A Rising Thunder – Snippet 32

A Rising Thunder – Snippet 32


Brown eyes and topaz met across the table littered with the remnants of breakfast, and it was very, very quiet.


“We’re still going to have those problems, you know,” Elizabeth said almost conversationally after a moment. “All those people on both sides who don’t like each other. All that legacy of suspicion.”


“Of course.” Pritchart nodded.


“And then there’s the little matter of figuring out where this Alignment’s real headquarters is, and who else is fronting for it, and what other weapons it has, and where else it has programmed assassins tucked away, and exactly what it’s got in mind for the Republic once the Star Empire’s been polished off.”




“And, now that I think about it, there’s the question of how we’re going to rebuild our capabilities here, and how much technology sharing — and how quickly — we can convince our separate navies and our allies to put up with. You know there’s going to be heel-dragging and tantrum-throwing the minute I start suggesting anything like that!”


“I’m sure there will be.”


The two women looked at one another, and then, slowly, both of them began to smile.


“What the hell,” Elizabeth Winton said. “I’ve always liked a challenge.”


She extended her hand across the table.


Pritchart took it.


*   *   *


“You’re joking!”


Chairman Chyang Benton-Ramirez looked incredulously at Fedosei Mikulin and Jacques Benton-Ramirez y Chou. The three men sat face-to-face in the Chairman’s high-security private briefing room, buried under the roots of the West Tower of the Executive Building in downtown Columbia. Benton-Ramirez had been more than a little irked when Mikulin insisted on meeting in person, rather than com-conferencing. He had plenty of other things he could spend time doing besides hiking clear over here and then taking the lift shaft down five hundred meters, but Mikulin was his most trusted advisor. That was why in addition to his at-large directorship he was Commissioner of Central Intelligence for the Republic of Beowulf.


And why Benton-Ramirez had accepted his “invitation” to join him here despite the inconvenience.


Benton-Ramirez y Chou, Third Director at Large of the Planetary Board of Directors (and one of the Chairman’s cousins), on the other hand enjoyed a carefully ill-defined relationship with Central Intelligence. That was because he was also the Planetary Board’s unofficial (very unofficial) liaison to the Audubon Ballroom. It would never have done for the Board (or — especially! — its intelligence services) to admit overt contact with the Ballroom, even here on Beowulf. If anyone had wondered why, the way Manticore had been hammered over the Green Pines Incident made the reasons crystal clear. Despite which, everyone knew that contact existed, and most people were pretty sure Benton-Ramirez y Chou, as the ex-chairman and current vice-chairman of the Anti-Slavery League, did the contacting. It was one of those “don’t ask, don’t tell” situations, and the fact that the customarily aggressive Beowulfan newsies had never once asked the question said volumes about how Beowulf in general regarded the genetic slave trade.


That wasn’t why Benton-Ramirez y Chou was here today, though. No, he was here because another of the Chairman’s cousins was deeply involved in what Mikulin had just reported.


“I’m absolutely not joking, Chyang,” Mikulin said now. “I realize we’re not supposed to spy on our friends, but everyone does, and I doubt anyone in Manticore smart enough to seal his own shoes doesn’t know we do. Although, to be fair, I’m not sure how happy they’d be to find out just how highly placed some of our…assets actually are.”


“Your niece wouldn’t happen to be one of them, would she, Jacques?”


“No, she would not.” Benton-Ramirez y Chou’s voice was considerably colder than the one in which he normally addressed the Chairman. Benton-Ramirez y Chou was a small man, with dark hair and sandalwood skin. He also had almond eyes, which he shared with his sister…and his rather more famous (or infamous) niece. “And if I’d ever been stupid enough to ask her to become any such thing, she would have told me to piss up a rope,” he added succinctly.


“Oh, I doubt she would’ve put it that way,” Benton-Ramirez said with a chuckle which was oddly apologetic. “I’m sure Duchess Harrington would have been considerably less, um, earthy.”


