A Call To Vengeance – Snippet 05

A Call To Vengeance – Snippet 05


“We’ve managed to refine the original data now that they’re moving in-system,” First Lord of the Admiralty Admiral (ret) Thomas P. Cazenestro said as king Edward settled himself into his chair in the underground War Room. “No identification yet, but they’ve been in n-space for about eleven and a half minutes. They’re definitely headed for Manticore and there are definitely nine of them, but they’re only up to about five hundred and forty KPS and they’re still over a hundred and ninety million klicks out. Everything we’ve got is scrambling to get underway, but for the moment, Admiral Locatelli has approved Rear Admiral Eigen’s decision to hold Aegis Force in orbit until he’s reinforced with whatever can get underway.”

“Locatelli’s still on his inspection tour of Thorson, I assume?” Edward asked.

Cazenestro nodded. “And he’s not happy about being stuck there,” he said. “But there’s no way to get him out to join Eigen, and at least Excellent gives him good communications facilities.”

“Yes,” Edward said. And with everything spread to hell and gone around the system, that might be critical.

“Whoever these people are,” Cazenestro continued, “they’re holding their acceleration down to about eighty gravities, so we’ve got some time. Assuming they want a zero-zero intercept with the planet and maintain that accel, it’ll take them over four hours just to reach turnover.”

Edward nodded, feeling an unpleasant tingle as his hands gripped the chair’s armrests. He’d held those same armrests barely three weeks ago as he watched the Manticoran forces fight their desperate battle for the Star Kingdom’s survival.

As he’d watched his only son die.

He’d managed to mostly shove his feelings into the back corners of his mind since then. There’d been so much death and destruction that it almost seemed that everyone on Manticore had lost at least one friend or family member. They hadn’t, of course; the Navy was too small, too understrength, for that depth of personal loss to touch all of his subjects. But in a sense, all of Manticore’s dead belonged to all of her people, and Edward, as King, needed to keep his grief at the national level and not allow his private sorrow to take precedence.

His advisers had assured him that the people would understand if he took some time away for private mourning. But while Edward appreciated that, he also appreciated his duty.

A king’s life is not his own. Edward’s father Michael had reminded him of that four years ago, on the day he’d abdicated in Edward’s favor.

Michael could mourn his grandson. Edward’s daughter Sophie could mourn her brother, Queen Consort Cynthia could mourn her son, and Edward’s half-sister Elizabeth could likewise mourn her nephew. But Edward couldn’t mourn his son. Not as deeply as he wanted to. Not yet.

And now, maybe not ever.

* * *

“The irony is that Clegg wasn’t supposed to be in Vanguard in the first place,” Lisa said as Chomps blazed their air car through Landing traffic.

Well above the speed limit, of course, and with complete disregard for normal traffic flow regulations. Travis winced with each veering pass; but for once, of course, there was good reason for it.

“She wasn’t?” he asked, to take his mind off Chomps’s driving.

“No, she was actually in line to be Locatelli’s flag captain aboard Invincible,” Lisa said. Maybe she was trying to keep her mind off Chomps’s driving, too. “Only she didn’t get it.”

“Why not? What happened?”

“Secour happened,” Lisa said. “After Metzger’s performance there, Locatelli pulled strings to push her up the list and give her the gold star for Invincible.”

“I imagine Clegg was annoyed.”

“I believe the word is pissed, Sir,” Chomps called over his shoulder.

“Officers don’t get pissed, Townsend,” Lisa admonished him. “Women don’t sweat, either — we glow.”

“I stand corrected, Ma’am.”

“Actually, I don’t know that she was annoyed,” Lisa continued. “From what I’ve heard, she was more frustrated that she was supervising Vanguard’s refit during the battle and didn’t get to join the fight.”

“She may be about to get a chance,” Travis said grimly.

