A Rising Thunder – Snippet 31

A Rising Thunder – Snippet 31


May 1922 Post Diaspora


“What the hell. I’ve always liked a challenge.”

— Queen Elizabeth III of Manticore


Chapter Ten


“More coffee, Your Majesty?”


Elizabeth Winton looked up at the murmured question, then smiled and extended her cup. James McGuiness poured, smiled back at her, and moved on around the table, refilling other cups, and she watched him go before she sipped. It was, as always, delicious, and she thought yet again what a pity it was that McGuiness made such splendid coffee when Honor couldn’t stand the beverage.


The familiar reflection trickled through her brain, and she set the cup back down and gave herself a mental shake. No doubt her staff back at Mount Royal Palace had its hands full covering for her absence, but they were just going to have to go on coping for a while longer. Despite the grinding fatigue of far too many hours, far too much adrenaline, and far too many shocks to the universe she’d thought she understood, she knew she and Eloise Pritchart were still far from finished.


She looked across the table in the admiral’s dining cabin aboard HMS Imperator at the president of the Republic of Haven, who had just finished a serving of McGuiness’ trademark eggs Benedict and picked up her own coffee cup. Despite a sleepless night, following a day even longer than Elizabeth’s had been, the other woman still looked improbably beautiful. And still radiated that formidable presence, as well. Elizabeth doubted anyone could have intentionally planned a greater physical contrast than the one between her own mahogany skin and dark eyes and Pritchart’s platinum and topaz, and they’d been produced by political and social systems which were at least as different as their appearances. Yet over the last day or so she’d come — unwillingly, almost kicking and screaming — to the conclusion that the two of them were very much alike under the surface.


I wonder if I would have had the sheer nerve to sail straight into my worst enemy’s home system — especially after what those “mystery raiders” did to us — and admit my secretary of state doctored the correspondence that sent us back to war? After so long, so many deaths, because I got played, maneuvered into doing exactly what someone else wanted? Even having Simões’ story to back me up, selling that to someone with my reputation for carrying grudges to the grave and back again took more plain old-fashioned gall and guts than any three women ought to have. Especially after I’d proven this “Alignment” could play me just as thoroughly as it ever played her.


Elizabeth’s mind flicked back over the last two Manticoran days. Even her formidable intelligence was having difficulty coping with the tectonic shock which had just rumbled through her entire known universe. It seemed impossible, preposterous on the very face of things, that a mere two days could have changed everything she’d thought she knew about two decades of bitter warfare and millions of deaths, yet it had. And it explained so much.


“So,” she said, sitting back from the table she shared with only Honor, Pritchart, and Thomas Theisman, “is Simões telling the truth or not, Honor?”


The two Havenites looked at Honor with slightly surprised expressions, and Honor smiled. Nimitz was sound asleep on his perch, and after the night which had just passed, she saw no point in waking him up.


“There’s a reason Her Majesty’s asking me, instead of Nimitz or Ariel,” she told her guests. “As it happens, I’ve been hanging around with treecats long enough to have caught at least some of their abilities. I can’t read minds, but I can read emotions, and I know when someone’s lying.”


It was astonishingly easy for her to make that admission to the leaders of the star nation she’d fought her entire adult life.


Pritchart blinked at her, then those topaz eyes narrowed in thought, and the President began nodding — slowly, at first, then more rapidly.


“So that’s why you make such a fiendishly effective diplomat!” she said with something very like an air of triumph. “I couldn’t believe how well a total novice was reading us. Now I know — you were cheating!


The last word came out in something very like a laugh, and Honor nodded back.


“Where diplomacy’s concerned, according to my mentors in the Foreign Office, there is no such thing as ‘cheating,’ Madam President. In fact, one of those mentors quoted an old axiom to me. Where diplomacy is involved, he said, if you aren’t cheating, you aren’t trying hard enough.”


Elizabeth snorted in amusement, and Theisman shook his head.


“In this instance, however,” Honor continued more seriously, “what Her Majesty is asking me is whether or not I can tell if Dr. Simões is telling the truth. I already informed her” — she looked directly at Pritchart — “that I knew you were, Madam President. On the other hand, I also assumed you would have expected from the beginning that Nimitz would have been able to tell me and that I would have passed his observations on to Her Majesty, so I didn’t feel any particular scruples about that.”


Pritchart nodded again, and Honor shrugged.


“What I can tell you about Simões is that his anger — his outrage — at this ‘Alignment’ is absolutely genuine. The pain inside that man is incredible.”


