A Rising Thunder – Snippet 18

A Rising Thunder – Snippet 18


It was equally fortunate the newsies knew as well as anyone that the Assembly possessed no real power, because God only knew what would have happened if they’d actually bothered to cover its sessions. If any of their stringers had been there to report Hadley’s passionate address to the empty seats of Assembly Hall the public might actually have believed what she was saying — might even have started insisting someone in a real policymaking position listen to her! Of course, there was no mechanism for that to happen, but a lot of the Solarian electorate didn’t realize that.


Hadley had also been warning anyone who would listen from the beginning that the League was playing with economic fire. She’d actually produced numbers to support her allegations, although Kolokoltsov hadn’t paid a lot of attention to them. He hadn’t needed her to tell him it would be bad, and as he’d just admitted, he wasn’t a number-cruncher, anyway. He’d accepted Wodoslawski and Quartermain’s warnings that the situation was potentially serious, but he’d left that side up to them while he concentrated on trying to control the non-economic aspects of the crisis. After all, if he’d only been able to convince the Manties to see sense, they wouldn’t have pushed things to this point in the first place. The way he’d seen it, all he really needed to know was that there would be serious consequences if he couldn’t make the Manties recognize reality, and to be honest, he hadn’t wanted the distraction of dealing with hard potential numbers like the ones Hadley had been throwing around. Now, though…


“So how good a point does she have?”


“A damned good one, and if you’d actually read the reports my staff’s been generating for the last couple of T-months, you’d already know that.” Wodoslawski said bluntly. “Better than two thirds of our total interstellar commerce — the percentage is higher for freight; lower for passengers and information — travels in Manticore-registered bottoms at some point in the transport cycle, Innokentiy. Almost thirty percent of it travels in Manty ships all the way from point of origin to final destination; another twenty-seven percent travels in Manty bottoms for between thirty and fifty percent of the total voyage. And another ten or fifteen percent of it travels in Manty bottoms for up to a quarter of the total transit.” Her expression was that of someone smelling something which had been dead for several days. “As you can see, simply pulling their own shipping out of the loop will reduce our available interstellar lift by better than half.”


Kolokoltsov looked profoundly unhappy, and Quartermain made a sound halfway between a snort of amusement and a grunt of disgust.


“Agatá and I have been telling and telling all of you the Manties are in a position to inflict plenty of grief on us,” she pointed out. “And I have to add that the figure she just gave you is what we’re looking at if the Manties simply decide to go home and take their ships with them. Now that they’re closing their termini to our shipping, it’s not just the reduction in the number of hulls available to us; it’s how much longer those hulls are going to take to reach their destinations. If transit times double, effective lift gets cut in half, which means things are going to get worse. A lot worse. Unfortunately, how much worse is impossible to predict at this point, to be honest. The shipping networks have always been incredibly complex and fluid, and I don’t think anyone could give us hard numbers on just how badly simply taking the Manty-controlled termini out of it is going to extend shipping times. I can tell you it’s going to be bad, though. And that assumes they stop at closing just their termini.”


Kolokoltsov lips tightened at her last sentence.


Reports of withdrawing Manticoran shipping had been trickling into news accounts for weeks. Although Lyman Carmichael had officially informed Old Chicago of the Star Empire’s decision to recall all its freighters and passenger liners only the week before, it was obvious the order must have gone out at least a couple of T-months earlier than that — probably as soon as word of the Battle of Spindle reached Manticore. It had taken people a while to notice what was going on, mostly because the delay in transmitting instructions across such vast distances, even with Manticore’s commanding position in the wormhole network, meant the recall had reached its recipients piecemeal. By this time, though, the trickle of withdrawing Manticoran merchant vessels had become a flood. More newsies than just O’Hanrahan had picked up on it now, and Kolokoltsov wondered how those newsies were going to react once it finally leaked out that the Star Empire had officially notified the League of its intention to close all Manticoran wormhole termini to Solarian-registry vessels.


