A Beautiful Friendship — Snippet 01

A Beautiful Friendship — Snippet 01

A Beautiful Friendship

David Weber


Unexpected Meetings


1518 Post Diaspora

Planet Sphinx, Manticore Binary Star System




“I mean it, Stephanie!” Richard Harrington said. “I don’t want you wandering off into those woods again without me or your mom along. Is that clear?”


“Oh, Daaaddy –!” Stephanie began, only to close her mouth sharply when her father folded his arms. Then the toe of his right foot started tapping lightly, and her heart sank. This wasn’t going well at all, and she resented that reflection on her . . . negotiating skills almost as much as she resented the restriction she was trying to avoid. She was almost twelve T-years old, smart, an only child, and a daughter. That gave her certain advantages, and she’d become an expert at wrapping her father around her finger almost as soon as she could talk. Unfortunately, her mother had always been a tougher customer . . . and even her father was unscrupulously willing to abandon his proper pliancy when he decided the situation justified it.


Like now.


“We’re not going to discuss this further,” he said with ominous calm. “Just because you haven’t seen any hexapumas or peak bears doesn’t mean they aren’t out there.”


“But I’ve been stuck inside with nothing to do all winter,” she said, easily suppressing a twinge of conscience as she neglected to mention snowball fights, cross-country skiing, sleds, snow tunnels, and certain other diversions. “I want to go outside and see things!”


“I know you do, honey,” her father said more gently, reaching out to tousle her curly brown hair. “But it’s dangerous out there. This isn’t Meyerdahl, you know.” Stephanie closed her eyes and looked martyred, and his expression showed a flash of regret at having let the last sentence slip out. “If you really want something to do, why don’t you run into Twin Forks with Mom this afternoon?”


“Because Twin Forks is a complete null, Daddy.”


Exasperation colored Stephanie’s reply, even though she knew it was a tactical error. Even above-average parents like hers got stubborn if you disagreed with them too emphatically, but honestly! Twin Forks might be the closest “town” to the Harrington freehold, but it boasted a total of maybe fifty families, most of whose handful of kids were a total waste of time. None of them were interested in xeno-botany or biosystem hierarchies. In fact, they spent most of their free time trying to catch anything small enough to keep as pets, however much damage they might do to their intended “pets” in the process. Stephanie was pretty sure any effort to enlist those zorks in her explorations would have led to words — or a fist in the eye — in fairly short order. Not, she thought darkly, that she was to blame for the situation. If Dad and Mom hadn’t insisted on dragging her away from Meyerdahl just when she’d been accepted for the junior forestry program, she’d have been on her first internship field trip by now. It wasn’t her fault she wasn’t, and the least they could do to make up for it was let her explore their own property!


“Twin Forks is not a ‘complete null,’ ” her father said firmly.


“Oh yes it is,” she replied with a curled lip, and Richard Harrington drew a deep breath.


“Look,” he said after a moment, “I know you had to leave all your old friends behind on Meyerdahl. And I know how much you were looking forward to that forestry internship. But Meyerdahl’s been settled for over a thousand T-years, Steph, and Sphinx hasn’t.”


“I know that, Dad,” she replied, trying to make her voice as reasonable as his. That first “Daddy!” had been a mistake. She knew that, and she didn’t plan on repeating it, but his sudden decree that she stay so close to the house had caught her by surprise. “But it’s not like I didn’t have my uni-link with me. I could’ve called for help anytime, and I know enough to climb a tree if something’s trying to eat me! I promise — if anything like that had come along, I’d’ve been sitting on a limb fifteen meters up waiting for you or Mom to home in on my beacon.”


“I know you would have . . . if you’d seen it in time,” her father said in a considerably grimmer tone. “But Sphinx isn’t ‘wired’ the way Meyerdahl was, and we still don’t know nearly enough about what’s out there. We won’t know for decades yet, and all the uni-links in the world might not get an air car there fast enough if you did run into a hexapuma or a peak bear.”


