A Rising Thunder – Snippet 16

A Rising Thunder – Snippet 16


April 1922 Post Diaspora


“Everything we’ve ever seen out of the Manties suggests their first reaction to any threat, especially to their home system, is going to be to kill it.”

— Assistant Director of Defense Justyná Miternowski-Zhyang, Beowulf Planetary Board of Directors


Chapter Six


“Permanent Senior Undersecretary Kolokoltsov is here for his fifteen hundred, Mr. President.”


“Ah! Excellent — excellent!” President Yeou Kun Chol, ostensibly the most powerful man in the entire Solarian League, beamed as Innokentiy Arsenovich Kolokoltsov (who arguably was the most powerful man in the entire League) followed Shania Lewis into his huge office. The president’s desk was bigger than most people’s beds, and he had to physically walk around it to get close enough to Kolokoltsov to offer his hand.


“Thank you, Shania,” the president said to his personal secretary. “I think that will be all — unless there’s anything you need, of course, Innokentiy?”


“No. No, thank you, Mr. President. I’m fine.”


“Good. Good!” The president beamed some more and nodded to Lewis, who smiled politely, bestowed a slight bow on Kolokoltsov, and disappeared. “Sit, Innokentiy. Please,” Yeou continued as the expensive, inlaid door closed silently behind her.


“Thank you, Mr. President.”


Kolokoltsov obeyed the invitation, taking the comfortable biofeedback armchair facing the desk, and watched Yeou walk back around to his own throne-like chair. The president settled himself behind his desk once again, and the permanent senior undersecretary crooked a mental eyebrow.


Yeou Kun Chol, in Innokentiy Kolokoltsov’s considered opinion, was pretty much an idiot. He’d attained his immensely prestigious (and utterly powerless) position because he knew when to smile for the cameras and because the true powerbrokers of the Solarian League knew he was a nonentity, the sort of person who would have been ineffectual even if his august office had retained a shadow of true power. There were other factors, of course. Including the fact that however ineffectual he might be, his family was immensely wealthy and wielded quite a lot of power behind the League’s façade of representative government. Letting him play with the pretty bauble of the presidency kept them happy and him from interfering with anything truly important (like the family business), which had paid off quite a few quiet debts. And to give the man his due, Yeou was sufficiently aware of reality to realize his office’s powers were far more ceremonial and symbolic than genuine.


That was one reason it was unheard of for the president to actually invite a permanent senior undersecretary to an audience. He didn’t send “invitations” to them; they told him when they needed to see him for the sake of official appearances. And at any other meeting Kolokoltsov could think of, the president would have joined him, taking another of the palatial armchairs arranged in front of his desk to allow comfortably intimate conversations. He most definitely would not have re-seated himself behind the desk, and Kolokoltsov wondered exactly where the unusual attempt to assert some sort of formality — possibly even authority, if the thought hadn’t been too absurd for even Yeou to entertain — was headed.


“Thank you for coming so promptly, Innokentiy,” Yeou said after a moment.


“You’re welcome, of course, Mr. President.” Kolokoltsov smiled. There was no point being impolite now that he was here. As long as Yeou didn’t start meddling in things that were none of his affair, at least. “My time is yours, and your secretary indicated there was some urgency to your summons.”


“Well, actually, there is some urgency to it, Innokentiy.” The president tipped back in his chair, elbows on its armrests, and frowned ever so minutely at the permanent senior undersecretary for foreign affairs. “I just wanted to discuss with you — get your feeling about, as it were — this business with the Manties.”


“I beg your pardon, Mr. President?” Kolokoltsov couldn’t quite keep a trace of surprise out of his tone. “Ah, exactly which aspect of it, Sir?”


Kolokoltsov was aware that in most star nations a head of state would already have been thoroughly briefed about his nation’s relationship with another star nation against whom it was very nearly in a state of war. Even for Kolokoltsov it was more an intellectual awareness than anything else, though. Yeou had received memos and reports from the permanent senior undersecretaries who were the League’s true policymakers, but no one had ever so much as considered presenting him with any sort of genuine briefing. For that matter, even under the dead letter of the Constitution, the office of the president had been almost entirely symbolic. Had anyone been paying any attention to the Constitution, Prime Minister Shona Gyulay would have been the actual head of government, and any briefings would have gone to her, not to Yeou.