“My point exactly,” Lisa agreed. “Hence, the irony. Hold on.” She raised her uni-link. “Donnelly.” She listened a few seconds — “Acknowledged, Sir,” she said. “He’s right here — I’ll bring him on my shuttle…Yes, Sir.”

She keyed off.

“You’re in,” she said. “Your orders will be waiting at the shuttle.”

Travis nodded. I wanted this, he reminded himself. I didn’t want to just sit on the ground and watch. So instead of watching from the sidelines he was going to head back into battle.

But then, that was what he’d signed up for when he put on the uniform.

“Thank you, Ma’am.”

“Don’t thank me yet,” Lisa warned. “With only one functional launch tube, we’ll be going into whatever’s about to happen with one hand tied behind our backs.” She reached over and squeezed his hand. “But whatever we’ve got, I’m sure you’ll come up with some clever way to use it.”

Travis swallowed.

“Yes, Ma’am. I’ll do my best.”

* * *

Llyn’s tactical repeater remained singularly barren of useful information and he frowned thoughtfully.

There were a lot of civilian transponders in detection range — well, a lot for a star system this far out in the back of beyond, anyway. But not a single military ID.

Which wasn’t necessarily worrisome. Admiral Cutler Gensonne, who should be the current master of this system, couldn’t be certain who any newcomers might be. He knew the schedule, but schedules were prone to slippage over interstellar distances, and it probably made sense for him to be wary, at least until the newcomers’ identities could be confirmed. Llyn understood that.

In fact, if he was surprised by anything, it was the fact that Gensonne was taking sensible precautions. That wasn’t something he normally associated with the Volsungs’ commanding officer.

* * *

“Still no ID, Sir,” Commander Bertinelli’s voice rumbled over the speaker from CIC. “May I remind the Admiral that Bogey One has now been accelerating in-system for over fifteen minutes? That’s more than sufficient time to bring his transponders online.”

Seated at her station, Captain Clegg winced. As usual, Bertinelli’s tone was correct enough, but she was pretty sure Admiral Eigen could hear the impatience under the words.

That was a problem, and not one that seemed likely to go away any time soon. Eigen needed to be publicly oblivious to tensions within his flagship’s internal chain of command, Clegg knew, but he’d made it subtly clear to her that he wished she handled people a little better.

He probably had a point. Clegg had never had a high tolerance for fools, and seldom bothered to go out of her way to hide that fact.

Though after just three weeks commanding Aegis Force, it was likely that Eigen had independently come to the conclusion that Bertinelli did indeed fit that category. The man clearly believed Vanguard’s bridge was his rightful domain, and just as clearly resented having been banished to the Combat Information Center.

Clegg couldn’t decide whether that was because Bertinelli opposed change simply on general principles or because it deprived him of his opportunity to shine directly under his new squadron CO’s eye. Neither one spoke very well for him, though.

“Thank you, Commander,” Admiral Eigen said calmly. “I was aware of the time.”

“Yes, Sir.”

Clegg winced again. Set up, smack down, and Bertinelli probably hadn’t even noticed.

Still, she couldn’t help wondering if she might have short-circuited some of this if she’d explained her thinking to her senior officers when she overhauled the arrangement of their battle stations. The unexpected test of the recent attack had demonstrated that the RMN’s practice of concentrating all the senior officers on the bridge was potentially a disaster waiting to happen. The carnage of actual combat had demonstrated the need to separate a ship’s senior officers as widely as possible to ensure that someone survived to exercise command if the bridge was hit.

Eigen had expressed his own approval of her analysis and solution, and had assured her that the rest of the Navy would eventually come to the same conclusion. So far, it hadn’t. Even more unfortunately, neither had Bertinelli.

The man was overdue for a little career counseling. But now was neither the time nor the place for that.

“Force readiness, Captain?” Eigen asked.

“The Squadron is closed up at battle stations, Sir,” Clegg reported formally, turning to face him. “Impellers are at full readiness.”

