  7. JMN says:

    One should not fail to make note of the ammunition ships. The possibilities for a saturation attack are manifest. Telemetry is the bottleneck. Something tells me they find a way around the problem.

    In the vein of “other shoe”, when will we get back to Torch’s mysterious wormhole?


  8. John Roth says:

    @7 JMN

    There really isn’t anything mysterious about that wormhole any more — at least to us. It goes to Felix through “The Twins”. Which is the same wormhole junction that goes to Darius. As well as two other locations, currently unspecified. The fact that nobody in the Alliance knows that could lead to more interesting plot.

    I don’t think we’ll see any more in this book, but I could be mistaken.

  9. Jeremy DuCharme says:

    @7 Mike short stopped four CLACs (Snippet 39), are they new enough to mount Keyhole II? Otherwise there is Oversteegen’s ‘make do’ from last snippet. But it remains to be seen what Sollie PD is like. IIRC ToF had the exSS Peeps being rather unimpressed with Sollie missile defenses on the BCs they got.

  10. justdave says:

    @4 by ‘controller’ if you mean the Apollo control missile, each one follows closely behind it’s attack missiles

    if you’re referring to the command links from the ship to Apollo then the lack of Keyhole becomes the issue

    I see at least two techniques to approximate Keyhole; a version of Oversteegen’s is one or Mike could ‘spread’ her existing C&C platforms wider that she would tactically and use them ILO Keyhole while engaging at Apollo system defense range and then mass up when the range drops to her dual drive missiles range

  11. dcchipper says:

    @9 Jeremy Don’t forget these ships are battlefleet who as far as I can tell has no real life active duty and therefore seems to be even less likely to have updated their defences in the last 200 or so years. This could get very interesting. It will be nice to have a metric for how good Battle Fleet’s defences are at this time as this will affect the planning that the RMN does for it’s planned deep raids and what is needed for home defence.

  12. robert says:

    It seems to me that warfare, for the time being, has devolved into something resembling 18th century (AD) and earlier battles. The opposing armies showed up on the field, some shots were fired, and if one side had overwhelming superiority and tactical position, the other side withdrew or surrendered.

    A good example is the American revolution, where, except for some very bloody battles in the South, and at Saratoga, virtually all the battles were non-battles. Maneuver for advantage or withdraw. Then came Yorktown where surrender was the only option.

    Here we have Manticore able to out-range any enemy and with superior defenses (for now). All they seem to have to do is show up, fire a salvo, and accept surrender. We all expect Crandall to go the way of Byng, right? Even with a seemingly larger force they have no chance because they are really a Potemkin Navy built to impress, not fight.

  13. zathras says:

    @12. There are few assumptions in there.
    1) That the solies will open fire first. The could just come into the system and enter orbit, and force mike to withdraw (to stay out of energy range), or open fire first (all we wanted was an impartial investigation, as to what happened to our battlecruser, and the neobarbs opened fire first. After all, we are not at war with them). As per the previous discussions this is probabbly the worst outcome. What if the solies tride this in Manticore?

    2) That the solies will realize, in time, that they want to leave.

    3) That mike can afford to let them leave.

  14. John Roth says:

    @11 dcchipper

    Actually, they have updated. I believe it’s Byng who talks about the last update cycle. There’s something called Ageis and Halo that Roszak talks about at the Battle of Torch as if they’re very recent upgrades.

    Battle Fleet’s problem is that they have no actual experience fighting. The closest they’ve got is rigged simulator drills. They also have no idea what they’re facing.

  15. robert says:

    @13 zathras–
    Here is what I think will happen: Based on Torch and Storm and the prior MoH snippets, Crandall is headed to Spindle to demand that they hand over Henke to be tried for the “crimes” she committed at New Tuscany. At least that is what Crandall said she was going to do. So she will stand off (not really understanding the nature of the Manticoran weapons, not far off enough) and demand that Henke be turned over. Henke will tell her to go away or else. That will be followed by a foolish move by Crandall which will bring on the aforementioned “or else.” The silence you’ll hear is 71 SL SDs exploding in vacuum. Followed by the surrender of the remaining 70 SL ships.

    But we will not get to read that here because the snippets are almost over–the book release is in 3 weeks. How many more only Drak knows, hahahaha.

