A Rising Thunder – Snippet 29

A Rising Thunder – Snippet 29


The Havenite glowered at him. Victor Cachat was extraordinarily capable, even gifted, in certain very specific, very narrow types of human endeavor. You needed someone killed? Victor Cachat was your man. A lock picked, an extortionist shown the error of his ways, a counterespionage sting run with consummate artistry, a planetary régime destabilized? Pish-tush! Mere bagatelles! Any of those minor challenges, and he was quite literally in a league of his own.


Step outside those…call them his “core competencies,” however, and his expertise disappeared rapidly. When it came to electronics (other than those specifically associated with explosions, arson, and general mayhem, at least) he was not, to put it charitably, at his best. Indeed, Thandi Palane had been known to observe that he was the only man in the universe who could make a standard wrist chrono explode…accidentally. Zilwicki, on the other hand, was one of the galaxy’s top handful of hackers, cyberneticists, and mollycirc wizards. Worse, at the moment, he was a trained naval officer, fully at home on the bridge and (unlike Cachat) able to absorb and interpret its displays as naturally as breathing.


“You know,” Cachat said now, “it would be a tragedy if the working relationship you and I have developed should come to a catastrophic end due to the sudden, unanticipated demise of one half of that relationship.”


“Really?” Zilwicki’s tone remained grave, but there might have been the merest hint of the twinkle in those dark eyes, and his lips twitched ever so slightly. “Are you feeling ill, Victor? You don’t have a bad tooth, do you?”


“Oh, no.” Cachat smiled sweetly. “I’m feeling just fine.”


“Oh, stop it, you two!” Yana said from behind them. Both men looked at her, and she shook her head, her expression disgusted. “I swear, I’ve known three-year-olds with higher maturity quotients than either of you!”


“Hey, he started it!” Cachat said virtuously, jabbing a finger in Zilwicki’s direction.


“Did not.”


“Did too!”






“Stop it!” Yana thwacked Cachat on the back of the head, then shook an index finger under Zilwicki’s nose. “Victor isn’t the only one you’re teasing, Anton, so don’t think I’m going to let you keep this up.”


“Just as a matter of idle curiosity, what do you propose to do about it?” he inquired mildly.


Me? Nothing.” Yana’s smile was even sweeter than Cachat’s had been. “Not directly, anyway. No, I’ll just mention your behavior to Her Majesty. I’m sure you don’t want Berry taking you to task for picking on Victor this way, do you?”


Zilwicki regarded her thoughtfully, then shrugged. His daughter was unlikely to “take him to task,’ but that didn’t mean she couldn’t find ways to demonstrate her disapproval. And Yana had a point. Berry did have an especially warm spot in her heart for Victor Cachat, galaxy-renowed assassin, ice-cold killer, and general purveyor of doom, chaos, and despair. Besides…


“All right,” he said. “There’s good news, and there’s bad news. The bad news is that there’s no sign of Eighth Fleet. The good news is that the star system’s still intact. So we’re not likely to find Duchess Harrington on-planet, but it doesn’t look like the talks could’ve collapsed too disastrously.”


“Are you sure you’d be able to find Eighth Fleet if it was still here?” Cachat asked. Zilwicki looked at him, and he shrugged. “You’re the one who told me our sensors were crappy, Anton, and everybody knows Manty stealth is better than anyone else’s.”


“That’s true,” Zilwicki acknowledged. “On the other hand, according to your friend Justice, Eighth Fleet wasn’t making any effort to hide. First, I imagine, because the whole point was for the Pritchart administration to be well aware —painfully well aware, if I may be so bold — of the iron fist inside Duchess Harrington’s velvet glove. And, second, because sitting there with its stealth and EW online for such extended periods would give your Navy entirely too good a look at their capabilities under what would amount to laboratory conditions. In other words, if they were still here, we’d be able to see them even with this one-eyed bastard.”


He jerked his head at the display pretending to be a plot, and Cachat nodded. It would have taken someone who knew the Havenite spy as well as Zilwicki did to recognize the worry in his expression.


“Hey, it’s not the end of the world, Victor,” Zilwicki said more gently. “Like I said, the system’s still here. For that matter, I’m picking up Capital Fleet’s transponder beacons. If the talks had come apart spectacularly, there’d be a lot fewer ships and a lot more wreckage.”


“True enough, I suppose.” Cachat nodded brusquely, then gave himself a mental shake. “I could wish Duchess Harrington were still here, for a lot of reasons. But all we can do is the best we can do. Are we close enough for me to call in?”