Rajampet, predictably, had waved off the threat. It was only to be expected, he’d pointed out, and while it might be an inconvenience for the League, the impact on the Manties themselves would be even worse, given how huge a percentage of their total economy depended on servicing Solarian shipping needs. Besides, it would only be temporary — just until the SLN got around to pinning back the Manties’ ears and taking control of the wormhole network for itself.


Funny how the man in command of the navy responsible for protecting Solarian commerce can be so blasé about watching that commerce go right down the crapper, Kolokoltsov thought bitterly. I guess he doesn’t see what’s happening as the Navy’s fault. After all, no one’s actively raiding our shipping, now are they? Although exactly what else we should be calling what happened at Zunker eludes me.


The reports from Zunker and Nolan had arrived, almost simultaneously, over the weekend, and the newsies hadn’t yet picked up on them. That wasn’t going to last, though, and it was hard for Kolokoltsov to decide which incident would ultimately prove more infuriating to the Solarian public. The Zunker Terminus was officially the territory of a Manticoran ally, so closing it to Solarian traffic presented no gray areas. The Idahoans hadn’t signed the Shingaine Convention either, which meant were arguably within their rights under interstellar law to deny terminus access to anyone they chose. And they were also within their rights to request the Royal Manticoran Navy’s assistance in enforcing that decision. The fact that the local Manty commander had actually fired on Solarian battlecruisers showed just how far the Star Empire was prepared to escalate things, however, and the “insult” was going to arouse a passionate fury in at least some of the League’s citizens, especially those with whom Abruzzi’s propaganda had been most successful. Unfortunately, other members of that same citizenry were going to realize it wouldn’t have happened if that fool Floyd hadn’t pushed things. Even more unfortunately, some of them were going to figure out the Manty commander had deliberately not blown Admiral Pyun’s battlecruisers out of space. When they recognized the implications of that…


As far as public opinion was concerned, though, what had happened at Nolan might be even worse. Unlike Zunker, the Nolan Terminus was claimed by the Solarian League, not by the Manties or one of their allies. And when the terminus astro control staff — all of them Solarians — had refused transit to the Manticoran freighters queuing up to return home (he made a mental note to remind Abruzzi to play down any references to the Shingaine Convention when he spun that one), the Manty naval commander had marched them to their personal quarters almost literally at pulser point and put his own people aboard the command platforms. And then he’d offered to blow away the local Frontier Fleet detachment if it tried to intervene! Kolokoltsov could already hear how the ‘faxes were going to play up that “blatant act of aggression” in Solarian space!


“How much of the League’s gross product are we talking about here, Omosupe?” Abruzzi asked, and Kolokoltsov felt a flicker of surprise as he realized he’d never asked the same question.


“Damned near twenty percent of our total gross product depends entirely on our interstellar commerce,” Quartermain said in a flat tone. “Another fifteen percent will, at the very least, be seriously impacted.”


And,” Wodoslawski added grimly, “something Rajampet seems to have failed to keep in mind is that seventy percent of all federal revenue derives directly or indirectly from shipping duties and tariffs. The other thirty percent derives primarily from protectorate service fees.”


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32 Responses to A Rising Thunder – Snippet 18

  1. Gene Evans says:

    I think this is Innokentiy’s ‘uh oh’ moment. He’s finally getting it that this is seriously serious and he hasn’t been treating it that way. There is, of course, worse to come.


  2. Anthony says:

    And how long will those protectorate service fees keep coming in?

  3. ET1swaw says:

    30 * (1.0) + 27 * (.50) + 15 * (.25) = 47.25 % loss of commerce from Manty withdrawal of ships
    72 % of commerce travelled in Manty hulls at one point or another reducing carrying capacity to approx. 53%
    guestimate a further reduction of 70% due to WHJ/hyperbridge closures reducing carrying capacity to approx. 16%
    call merchant commerce 45% (worst case) of SL GSP gives a loss of almost 38% of SL GSP to Laocoon I and start of Laocoon II
    federal revenue (even if all OSF funding retained) will be less than 75% of previous by best case scenario
    all this assumes that Laocoon I and II only reduce effective hulls to my guestimate (less reduction, better numbers)

    The domino effect is going to rip the SL economy even more of a new one!