She closed her eyes for a moment, and her nostrils flared.


“Everything I can ‘taste’ about his ‘mind-glow’ tells me he’s telling us the truth, in so far as he knows the truth. Whether or not McBryde might have been passing along disinformation is more than I can say, of course. But, on balance, I think he was telling the truth, as well. It all fits together too well with what we’ve already seen, and with what Simões can tell us about their hardware.”


“And there are still so damned many holes in it,” Elizabeth half-snarled.


“Yes, there are,” Honor agreed. “On the other hand, I’d say the Star Empire knows infinitely more than we knew yesterday, Elizabeth…given that we didn’t know anything at that point.”


Elizabeth nodded slowly, then looked at Pritchart.


“So, I guess what it comes down to,” she said slowly, “it’s where we go from here. Whatever happens, I want you to know I’m enormously grateful for the information you’ve provided us. And I think we can both agree that the war between Haven and Manticore is over.”


She shook her head, as if, even now, she couldn’t quite believe what she’d just said. Not because she didn’t want to, but because it seemed impossible, like something which couldn’t possibly be true because of how badly everyone wanted it to be true.


“Mind you,” she continued, “I don’t expect everybody to be delighted about that. For that matter, a few days ago, I probably would have been one of the people who wasn’t delighted myself,” she admitted.


“Trust me, there’s the odd couple of billion Havenites who probably feel exactly the same way,” Pritchard said dryly.


“And that’s the sticking point, isn’t it?” Elizabeth asked softly. “Stopping shooting at each other — that much I’m sure we can manage. But it’s not enough. Not if Simões’ and McBryde’s story is true after all.”


“No, it’s not,” Pritchart agreed quietly.


“Well,” Elizabeth smiled with very little humor, “at least I can feel confident now that you’ll keep the Republican Navy off our backs long enough for us to deal with this Admiral Filareta.”


“Actually,” Pritchard said, “I had something else in mind.”


“Something else?” Elizabeth’s eyebrows rose.


“Your Majesty — Elizabeth — the Mesan Alignment wants both of us destroyed, starting with the Star Empire. I don’t know if it honestly believes the SLN can do the job where you’re concerned, or if it was anticipating we’d do it when we recognized the opportunity it had given us. But it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that the Solarian attack on you is simply one more step in a strategy directed against both of us. So I think something a bit more pointed than simply stopping shooting at each other might be in order.”


“Such as?” Elizabeth asked slowly, eyes slitted in concentration.


“I understand your missile production facilities have been taken off-line,” Pritchard said. “Tom here tells me you’ve undoubtedly got enough of those ungodly super missiles in your magazines to thoroughly kick the ass of this Filareta if he really insists on following his orders. But that’s going to cut into your reserves, and given that the Alignment managed to rip the hell out of your home system, I think it would be a good idea for you to conserve as much ammunition as you can in hopes we’ll find someone a bit better suited to playing the role of target.”


“And?” Elizabeth’s eyes were opening wider in speculation.


“Well, it just happens that Thomas here has a modest little fleet — two or three hundred of the wall, I believe — waiting approximately eight hours from Trevor’s Star in hyper. If you’re willing to trust us in Manticoran space, perhaps we could help you encourage Filareta to see reason. And while I’m well aware our hardware isn’t as good as yours, every indication I’ve seen is that it’s one hell of a lot better than anything the Sollies have.”


“Are you offering me a military alliance against the Solarian League?” Elizabeth asked very carefully.


“If McBryde was right, there isn’t going to be much of a Solarian League very much longer,” Pritchart replied grimly. “And given the fact that the same bunch of murderous bastards who shot up your home system are also directly responsible for you and I having killed a couple of million of our own people, I think we could say we have a certain commonality of interest where they’re concerned. And it’s not a case of selfless altruism on my part, you know. We’re both on the Alignment’s list. Don’t you think it would be sort of stupid for either of us to let the other one go down and leave us all alone?”


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27 Responses to A Rising Thunder – Snippet 31

  1. John Roth says:

    This is, of course, a repeat of the last chapter of MoH. New stuff coming up in the next snippet. Interesting that he skipped all the machinations at Haven to set it up. In both books.

  2. Zathras says:

    Hate to have 300 wallers on the wrong side of the wormhole. Mind you, it would make the junction really interesting if 30 solarian ships came in sumutaniously in the middle of transit of the haven fleet. They might even be able to do some significant damage. Rather unlikely though.

  3. ronzo says:

    @2 That really would make for quite the mess.