“You’ll still be looking at a twenty-five minute two-way lag,” Zilwicki told him. “Do you want to send a one-way burst, or are we going to have to go through some kind of challenge-response validation?”


“Burst, I think,” Cachat said after a moment’s reflection. “We can at least get the ball started rolling.”


“Fine. In that case, you’d better get started recording it.”


*   *   *


The officer of the watch looked up from her own paperwork as Petty Officer Harder finished re-securing the access panel and started folding up her toolkit once more.


“Any problems, PO?”


“No, Ma’am.” Harder smiled wryly. “Matter of fact, it looks like they did catch up on the last inspection and just forgot to log it. Everything’s fine.”


“Good.” The officer smiled back and shook her head. “Sorry you had to come all the way down for something that was already done, but Captain Hershberger’s right. Everything has to be four-oh on this one.”


“You got that one right, Ma’am,” Harder agreed, and headed for the flag bridge hatch.


*   *   *


The uniformed four-man escort waiting dirt-side for the shuttle seemed unable to decide whether its passengers were honored guests, prisoners, or homicidal maniacs. Since the escort was meeting Victor Cachat, Zilwicki thought that wasn’t an unreasonable attitude on its part.


“Officer Cachat,” the senior man said, looking at Cachat.


“Yes,” Cachat replied tersely.


“And this would be Captain Zilwicki, then?”


“Yes, and this is Yana Tretiakovna.” Cachat’s tone had taken on a certain dangerous patience, Zilwicki noted.


“Thank you, Sir. But I don’t believe anyone’s told me who this is,” the escort commander said, twitching his head in Herlander Simões’ direction.


“No, they haven’t, have they?”


“Sir, I’m afraid I’m going to have to insist on some identification.”


“No,” Cachat said flatly.


“Officer Cachat, I realize you’re senior to me, but I’m still going to have to insist. My orders are to escort you directly to Péricard Tower, and I don’t think Presidential Security’s going to be happy about admitting someone they don’t even have a name for!”


“Then they’re just going to have to be unhappy,” Cachat told him. “I’m not simply posturing, Officer…Bourchier,” he went on, reading the other man’s nameplate. “This man’s identity — for that matter, the very fact of his existence — is strictly need-to-know. Frankly, I’d be a lot happier if you’d never even seen him. But the only four people who have the authority to decide you have a need-to-know who he is are Director Trajan, Director Usher, Attorney General LePic, or President Pritchart. Now, do you want to get one of them on a secure com to get that kind of clearance, or do you want to just take my word for it?”


“Believe me,” Yana said in an exaggerated stage whisper, one hand cupped beside her mouth. “You want to just take his word for it.”


Bourchier looked at all of them for a long moment, then inhaled deeply. Obviously he’d heard the stories about Victor Cachat.


“Fine,” he said. “Have it your way. But if Agent Thiessen shoots him on sight, nobody better blame me for it.”


*   *   *


Approximately ninety minutes later, Cachat, Simões, and Zilwicki were escorted into a maximum security briefing room. Yana had declined Cachat’s invitation when she found out who else was going to be present. Apparently there were limits to her insouciance, after all.


Actually, Zilwicki didn’t really blame her as he surveyed the briefing room’s occupants. President Eloise Pritchart, Secretary of War Admiral Thomas Theisman, Attorney General Denis LePic, Vice Admiral Linda Trenis of the Bureau of Planning, and Rear Admiral Victor Lewis, the CO of the Office of Operational Research, sat waiting for them, along with three members of the President’s security detail. All of whom, Zilwicki noted, looked just as unhappy as Officer Bourchier had suggested they might.


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28 Responses to A Rising Thunder – Snippet 29

  1. dave o says:

    I’ll guess I have to wait a couple of weeks to find out just what kind of sabotage PO Harder just committed. And what the objective is.

    The Zilwicki-Cachet part of this snippet is way too heavy-handed. Less attempt at humor would be appreciated.

  2. Matthew says:

    @1 Now, now. Everyone knows we read these books for the verve of the dialogue and not the extraneous bits like space combat or strategy. The next three books are going to be just the Solarian league Mandarins having a tea party and discussing Frontier Fleet politics. Special Guests may drop by and say hi. Stay tuned.

  3. robert says:

    Rehash in case nobody remembers the end of Mission of Honor (it was a long time ago, after all), except for what Harder has done…so subtle, one hardly felt the hammer bang on one’s head. Flag Bridge going boom?

  4. ET1swaw says:

    @4 robert: probably not boom. My guess is lock-out of on-board missile launch control and system flush (and radio control command fleet launch) towards Manty planets (EE violation) or GA fleet (inviting retaliatory destruction).

