A Rising Thunder – Snippet 30

A Rising Thunder – Snippet 30


Well, that was fine with him. He wasn’t especially happy himself. To Bourchier’s credit, he’d refused to allow even Victor Cachat to simply steamroller him. Instead, he’d flatly insisted on clearing Simões’ presence with some higher authority before he’d go any further. Wilhelm Trajan, the Director of the Foreign Intelligence Service, hadn’t been available — he was off-planet at the moment — so Bourchier had gone directly to LePic. Who, not unreasonably, had insisted on meeting Simões himself before he’d even consider authorizing his admittance into Pritchart’s presence.


Zilwicki had no problem with that. What he did have a problem with was that their interview with the attorney general had been the first any of them had heard about what had happened — or, at least, what Mesa claimed had happened — in Green Pines. Discovering that he’d been branded as the worst mass murderer in recent memory tended to be just a tad upsetting, he’d discovered.


And thinking about how the people he loved must have responded to that lie was even more so.


“So, our wandering boy returns, I see,” Pritchart murmured. She regarded all of them for a moment, then looked directly at Zilwicki.


“I’m afraid the galaxy at large thinks you’re, well, dead, Captain Zilwicki,” she said. “I’m pleased to see the reports were in error. Although I’m sure quite a few people in Manticore are going to be just as curious to know where you’ve been for the last several months as we are about Officer Cachat’s whereabouts.”


“I’m sure they are, too, Madam President. Unfortunately, we had a little, um, engine trouble on the way home. It took us several months to make repairs.” Zilwicki grimaced. “We played a lot of cards,” he added.


“I imagine so.” The President cocked her head. “And I imagine you’ve also discovered there have been a few developments since whatever happened — and I do trust you’re going to tell us what it was that did happen — in Green Pines?”


“I’m sure that will be covered, Ma’am,” Zilwicki said grimly. “It wasn’t much like the ‘official version’ I’ve just heard, but it was bad enough.”


Pritchart gazed at him for a moment, then nodded slowly and looked at Simões.


“But I don’t believe I know who this gentleman is,” she continued.


“No, Madam President, you don’t — yet,” Cachat replied. “This is Dr. Herlander Simões. Of the planet Mesa.”


Pritchart’s spectacular topaz eyes narrowed slightly. The first-class brain behind those eyes was obviously running at top speed, but all she did was sit back in her chair.


“I see,” she said after a moment, gazing speculatively at the Mesan. “May I assume Dr. Simões is the reason you’ve been…out of touch, let’s say, for the last, oh, six or seven T-months?”


“He’s one of the reasons, Ma’am.”


“Then, by all means be seated,” she invited, waving a hand at the empty chairs on the other side of the table, “and let’s hear what you — and Dr. Simões, of course — have to tell us.”


*   *   *


“Readiness reports complete, Sir,” Admiral Daniels reported. “All squadron and task group commanders report ready to proceed as ordered.”


“Thank you, Bill,” Fleet Admiral Filareta acknowledged.


He stood on the flag bridge of SLNS Philip Oppenheimer, flagship of the Solarian League Navy’s newly designated Eleventh Fleet, gazing at the endless rows of status reports and thinking. The missile ships had taken a few days longer than expected to join him, which had given just enough time for a last set of dispatches from the Sol System to reach Tasmania. Which, in his opinion, was very much a mixed blessing.


The news that the Manties were closing wormhole termini to Solarian traffic was not something he’d wanted to hear. Whatever else it might indicate, it hardly sounded like the action of a star nation reeling from a surprise attack and terrified for its very life. One might have expected people in that position to be looking for ways to avoid infuriating something the size of the Solarian League, which didn’t appear to have even crossed the Star Empire’s mind. That was a disconcerting thought, and the fact that neither Rajampet nor his civilian masters seemed to share it was even more unpleasant. Judging from their amendment of his original mission orders, however, the only “thinking” they appeared to have done was to fasten on it as yet another Manty “provocation” to justify their own actions. They certainly hadn’t been dissuaded by it, at any rate!


They probably think the Manties are just running a bluff, trying to convince us to back down, he reflected. And maybe they are. But maybe they aren’t, too. Maybe it’s an indication they’re genuinely that confident they can stand up to us, instead, and I sort of wish at least someone in Old Chicago was willing to at least consider the possibility. That’d be asking too much, though, I guess, since it would require a brain bigger than a pea!