    And they still have not included the curtailment of direct SL to SEM commerce being lost to possible embargo.

    When Haven joins in and expands the curtailment to most of the Haven Sector, the SL economy may tank.

    INTRAsystem economies (even in the Verge and Shell) may survive relatively unharmed, but the INTERsystem economy (not as much in the Core) is going to scream bloodily.

    With the Mandarins inciting an anti-Manty environment for all they are worth, Malign pushing breakup, the economy tanking, and the qualitative difference between GA and SL military effectiveness being slowly recognized (denied as hard as possible, but recognized); the SL seems hard-put to have any recourse to remain as a unit.

  4. ET1swaw says:

    I think I may have screwed up my numbers. If so, apologies to all!!!

  5. Willem Meijer says:

    How much of this interstellar transport is in manufactured goods, and how much is in food? If a planet depends on food grown outside it’s own system (not on planets or in orbital habitats) things will get verry serious.

  6. Robert H. Woodman says:

    @5 – Willem Meijer

    DW doesn’t tell us how much of the interstellar transport is in food. Personally, I would be surprised if there are more than a tiny handful of planets that cannot feed themselves. Most planets, however much they depend on interstellar transport for trade in other items, would maintain the ability to feed themselves, IMO. What would be lost would be luxury and exotic foods, but staple foods should be maintained on-planet and allow nearly all planets to feed themselves. That’s just my opinion, of course, but I just find it difficult to imagine a planet giving up the ability to feed itself. Even if the environment is hostile or the native foods are not nourishing (for example, (1) the prison planet where Honor found herself stranded; (2) Grayson), a planet that has a permanent human presence should have some way to feed itself that does not depend on interstellar trade.

  7. Scott says:

    But what happens when that control moduel essential to run the automatic harvester breaks down? It might seem foolish but the same thinking goes on on a smaller scale here on earth. Worlds, like countries, will specialise, and if the interstellar trade has been stable for centuries the worlds without specialised industries and skills could find themselves running out of spare parts.
    Starvation and general rioting could erupt. Just what the MA wants lots of brushfires that OFS can’t put out.

  8. dac says:

    @scott (#7) – you have it exactly right. When everything you do depends on technology, and you don’t actually produce key bits of it, what will happen when you run out of those key bits? It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen. And the higher the population, the higher the urban population, the quicker and worser (i know, not a word) things will get

  9. Robert H. Woodman says:

    @7 – Scott

    Granted, that can happen. On the other hand, a planet with a clever and thoughtful government might start pushing concepts like “victory gardens” and “sustainable agriculture” (i.e., doing everything by hand). Some planets will adapt in that fashion. Planets which are not so well led, though, could be drawn into the MAlign sphere of influence through, for example, food assistance. So, I’ll concede your point, but with some qualifications/reservations.

  10. MTO says:

    @9 I’m not convinced victory gardens would make a difference. Look at the average earth city today. The majority of the population live in well under 1000 square feet, and have no personal green space. Do you really think that if everyone puts a tomato plant on their balcony that you can make a dent in a food shortage? More likely, leaders will manage something more like George W Bush’s “stock up on Duck Tape”. Even if the message was intelligent, by the time its received, it won’t be.

  11. kenny says:

    @ Willem, both Grayson and Hades were isolated for different reasons, low population planets. I remember DW saying in one of the books, that with counter gravity even bulk items like food is shippable at affordable prices. Second how many of the core planets are high population? I would estimate a high percentage of the food in the core is shipped in. Although there might be a lot of trans shipping for variety, which could be lessened in flavor locally grow “bland” mix of food. But what is likely to fell first? the supply of food or the off world farm’s technology which is dependent on the core’s factories. I see the core suffering quicker.

