A Rising Thunder – Snippet 14

A Rising Thunder – Snippet 14


Chapter Five


Innokentiy Kolokoltsov rose as Astrid Wang formally ushered his visitor into his office. His secretary was more subdued than usual, and it was obvious to Kolokoltsov that she was on her best behavior.


Astrid always did have a good set of instincts, he thought. Not that our manners are going to make very much difference this time around. Whatever else is going to happen, the Manties aren’t the kind of neobarbs we can impress into acknowledging the Solarian League’s supremacy. The pain-in-the-ass bastards’ve made that clear enough!


“Mister Ambassador,” he said, with a small, formal bow instead of extending a hand across his desk.


“Mister Permanent Senior Undersecretary,” Sir Lyman Carmichael responded in a pronounced Manticoran accent, with an even shallower bow.


“May we offer you refreshment, Mister Ambassador?”


“No, thank you.”


There was a distinct edge of frost in that reply, Kolokoltsov noted. Well, that wasn’t unexpected. Lyman Carmichael was a career diplomat, but he didn’t really have the disposition for it, in Kolokoltsov’s opinion. He felt things too deeply, without the professional detachment which ought to be brought to the task. No doubt there was a place for passion, for belief, even for anger, but it wasn’t at the table where interstellar diplomats played for the highest stakes imaginable. That was a place for clear-headedness and dispassion, and a man who could be goaded into intemperance was a dangerous loose warhead for his own side.


“As you will.”


Kolokoltsov inclined his head again, this time indicating the chair on the far side of his desk, and Carmichael’s lips tightened ever so slightly. There was a much more comfortably and intimately arranged conversational nook in the angle of the palatial office’s picture windows, looking out over the towers and canyons of Old Chicago. That was where Kolokoltsov met with visitors when he was prepared to pretend other star nations were truly the Solarian League’s peers. It was particularly important to make the point that the Star Kingdom of Manticore was not the League’s peer, however, and so he seated himself again behind his desk and folded his hands on the antique blotter.


“How may I be of service, Mister Ambassador?” he asked with a pleasantness which fooled neither of them.


“I’ve been instructed by my government to deliver a formal note to Foreign Minister Roelas y Valiente.”


Carmichael smiled thinly, and Kolokoltsov smiled back. Whatever the official flowchart of the Solarian League Foreign Ministry might indicate, Carmichael knew as well as Kolokoltsov that Roelas y Valiente was no more than a figurehead. Whoever the note might be addressed to, the Manticoran Ambassador was looking at its actual recipient.


“May I inquire as to the note’s contents?” Kolokoltsov asked with a straight face.


“You may,” Carmichael replied.


He didn’t say anything else, however, and Kolokoltsov felt his jaw muscles tighten ever so slightly as the Manticoran simply sat there, smiling at him. Waiting.


“And those contents are?” he asked after a lengthy moment, keeping his voice even.


“As you’re aware, Mister Permanent Senior Undersecretary, my government is deeply concerned over the escalating series of…incidents between the Solarian League military and the Star Empire. We realize there’s a difference of opinion between Landing and Old Chicago about precisely how those incidents occurred and who was responsible for them.” His eyes met Kolokoltsov’s coldly. “Regardless of who bears responsibility for those which have occurred in the past, however, my government is desirous of avoiding any additional incidents in the future.”


“I’m sure that will come as very welcome news to Foreign Minister Roelas y Valiente,” Kolokoltsov said when the Manticoran paused again.


“I hope it will,” Carmichael continued. “However, in pursuit of that object, the Star Empire, as you may or may not be aware, Mister Permanent Senior Undersecretary, has issued a general recall of its merchant shipping in the League.”


Kolokoltsov stiffened. He’d only just begun receiving reports about disappearing Manticoran merchant vessels. Not enough of them had come in yet for any sort of pattern to reveal itself, but according to at least some of them the merchant vessels in question had canceled charters and contractual commitments without explanation. He’d been inclined to discount those particular reports, given the hefty penalties the captains and shipowners in question would face, but if the Star Empire’s government had issued a nondiscretionary recall…


“In part,” Carmichael said, “that recall represents an effort on our part to be sure none of the…unfortunate incidents which have so far involved only our military vessels spill over onto our civilian traffic. Obviously, we don’t think a Solarian warship captain would lightly open fire on an unarmed merchant vessel in a fit of piqué, but, then, we didn’t think a fleet of battlecruisers would open fire on a handful of destroyers riding peacefully in orbit, either.” He smiled again, a smile as cold as his eyes. “Accidents, it appears, do happen, don’t they? So my government has decided to ensure that no more of them transpire. There is, however, another reason for the recall, as well.”


