A Rising Thunder – Snippet 11

A Rising Thunder – Snippet 11


We are so going to get hammered, a quiet little voice said in the back of Pyun’s mind.


“How the hell did they fit FTL emitters into something that small?” Steinberg demanded almost plaintively.


The question was obviously rhetorical, which was probably just as well, since no answer suggested itself to Pyun. Not that it would have made any difference at the moment. What mattered was that the Manties had managed to do it. Unless he was badly mistaken, those had to be recon platforms — dozens of them, as Chief Elliott had just pointed out — and if they were capable of what the wilder theorists had proposed, they were feeding those Manty cruisers detailed tracking information at FTL speeds. Which meant their missile control loop had just been cut in half, and the implications of that…


Belle Poule vibrated as counter-missiles began to launch, but it was already evident to Pyun that his ships mounted far too few counter-missile tubes and point defense clusters to deal with this salvo.


*   *   *


“Coming up on Point Alpha,” Brockhurst announced.


“Execute as specified,” Ivanov said formally.


“Aye, aye, Sir. Executing…now.”


*   *   *


There was little panic aboard SLNS Belle Poule, but only because her crew was too busy for that. There was no time for those who could actually see the displays, recognize what the readouts meant, to really consider what was happening, the stunning realization that they truly were as out-classed as the “preposterous” reports from Spindle had indicated.


And they were out-classed.


The Manticoran missiles came flashing in, still at that incredible — impossible — acceleration rate, and just before they entered the counter-missile zone, the electronic warfare platforms seeded among the attack birds spun up. Of the two hundred and forty missiles launched by Hiram Ivanov’s three cruisers, fifty carried nothing but penetration aids, and they’d been carefully saved for this moment. Now “Dazzler” platforms blinded Solarian sensors even as their accompanying “Dragons Teeth” suddenly proliferated, producing scores of false targets to confuse and saturate their targets’ defenses. The Solarian battlecruiser crews had never seen, never imagined, anything like it. Ignorant of the energy budgets the RMN’s mini-fusion plants allowed, they simply couldn’t conceive of how such powerful jammers could be crammed into such tiny platforms. The threat totally surpassed the parameters their doctrine and their systems had been designed to cope with.


Pyun’s battlecruisers managed to stop exactly seventeen of the incoming shipkillers in the outer zone. The other hundred and seventy-three streaked past every counter-missile the Solarians could throw with almost contemptuous ease.


*   *   *


Liam Pyun watched his command’s destruction ripping through his defenses. He’d always been more willing than most of his fellow officers to consider the possible accuracy of the outlandish reports coming back from the endless Manticore-Haven war. He’d had to be careful about admitting he was, given the contempt with which virtually all of those other officers greeted such “alarmist” rumors, but now he knew even the most bizarre of those reports had understated the true magnitude of the threat. No wonder the Manties had managed to punch out Byng’s flagship so cleanly at New Tuscany!


His people were doing their best, fighting with frantic professionalism to overcome the fatal shortcomings of their doctrine and training in the fleeting minutes they had. They weren’t going to succeed, and he knew it, but they weren’t going to simply sit there, paralyzed by terror, either, and he felt bittersweet pride in them even as he cursed himself for having walked straight into this disaster.


But how could I have known? How could I really have known? And even if I had —


And then the Manticoran missiles burst past the inner edge of the counter-missile zone. They came driving in through the desperate, last-ditch, last-minute fire of the battlecruisers’ point defense clusters, and the laser clusters were almost as useless in the face of the Manty EW as the counter-missiles had been. They managed to pick off another twelve missiles, but that still left a hundred and sixty-three shipkillers, and Pyun felt his belly knotting solid as his ships’ executioners came boring in on the throats of their wedges. They were going to —


One hundred and sixty-three Mark 16 missiles, each with the better part of thirty seconds’ time left on its drive, swerved suddenly, in a perfectly synchronized maneuver, and detonated as one.


*   *   *


“Nicely done, BB,” Hiram Ivanov said approvingly as the FTL reports came in from the Ghost Rider drones and Sloan Tompkins‘ CIC updated the master tactical plot. “Very nicely. In fact, I think that rates a ‘well done’ for your entire department.”


*   *   *


“They hit our wedges!” Steinberg blurted. “My God, they hit our wedges!


Her tone was so disbelieving — and so affronted — that despite himself, Pyun actually felt his mouth twitch on the edge of a smile. The ops officer was staring incredulously at her displays as CIC’s dispassionate computers updated them.


It was true. It had happened so quickly, the X-ray lasers had cascaded in such a massive tide, that it had taken Steinberg (and Pyun, for that matter) several endless seconds to grasp what had actually happened — to realize they were still alive — yet it was true.