“Not if I’d asked her to spy on Elizabeth, she wouldn’t have been,” Benton-Ramirez y Chou smiled tartly. “In fact, what she’d probably have done is rip off my head for a soccer ball!”


“All right, point taken,” the Chairman acknowledged. “But I assume from what you’re telling me, Fedosei, that whoever our informant is, we can place significant confidence in this report?”


“Yes,” Mikulin said flatly.


“Damn.” Benton-Ramirez shook his head. “I know we were hoping they’d at least stop shooting at each other, especially after we warned both of them Filareta was coming, but I never expected this!


“None of us did,” Mikulin agreed. “But, to be honest, the fact that Elizabeth and Pritchart have decided to bury the hatchet is actually a hell of a lot less important than the reason they decided to bury it.”


There was something very odd about his voice, and the Chairman glanced at Benton-Ramirez y Chou. The other man’s expression was an interesting mix of agreement and something that looked like lingering shock, all backed by a white-hot, blazing fury. Despite the self-control he’d learned over the decades, Jacques Benton-Ramierz y Chou had always been a passionate man, yet Benton-Ramirez was more than a little taken aback by the deadly glitter in those dark-brown eyes.


“What do you mean?” The Chairman sat back, eyes narrowed. The fact that Eloise Pritchart had gone unannounced to the Manticore Binary System and apparently agreed to some sort of alliance against the Solarian League, especially after how savagely the Star Empire had been weakened, struck him as one of the more fundamental power shifts in the history of mankind. So if Mikulin found something else even more significant…


“I think the notion of a Manticore-Haven military alliance is going to be interesting enough to the rest of the universe, Fedosei,” he observed.


“I’m sure it is,” Mikulin said grimly, “but what’s even more ‘interesting’ to me — and to the rest of Beowulf, I’m pretty damn sure — is that the reason Pritchart made this trip to Manticore is that Zilwicki and Cachat have resurfaced. And it turns out that where they’ve been all this time was either on the planet Mesa or on their way back from it.”


Benton-Ramirez’s narrowed eyes widened, and Mikulin shrugged.


“We only have very a preliminary report at this point, Chyang,” he pointed out, “and our source hasn’t been able to give us everything. Or even come close to everything, for that matter. But from the little bit we do have, it seems Zilwicki and Cachat were in Green Pines — both of them were there, together — about the time the explosions went off. And it sounds like they were involved, albeit peripherally, as well. Hopefully we’ll have better intelligence on that pretty soon, but the key point is that they brought out a Mesan with them, and the Mesan in question is providing all kinds of information. Information that, frankly, contradicts almost everything we’ve thought we knew about Mesa.”


“I beg your pardon?”


Benton-Ramirez’ tone sounded preposterously calm, but it wasn’t really his fault. It was simply that no one could process information like that without the equivalent of a massive mental hiccup. If there was a single star system in the entire galaxy upon which Beowulfan intelligence had expended more effort than Mesa, or about which it was better informed, he couldn’t imagine which one it might be. Ever since Leonard Detweiler and his malcontents had relocated to Mesa, the system had been Beowulf’s dark twin. The source of one of the galaxy’s most malignant cancers, and the undying shame of the society from which its founders had sprung.


The possibility of errors in Beowulf’s intelligence appreciations of Mesa was one thing. In fact, Benton-Ramirez had always assumed there had to be such errors, since Mesa was painfully well aware of Beowulf’s interest in it and had always taken steps to blunt Central Intelligence’s operations there. But Mikulin clearly wasn’t suggesting mere “errors” — not in that tone of voice, or with that expression.