  12. Robert H. Woodman says:

    @10 – MTO

    Victory gardens CAN make a difference. No, you won’t eat nearly as well as you have eating, but you can grow enough to avoid starvation. Even in modern cities with their scarcity of green space, whatever green space you have can be put to use growing food. On top of that, dispersal of the population to the countryside (whether voluntarily, involuntarily, or by government force) can help also. I live in a typical midwestern American city on a lot that is 0.15 acre, and from the spring through the fall, I can grow enough food to sustain my wife and myself comfortably, cutting our grocery bill by >>50%, and having so much food that we give away some. In addition, I have gotten some of our neighbors to start gardening, which means that we all have food to share, and can enjoy a wider variety of foods as a result. If I were not a vegetarian, I would try and add chickens to the mix, especially because of the wonderful fertilizer they provide. :-)

    @11 – kenny

    I think you are responding to my response to Willem. Yes, I agree that Grayson and Hades were isolated for different reasons, but in both cases, they had the means to feed themselves. Hades simply chose to make the prisoners dependent on imported food as a control measure. The permanent guard staff could grow their own food and feed themselves.

    Yes, I remember that DW said that counter gravity makes shipping bulk foods affordable. That doesn’t mean that an intelligently led planetary government is going to give up the ability to feed its own population out of its own resources. I’m sure there are a few worlds that have lost that ability to feed themselves (Terra might be such a planet), but I can scarcely give credence to the idea that a large minority of planets — let alone the majority of planets — in the Solarian League have lost the ability to feed themselves. If starvation comes, it will, IMO, come from the deterioration of the high-tech farming equipment that results from the loss of Manticoran shipping combined with a failure of planetary governments to insure that their populations can be fed out of their own resources.

  13. Robert H. Woodman says:

    Not related to the foregoing discussion, but the more tidbits of information that DW drops about Admiral Rajampet, the more sure I become that he is an agent of MAlign.

    Any thoughts on this?

  14. PeterZ says:

    @12 and 13. Robert, farming is can be sustained for planetary populations of a few billion for thousands of years in the Honorverse. Bleeding edge high tech farming may have reduced the need for labor on the margin, however, 2-3 generations old technology could still do the job. So, I doubt that a loss of interstellar trade will prevent a planet, any planet, from being able to grow food to feed its population. There may be assorted systems that are massively overpopulated and require the importation of food, but those are likely very few are far between.

    In all likelyhood, loss of income and the ability to buy food will cause more starvation than the lack of food to buy.

  15. John Roth says:


    On food. We know that Montana makes a good deal of its foreign exchange exporting beef, so there’s clearly some amount of interstellar food transport going on.

    The thing I notice, though, is that it still costs to ship things long distances. You’ve got crew costs, amortization and maintenance on the ship, fuel costs and inventory costs. All of that cost vanishes if you’ve got orbital farms to grow your food, like Grayson. What you’re left with is the cost of production in an orbital farm vs the cost of production on a lightly settled planet somewhere else.

    The reason I say “lightly settled” is that the more heavily settled planets aren’t going to have the surface area for a major export food industry; they’ll use orbital farms.

    So I don’t expect that food is going to be a major issue. The disruption in the financial system is going to be more of an issue.

  16. dave o says:

    #13 Robert: It’s possible, but it’s more likely that he’s simply a fool. Earlier in the canon it’s suggested that he owes his position to his family, and not his ability. Given the widespread assumption of invulnerability, his civilian masters probably think it doesn’t matter. There are lots of examples of peacetime armies run by incompetents.

  17. Doug Lampert says:

    @3 & @4. I think your numbers are at least close for shipping losses, they’re something close to 5/6ths of their total shipping capacity. However I question your assumption that the loss of shipping is linear with the economic cost and lost government revenue. Some cargo is more important than others, and the most important and valuable cargos will still get through, so the total loss of productivity will be smaller than might be expected.