The rear admiral would dearly have loved to believe Halo had succeeded in its decoy function. That the Manty missiles had been lured astray by his battlecruisers’ sophisticated electronic warfare systems. But much as he would have preferred that, he knew differently. No defensive system in the galaxy could have caused every single missile in an attacking salvo to waste its fury on the roofs and floors of his ships’ impeller wedges. No. The only way that could have happened was for the people who’d fired those missiles to have arranged for it to happen.


Christ!” Captain Gilmore shook his head like a man who’d been hit one time too many. “How the hell –?” He stopped and gave his head another shake, then grimaced. “Sorry, Admiral.”


Pyun only looked at him, then wheeled back towards Steinberg at the ops officer’s inarticulate sound of disbelief. She looked up and saw the admiral’s eyes on her.


“I –” It was her turn to shake her head. “Sir, according to CIC, Retaliate took one hit and Impudent took two. That’s it. That’s all!


“Casualties?” Pyun heard his own voice asking.


“None reported so far, Sir.”


“But that’s ridic –” Gilmore began, then made himself stop.


“Ridiculous,” Pyun agreed grimly. “Except for the minor fact that it happened. Which suggests it was what the Manties intended to happen all along. In fact, the hits on Retaliate and Impudent must’ve been unintentional.” He smiled very, very thinly. “I suppose it’s nice to know not even Manty fire control is perfect.”


Steinberg looked back up at him, and Gilmore inhaled deeply.


“Sir, are you suggesting they deliberately targeted our wedges?” the chief of staff asked very carefully. “That it was some kind of…of demonstration?


“I don’t have any better explanation for it, Steve. Do you?”


“I –“


“Excuse me, Captain,” Lieutenant Turner interrupted respectfully, “but we’re receiving a transmission I think the Admiral had better hear.”


“What kind of transmission?” Pyun asked.


“It’s from the Manties, Sir. But it’s not a direct transmission from any of their ships. It’s coming from…somewhere else.”


“‘Somewhere else’?”


“Yes, Sir.” The communications officer seemed torn between relief at his continued existence and unhappiness at something else. “Sir, I think it’s being relayed from another platform. From several other platforms, actually.” Pyun only looked at him, and Turner sighed. “Sir, it looks to me as if they must have at least ten or fifteen relay platforms out there, and they’re jumping the transmission between them to keep us from locking them up. And, Sir, I think they’re transmitting to us in real time.”


Pyun started to protest. They were still over a light-minute and a half from the Manties. There ought to be a ninety second-plus transmission lag. But then he remembered all those grav pulses, and his protest died.


“Very well,” he said. “Put it on the main display.”


“Yes, Sir.”


The same brown-haired, green-eyed man appeared, and Pyun felt his jaw muscles tighten.


“I trust,” Captain Ivanov said, “that you realize we just deliberately didn’t destroy your ships. As I’ve already said, my Empress would prefer to resolve the differences between the Star Empire and the League without further bloodshed. That doesn’t mean more blood won’t be shed anyway, but I’d really prefer not to have it happen here, today. If you persist in approaching this terminus, however, I will have no choice but to continue this engagement, and the next salvo won’t be targeted on your wedges. You have ten minutes to reverse acceleration or translate into hyper. If you’ve done neither at the end of those ten minutes, I will open fire once more, and this time we’ll be firing for effect. Ivanov, clear.”


It was very quiet on Belle Poule‘s flag bridge. No one said a word. In fact, for several seconds, no one even breathed. All eyes were on Liam Pyun as he stood continuing to gaze at the blank display from which Hiram Ivanov had disappeared. Then the admiral squared his shoulders, drew a deep breath, and turned his back on the display.


“Captain Gilmore, instruct Captain Zyndram to reverse acceleration immediately. And tell him to get our hyper generators online.”


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24 Responses to A Rising Thunder – Snippet 11

  1. Scott says:

    My first gut reaction was this was a stupid move. The Solies now have sensor records of Manti EW. In the short run useless but it will give r and d some ideas. On the other hand it will be of know use for years and finding out just how outclassed they are may cause panick and destroy morale.

  2. Peter says:

    I think Manticore is betting on the psych warfare aspect. They want to break the Solar League’s thoughtless superiority complex without (preferrably) enraging the league’s citizens. Looks like a very high-stakes gamble to me, but they clearly see the circumstances differently.

  3. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Scott, a few things to consider.

    Manticore is still in “get them to talk peace” mode not “let’s destroy/conquer the SL” mode.

    Captain Ivanov doesn’t *need* to kill them to “protect his forces” so why kill them when he can “get them to leave”.

    It does something to the morale of decent people when they kill defenseless people.