“If what we’ve heard so far is any indication, most of what we thought we knew about Mesa isn’t just mistaken, it’s a deliberate fabrication on Mesa’s part,” Mikulin said now, his voice harsh. “I’m not ready to sign off on the reliability of what we’re hearing at this point. To be honest, there’s a big part of me that doesn’t want to admit even the possibility that we might have been that far off, and the meeting between Elizabeth and Pritchart took place less than forty hours ago. All of this is still pretty damned preliminary, and God only knows how many holes there could be in it. But, assuming there’s any validity to it at all, Mesa’s had its own plans — plans that go a hell of a lot deeper than just making money off the genetic slave trade or even rubbing our collective nose in how much contempt they have for the Beowulf Code — literally for centuries. Not only that, but the Manties have been right all along in saying it’s behind what’s been happening in Talbott and the Yawata Strike, as well. And not just because Talbott brought the Star Empire’s borders too close to the Mesa System, either. Apparently, they’ve got plans of their own where the entire human race is involved, and I think we can be pretty sure that if they had plans for the Star Empire and the Republic of Haven, they’ve got to have a page or two for dealing with us, as well.”


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34 Responses to A Rising Thunder – Snippet 32

  1. Stewart says:

    Can you say “Beowulf, there really is a Grindel”

  2. John Roth says:

    And watch the ripples spread.

    And notice where Honor’s connected to the Beowulf hierarchy.

  3. B Taylor says:

    Man, Beowulf has some good spies. Things are getting very interesting. Such fun!

  4. Mike says:

    It’s actually a lot easier to have very highly placed spies with your allies than with your enemies.

  5. Zathras says:

    I wonder if the spys have been maintained by Manticore with a nudge and a wink, to allow such an unoficial channel.

  6. Wolf says:

    @5, some probably are after all that sub rosa route was how Beowulf let manticore know that Filareta was on the way. But not all since the allies of today can be the enemies of tomorrow some if not most of their operatives are there to spy well without getting caught. That allies can become enemies is surely a lesson Beowulf has learned from their own history: it has been stated how the old Republic of Haven and Beowulf were great allies in the past until the former began its slide into the People’s Republic and finally ended their friendship with the Technical Conservation Act.


  7. Daryl says:

    There are no such things as friendly foreign intelligence agencies. Intelligence agencies that belong to currently friendly foreign powers do exist.

  8. Maggie says:

    Well, there’s family, Family, and FAMILY.

  9. Robert H. Woodman says:

    I tried posting this earlier, and the post got lost in a computer crash. :-(

    I find it difficult to imagine that spies from any nation (friend or foe) can get that close to the Queen and to Honor without being found out by the treecats. Spying involves risk; risk affects emotions; treecats detect emotions and will pick up on unusual emotions in the people around the Queen and around Honor. Spying on the Queen — even for Beowulf — is treasonous activity. I do not understand how Beowulf can have spies that close to the Queen without the SEM government being aware of it. Sure, they may leave the spies in place (better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know), but it just seems improbable to me that the spies are not known.

    Also, who is spying for Beowulf? My first thought was MacGuinness, but I have more-or-less discarded that idea. DW has gone to great pains to show us his love for and loyalty to Honor and her family, so I doubt that he would spy for anyone, even Beowulf; however, it’s not out of the question. My next thought was one of the bodyguards, but they would be even less likely, as they would undergo regular security checks, lie detector tests, and background checks, plus regular rotations so that no one spy gets locked in place. But that leaves the question: who is spying for Beowulf? And why?

    Any thoughts on that?

  10. Dave o says:

    #9 Robert: The spy is a Manticoran. And it’s not HH. Beyond that, I don’t know who Queen Elizabeth brought with her, and so far as I recall, no names were given either in this book or in At All Costs. So I guess the spy will remain unknown unless Weber tells us. My guess is that it’s someone in the government, but that’s only a guess. Presumably the treecats haven’t reacted because whoever the spy is, he does nothing which damages Manticore’s interests.

  11. Robert H. Woodman says:

    @10 – Dave o

    But the treecats have been around 2-legs government long enough to know that 2-legs take a dim view of being spied upon, even as they engage in spying. Moreover, HH can now “taste” emotions like a ‘cat, and she hasn’t been shown to react. This puzzles me quite a bit.