“I’ve read the reports, of course,” Yeou told him now. “And I appreciate your efforts — both yours and your civilian colleagues’, and Admiral Rajampet’s — to clarify the…unfortunate events which have led to our current situation.” The president’s expression sobered. “Naturally, I can’t pretend I’m happy thinking about all the people who have already lost their lives and where this all may be headed ultimately. But I must say I find myself particularly concerned at this moment about the Manticorans’ decision to recall all of their merchant vessels.” He shook his head, his expression even more sober. “It’s a bad business all around, Innokentiy, but I’m worried about the immediate consequences for our economy. So I was hoping you could sort of bring me up to date on exactly what’s been happening on that front.”


*   *   *


Yeou asked you about that?”


Agatá Wodoslawski’s gray eyes widened, then narrowed speculatively as Kolokoltsov nodded. The attractive, red-haired permanent senior undersecretary of the treasury’s holo image sat directly across the virtual conference table from him. Actually, of course, she was seated behind her own desk in her own office, and now she sat back in her chair, shaking her head with the air of a woman who wondered what preposterous absurdity was going to happen next.


“So he’s finally waked up to the fact that something’s going on with the Manties, has he?” Malachai Abruzzi’s holo image said sarcastically. The dark-haired, dark-eyed permanent senior undersecretary of information was a short, stocky man with powerful hands, one of which he now waved dismissively. “I’m dazzled by the force of his intellect.”


“‘Dazzled’ may not be exactly the right word for it,” Permanent Senior Undersecretary of Commerce Omosupe Quartermain said, “but when you’ve been looking into a completely dark closet long enough, even a candle can seem blinding. And let’s face it, our beloved President is a very dark closet indeed,” she added, and Kolokoltsov smiled sourly.


Between them, she, Abruzzi, Wodoslawski and Kolokoltsov represented four of what certain newsies — headed by that never-to-be-sufficiently-damned muckraker Audrey O’Hanrahan — had begun to call “the Five Mandarins.” O’Hanrahan had been forced to explain the term’s origin to her readership initially, but once she had it caught on quickly. Abruzzi’s publicity flaks were doing what they could to discourage its use, but it continued to spread with insidious inevitability. By now, even some of the tamer members of the Legislative Assembly were using it in news conferences and speeches.


It wasn’t going to do them a lot of damage here on ancient, weary, cynical Old Terra. Old Terrans understood how the game was played, and they were far past the stage of expecting that ever to change. Besides, all politicians — and bureaucrats — were the same, really, weren’t they? And that being the case, better to stay with the mandarins you knew rather than stir up all the turmoil of trying to change a system which had worked for seven T-centuries.


But there were other planets, other star systems, whose wells of cynicism weren’t quite so deep. There were even places where people still believed the delegates they elected to the League Assembly were supposed to govern the League. Once O’Hanrahan’s damned clever turn of phrase reached those star systems and they figured out what “mandarin” meant, the repercussions might be much more severe than here on the League’s capital planet.


“I can’t fault your observation, Omosupe,” Wodoslawski said, “but why do I have the feeling this particular glimmer didn’t come from the force of his intellect at all?”


“Because unlike him, you have a measurable IQ,” Kolokoltsov replied. “Although, to be honest, it did take me several minutes to realize I was basically talking to his family’s ventriloquist’s dummy.”


“Ah!” Wodoslawski said. “The light dawns.”


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12 Responses to A Rising Thunder – Snippet 16

  1. Anthony says:

    “It wasn’t going to do them a lot of damage here on ancient, weary, cynical Old Terra. Old Terrans understood how the game was played, and they were far past the stage of expecting that ever to change. Besides, all politicians — and bureaucrats — were the same, really, weren’t they? And that being the case, better to stay with the mandarins you knew rather than stir up all the turmoil of trying to change a system which had worked for seven T-centuries.”

    I have to wonder just how much they are underestimating things on Terra. Might they just get a backlash right at home if they push to far?

  2. tootall says:

    MWW seems to like writing about four (five)”guys” who lie all the time. And so far, neither the Temple Loyalists nor the Solarian public have caught on.

  3. ET1swaw says:

    @1 Anthony: They may very well be misreading their public. Look at the last snippet’s demonstrations against/near the Manty embassy that got out of the Information Mandarin’s control. And even the Core may not be as jaded as the Mandarins expect.

    Interesting! The ‘Mandarins’ new title (and greatly increased visibility!!!) has come from a MAlign mole. She has exposed their little deal (and the true SL government) to the light of day and not just peaked behind but ripped away the Wizard’s curtain.