  4. John Roth says:

    Assuming they do manage to cram some SDs through the wormhole, they’re going to be two days earlier than Filaretta. He got delayed a couple of days waiting for the Cataphracts.

  5. Robert H. Woodman says:

    I know this snippet is a rehash of the last chapter of MOH, but I still wonder how well this alliance is going to work. How do you suddenly go from shooting at someone one day to being their allies and shooting with them at someone else the next day? There must be enormous friction and “growing pains” involved.

  6. B Taylor says:

    @4 John Roth – The plan was for a dispatch boat to go through the terminus to Beowulf when Filareta arrived, so the second prong won’t attack early (well, unless the dispatch boat thinks that Haven’s arrival is Filareta’s).

    @5 Robert H. Woodman – Mostly, don’t put either fleet in a possition where it is relying on the other for missile defense (and will have time to react if the other decides to open fire on it). Both fleets (at least here) are professional enough to do what their superiors tell them, even if they don’t like the orders (especially when Theisman is the one issuing orders, given the Navy’s regard for him).

  7. robert says:

    The RHN fleet is 8 hours plus transit time from Trevor’s Star through the junction to Manticore. Assume about 250 SDs plus the usual complement of DDs, Cruisers and colliers. Maybe 350 or so total ships to be transited, three or four days worth max at a leisurely pace.

    Filareta has certainly got a longer trip than that by several days, if not weeks. Plenty of time to come up with a screw-Filareta strategy.

  8. dave o says:

    #5 Robert: A good point. I think the political friction is likely to be much worse than the military. Pritchard has presumably cleared her action with her parliament before leaving for Manticore. On Manticore, aid from anywhere is probably so welcome that the first reaction will be to be thankful. I doubt that MAlign considered anything like an alliance possible, so they may not have anyone in place to add grit to the wheels. Still, their will be a lot of bad feelings surfacing after the 1st action and people have an idea what’s occurred.

    On the military side, there is enough difference in capability between Manticore and Haven that the two fleets can’t be combined, without a lot of training time. But either is capable of smashing the SL. Each will probably be assigned a different role when Theisman and Harrington begin talking.

  9. John Roth says:

    @6 B Taylor

    Oops, you’re right. I forgot about that detail.

    @7. robert

    We’re not actually sure. According to the month notation in the books, both the big reveal on Haven and Filareta’s departure from Tasmania occur in April, while the conference at Manticore occurs in May. There’s a two week transit time from Haven to Trevor’s Star, and we have no idea what the transit time is from Tasmania to Manticore.

    @8. dave o

    Why would Theisman be talking to Harrington? If he stays, he’ll be talking to White Haven, working out military cooperation beyond the current operation. Harrington will be talking to whoever they’ve got for their fleet admiral.

  10. B Taylor says:

    @7 robert – In Mission of Honor, when Honor wakes up the queen, Elizabeth is surprised Honor is in system, as Honor wasn’t expected to return until the next week (with Eighth Fleet), for the surprise party for Filareta.
    @9 John Roth (in reference to @8 dave o) – Actually, I would expect Theisman, White Haven, and the senior fleet officers to discuss things (although Theisman & White Haven might meet first).

  11. hank says:

    @7, @10: forget ye not Tom Caparelli, lest he grind thee into the mud. :)

  12. robert says:

    Remember that Pritchard just said that the Haven fleet is just 8 hours from Trevor’s Star awaiting permission to transit the junction.

    Does anyone here really think that HH will NOT be commanding the Joint Alliance fleet? And will Tourville and the Haven POWs be playing a role in the battle?

    I have to hand it to David Weber for being able to spin this out for the better part of two books. Especially when the battle will likely be fought, wrapped up and fully debriefed in more like two chapters. Well, maybe three if the SL sends a fleet to Beowulf.

  13. JeffM says:

    @12. I think that Honor will be sitting on her thumbs while her fleet watches. After all, the whole purpose is NOT to spend a single Manicoran missile. And as she’s not in command of the Havenite fleet, while she may make an appearance to “introduce” herself to Filareta, it’s going to be a Havenite (I’ve lost track of the top Admirals aside from Tourville) in command.

    And fresh of being POW’s, no one’s going to put any momentarily-former Havenite prisoners into combat ops. How long did it take Mike Henke to get debriefed and turned around? Months?

  14. JeffM says:

    Oh yeah–don’t forget that as much as there will be old rivalries, most of the better officers will redirect their anger towards Mesa when they realize the “Truth”–and the Havenite fleet personnel have already had the voyage there to get accustomed to the idea.