    There’s often a 90%/10% or 85%/15% rule in this sort of thing, it’s quite possible that 10-15% of the shipping produces 85-90% of the value with the rest hauled along because shipping is cheap and small profits are still profits. In which case the cut to revenue would still be fairly minimal. Of course the LACK of those cheap, low profit, goods will still have a cascading impact on the rest of the economy…

    Similarly CURRENT routes use wormholes for 2/3rds or so of their distance covered, but those routes were produced by people who knew the wormholes were there, you’ll get back some (possibly even most) of that by reoptimizing your route choices for shipping times without wormholes.

    Similarly, if the core systems are importing food, then they will continue to do so, food hasn’t been mentioned as a really major fraction of Solarian shipping, if some planets do import more than luxury foodstuffs then those planets will pay the (soon to be much higher) shipping fees and continue to recieve food unless the planet in question is VERY marginal to start with.

    Basically, we don’t have enough information, DW can set the economic consequences anywhere he wants, from negiligable to everyone but government accountants to disasterous to all. (It won’t be the first for plot reasons.)

  18. kenny says:

    The INSTANTANEOUS (for all practical proposes) reduction of the shipping capacity by 75%, would cause near instantaneous turmoil.

    That distribution warehouse expecting 2,000,000 tons of foodstuff next week, and every week after that ain’t going to get it. And while orbital greenhouses and “Victory” farms can be built it would take six months to several years to build them in useful quantities. And they would not have been built prior to the collapse because while building a freighter is expensive shipping stuff on a large freighter is dirt cheap. In fact, except in the very long run which most people are not cable of thinking of, it would be far cheaper to build a farm in the verge and ship food in than it would be to build the orbital farm.

    The high tech farms on cheap real estate (verge systems), will last far longer without supplies than the food in the warehouses(core systems).

    You might be able to avoid this with a strong and immediate governmental response prioritizing food. But that would mean having a government admit it can not feed itself without centrally directed supply chains. A response I don’t see the Solarian League to be capable of.

  19. John Roth says:

    @18 Kenny

    The Universe of Honor Harrington says: “In point of fact, on a per-ton basis, interstellar freight can be moved more cheaply than by any other form of transport in history.” This is the kind of statement that makes me go “huh, what?” The proper measure is ton x days, since all the expenses are a function of time: salaries, payments on the ship, maintenance, fuel, and so forth.

    Also, what makes you think that orbital farms would have to be built? There are a number of mentions, of which Grayson is the most obvious, which makes me think they’re not exactly rare.

    Orbital farms have one very significant advantage over growing food on the planetary surface: there’s no planting and harvesting season. Since they’re closed ecologies the growing “season” can be adjusted so that crops have staggered harvesting in a just-in-time fashion, providing enormous savings in storage and also in utilization of specialized agricultural equipment. On a surface farm, how many days in the year can you use a combine? AFAIK, a lot of very expensive agricultural equipment stays idle for most of the year.

    I don’t think that importing food over long distances is competitive with growing it in-system, and so far I can’t find any textev that says differently.

  20. kenny says:

    “The Universe of Honor Harrington says: “In point of fact, on a per-ton basis, interstellar freight can be moved more cheaply than by any other form of transport in history.” This is the kind of statement that makes me go “huh, what?” ”

    Trust me, freight on this scale would be ridiculously cheep. A ocean freighter needs 30 people. A small ocean freighter needs 30 people, a huge ocean freighter need 30 people. It would be about the same for a space freighter (although 30 might not be the right number it would still be a constant).

    Secondly Honor in honor of the queen is horrified at the “expense” Grayson goes to maintain their orbital farms.

    Thirdly, even if the 2 million tons of food coming in a week, I mentioned in my hypothetical is high end specialty foods it would have to be replace with something local, which was not built prior to the collapse in commerce because there would not of been the demand for that much locally grown food prior to the collapse.

  21. kenny says:

    On the other hand if solorian’s are suitable wasteful with there food there might be enough slack in the system. But it would not of have been because they had the ability to grow enough food locally.

  22. DOUG says:


  23. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Doug, please no shouting. All caps is considering “online shouting”. It’s not considered the “polite thing to do”. [Smile]

    As for the Eridani Edict, first IMO if the Solarian League Navy violates the Eridani Edict, it will be the end of the Solarian League.