    The missing Mandarin is the one most associated with OFS and involved with the SLN. Unlike in the beginning Agata is there this time. Wonder how THAT lineup is going to change things.

    Money is talking and in a worried tone. Laocoon I (just the withdrawal of Manty shipping) has them antsy and they haven’t even acknowledged the closing of the Manty WHJ to SL flagged vessels (with a very few specific exceptions). I imagine the Laocoon II closing of Manty-adjacent WHJs/hyperbridges is really going to set Money vs Mandarin. Well they did get their wish: Manty hulls are NOT carrying the majority of freight in SL space!

    All it needs now is someone to publicly wash all the OFS and SLN dirty linen. (and the Manties do have complete SLN policy downloads (both FF and BF)

  4. Maggie says:

    Does this presage a scenario where the soul of the Solarian League must either dance with the Mesan devil(Shipping? We can help with that! We want to make you an offer you can’t refuse…) or seek the rocky road of salvation with Manticore?

  5. John Roth says:

    @4 Maggie.

    Remember that the MAlign’s strategy is to break up the league so that the pieces will coalesce around the “Renaissance Factor” planets. That means that they won’t be given a life raft from Mesa. Even if they were, which Mesan shipping company has the capacity?

    Swallowing their pride and seeking peace with Manticore? I don’t see it. If anyone had a clue about the first steps required to get out of the hole they’ve dug themselves into, it’s not evident yet.

  6. Terranovan says:

    “Yeou Kun Chol” – could that be a pun for “You Control”?

  7. dave o says:

    There isn’t enough information to guess what it would take to get the Mandarin permanent secretaries out. Do they answer to parliament, to the figure-head heads of department, to their plutocrat backers? But a lot of them, maybe all, are plutocrats themselves, and have the backing of rich and powerful families. As I said in previous comments these are guys who are incapable of recognizing reality. And to get them out, I think it would need a revolutionary situation. Given that the SL is a confederation politically and a plutocracy with widely divergent interests. it’s hard to see enough people agreeing to even have a protest, much less a revolution.

  8. summertime says:

    These entrenched bureaucrats will respond, in self interest, to economic stimuli, like the Manticore shipping measures. Their plutocrat constituents will hound them when the financial pinch hits. First they will try the military approach, but we have seen that that is ineffective. Actually dealing rationally with the outer barbarians will come a bit farther down the list, but may emerge as a last desperate measure. They will continue to connive and try to maintain their exalted status through it all. Has the chief honcho been hiding an intellect all this time?

  9. Stan Leghorn says:

    I suspect the President is more capable than they suppose, but will have to use the power of his family to get anything done around the “Mandarins”. OTOH, it could be exactly what was stated and he is using what little power he has to let the elite know they are being watched and judged. The most common way such a government is replaced is with another set of oligarchs and this might be the first warning shot that they need to stop the ripples in the economic sea.

  10. Robert H. Woodman says:

    The public may be cynical and jaded on Old Terra, but the business powers of the League, no matter how jaded and cynical THEY are, will not stand for behavior by “The Five Mandarins” that jeopardizes their own fortunes and livelihoods. If Audrey O’Hanrahan continues to play up the “Five Mandarins” tag and business for the League continues to go into the crapper, the Mandarins might find themselves out of a job … or in a series of unfortunate “aircar accidents” … after which some truly competent managers will take over. OTOH, the business powers might see it as an opportunity to realign their businesses. This could lead to business-driven decisions for various stellar systems to pull out of the League and either align with the RF or align with the SEM.

    Thoughts about this, anyone?

  11. dave o says:

    #10 I think it’s rather unlikely that the mandarins will be replaced by someone competent. I think that the people who have the power to get rid of them have such divergent interests that they can’t agree on any replacements. it’s a lot more likely that planetary governments, or even more likely transplanetary business will try to cut their own deals and screw everyone else. Talk about a factionalist rat race.

  12. saladin says:

    the mandarins are not incompetent.
    they are at the top of their game.
    unfortunately the rules have just changed and nobody has told them :-)

    @megacorps and co.: the economy is going into the crapper faster than they can react
    i wonder on how many planets starvation will become a big problem for some time?
    think about ny-city (like some core-planet)
    if it is cut off of the rest of the world
    no food, no raw metalls, no components from out of city

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