  5. Robert H. Woodman says:

    @4 – ET1swaw

    I agree that what Harder did is probably to set up a system to flush fleet’s missiles, but I would be extraordinarily surprised if the attack is toward the planets of the Manticore system. I imagine that it is more likely that the missiles will flush towards the fleet. MAlign wants the SLN destroyed, but I cannot imagine that they would go for a major EE violation. Even their sneak attack on Manticore was not an EE violation; damage to the planet was secondary to the attack on the in-orbit system infrastructure.

    I’m wondering if Filiareta’s fleet will face combined Manticoran/Havenite ships in a single fleet configuration or if the combined fleets will operate in “mousetrap” mode, with the Havenite fleet dropping out of hyper behind the SLN fleet. Any thoughts on that?

  6. d says:

    I think this quote sums it up nicely.

    Ivanova: “No boom today. Boom tomorrow. There’s always a boom tomorrow. [Sinclair and Garibaldi look at her oddly] What? Look, somebody’s got to have some damn perspective around here. Boom, sooner or later…Boom!”

  7. ET1swaw says:

    @5 Robert H. Woodman: Both Haven and HH have more than once successfully pulled off the Paul Revere/ Mousetrap. The only reason I can see for not doing it is to show Filareta he is facing near-parity in hulls and s-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o outclassed in combat efectiveness (even by Haven). Let Haven do a ‘Zucker’-type demonstration for/on the SLN.

    They may still think they are the number one navy, but reality puts them nearer tenth (Manty, Grayson, Haven, Andy, Manty Alliance, Maya Sector, Erewhon, Beowulf, (with RF SDFs, Darius Fleet, and MAlign forces falling in there somewhere)). They might actually get a clue and finally depart their so cherished egyptian river (De Nile).

    Even with Cataphracts and Monica/Technodyne ERSDM pods, they are massively outranged (even without Apollo) and Manty and Haven fire control can handle unbelievably (by SLN standards) large missile swarms (even without counting the Manties having continual FTL missile control). NTM massive System Defenses and LACs (both Manty and Haven) capable of taking out SLN SDs (never mind the small fry)!

    Sorry for the long post!!

  8. ET1swaw says:

    @5 Robert H. Woodman: Heck, let Haven tactically backslide and pull a triple-ripple on the SLN initial volley (why waste the CMs?)!

  9. Stan Leghorn says:

    Personally, I expect the fix to put the flagship’s launchers on maximum fire rate with no over ride possible. AND set it up so the launch comes AFTER the fleet has surrendered and Haven/Empire ships have closed to accept the surrender.

  10. dave o says:

    #9 Stan: The SL will fire the first shots, because Manticore doesn’t want to get in a fight with the SL. If Filareta has a clue, he will make that first salvo as heavy as possible. Having said that, I have no idea what the fix is supposed to do, and I’m not going to try to guess. Just over a week until I can find out.

    To the extent I can predict MAlign’s thinking, Manticore’s role is to destroy as much of the SL navy as possible. Certainly Filareta’s fleet, maybe the one that comes after. Maybe this is a clue on what the sabotage is about.

  11. Owen says:

    @5 Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised at an EE violation. It would almost certainly be easier to set up, and having the League navy be responsible for an EE violation would be a major disruptive effect on the Solarian League.

  12. John Roth says:

    @1 dave o

    That section reads more like Eric Flint wrote it. Those are, after all, his characters. Given the way DW writes, I’m expecting to see some political machinating at Haven while they pull the fleet together and head off for Trevor’s Star.

  13. Jeff Ehlers says:

    Having read the ebook already (the actual ebook, not the ARC), I’m in a bit of an awkward position. I don’t want to spoil things for people who haven’t read it yet.

    So, instead, I’ll just propound some postulations. First off, I think Mesa would be okay with an EE violation by the Solarian Navy, but one that couldn’t be proved (initially) to be one; they want to stir the pot, not make it obvious that the SLN is the bad guy here. However, the real concern is how likely it is; that is, whether Filareta would be in the position to be able to inflict one in the first place. If Manticore’s fleet was in the way, nobody would believe it at all, and given the well-known reaction of Manticore’s fleets to threats to their system or planets, it’s highly unlikely that they would let him into the position to take unobstructed shots at their planets.