“And that reason would be exactly what, Mister Ambassador?” Kolokoltsov tone was level, its neutrality a deliberate emphasis of his decision to ignore the Manticoran’s latest barb.


“You might think of it as an attempt to get the League’s attention, Mister Permanent Senior Undersecretary. We appear to have been singularly unsuccessful in our efforts to accomplish that so far, so my government has decided to resort to rather more direct measures.”


“Are you implying that the recall of your merchant shipping should be viewed as an unfriendly act directed against the Solarian League?” Kolokoltsov asked in a voice he’d suddenly allowed to become frigid.


“I fail to see how simply withdrawing our shipping from Solarian shipping lanes could be construed as ‘an unfriendly act,’ Mister Permanent Senior Undersecretary.” Carmichael shrugged slightly. “On the other hand, I suppose it will have an unfortunate impact on the movement of the League’s interstellar commerce.”


Kolokoltsov sat rigidly in his chair, gazing across his folded hands at the Manticoran. He was no economist, no expert on international shipping, but the entire Solarian League was only too well aware of the extent to which the life’s blood of its interstellar economy moved in Manticoran bottoms. It was one of the reasons so many Solarians so intensely resented and detested the Star Empire of Manticore. And it was also the reason — coupled with the Manties’ control of the Manticoran Wormhole Junction and its commanding position among the warp bridges in general — that such a pissant little star nation had been able to…constrain Solarian foreign policy repeatedly over the last couple of T-centuries. But in all those years, Manticore had never threatened to actually withdraw its shipping from the League!


“I’m not an expert in interstellar commerce, Mister Ambassador,” he said after a few seconds. “It would appear to me, however, that the Star Empire’s actions will result in the violation of numerous commercial agreements and contracts.”


“That, unfortunately, is correct, Mister Permanent Senior Undersecretary. It’s regrettable, of course, but fortunately the majority of the shipping lines in question are bonded. In those instances where they aren’t, the injured parties will of course be able to seek redress through the courts. With what degree of success” — Carmichael smiled thinly — “no one can say at this point. I suppose a great deal will depend upon whose court adjudicates the matter, don’t you?”


“You’re playing with the lives and livelihoods of millions of Solarian citizens, Mister Ambassador,” Kolokoltsov pointed out rather more sharply than he’d intended to.


“I suppose it could be interpreted that way. Considering the current — and apparently still deteriorating — relationship between the Star Empire and the Solarian League, however, my government believes it will be safest all around for our merchant vessels to remain safely in Manticoran space — or, at least, outside of Solarian space — until the matters under dispute between the Star Empire and the League have been satisfactorily resolved. At that time, of course, we would look forward to restoring our freighters and passenger liners to their normal runs.”


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11 Responses to A Rising Thunder – Snippet 14

  1. Robert H. Woodman says:

    And this is just Lacoon I. What happens to the League when Lacoon II hits?

  2. summertime says:

    Next he tells him that the wormholes are closed to Solarian traffic, civilian and military, enforced as necessary, as we have already seen transpire.

  3. Robert H. Woodman says:

    I wonder if the League is still under the mis-apprehension that their navy can beat the SEM navy. The loss of Manticoran shipping vessels coupled with the pasting that the SLN is going to take pretty soon is going to devastate League morale. Perhaps the current Permanent Undersecretaries will disover that their jobs are not so permanent after all?

  4. ronzo says:

    Heres a question: Does all Solarian military equipment or components for such ride in Solarian merchant or Navy hulls from cradle to final production and then forward to naval bases. Of course the solarian navy is going to have tankers/Tenders/ammunition ships but do the widgets and bits that make up things a hyper generator,compensator, Alpha and beta nodes of a gravity drive, and particle shielding that make a warships ships capable of moving through space. I think even the Manticore has under estimated the damage pulling the merchant shipping will do to the solarian economy and military. Depending on how specialized the solarian economy has gotten in terms of what is made where(its seems likely given its size and bureaucratic nature), it could take even more than five years for them to catch up in terms technology because they will first have to ensure they can get all the components from A,B,C,D etc for each essential system together or ensure that everything necessary can be constructed at specific sights to ensure production.