  12. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Plus the treecats can only sense human emotions but not *why* somebody is feeling an emotion.

    In an earlier book, the treecats sensed the panic/fear of a Grayson traitor but had no way of knowing what caused the panic/fear so no action could be taken.

    The Beowulfian spy would likely be having the same emotions at this time as a regular Manticorian in his/her position.

    As for who it is, I suspect that he/she is a “lower level person” who has reasonable access to high level information.

  13. kenny says:

    Anti-assassination is not the same thing as anti spy, nor do I believe the Beowulf spy has been “altered,” which means treecats may not of picked up on it. Secondly as some else pointed out, the spy in question may not of giving a away anything which harms Manicorn interests. So he/she does not feel guilty.

  14. robert says:

    It may not be someone close to Elizabeth, but one of the Havenites who came with Pritchard. Then again, it may be someone close to Honor, but not Honor. I agree it is not Mac. On the other hand it may not be a real spy, but just someone who thinks that an extended family member should be aware of the situation. Ask, who has the information and who has the ability to send it to the powers that be on Beowulf? Was it sent while everyone was aboard HH’s flagship (doubtful) or after everyone (?) came back to Manticore, i.e., 40 hours post-handshake?

    As usual, we know nothing. We don’t comment, we speculate. It is fun, it is frustrating.

  15. Nikas says:

    Wait a minute. Niece? Dutchess Harrington? This wouldn’t happen to be Honor’s uncle in the SCA that got her interested in shooting old fashion pistols?

  16. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Nikas, it is that uncle.

  17. John Roth says:

    From the conversation, it’s someone on the Manticoran side, if only because someone on the Haven side had several weeks to get the information and get it into the pipeline. It might not have arrived much earlier because of communication delays, but it wouldn’t have included the military agreement.

    It doesn’t have to be anyone close to Elisabeth either. 40 hours is long enough for people to catch up on sleep, distribute the info to senior government and military officials, for them to talk to their trusted advisors and for the spy to get preliminary information onto a “news organization” dispatch boat.

    On the second hand, it’s got to be relatively highly placed, because Victor Cachet’s involvement by name has still got to be a state secret.

    On the gripping hand, those Haven super-dreadnaughts have to start coming through the terminus shortly, at which point the military alliance will be public knowledge, as well as some kind of story about why it happened.

  18. kenny says:

    Who has contacts with the ballroom, not to mention a husband deeply involved?

  19. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Kenny, if you’re thinking about Catherine Montaigne, I doubt it.

    While she may have contacts with people on Beowulf who support the Ballroom, I doubt that she would spy for Beowulf.

    For that matter, IMO she’d be a poor choice for a long-term Beowulfian spy.

    She’s only recently returned to Manticore and renewed her involvement in Manticorian politics.

    I don’t think this spy has a political position.

    You don’t want somebody as a spy who could lose access to high level governmental policies because of change in government.

  20. robert says:

    @19 Drak
    Some one who is not IN government but someone who is close to either Elizabeth, Honor or even Pritchard & Theisman.

  21. DKCWong says:

    If the spy is someone we haven’t meet yet, it will be interesting to discover his/her placement. Otherwise, if it’s someone Weber has mentioned, my eyes and head are going to hurt if I try to browse through the last few books in a vain attempt to determine a possible candidate. If the last few books weren’t so darn long I might attempt it anyway. But, I think I’ll save my eyes for this upcoming tome.

  22. Robert H. Woodman says:

    One possibility is that the spy is a long-time trusted servant. Servants aren’t really noticed unless they screw up something. It would be a servant who was originally from Beowulf or who has married into a Beowulfan family. Further, I suspect that this person is already KNOWN to be a spy for Beowulf but is left in place because he or she has quite useful purposes in conveying information back to Beowulf.

    Another possibility is that the spy is a military aide to the Queen.

    It’s fun to speculate. Do you think that DW will unmask the spy in this book or in a future book?