    So that leaves an attack on Manticore’s ships to provoke a retaliation as the other scenario. The real question is how. It isn’t just a matter of putting something on a console to pre-program the firing pattern, since this is weeks in advance and there’s no idea of the tactical layout at all. It wouldn’t be impossible for them to do it, but it would take something capable of picking the appropriate scenario out of a hat, and I don’t think Mesa would want to leave it to the equivalent of an AI. Furthermore, they’d have to be able to deal with the human element as well. It’s not enough to just fire the missiles, you have to keep the SLN from being able to do anything about it.

  14. B Taylor says:

    @9 Stan Leghorn – Actually, there is always an override: “Engineering, cut all power to the missile launchers.” Now, how healthy that would be for the missile launcher & feed systems, I don’t know (I suspect there are physical safeties that would keep the feed system from loading a loaded missile launcher (although they would assume the reason the missiles were running into eachother was battle damage, I don’t see why they wouldn’t work for intentional stopage)).

    Now, some other questions would be: would the crews realize they wanted to, and should, cut power to weapons, and could they communicate the need to other ships? I doubt there are Mesan agents on all the ships (although possible, it seems like too many suicidal agents), so at least some ships will open fire (if that is the goal of the sabotage) simply because the flag ship said to (and they can pull themselves out of the tac net, although it might be more difficult than normal this time).

  15. Robert H. Woodman says:

    One of the problems I have with an EE violation by the SLN is that there will be newsies in system when the balloon goes up. As soon as an intrusion is detected, Astro Control will most likely shut down all traffic in and out of the Manticore system, meaning that even if the newsies wanted to escape, they couldn’t. If the SLN then commits an EE violation, it will be splashed all over the news everywhere, and the SLN’s credibility will be so far down the crapper, they will never be able to retrieve it.

    As pointed out, that leaves the next most obvious sabotage possibility a suicidal attack by the SLN (via automated overrides on the missile launchers) against the GA navy. There’s no way the SLN missiles, even the Cataphracts, will get in range to do any damage at all, but it would force the GA to respond, and their response would wipe out Filiareta. Again, though, the newsies would have a first-hand view of what’s going on and tell their viewers that the SLN fleet essentially committed suicide.

    I’m wondering, then, if the sabotage might be something more subtle. Is it possible that the actual sabotage might be keyed to Filiareta’s surrender? And might the response be that some of the fleet’s ships fire on Filiareta instead of at the GA navy?

    Just speculating. Any thoughts on that?

  16. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Robert, please remember that *no* newies, even Manticore ones, will be “in range” of any action (even in the Manticore system) to see what happens.

  17. Robert H. Woodman says:


    Granted, newsies won’t be in range of the action aboard independently operating vessels. Might they be embedded, however, on Manticoran ships? And if the SLN attempts an EE violation, even if they were “out of the action”, wouldn’t that be evident on every ship’s sensors in the system? I’m just speculating here.

  18. dave490 says:

    Filareta has information that the Alignment doesn’t want to become public – or known to Manticore. Snippet 29 tells us that he knows his “friends” from Mesa wanted him to command this fleet. He knows the dates on the missile upgrades don’t work unless someone “expected” Crandall to be blown to bits. If he surrenders and Manticore gets their hands on him, a big piece of the onion will get exposed publicly. Combine that with the “inner” circle details that Cachat and Zilwicki will be bringing home and the true nature of the threat facing the galaxy will be known: The Malign’s goals and ability to manipulate the SL’s military will be exposed to all the Haven sector.

    So the MAlign must take steps to prevent Filareta from surviving in Manticoran hands. So Harder’s sabotage will either destroy the ship after a surrender (“we surrendered and then those neobarbs killed the Admiral”) or cause a battle if cooler heads start to prevail.

  19. Drak Bibliophile says:

    In theory, there could be “embedded” reporters on Manticore warships even if we haven’t seen any text evidence for them.

    In practice, I doubt that there would be any on the ship bridge and I’m fairly sure that no SL reporters would be allowed on the bridge or on board any Manticore warship.

    Even assuming that a SL reporter could understand navy procedures (SLN or Manticore), I think that there would be a concern among Manticorians that SL reporters would not believe anything they saw or heard while there and might get themselves in trouble trying to find the “Real Truth”.

    In one of the Starfire novels, a reporter got himself badly injured because he was “sure” that the Navy was trying to hide the “Real Truth”.

    While fiction, I think there was an element of truth in that event.

  20. Doug Lampert says:

    @20, additionally, pictures of the opperating bridge of a fleet flagship are sure to be classified. There’s simply too much information on too many viewscreens that gives stuff like sensor resolution, then there’s the tac officer discussing things like when we’ll be in their range (which tells everyone what we think their maximum range is) and when they’ll be in our range (which tells everyone what our maximum range is).

