The Span Of Empire – Snippet 25

The Span Of Empire – Snippet 25

Chapter 13

Caitlin hadn’t expected to have the search strategy meeting right away, but in the event it took over a week before she could gather all the people together she wanted. When she groused to Ed about it, he just laughed.

“Be glad you’re getting them that soon,” he said. “I’ve learned more about ships and supplies than I ever wanted to know since I took the base commander’s job. I shoulda joined the Navy. But the base is only partly functional, so the ships’ crews are doing a lot of the loading and unloading of supplies. Even Tully’s troops are having to bear a hand for this. And the ships’ officers need to be available while that is going on, especially on the ships that need repairs.”

“Speaking of repairs,” Caitlin began.

“You’re going to lose the Vercingetorix,” Ed said.


“She just needs too much work that we can’t do here.” Ed continued. “In another year or so we’ll have a shipyard that could service her, even as banged up as she is. Now, the best thing to do is ship her off to Earth.”

“Isn’t one of the Jao worlds closer?”

“Yeah,” Ed replied. “But that ship is a bastard mix of Jao and Terran designs and technologies. There’s no Jao yard that could handle her, even if they would. No, the Ricky will head for Earth as soon as they put a little more spit and super tape on her. Hopefully they’ve got something they can send to replace her.”

“Yeah, for once that Jao time sense could come in handy,” Caitlin quipped.

When the meeting finally happened, Caitlin decided to follow Jao flow patterns by letting the attendees enter the big conference room before she came in preceded by her primary body guards Tamt and Caewithe and her husband.

Only to the humans would it possibly have seemed strange that Ed Kralik was at the table for what was Caitlin’s meeting. To the Jao, the fact that he was Caitlin’s husband was immaterial. What mattered to them was he was the commander of Ares Base, and not incidentally and perhaps even more importantly, he was in the service of Aille krinnu ava Terra, governor of Terra and first kochan-father of Terra taif. In every way but one the base commander was the political and social equal of his wife. So he sat at the table by right.

The one way in which Ed was subordinate to Caitlin was the same reason she had been the one to call the meeting and why she entered the room last in the Jao manner: she alone had oudh over the search effort. Crusade might be a better word for it. But effort or crusade, regardless of what it was called, she alone was the leader, reporting directly to Preceptor Ronz, member of the strategy circle of the Jao Bond of Ebezon, the organization that stood as parent kochan to the cubling Terra taif. In this she perhaps even surpassed her service to Aille.

Caitlin suppressed those thoughts, along with an attendant shiver, as she took her seat between Ed and Wrot. She looked around the room. All the fleet’s senior officers were there, including Tully and his executive officer and first sergeant. There were a few additional people in the room from the base staff: a senior Lleix elder named Narso from the Starsifters elian sat flanked by Brakan and Matto of the fleet’s staff, and another elder named Gram was seated with Ramt of Ekhatlore. Pyr and Lim sat for Terralore, ignored by the Starsifters and somewhat acknowledged by Ekhatlore. Caitlin made a mental note that their plans for the integration of the members of the Lleix dochaya ghetto-class into mainstream Lleix society seemed to be lagging behind their integration into human/Jao society. If the Lleix elders weren’t careful, they were going to lose them. The liberated dochaya members would assimilate into the Terra taif and leave the skeleton of Lleix society behind them.

She set that thought aside, with a note to return to it later, and tapped her finger on the table. The low murmur of side conversations halted, and everyone looked her way.

“In the absence of a directive from the Bond of Ebezon,” Caitlin began, “we will continue with the search.”

Heads nodded, and postures of willing assent were seen all around the room.

“But the efforts of the last two years have almost conclusively proven that we will not fulfill our search here in the Orion Arm.”

She looked around the room to drive home her next point.

“I have oudh over this. I have decided. We will not continue our search here in the Orion arm. We will go elsewhere.”

Silence. No one spoke, although Jao after Jao adopted obedience to directives as their posture.