  16. Maggie says:

    @15 You DO realize that Henke’s adventure at New Tuscany may be referenced at Saganami Island as “The Bada-Byng”.

  17. robert says:

    @16 Get the hook!

  18. Robert H. Woodman says:

    @16 – Good Lord, Maggie, I hope you didn’t stay awake nights trying to come up with that line!


  19. Thirdbase says:

    I have to admit, I really wanted to read Commander Denton’s reporting to Admiral Henke.

  20. robert says:

    @19 This is all from the eARC so you may get more in the final version. I don’t really think so, and I agree with you that it would’ve been fun, but basically I guess all he said was “I saw ‘Seventy-one superdreadnoughts, sixteen battlecruisers, twelve heavy cruisers, twenty-three light cruisers, and eighteen destroyers. A total of a hundred and forty warships, accompanied by at least twenty-nine supply and support ships.’ at Myers, Admiral, Ma’am. We did not hang around to deliver any messages, either.”

  21. no_one says:

    The question arises in my mind: After blowing away 71 SDs and their escorts, do you leave one small ship alive to carry the news back to the SL, or do you kill them all and make them wonder what happened? I’d kill them all and leave them nothing to analyse.

  22. Robert H. Woodman says:

    @20 – No_one

    Mike can’t do that. There are Sollie newsies on planet covering every aspect of the Manticoran fleet there at Spindle. She will be forced to treat the SLN fleet with honor, which means killing no more ships than she has to and giving the survivors an opportunity to surrender with honor.

    The Sollies will have something to analyze, but since so many of BF’s top brass suffer from cranio-rectal syndrome, they won’t believe what they see.

  23. robert says:

    @21 There were 70 warships plus the 29 supply/support ships remaining after I killed the 71 SDs. I did not kill the escorts, they surrendered, and Henke is left with what to do with several 10’s of thousands of POWs. I guess Helga and her boss will be busy dealing with that for a while.

    So now they are going to plan their defense, meanwhile peace negotiations continue and it is eve of OB. Will Elizabeth go on the ho;o and speak of a day of infamy.

  24. justdave says:

    actually, if you listen to the snerkers, the BoS(pindal) will have parallels with the BoNT, altho one old, cross-series stalwart of MWW will bite the dust, again

  25. Grant says:

    @ Robert: There is a point at which head up posterior syndrome simply cannot survive, and having several dozen of your battle fleet superdreadnoughts turned into orbital debris by a handful of ships they outmass by a factor of several hundred times has to be past that point.

    What are they going to do at that point besides wake up and accept the disparity in their combat capabilities? Insist the space fairies absconded with all Crandall’s ships because the Manties couldn’t possibly have destroyed them? They pretty much have to start believing the reports of Manticoran weapons capabilities at that point. I mean, there’s stupid and arrogant and ignorant… and then there’s being functionally a vegetable.

  26. Maggie says:

    @17- C’mon, is it any worse than “nasty kitty”???

    @18- I never stay awake nights: I sleep the sleep of the just.

    Just WHAT is a matter of conjecture…

  27. robert says:

    @25 Grant. Right! But remember that there is another even bigger–way bigger–fleet (Filareta) wandering around somewhere and that fleet may not know anything about Manticoran capabilities. Or possible lack thereof after OB. Who knows?

  28. Daryl says:

    @23 Robert, technically they are not POWs unless war is declared but pirates so there is no legal obligation on Manticore to do anything but let them walk the plank (airlock). I suspect that out of common decency plus for good press they will be treated as if they were POWs though.

  29. Thirdbase says:

    She should take the senior surviving officers prisoner, and send everyone else back to Meyers on the surviving ships. (assuming she wins of course. :P)

  30. fester says:

    @ Grant #25, Even if the SLN senior leadership begins to recognize that maybe, perhaps those unreliable reports from 2nd tier System Defense Forces concerning the tech developments in the Havenite Quadrant are close to reality, it will take a damn long time for the SLN to reorientate its OODA loop. There are too many careers built on unquestioned SLN superiority that the rebels who were right still will get roadblocked.

  31. Rod says:

    @25 never underestimate the space fairies. They can be a vicious and determened foe.

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