  5. John Roth says:

    @4. It depends on how DW wants to do it, but I seriously doubt it.

    One of the lessons from the Toyota Production system (Lean Manufacturing) is that movement is a waste that ought to be eliminated. While intersteller shipping is cheap, it still takes time, so there’s a benefit to doing things locally in terms of lower inventory and less wast due to changes while parts are still in the channel. A long supply channel also has a huge capital cost for the inventory in the channel.

    An example from a few years ago: one of the major shoe manufacturers has most of its production in China. However, it also has a plant in New England. The reason is simply that, if there’s a run on a new fashion, it’s impossible to get the Chinese plants to make more and then ship them to the U.S. while it’s still hot.

    In other words, I expect that everything needed for a specific product (LAC, missile pod, SD, Apollo control node) is manufactured in the same system, which means there isn’t going to be a huge time lag as they tool up for new technologies.

    Distributing spare parts is a different issue, though. Again from Lean Manufacturing practice: Toyota has one of everything in its repair shops so they’ve got it on hand when it’s needed. They’re replenished on a next-day basis from regional warehouses. They can do that because the warehouses are a max of 6 to 8 hours away.

    Translate that to interstellar shipping times, and you’ve got to have a lot of inventory at the various fleet bases.

  6. Capt Steve says:

    @4. The big thing is the money. The League’s Federal government is funded by fees on shipping and whatever OFS can extort out of the “neobarbs” on the frontiers. The federal budget (including the Navy) is an incredibly small fraction of the GNP. The system is so large that that incredibly small fraction dwarfs the federal budget of everyone else.

    Manticore is hitting them in the pocketbook HARD by messing with the shipping system (and when the shell and verge systems start peeling off it will snowball)

    This is why it’s repeatedly stated in the last couple of books that the worst thing that Manticore could do would be to attack the Solar System. If they really enraged the Solarian League to the point of a 5% income tax passing, it would get ugly fast. The industrial base of the League isn’t behind Manticore by much at all, if they had the plans for Ghost Rider and Apollo and all the other goodies, they could churn them out within a couple of months.

    The time it takes to solve a tech problem is inversely proportional to the amount of money you can throw at it. The only thing keeping this from being a curb-stomp on the Sollie’s side is their screwed up political system. The only reason that they’re not building podnaughts in the Maya Sector for example is that they don’t want to be caught by their political superiors (before it’s time to kick off their plans). It’s pretty clear that the capability is there, it’s just the will to use it that’s lacking.

  7. Stan Leghorn says:

    If Mesa had not mucked around pitting Haven and Manticore against each other, Manticore would likely have been absorbed into the League by now. Probably as a member state like Beowolf rather than an OFS slave colony. Without the pressurized R&D, the Sollies could have crushed them. This is what the Cluster was aiming for, after all. “Quantity has a quality all its own.”

  8. ronzo says:

    @5&6 I understand that the biggest hit is of course the shipping fees, I was just suggesting due to the very bureaucratic, horse trading nature of the solarians, that the powerful families of all these permanent undersecrataries have probably worked out all kinds of sweetheart deals so that their patron corporations are the official suppliers of this component or that component, and given the vast size of the league and its dependence of shipping fees that supplychain system might have been stretched a bit to ensure that the whole government got a cut on the deal too. I am only suggesting that there could be hiccups for sollie navy if this goes on for longer than there current stock piles of everything last. “For want of a horseshoe nail” is ultimately what im getting at.

  9. John Roth says:

    @8. You could well be right. I’ve seen enough examples of software development that was split between three continents and six time zones, where a single team of half the size in one location could have done the job in a third the time, at half the cost and twice the quality.

  10. d says:

    Consider how the US Space Shuttle was built and maintained and how much cheaper it might have been if done locally.

  11. Willem Meijer says:

    Consider the way Airbus produces it’s new Airbusses: components built all over Europe, and then shipped to a central plant for the final build. They need all sorts of specialised planes and even ships to bring all parts together. Cutting down on a logistical nightmare would be a good thing, if you are building a starship. I’ve been re-reading some of the erlier books in the series and Iremember a remark about a Havenite system that specialised in smaller ships (smaller than Wallers) because of the size of its slipways. It also (teherfore) was a center of production for LAC’s. I guess it will be logical for some systems to specialise in certain types of hulls.

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