  23. Richard says:

    Benton-Ramirez is the twin brother of Honor’s mother. Could she be passing information to her brother.

  24. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Richard, I think that’s very unlikely.

    In anycase, Honor’s mom likely isn’t in the loop for this information.

  25. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Additional thought Richard. The spy has to be in a position to know high-level knowledge. Honor’s mom hasn’t been in such a position.

  26. Richard says:

    Honor talks with mom, Mom shares with brother.

  27. Robert H. Woodman says:

    Richard, what we’ve seen in the past is that Honor is scrupulous about not discussing military information with her mother. Plus, Alison Harrington is married to a retired Manticoran naval officer and is the mother of very high-ranking Manticoran naval officer. She’s knows that she’s not going to hear anything she’s not supposed to hear.

    More likely candidates for the Beowulf spy are the major domo, the valet, the doorman, one of the cooks, and so forth.

  28. Zathras says:

    @22. I would take it a step further. The servant was exposed to the information because they know he/she is a spy. I think the queen beleives war is inevitable, but she has a duty to try and resolve the situation without further bloodshed. She may even belive she has a greater duty to avoid war now, as compared to before, as the SL has been duped too. Passing the information on may help to expose the rot in the the SL that allowed Mensa to manipulate them too. I know we won’t see a ME/RH/SL alliance (that would make this the last book, and rather short at that), but it is the queens duty to strive for such an outcome. If she does not, 2.8m people are going to die in the next battle for a) having a government fall for the plans of another, and b) having a government who, given the information in a) still proceeded with the attack.

  29. Zathras says:

    Yes, beowulf is not the SL, but passing the information on could be the fist step in avoiding war. It is likely that the SL government would not belive such information, so there may be an oblique approach.

  30. JeffM says:

    See, what I find interesting is that Manticore has an embargo on ships going through that wormhole (aside from newsies and diplomatic couriers)…put that in your pipe and smoke it (if someone hasn’t caught onto it already). :)

  31. JeffM says:

    Oh yeah…

    “Apparently, they’ve got plans of their own where the entire human race is involved, and I think we can be pretty sure that if they had plans for the Star Empire and the Republic of Haven, they’ve got to have a page or two for dealing with us, as well.”

    Guess what a certain Andermani emperor is going to be thinking as well?

  32. John Roth says:

    @31 JeffM

    Especially since that suicide attack used the Mesan assassination weapon. I suspect Gustav will look on it as an opportunity to conquer a couple of nearby Frontier Security sectors, assuming there are any close enough.

    Although I think that, compared to the Ballroom’s response when they discover that Manpower was merely a sock puppet to distract everyone from their real plan, everyone else is going to look like a model of civilized restraint. Although I don’t know if that is part of Simoes’ information.

  33. robert says:

    @32 John, I think from the conversation on Beowulf where it was said that everything they thought they knew about Mesa was wrong, you can assume that Simoes’ information included, at the very least, an outline of the Alignment’s structure and the smoke and mirrors that is Mesa/Manpower.

    Does Beowulf have high level sources in the SLN? They must, having passed the info on Filareta to Manticore and Haven. And the conduit that they used to pass that info may be the conduit that passed the Alliance info back to Beowulf. So who is it?

  34. JeffM says:

    @33. Robert, I think that you’re missing something. The “backdoor”. is an official “unofficial” channel between the two star…nations, to use a traditional term. Indeed. the Beowulfians have referred to that back door as such in recent dialogue. In this case, however, “the spies” are referring to A SPY (I miss italics) rather than “THE back door”. My impression is that there is a distinction between the two.

    I am sure that Beowulf will soon be getting an “Official” unofficial back door message, the problem is that after only forty hours, the anties are still assimilating the new paradigm themselves…

    The other thing that surprises me that no one has addressed is that this message has effectively awakened the sleeping bear that is Beowulf, with raging fire in it’s eye–perhaps in time for them to do something about it.

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