    Embedded reporters get human interest stories and interviews with officers, they don’t get to observe the actual command center during actual opperations.

  21. John Roth says:

    “In range” is a highly flexible concept, especially if the newsies in question have decent back-yard telescopes with reasonable tracking software.

  22. Drak Bibliophile says:

    John Roth, I’m not sure how well the best “back-yard telescopes” (even in the Honorverse) would provide good info if we’re talking about distances between Earth and Mars when Mars is closest to Earth. [Smile]

    IMO it would be unlikely if any action would take place at a distance as close as the distance between Earth and the Moon.

  23. Doug Lampert says:

    A backyard telescope would show you flashes from the nukes, but everyone has FTL sensors and the telescope is lightspeed, so it probably won’t help determine who shot first, if you can see missile launches you’ll more or less ALWAYS see them from the closer fleet first.

  24. John Roth says:

    You might be surprised at how good a back yard telescope is these days. I wouldn’t anticipate they’re being that much better 2000 years from now; after all the laws of optics are still the laws of optics.

    Of course, if you want to push the envelope a bit, an amateur interferometer setup (somewhat similar to Keck) might be available to the amateur with enough money…

    Given a technological society, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the battle shows up on most home viewers. Of course, FTL reporting would take some of the punch out of watching it.

  25. Mark L says:

    I think everyone is missing the point about SL newsies.

    1. The Ministry of Education will lie about whatever happened to spin Manticore as bloodthirsty killers, and Manticore’s allies as dupes of Manticoran duplicity — regardless of what happens.

    2. Most of the newsies will go along with that because you have to go along to get along.

    3. The vast majority of those within the Core Worlds of the SL will want to believe that the MoE is telling the truth. (Yes, many in places like Beowulf will disagree, but they will be in the minority throughout the SL, even if they form an overwhelming majority on their own world.)

    4. The mandarins are already riding the tiger, and have more to lose by backing off than by pressing on. (If they are wrong they will be replaced. If they back off, they are wrong. If they press on, it is not immediately obvious that they are wrong, and even against long odd, who knows, the horse might sing.)

  26. robert says:

    1. Rajampet has been acting irrationally or
    2. He is either a paid agent of the MA or one of their Greek letters, it does not matter which.

    Going with 2, his marching orders most certainly are to destroy the SL’s ability to make war and to hold the League together. All the events in the TQ and the setting up of Filareta required a lot of pre-planning and that does not indicate irrational behavior to me, just treasonous behavior.

    So then, Filareta’s fleet must be destroyed by the GA and Filareta himself must not survive to tell the GA anything about the MA. There will be no surrender, either because Filareta will be tricked into attempting to win and be blown away or because he may very well try to surrender but be prevented by whatever Harder planted (I still say a bomb). This is the MA strategy-wipe out the SLN. But he will go for a fleet engagement and not a planetary strike. Why hit a planet? That won’t defeat the GA fleet. Or, rather, the Manticoran fleet–he knows nothing of the GA at this point. I would guess that the GA fleet (or fleets) will likely be positioned to draw him away from Manticore’s vitals. Everything depends on the current Manticore binary configuration, of course.

    Outcome: No EE violation and no Filareta survival. And decimation is too low a rate of destruction for the rest of his fleet. There won’t be any “demonstration” shots in this battle. Full, continuous firing until wedges are struck.

  27. John Roth says:

    @26 robert

    I agree that there won’t be an EE violation. However, Filaretta will find out about the Alliance rather quickly when he discovers he’s confronted with several hundred Havenite super-dreadnaughts – a fleet that isn’t out of ammunition and has been holding up against Manticore for several decades.

    Otherwise, I agree. He’ll try to surrender and be prevented by whatever Harder did.

    I don’t think Rajampet was in on the detailed planning. He undoubtedly knew about it, but I suspect he simply thought that someone was paying off a debt to someone else, or getting a favor, or something.

  28. B Taylor says:

    I find it interesting that everyone (or at least a lot of people) seem to assume that Rajampet is responsible for Filareta’s location. From what we saw from Filareta when he was in the snippets, Filareta chose his destination (before being sent off to die at Manticore). So, actually, Rajampet just had to be convinced that the operations (Crandal’s and Filareta’s) were worthwhile, and not that picking a fight with Manticore (and losing the fleet) was a good idea. So, Rajampet could just be a fool who was maneuvered into this situation. (Or, he could be a traitor out to destroy the League, we just don’t have enough evidence yet).

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