“In our last meeting, it was proposed that the search move to the Sagittarius Arm.” Caitlin turned to the Starsifters. “You said that you would provide information as to possible Frame Jump paths between the two arms.” She sat back in her seat and crossed her arms, visibly turning the focus of the meeting to the Lleix.

Narso, the base Starsifter elder, needed no further encouragement. He stood to speak, and his aureole flared to its greatest extent.

“We have gathered all information from Lleix records and Terra taif databases and mapped three possible routes,” he began. He gestured to Matto, who ran his fingers across a com pad. A holographic projection flared into view above the table with three different colored lines snaking between bands of stars that were obviously the Orion and Sagittarius Arms, and had labels to validate that assumption.

“They all share one common step,” Narso continued as a ring appeared around the point at which the lines diverged. “The first sun outward is what Terrans call a Class M7 star. It is a red giant, which ordinarily would be a good target star for this kind of Framepoint jump, because the photosphere would be somewhat tenuous. However, this particular star is also a variable star of the IS class by the humans. Unfortunately, there are insufficient astrographical records available from Jao, Lleix, or Terrans to reliably determine its pulsation period or its pulsation extremes. And there is enough interstellar dust between us to interfere with precise observations. In short, we are not certain just how regular or irregular its symmetry becomes.”

Caitlin noted that most of the Jao in the room had shifted to angles indicating concern, unease, or even in a couple of cases, alarm. She shifted her own position to confidence in adversity. “I am not an astronomer, Elder Narso,” she said. “Explain this in common language I can understand, please.”

Narso’s aureole fluttered. “That will not be very precise, Director.”

“I can live with that,” Caitlin said. “Continue.”


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20 Responses to The Span Of Empire – Snippet 25

  1. VernonNemitz says:

    The answer to lack of data about a star is a “survey ship”. Specially constructed to get out of a star if it happens to arrive unusually far from the main light-emitting surface.

  2. Andy says:

    What I don’t quite understand is how this expedition is able to “explore” anything at all. The Jao and Lleix have millenia of space travel behind them. The Jao may even have data from the Ekhat, who should have done even more exploration.

    One explanation would be that Earth is on one extreme end of Jao/Ekhat explored space, so naturally there is at least one direction with no Ekhat but potential allies. Or the Jao consider exploration foolish “ollnat”, but that seems exceedingly stubborn even for Jao, who after all, occasionally form new Kochan needing new planets, and discovered Earth before the Ekhat did.

    • Nico de Lange says:

      Quite frankly, the Orion arm contains literally tens of millions of stars, and is about a thousand or so light years in diameter. What are the chances that even during the entire spacefaring history of the Ekhat that species would have managed to explore that entire, unimaginably massive volume of space?

      In terms of territory, remember that we’re not talking about a two-dimensional surface.

      I imagine that Earth happens to be located in a fairly poorly-explored pocket of space along the frontier between the Jao and Ekhat, and that it was our own radio broadcasts that ultimately gave away our location to the Jao and just slightly later the Ekhat. So, Earth would be about a hundred or so light years from the more well-travelled regions of Jao space and slightly further from Ekhat space.

      Apparently the Jao’s assumption that the area of space which the expedition first explored had not as yet been infiltrated by the Ekhat, was wrong.

      • David says:

        More or less what Nico said.

        Plus, we don’t know how much space the Ekhat fully control. We have no idea how far toward center they have established dominance in the Orion arm. And we don’t know (yet) how the four factions/species deal with each other in the area that is well behind the actual front line of their conquests/destructions. They are not monolithic in either culture or politics.

        We don’t (although some people seem to assume so) even have the assurance that the Ekhat and the Jao are even in rough parity with each other. Eric hasn’t told us that. The fact that we haven’t seen overwhelming numbers to date doesn’t mean they might not be available.

        Someone brought up some time back that there might still be Jao serving the Ekhat. Possible. But if true, we don’t know where, or how many.