Stephanie started to reply, then stopped. He had a point, she admitted grudgingly. Not that she meant to give up without a fight! But one of the five-meter-long hexapumas would be enough to ruin anyone’s day, and peak bears weren’t a lot better. And he was right about how little humanity knew about what was really out there in the Sphinx brush. But that was the whole point, the whole reason she wanted to be out there in the first place!


“Listen, Steph,” her father said finally. “I know Twin Forks isn’t much compared to Hollister, but it’s the best I can offer. And you know it’s going to grow. They’re even talking about putting in their own shuttle pad next spring!”


Stephanie managed — somehow — not to roll her eyes again. Calling Twin Forks “not much” compared to the city of Hollister was like saying it snowed “a little” on Sphinx. And given the long, dragging, endless year of this stupid planet, she’d almost be seventeen T-years old by the time “next spring” got here! She hadn’t quite been ten and a half when they arrived . . . just in time for it to start snowing. And it hadn’t stopped snowing for the next fifteen T-months!


“Sorry,” her father said quietly, as if he’d read her thoughts. “I’m sorry Twin Forks isn’t exciting, and I’m sorry you didn’t want to leave Meyerdahl. And I’m sorry I can’t let you wander around on your own. But that’s the way it is, honey. And” — he gazed sternly into her brown eyes — “I want your word you’ll do what your mom and I tell you on this one.”


*     *     *


Stephanie squelched glumly across the mud to the steep-roofed gazebo. Everything on Sphinx had a steep roof, and she allowed herself a deep, heartfelt groan as she plunked herself down on the gazebo steps and contemplated the reason that was true.


It was the snow. Even here, close to Sphinx’s equator, annual snowfall was measured in meters — lots of meters, she thought moodily — and houses needed steep roofs to shed all of that frozen water, especially on a planet whose gravity was over a third higher than Old Earth’s. Not that Stephanie had ever seen Old Earth . . . or any world which wasn’t classified as “heavy-grav” by the rest of humanity.


She sighed again, with an edge of wistful misery, and wished her great-great-great-great-whatever grandparents hadn’t volunteered for the Meyerdahl First Wave. Her parents had sat her down to explain what that meant shortly after her eighth birthday. She’d already heard the word “genie,” though she hadn’t realized that, technically at least, it applied to her, but she’d only started her classroom studies four T-years before. Her history courses hadn’t gotten to Old Earth’s Final War yet, so she’d had no way to know why some people still reacted so violently to any notion of modifications to the human genotype . . . or why they considered “genie” one of the dirtiest words in Standard English.


Now she knew, though she still thought anyone who felt that way was silly. Of course the bio-weapons and “super soldiers” whipped up for the Final War had been horrible. But that had all happened over five hundred T-years ago, and it hadn’t had a thing to do with people like the Meyerdahl or Quelhollow first waves. She supposed it was a good thing the original Manticoran settlers had left Sol before the Final War. Their old-fashioned cryo ships had taken long enough to make the trip for them to miss the entire thing . . . and the prejudices that went with it.


Not that there was anything much to draw anyone’s attention to the changes the geneticists had whipped up for Meyerdahl’s colonists. Mass for mass, Stephanie’s muscle tissue was about twenty-five percent more efficient than that of “pure strain” humans, and her metabolism ran about twenty percent faster to fuel those muscles. There were a few minor changes to her respiratory and circulatory systems (to let her handle a broader range of atmospheric pressures without the nanotech pure-strainers used), and some skeletal reinforcement to cope with the muscles, as well. And the modifications had been designed to be dominant, so that all her descendants would have them. But her kind of genie was perfectly inter-fertile with pure-strainers, and as far as she could see all the changes put together were no big deal. They just meant that because she and her parents needed less muscle mass for a given strength they were ideally suited to colonize high-gravity planets without turning all stumpy and bulgy-muscled. Still, when she’d gotten around to studying the Final War and some of the anti-genie movements, she’d decided Dad and Mom might have had a point in warning her not to go around telling strangers about it. Aside from that, she seldom thought about it one way or the other . . . except to reflect somewhat bitterly that if they hadn’t been genies the heavy gravities of the Manticore Binary System’s habitable planets might have kept her parents from deciding they simply had to drag her off to the boonies like this.