He shook his head mentally. It was far too late to be worrying about the blindness — or desperation — of the people behind his orders. It was too late to be worrying even about how large a hand Manpower might have had in drafting those orders in the first place, and at least four hundred and twenty-seven of the four hundred and thirty-one ships-of-the-wall which had been ordered to join him had actually arrived. That was a phenomenal accomplishment, by SLN peacetime readiness standards. In fact, he suspected the status reports on a half dozen or so of his SDs had been fudged by captains who had no intention of being caught short at a moment like this, but as long as they weren’t covering up fundamental problems, that was fine with him.


The more the merrier, he thought sardonically, yet not even his cynicism was proof against commanding the most powerful armada the Solarian League had ever launched. As he looked at those status reports, at the glittering sea of icons, he was aware of the true size and power of the Solarian League Navy in a new and different way. His concerns about Manticoran weapons hadn’t magically disappeared, by any means, yet despite those concerns, what he felt at this moment was the ponderous, unstoppable power of all those millions upon millions of tons of starships.


Four hundred and twenty-seven ships-of-the-wall. Thirty-two battlecruisers, thirty light cruisers, and forty-eight destroyers to screen the battle squadrons and provide the scouts they’d probably need. And fifty fast freighters (and personnel transports), all with military-grade hyper generators and particle screening. All told, his command counted almost six hundred starships, massing over three billion tons. Indeed, his wallers alone massed 2.9 billion tons, and counting the freighter and transport crews, he commanded over 2.7 million naval personnel, which didn’t even count the transports’ 421,000 Marines and support personnel. By any meter stick, it was an enormous force, and fifty percent of the missiles in his SDs’ magazines were the new dual-drive Technodyne Cataphract-Bs. He would have preferred a heavier warhead, but that was what the five thousand pods loaded with Cataphract-Cs were for. At over sixteen million kilometers, their powered envelope was better than twice that of the Trebuchet capital missiles they’d replaced.


He was still a long way from truly leveling the playing field, assuming there was any truth in the Manty accounts of Spindle. As it happened, he was convinced there was quite a lot of truth in those accounts, but almost despite himself, he’d been deeply impressed when he saw the Cataphracts’ performance numbers. Whether they’d come from Technodyne or the tooth fairy was far less important than how enormously his fleet’s effective reach had been increased. He was going to be outranged by any surviving Manty system-defense missile pods, but he should at least come close to matching their shipboard missiles. If there was any validity at all to the Office of Strategy and Planning’s assessment of the Star Empire’s morale, that ought to be enough to convince them that no qualitative advantage could ultimately offset the sheer quantitative edge of the Solarian League.


Sure it will, he told himself. You go right on thinking that way. But don’t get your ass so wedded to the concept that you end up getting yourself and a couple of million other people killed!


“Very well,” he said at last, then drew a deep breath and turned to face Daniels once more.


“I believe we have a date with the Manties, Bill. Let’s get this show on the road.”



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20 Responses to A Rising Thunder – Snippet 30

  1. obelow says:

    somehow I keep thinking the admiral will be taken out of the loop if he tries to avoid the bloodbath as he seems inclined to do if push comes to shove… either by a little explosive “accident” on his flagbridge or by just manipulating his communications so that the orders he gives are not the ones his people receive….

  2. Anthony says:

    “He was going to be outranged by any surviving Manty system-defense missile pods, but he should at least come close to matching their shipboard missiles.”

    Poor, poor, admiral. Manty system defense pods are loaded with quad drive missiles, and have full grav-com control links. He doesn’t even come close to matching their shipboard missile range either.

    I also am suspicious of the techs actions. Probably some kind of impending sabotage, either to direct all units to fire on enemy warships, or some such command.

  3. John Roth says:

    He’s still under the impression that what hit Crandall in Spindle was the system defense missiles, rather than the SD version. And also that they may not have very many of them left.

    However, the Cataphracts may range the Havenite missiles; I don’t remember the actual specs on Haven’s current SD missiles.

  4. dave490 says:

    The more I consider the “package” on the bridge, the more I think it isn’t explosive. Any explosive small enough to not be noticed would likely leave survivors onboard who might remember that a tech came onto the bridge back at base to work on the panel that exploded, killing Admiral Filareta.

    It’s got to be a software bomb that causes the ship to either destroy itself or be destroyed by the Manticore/Haven ships that are facing them. A software package that checked to see if Manticore/Haven ships were in range and then flushed all missiles at them would generate an immediate and likely fatal response. Or the software bomb could send an artificial com version of the admiral ordering all units to open fire.