        This universe isn’t nearly as cut and dried as some of the recent discussion has implied. :-)

        • Andy says:

          The Jao were “created” by the Ekhat, and broke free, so their original territory must have been inside Ekhat explored/held space. It would make sense that the Ekhat expand their territory continuously, and the Jao have to keep on the edge of this sphere, holding the Ekhat advance as long as they can, then move on.

          This also explains why Jao stumbled upon earth first, and Ekhat second. I had the impression that the Ekhat have large numbers, but are distributed very thinly. So when a region turns into a black hole first for exploration vessels and then for whole Ekhat fleets, like Earth, or other Jao worlds, they continuously send bigger fleets, but that process needs time, during which the Jao hope to earn resources from those world to build their might.

      • Andy says:

        My point is not that there can’t be any stars left to explore, but rather the travel time.

        Considering the Jao discovered earth some years ago, and given the investment in doing so, they should have taken the elimentary precaution of exploring beyond. But this expedition seems to have explored new stars right from the beginning, without first traveling a year or so in one direction.

  3. David says:

    And the earc edition of Span of Empire just went up on Baen’s website.

    • Jeff Ehlers says:

      Does that mean the snippets will be coming to a close before long?

      • Drak Bibliophile says:

        Snippets will continue until Sept 7th as that’s when the dead-tree edition & the final e-book edition will be available.

      • Positroll says:

        Jeff: If you want to read on but don’t want to spend the money on the Earc, just look at the sample chapters on Baen – they go way further than the snippets

        • Jeff Ehlers says:

          Appreciate the suggestion, but if I read the sample chapters now, I’ll end up not being interested enough in the snippets to continue following them.

          • David says:

            Sample chapters aren’t up yet, probably won’t be for at least 6-8 weeks.

            • AG says:

              The sample chapters are up for the eARC.

              If you go to the page for the monthly bundle, no, they aren’t up there yet.

              If you click on the eARC link they are. Up to chapter 25.

              I checked this without logging in. And, yes, I bought the eARC.

    • Positroll says:

      1. Too short. As all good books are …


      2. Compared to all the battles we had so far and the relation of forces (BB vs Ekhat ships), the Ekhat ships appearing later seem way harder to defeat despite being described as a hodge podge of run of the mill ships, including lots of old stuff.

      3. According to the diverse after-words, you can’t use another species frame network. So how can the Ekhat travel that quickly to follow humans that fast? How can they even get to the final destination without braving the same dangerous bottleneck that is discussed in this snippet? Given that Ekhat drives / mass ratio is worse, that alone should be a formidable obstacle and kill their ships in droves. But unless I read too fast, that seems to be no real problem for the Ekhat …

      4. Were you inspired by Game of Thrones or did Eric Flint just decide to make use of his main characters by offing them ?? Oh boy …

      • David says:

        Not going to discuss spoilers in this forum. Email me if you want to discuss.

      • Bibliotheca Servare says:

        Are you bloody kidding me?! There’s spoilers, then there’s “oh, and did you get the idea to kill all the main characters from GoT/ASoIaF?” …come *on* man! Now I’m half-afraid to buy the damn thing, because if Tully dies, or Wrot, or Kaln, or…crap… *tears out hair in chunks* *scowls murderously*

        • David says:


          Since the book has now been out for several days, I decided to circle back and address Positroll’s comment a little bit, at which point I discovered Bibliotheca Servare’s response.

          While I do agree that the original comment was more than should have been said at the time, and while I do sympathize with Bibliotheca Servare’s feelings, it’s not that extreme.

          Yes, two of the major secondary characters are lost.

          No, it wasn’t done gratuitously or to satisfy GRRM-envy.

          It was done because the nature of the final climax required a major sacrifice for the climax to reach its peak. It was a conscious choice on my part in drafting the first draft, and while Eric told me later he wouldn’t have done it that way if he had written the story, he let it stand, so he didn’t object to it very strongly.

  4. cka2nd says:

    “Even Tully‚Äôs troops are having to bear a hand for this.” I think “lend a hand” makes more sense here; I’ve never actually read the phrase “bear a hand” before.

    Very interesting thoughts Caitlin is having about Lleix society. I look forward to her developing them.

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