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23 Responses to A Beautiful Friendship — Snippet 01

  1. tootall says:

    I just finished Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi-he’s very good- It’s a re-write, sort of, of Little Fuzzy and Fuzzy Sapiens by H. Beam Piper -which I also read a looong while ago.
    Anyway, does anyone know if DW’s tree cats are a nod to Mr. Piper?

  2. dave o says:

    #1 I don’t think so. There’s not that much resemblence between Fuzzys and Tree cats except they’re both small furry intelligent aliens. Their natures are completely different.

  3. Bewildered says:

    Is this an extended version of a short story?

  4. Louis says:

    @3 Yes, of one also named A Beautiful Friendship in More Than Honor

  5. Willem Meijer says:

    I think that there are already seven chapters of this book on the Baen-site. This seems to be the first half of chapter one. Go to http://www.baen.com, Baen authors, publishing schedule, under october.

    I think I remember an earlier version of the story how treecats discovered cellery as well. And a story about Grayson and baseball.

  6. Willem Meijer says:

    @4 Yep, that’s the one about the treecats. Good memory, I envy you.

  7. Jeff Ehlers says:

    “A Beautiful Friendship” is listed as an upcoming young adult novel on Weber’s wiki page.

    It’s also evident that Weber is continuing his tendency towards reusing earlier written content, though I have no particular objections to that (it’s like reusing computer code).

  8. Bret Hooper says:

    The original was a beautiful story, and this is even better! No spoilers, because I have already received and read a copy from Amazon Vine. Happy reading to all of you!

  9. Terranovan says:

    @1,@2: Weber’s said treecats are based on 2 or 3 cats he had once. The whole thing’s probably somewhere on davidweber.net.

  10. summertime says:

    Is this Honor Harrington’s grandmother?, great-grandmother?

  11. robert says:

    This is ~400 years earlier than Honor’s saga. Add some more “greats.”

  12. robert says:

    @11 Or I must be wrong. Less than that.

  13. Drak Bibliophile says:

    I’m not sure about how many greats but Honor is a descendant of Stephanie.

  14. robert says:

    Depends on when prolong was developed. But current Honorverse events are in the 1920’s and this is in the year 1518, so without prolong it is 20 generations.

  15. 400 years, with modern medicine 30 years per generation is more reasonable than the entirely classical and reasonable 20, so 13 or so generations.

  16. Alice Collins says:

    When I read the synopsis of this book on Amazon, I immediately thought of James H Schmitz’s short story “Novice”.

  17. Bewildered says:

    @13. How does that work? If wives take their husbands names she’d stop being a Harrington so …? Agreed she’s supposed to be Honor’s X grandmother but did second cousins marry or something? Honor has to be descended from a male Harrington line unless social conventions have changed.

  18. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Bewildered, in “What Price Dreams” by David Weber (in _Worlds Of Honor_), it is mentioned that Stephanie *chose* to keep the Harrington name.

  19. evilauthor says:

    I went over to the Baen website and too a look at this book. Is that’s supposed to be Stephanie Harrington on the cover? Because if it is, she looks like total jailbait there…

  20. gahrie says:

    Stephanie Harrington is an adolescent when the events took place, which is probably why this story was chosen for his young adults line. She is about twelve years old.

  21. Capt Steve says:

    @19 She IS jailbait at that point. Don’t let that fool you, this is Honor’s favorite ancestor for a reason.

  22. Greg says:

    @17: Perhaps Stephanie’s husband took her last name when they married. This happens sometimes when the wife’s family has much greater social standing than the husbands. I know that this happens for a fact because it happened in my own family tree about 100 years ago.

  23. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Greg, in “What Price Dreams” it was mentioned that she kept her maiden name.

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