    It is very likely that many of the member systems will leave the Solarian League if the SL Navy people involved in the violation *and* the civilians who ordered the violation are not punished.

    The real question (which has been discussed plenty of times) is what happens to the Edict if the Solarian League is not around to enforce it.

    IIRC the general feeling is that eventually (ie after the anti-Alignment war is over) the major powers will agree to enforce it.

    However, the general feeling is that Edict violations will occur during the war against the Alignment.

    How many and how often is still unknown.

  24. Scott says:

    I think that habbit will keep the edict in force. Besides slagging a planet doesn’t look good on the front page of the news.

  25. ET1swaw says:

    @4: I redid my numbers (and it was pointed out that Manty hull percentage for 50-99% of voyage was not listed):
    The effective available hulls may be reduced to less than 20% (even without assuming an additional 10-15% Manty carriage for 50-99% and assuming a 70% reduction due to WHJ closures).

    There is a possible loss of more than 25% of Total Gross Product and reduction of total federal revenue by over half.

    That doesn’t even include the loss of Markets and increased government need. Verge and Shell instability will also increase thereby depressing the economy.

    And remember that the effect will be near-immediate; lessening with expansion of SL shipping and route change.

  26. Daryl says:

    We’ve had this food discussion elsewhere before this, and I’ll repeat what I said there. It takes time to grow food from scratch. Potatoes are regarded as a quick growing crop yet can only be planted at certain times and take 2 to 4 months to reach maturity. I’m sure that any civilisation can produce enough food to feed its people, but not immediately. I grew up in the countryside and have all my life been amused by those who have only known city life and believe that it’s easy to grow food. Hard work, resources, knowledge and time are required. Some economists claim that if civilisation was to fall instantly there would be serious food shortages in modern cities within a week. So the trick then would be to survive for the gap between that week and when the spud harvest comes in, in about 4 months. Steve Stirling details this well in his Emberverse.

  27. Steve says:

    @22 & 23

    The Eridani Edict is most likely not going to be violated wholesale. It’s another “berserk button” for the Solarian League.

    The only reason that the SL is going down is apathy and corruption at their federal government level. Remove the apathy (by making the entire SL screaming mad) and they will likely sort themselves out enough to remove the offender, permanently.

    Later on, when the League starts shedding systems wholesale… nothing much will change. Mass violations of the EE will likely cause all of the pieces to act together in order to remove the offender, permanently. Manticore and Haven will probably want a piece of it too.

    It’s just NOT COOL to go around nuking/kinetic-striking people’s planets. It’s in every civilized people’s interest to prevent that kind of thing.

  28. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Steve, that’s why eventually new treaties will be made to enforce the Edict.

    However, I suspect that the war against the Alignment will be “hot” enough that there will be violations.

    Maybe not “wholesale” but some will occur.

    We already know that the Alignment’s thoughts on the Edict are “don’t get caught violating it”.

    By the way, these thoughts refers to the war against the Alignment not the current war between Manticore and the SL.

  29. Mark L says:

    Is it worth pointing out that the MA actually attempted a violation of the EE against Torch? Admittedly the MA were using SS proxies, but had the attack not been driven off, I believe the plan was to nuke Torch.

  30. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Mark L, that’s correct.

    Of course, officially it was *Manpower* that was using the SS proxies.

    A “Space Lawyer” might say that the EE doesn’t apply to Corporations removing Terrorist Squatters from their property.

    On the other hand, this is evidence of both the willingness of the MA to violate the EE and the willingness of the MA to sacrifice Manpower.

  31. rlrapp says:

    And they still haven’t added in the possible effects of commerce raiding by Manticore (including attacks on other wormhole junctures infrastructure).

  32. @2 First it will have to occur to Manticore that OFS looting, ummh protectorate service fees, is a significant source of income for the SL government. if SL finances are well-hidden, the fact be be difficult to determine.

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