    There may be “cold hard” reasons to kill these people but what of the costs to Manticorian officers/crew when they kill people who really can’t fight back?

  4. Willem Meijer says:

    And where are the news reporters when you need them? The Sollies can still hush this up.

  5. Scott says:

    Good points Drak. Bet you though that the reports of this action are played down. I can’t help but think of the situation in the opening months of the second wourld war where both the US and German submarine fleets were reporting back to command that torpedoes were malfunctioning. The powers that be in both nations blamed the captains and crew. I think that Pyun’s future will be bleak until after the cluster that will be the abortive attack on Manticor.

  6. dave o says:

    It would be interesting to know how long it will take for Pyun’s report to get back to earth. If it does get back. Pyun’s boss might want to suppress it to cover his own ass. But if it does get back, will the powers that be take it seriously? Probably not. What about the defense analysts? Stupid arrogance is going to be Manticore’s biggest ally.

  7. Robert H. Woodman says:

    As I said last snippet, the Sollies just discovered that they brought a butter knife to a gun fight. Fortunately for them, the gun fighters intended to miss. Drak’s points for why they wanted to miss are well taken. I tend to think that Scott and Dave O are right in saying that this incident will be covered up/ignored both in the Sollie media and by the SLN top brass.

  8. John Roth says:

    @6 Dave O. This is after the reports of Crandall’s fiasco have arrived, so the only new information Ivanov disclosed is the Ghost Rider platforms and Hermes. I doubt if they can tell the difference between Mark 16 and Mark 23 missiles yet. And these reports aren’t going to go through Manticoran hands on the way back to Fleet HQ.

  9. fester says:

    @ John Roth — agreed, I think the SLN commander on the scene thinks the first salvo was a pod-launched salvo. I don’t think anyone in the SLN has wrapped their head around the possibility of tube launched MDMs yet.

  10. ronzo says:

    @1 Sensor data while valuable is as you said useless in the short run and the havenites have been up a against dazzlers and dragons teeth for a nearly a decade and have only come up with additional fire control and counter missle tubes, extending the defensive join with lacs and the triple ripple. The Sollies while there learning curve and production capability will get them up to speed quicker than Haven in terms of matching the manticoran tech they will still be figuring out doctorine to go along with it and all the while manticore will be improving and shrinking its systems further and look and the next practical progression of what they have already accomplished for instance apollo capable countermissles, spherical sidewall generators for misslepods, 6th or 7th generation compensators.

  11. MTO says:

    @10 not to mention whatever leg-ups they get from Dr Simoes’s intel. Also, I think the treecats are about to get engaged, and I think that’s game-changing.

  12. TimC says:

    I don’t think they are showing the depth of their superiority-no CLACs, no Apollo, and I think they are underzaggerating (well it ought to be a word)their range. So ‘the Manties have stealth, penaids,30Million K range and FTL comms’ Still leaves quie a few things in their locker.

  13. Buck O'Fama says:

    On Safehold that would have been a shot across the bows. For a warning such as that to work, those receiving it need to be rational. While I’m sure the Solly Navy will take it to heart, it’s what the Solly politicians think that matter. One assumes they will think what their crony masters tell them too.
    Back in local space and time, The USA has cleaned the clock of Islamic forces everywhere we have fought them. From the Mogadishu Mile to Garmser, US Military units keep slaughtering Jihaddis. “They keep coming in the same old way and we keep killing them in the same old way.”
    You have to be rational to learn.

  14. shadowdancer says:

    Well, i think the Mantis handled the situation pretty well.

    The worst situation that could happend, would be a massive destruction of sol ships.

    That would provide the solarians with a rally point to unite there civilians. -> The last thing Manticore needs right now.

    That “clash” right now is humiliating, but didnt come with any losses. A lot of shell-systems and the local system-defense will probably take a “We told you so.” approach.

    The secound last thing Manticore need right now is dotzends of overconfident sol-officers that try something stupid, because they dont know how outclassed they are.

  15. B Taylor says:

    I think that the respect I suspect Pyun is held in by at least some of his fellows (and the fact that I doubt many consider him incompetent) means that even if HQ ignores the information, it will trickle out along the grape vine from his squadron. Actually, another avenue of disemination is that freighter there – its crew will report what it saw in bars across the League, and word will spread (word of mouth, mostly, but still word).

    The fact that Pyun will be reporting a loss (which didn’t involve surrender) will help HQ grasp the problems it faces. Now, will that help be enough, who knows? (My thought is that of the battles between Manticore and the SLN, Pyun is the only commander to just withdraw – yes, because the RMN let him, but still. This will make him look not nearly so bad as others, and some of the League Newsies will probably hear of the incident, and make an issue of it (the MAlign does have sleepers as reporters, if nothing else).)