  15. John Roth says:

    @12, @13, @14.

    I don’t know who’s going to be in overall command, but it’s got to be a Havenite admiral in command of the Haven fleet. I can very easily see Tourville. He’s on site, and if he can convince Thiesman and White Haven that he hasn’t lost his touch while he’s been in the POW camp, he’s got the cachet of being the only Haven admiral who can go toe to toe with Honor. He’s also on site and he’s got four days for briefing, since that’s the soonest they can get the entire Haven fleet through the junction.

  16. Wolf says:

    As to who is in command in Manticore when the SLN arrives since it is the Capital and most important system I see no why that it won’t be a Manticoran. That said it will probably be Honor. Personally I hope it would stay Higgins the current Adm of the Fleet and co of Home Fleet. But since this is the Honor Harrington series I can’t see it being anyone else sadly.

    That said with so little time plus the tech and command and control problems inherent with trying to integrate the ships of the Manticoran Alliance and the Republic I see the Republic fleet being distinct entity in the armada defending Manticore. Thus who is its commander is important.

    There are several options for who will show up commanding it. Adm Chin I believe is one of the most senior current Republicans who aren’t POWs. If Diamato got promoted again he is a definite option. Or anyone of the other Admirals we haven’t really seen in anything other than bit parts, if that, who must exist in an organization that size.

    My personal hope is the Havenite fleet commander is Thomas Thiesman himself. Yes he is Secretary of War, but he is also CNO and it has been stated many many times that he prefers to think of himself and be addressed as CNO as an honest admiral rather than a politician. Thus he is the most senior admiral in the RHN and can if he chooses appoint himself to that fleet command. Unlike the Manticoran tradition of the duties of the First Space Lord where it is solely an administrative command even if the home system is attacked, there is precedent of the Havenite CNO commanding ships in action, i.e. CNO Parnell.

    I would love to see Thiesman and Higgins, two officers who did their duty but who luck has always been against, wipe out Filareta. But realistically it will be Honor and Tourville who will get the glory as they always do. Or maybe Honor and Chin. It would be good to see Chin get to be in a battle that Honor doesn’t make explode in her face.

    But I can still dream cant I?
    At least until the book is out and I find out how wrong I am


  17. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Wolf, think of it from the Haven side.

    If Haven is going to accept a Manticorian as head of the Alliance Fleet, who better than a person who came to Haven willing to talk a peace that they could accept?

  18. Stan Leghorn says:

    IIRC, Chin was Honor’s first kill at the Battle of Manticore.

  19. B Taylor says:

    @18 Stan Leghorn – Most of her fleet was destroyed, because she was a little slow to realize that Honor was firing guided missiles at her, not unguided, but Chin herself seems to have made it home.

  20. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Correct, B Taylor. In Chapter Six of _A Mission Of Honor_, there’s mention of a report of hers. If she failed to make it back to Haven, somebody else in her fleet would be making the report.

  21. ET1swaw says:

    IIRC Diamatto and Chin were the only commanders to get any of their ships back from the Battle of Manticore (Chin less than 17 that made hyper at the last second while under missile attack; and Diamatto with most of his cruisers that were at the WHJ).

    Not only does the GA fleet structure between Haven and Manticore have to be arranged, but the internal Manticoran Alliance structure will need to be re-arranged as well. Some of Grayson input has already been called back after Oyster Bay. And the Andermanni and/or other Manty Alliance mambers may not wish to go head to head with the SLN (individuals and even a few ships involved in Monica through Spindle can be diplomatically overlooked. Designated units of their respective navies are a policy statement!).

    And we have yet to see the reach-out to Erewhon-Maya-Torch and to Beowulf and her like-minded associates! With the exception of MAlign associates, possible GA members are most of the navies more advanced than the SLN. A big problem that may arise is that their advancements are not in the same directions and coordination/consolidation is going to be a nightmare (the old Arthur C. Clarke story may come to pass!)

  22. ET1swaw says:

    ‘Superiority’ by Arthur C. Clarke (short story first published 1951).

  23. Wolf says:

    Drak, if we are going to look at the Haven perspective we cant neglect to take into account the other function Adm Harrington has been to the republic these last few years. That being the boogieman with a small but great quality fleet punching out the infrastructure of any system she can. Also the systems which were knocked out were picked because they were bright spots on the blighted economy, and with weak enough defenses to be knocked out with out a huge fleet.