    This could be made more effective if a nano-tech infected officer were on the bridge with a “program” to press a particular button if the admiral surrenders. That way, the software bomb would be relatively small since no AI was needed to check all the possible outcomes before committing virtual suicide.

  5. Willem Meijer says:

    If that technician can get off the ship before she sails it can be anything. I doubt he would knowingly install something lethal for the whole ship if he’s on it when it goes BANG.

  6. Robert H. Woodman says:

    @5 – Willem

    PO Harder was a “she” not a “he”. And I don’t think that the tech will be getting off the ship before the fleet sails. First, the tech might not know what the “package” was, just that she had to install it. Second, the MAlign is not averse to using suicide operatives, nor is the MAlign averse to setting up pawns to be killed. PO Harder could be a suicide operative, or she could be a pawn and has no idea that she is setting herself up to be killed.

    @4 – dave490

    A software bomb that flushes every missile in the fleet’s arsenal makes a lot of sense from the MAlign point of view. It will result in the complete, or nearly complete, destruction of the SLN fleet. It will inflame Manticoran (and Havenite) opinion against the SL, turning the conflict into a death match, which will further drive the League to self-destruction. It will leave Filiareta dead, which is also an important consideration for MAlign. Even with advanced Cataphract missiles, though, I doubt that Filiareta will get in range of the GA fleet, unless he surrenders and then the missiles flush as the fleet approaches to take charge of the surrendered ships.

    I wonder, though, if the “package” on the Flag Bridge is one that activates if Filiareta surrenders and flushes the missiles at the other ships in the SLN fleet. That could then make it look as if the SLN fleet surrendered and the GA fleet went ahead and massacred them. That would inflame SL opinion against Manticore and Haven. Any thoughts on that?

  7. morgulknight says:

    @3, Havenite SDs use all up three-stage missiles, probably about on par with what Manticore and Grayson used in Operation Buttercup. That is, their onboard EW isn’t as good because they’re capacitor-fed rather than having an onboard fusion plant, and they’re not as accurate at long range because they don’t have the Keyhole II/Apollo combination (or FTL-comm recon drones like Terekhov used at Monica). Still, Filareta’s fleet’s dead meat if shots are fired at all at Manticore.

  8. dave o says:

    Filareta’s fleet sounds like it’s way too weak in screening elements. There’s no way they can provide enough defensive fire to protect the SDs.

    I don’t know what kind of fire control the SL uses, but it seems to me that whatever the package is, it can’t affect fire for anything but the flagship directly. Of course, it may be programed to give orders to the fleet. Even then, the captains or tach officers may decide not to obey if the orders look too suicidal.

  9. John Roth says:

    @7 morgulknight

    There’s a bit of a glitch in the description. Manticore and Haven missiles are dual and triple drive, meaning that both or all three drives are in the same missile body. The Cataphracts are two-stage missiles, meaning that each stage is a separate body.

    What I was wondering about, though, was the actual distance for the powered range. It sounds like the Haven missiles are going to outrange the Cataphracts, but I don’t know. Also, the Haven missiles don’t have FTL guidance, and whether they can be hooked into Ghost Rider in time for the battle is unknown.

  10. ronzo says:

    10. All the above being said, even with the added benfits of the cataphracts and collier based pods. The Sollie fleet still wont have the throw weight/ control links to swamp Manty or Havenite Missle defense. Nor do they have the missle defense to stand up to what can be thrown at them. The pods might be an intial shock but they are going to be there for one or two volleys before they are soft killed because they have to be tactored in. There is also the issue of the the under strength screen that will be out numbered easily 20 or 30 to one in LAC strenght that can kill anything up to a BC with ease (I also remember reading some where a Shrike/ ferret/ katana was had nearly the missle defense capability of prewar destroyer), never mind hyper capable screening ship that have proven they can kill Sollie SD’s. Someone already mentioned killing the Sollie’s missle volley with the triple ripple. Granted forward screening units might get chewed up a little bit but this doesn’t really change the out come.

  11. dave490 says:

    @6 Robert

    I am trying to approach this from the perspective of “How does the MAlign gain (or reduce potential for loss) from Filareta’s visit to Manticore. I assume that the MAlign knows the full capabilities of RMN systems if only from their spies in Haven who learned the hard way. It is also clear that the MAlign leadership will be in for a huge shock when they learn that Haven and Manticore are now allies. Since this part of the Alignment’s plan was set in motion prior to Green Pines etc. and the alliance but with full knowledge of the Yawata attack, I can come up with these objectives:

    1) Have a big chunk of the SLN fleet lost in battle or through surrender.
    2) Have 1) occur in such a way that the SL gets mad enough to keep fighting.
    3) Have 1) occur in such a way as to encourage some parts of the verge to think about independence. (Already happening in Maya sector)
    4) Weaken the RMN through attrition of its Apollo missile supply that it cannot replace at this time.
    5) Maintain RMN willingness to fight the SL.