  16. tootall says:

    I do not know what MWW has in mind for those battlecruisers– having said that, letting them “escape”, may allow them to kill Manties or their allies, or civilians, later if any sort of hostilities do break out.
    So that’s the question, “Who dies?” and “When?”
    When does the oath all military people take to serve and protect begin to be applied?
    Apparently, not quite yet.
    What happens when some Manty commander tries to minimize Sollie casualities, and some of his/her own people get killed? Somehow-to me- that feels like a betrayl of his own people.
    Patton said something like, “It’s not your job to die for your country, it’s to get the other s.o.b. to die for his country.”
    Are we too gentle here? Lots of moral questions in this brief snip.

  17. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Tootall, yet most here would be against a Mantie commander taking the “kill them all, God will know his own” approach.

    Obviously a truly active war hasn’t started yet between Manticore and the Solarian League so his actions *now* would not be the actions that he’d take once after full hostilites began.

    It has been said that war is hell but the war hasn’t really got started yet.

  18. Stan Leghorn says:

    This was probably the best outcome on all sides. Six BC’s are not going to make a lot of difference in the long run while the proof that the sollies are horribly outclassed will erode morale through the Grapevine over time. If the League had any solid support, it could become another rallying point but most of the Shell will be looking at this as an opportunity when the screening units of Frountier fleet get yanked to cover the heavies of Battle Fleet. Expect most of the shell and segments of the verge to explode once serious combat begins and the Sollies lose fleets. If this were not the case, Manticore might as well give up, but the league is going to shatter. OTOH, the important worlds like Beowolf will still be intact and they might change sides. The alliance might end up replacing the League as a more honost cop on the block. still curious why Beowolf was not “Oyster Bayed” at the same time as Manticore. I think Mesa is going to regret that…

  19. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Stan, IMO an “Oyster Bay” attack on Beowulf would have been seen as an attack on the Solarian League and the “SL powers-that-be” would have reacted much differently than they would if only “neo-barbs” were attacked.

    You may be correct that the Alignment is going to regret that *but* they likely didn’t believe that they could afford the reaction within the SL to such an attack.

    The Alignment want’s the SL to break-up but an attack on a Core SL system could cause a “pulling together” of the SL.

  20. ET1swaw says:

    @18 Stan Leghorn: And don’t forget that due to the rush job on OB (which was originally planned for Grayson, Mantichore, and Haven among others using the ‘Leonard Detweiler’ class) they had a limited number of ‘Shark’ and ‘Ghost’ class (IIRC they even shorted Mantichore B and Grayson). They also want badly to isolate Beowulf and make her people (those that ejected them and denigrated their world view) suffer. An OB on Beowulf would not only act on the SL as Drak comments, but would rally the GA, the SL, and most independent worlds to her support.

  21. IanD says:

    I think another reason why Beowulf was not OB’d was that it would be a strong indicator of who was responsible for the attacks. Right now no one has a clue who is responsible for the attacks except for Zilwicki and Cachat and they are stuck on a freighter. Harrington and Montaigne know what Z and C suspect but have no proof.
    An attack on Beowulf would bring the MA into the open and give every major poweer in the region a new target. If things go the way the MA wents them to, they will likely save Beowulf for last… dessert if you will.


  22. tootall says:

    # 17 Drak- Not really advocating -“kill em all–etc”. Just pointing out the problems with letting opposing forces go free. It’s a moral question that MWW poses to his readers. He tackles the same in Safehold, with the question of parole for church forces that can’t honor it. Especially when the same forces would turn their prisoners over for torture and death.

  23. robert says:

    @18 The purpose of OB was to destroy the shipbuilding and missile production capabilities of Manticore and Grayson. It was intended to weaken their fighting ability so that while they could pretty much wipe out the SL fleets sent against them, after that they would need a lot of time to recover the losses. During that time the MAlign would be busy building its fleets.

    Facilities like those in Manticoran and Grayson space, on such a scale, do not exist in Beowulf anyway. And after the SL was destroyed and while Manticore and Grayson were relatively helpless, the MA would have been able to deal with their arch enemy, Beowulf, without interference.

  24. Stan Leghorn says:

    As was pointed out, that capacity is not so hard to replicate given the level of automation available to the Manticore. Innovation would have been another matter, but the R&D station crew escaped to Gryphon. My real concern is that Mesa might have a bio-weapon they plan to release on everyone else. If fact, why should they be wasting time competing against their enemies strength when they could eliminate most of the “cattle” with artificial plagues. Dropped by meteor like the Andromeda Strain, and no one would be able to protect themselves.

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