    Yes Honor was the ambassador to Haven and brought a chance for peace, but she was also Manticore’s gauntleted fist for so long prior to that, that I dare say it would counteract a lot, perhaps not all though, of any gratitude as her in the guise of the peace messenger.

    Now do not take my comment to mean that I don’t think she would be a good choice to command the defenses. She would be no one could really argue that since she is after all a fine admiral. But lets be honest here the upcoming battle of Manticore is going to be curb stomp battle, you don’t need Honor to make it a resounding victory so why tie her to it command. Unless it can somehow be argued that the upcoming war is only going involve one main allied fleet you are going to need other fleet commanders so not just keep Higgins since he is the Adm of the Fleet at the moment. Or did I miss it where Adm Harrington was made commander of home fleet again? Higgins has shown that he won’t fall apart in combat and will do what needs doing.

    A thought that I just had actually is given what is coming at Manticore right now it seems to me what Manticore needs a bulldog, who will do everything to keep the SLN from hurting any allied ships. This might be the one fleet command Harrington might not be perfectly suited for, since she uses finesse, sneakiness, and what I call genius and might allow her to out think herself into a bad position. This might be a battle where HH as a rapier would be 2nd to a hammer or an anvil.

    Back on topic, Drak in truth I don’t disagree with what you stated. I believe there are some countervailing factors but as I stated in my originally post on this snippet it was just a dream I had that someone other than the Salamander would be at the center of the fire for once. I want to see other characters, one of the reason I love the Shadows threads so much. I can only guess how egregiously I erred in my originally post for you, the person who posts these snippets, to call me out on it. But please don’t tell me, I dislike spoilers.


  24. Doug Lampert says:

    Logically and traditionally an alliance command is run by someone from the ally expected to do most of the fighting and providing the bulk of the forces. A Havenite admiral is unlikely to by happy about taking orders that will get his ships killed from a Manticoran admiral. If the orders look like they put ships at a possibly unneccessary or excessive risk he’d likely simply refuse or ignore the orders.

    Or imagine for example the Havenite reaction if a Manticoran admiral orders them too close out of fear of their communications and sensors meaning they work best at closer range and they take serious casualties from cataphract missiles? If a Havenite gave the orders there’s no problem. If a Manticoran gave those orders then that may be the LAST time any Havenite officer cooperates with a Manticoran for a generation.

    Thus operational command of the engaged Havenite ships should go to a Havenite admiral. Even if you give him an apollo capable squadron of Manticorans to do the negotiating and make targeted strikes on SLN flagships the bulk of the fighting force will be Havenite so they get the nominal command.

    The fixed defenses and Manticoran fleet can remain under a Manticoran admiral, who’ll of course also ignore any orders that strike him as excessively risky toward the Manticoran home planets or the remaining orbital infrastructure, but since the bulk of the Manticorans aren’t really supposed to engage anyway there’s NO DOWNSIDE to having them ignore any such orders.

    Unless I’m missing something there’s no plan here for an actual joint opperation. So you let some Havenite admiral have nominal command of the alliance forces since they’re the ones expected to be doing most of the fighting.

  25. Zathras says:

    There is just one problem with that, in that this is the home system. For comparison, would America ever put its forces under the command of another for the defence of the continental states? How about the British? How about the Russians? I belive Manticore will have overall control of all girded in the system, but a Haven admiral will have tactical control of their own fleet.

  26. Wolf says:

    To give an in universe example to further illustrate Zathras’ well made point that the party that owns the territory especially if it is an important territory such as a capital system will be the one in command. During Flag in Exile there is a RMN task group in Yestin Star with more power than the Grayson have at the time but the manticoran admiral deferred to High Admiral for orders deploying his units in the area.

    Back to Manticore with the arrival of Filareta. It is the capital of the Star Empire of Manticore. My expectation is that whoever is Admiral of the Fleet (the commander of Home Fleet and highest ranking manty) will be in overall command of all defenses in system. This will be the person who communicates with the SLN and rightly so since it is manty territory being assaulted. Because of how difficult it will be to integrate fleets in the sort time before the SLN shows up I don’t expect this admiral to be able to control the actions of the Havenites the way the CO in Manticoran Alliance fleets has been able to with its integration. Probably something like a weapons release to the CO of the Haven fleet and them let that admiral fight his ships. And since part of the goal is for the munitions which are expended to be the havenite ones instead of Apollo this makes sense to me at least.


  27. Zathras says:

    Thanks for the in universes example, I forgot about that one, but since the point was about human nature, I still wanted to make it.

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