    We all expect Filareta’s fleet to be destroyed or surrender so objective 1) is taken care of. Either way, another big loss by the SLN achieves 3).

    We know that 4) won’t happen this time but it must have been a goal of this phase of the MAlign’s plan. So I see the “best” outcomes for the Alignment being that Filareta sails in and gets blown away like Crandall (with a failsafe assassin in place to prevent his survival). If Filareta has a moment’s sanity, realizing that his fleet is doomed, and surrenders to saves his troops’s lives, a safeguard has to be in place to achieve 2) and 5) and to eliminate Filareta as a potential liability. So that is what the software bomb must accomplish.

    I’m not certain that the flagship firing on other SLN ships would result in the complete destruction of the entire bridge crew of the flagship. But what if the software bomb went into effect when Filareta surrendered and struck all his ships’ wedges? Then, when ships and small craft moved in to accept each ships’ surrender, all of the energy weapons and point defense lasers started shooting. Very little damage would be done to wary ships with their wedges up, but all of the Haven or Manticoran ships would react by destroying anyone in range. A bloodbath would take place with evidence eventually getting to the SL that “those bleeping neo-barbs fired on surrendering SLN ships.” This would accomplish objective 2) We’ve already seen how the RMN reacts to fake surrenders in Shadow of Saganami – thus taking care of objective 5).

  12. Robert H. Woodman says:

    @11 – dave490

    Very well thought-out analysis. Thanks for that. I’m really looking forward to see how MWW has constructed the story. Your analysis is something interesting to chew on — mentally, of course. :-)

  13. Peter says:

    Thank you, Dave 490, for that analysis, it is very helpful.

  14. dave o says:

    #11 Dave 490: Your analysis assumes Filareta’s flagship has tactical control of the rest of his fleet. Isn’t this inconsistent with what we know about fleet tactics? The commander specifies deployment and firing plans, but tactical operation remains with individual ships.

  15. Stewart says:

    If we allocate defensive missles, assuming expected ship destruction rather than simply disabling the ship, at 50 capital missles (Mk23/25 class if RMN) targeted per Solaran SD and 20 capital ship missles per BC, that still comes to near 22,000 missles (actually 21990 but at those numbers who’s counting).
    That still brings to mind Stalin’s statement of “Quantity has a quality of its own”
    How many missles are in the RH (or RMN) tubes to greet the Solies ??

  16. Scott says:

    My impression on reading this was aren’t they a bit light on screening units? Are lighter units being kept in reserve for something else?

  17. TimC says:

    Surely with these longer ranged missiles (Cataphracts) there is a risk that the Haven/Manti fleets may like the Mayans come to a ‘close safe distance’ and actually be within their window. Of course their anti missile defences will mop up most of the storm but some damage might ensue.

  18. EM says:

    With respect to the tech’s work I’m reminded of Shannon’s ‘Oops’ and how she got StateSec’s SDs to selfdestruct. What the tech might have built into the console is something that can talk to the SLN’s battle plans and to the other SDs’ battle plans. One of those plans could have been rigged so that when triggered it flushes the loaded missiles and active pods, then cuts the missiles’ control links. Since the SLN is likely to be targeting the enemy that’s where the missiles will go. The MA is probably counting on the flagship either being destroyed or the bridge comps either getting destroyed in battle or before surrender.

  19. dave490 says:

    @14 dave o

    I am figuring the SLN is so thoroughly penetrated by the MA that they know how to create a computer virus or worm to cause the whole fleet to open fire when commanded. Unless there is a hardware barrier between ship communication systems and tactical computers, then the MA should be able to break through any software barriers.

    If only a small number of ships actually open fire on the boarding parties, the reaction from Manty/Haven ships will be swift and fatal. That can be “spun” as an atrocity by the SLN and the MA moles in the SL media.

    @18 EM
    If the software bomb contains the equivalent of Shannon’s “oops,” it could blow up the Oppenheimer after its surrender. That would take care of Filareta and his dangerous knowledge. It could also be presented as an atrocity committed on ships that had already surrendered.

  20. Steven says:

    Was the Solarian technician (Mesan agent) who planted the bomb in the console of Admiral Filareta’s ship on a suicide mission or did she have some clever means of escape?

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