“Good.” Eigen smiled bleakly. “I’m sure our visitors will be suitably surprised when we bring up our wedges and turn on our transponders.”

For a moment Clegg wondered if his last four words were an implied criticism of her decision to keep Aegis Force’s transponders locked down when they went to Readiness Two instead of bringing them up, as the Book mandated. She opened her mouth to explain —

“Surprise is always a wonderful thing to have,” the admiral added. “What’s the flagship’s status?”

So he did understand. Good. “As ready as we can be, Sir,” she said. “We only have eleven missiles, and Laser One has some intermittent faults that the techs are still chasing down. On the plus side, the energy torpedo launchers seem to be functioning perfectly.”

“Should we ever find ourselves close enough to use them.”

“Yes, Sir. There’s that,” Clegg conceded.

“Still, it does happen, doesn’t it?” Eigen continued, with another, less bleak smile.

“Yes, Sir. It does,” Clegg said, and smiled back.

During her slow rise up the ladder, she’d had more than one discussion with her fellow junior officers about the relative value of missiles, lasers, and energy torpedoes. Most of those fellows had endorsed the received wisdom of “best practice” navies like the Solarian League that the missile was the decisive weapon. Not even a capital ship, like Vanguard, was likely to survive a single direct missile hit, and even a close near miss could result in a mission-kill. Of course, missiles could at least theoretically be intercepted or evaded, but it still took only a single hit, which could be achieved well before the opponents entered energy range.


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19 Responses to A Call To Vengeance – Snippet 05

  1. Lyttenburgh says:

    OK, can someone explain one thing to me? The original first half of the Honorverse series (Books 1-9) were supposed to be “Hornblower in SPAAAACE”. Books after that – “Jack Ryan in SPAAACE”. What this new prequel trilogy (Manticore Ascendant) is supposed to reference?

    • Bob G says:

      I thought _this_ was Jack Ryan in SPAAACE?

    • Terranovan says:

      I don’t know about you, Lyttenburgh, but nobody told me that these books were “supposed” to be ANYTHING. (The Manticore Ascendant books, that is. No argument from me about the Honorverse starting out as a retelling of the Horatio Hornblower series.) Or that they were referencing anything but themselves.

      • Lyttenburgh says:

        “Or that they were referencing anything but themselves.”

        You understand then, that – if true – this means they should be reviewed on the basis of being truly independent works of the sci-fi genre? With everything that entails, naturally.

  2. Gary D says:

    Other than a damm good story. You could put that Hornblower in space on many of the military SiFi . Been reading SiFi for 50+ years a good story trumps a tech correct story IMHO.

  3. donny says:

    The Manticore books may have been inspired by the Hornblower series, but they owe nothing to them in plot or characters. Sea stories are a genre of their own, more popular in Britain than the US. See Patrick O’Brian and many older writers.

    • Lyttenburgh says:

      “The Manticore books may have been inspired by the Hornblower series, but they owe nothing to them in plot or characters

      Oh, really? ;)

      “Sea stories are a genre of their own, more popular in Britain than the US. See Patrick O’Brian and many older writers”

      1) Which makes them thoroughly second-hand, “referential” and all that jazz. I’m not saying this is bad or you can’t enjoy them – I’m saying this makes them second-hand.

      2) Now, everybody knows that RCN series by David Drake are “Aubrey-Maturin IN SPAAAACE!”

      • donny says:

        “Oh, really?”
        An interesting claim. What evidence do you have to support it.
        Specifics please

        2) Now, everybody knows that RCN series by David Drake are “Aubrey-Maturin IN SPAAAACE!”An interesting claim.

        Who cares what Drake rights?

        • Lyttenburgh says:

          “An interesting claim. What evidence do you have to support it.

          Specifics please”

          I’m glad to oblige, donny! From the TvTropes page of the series:

          “In the same way that Honor Harrington is Horatio Hornblower IN SPACE!, the RCN books are Aubrey-Maturin IN SPACE!, with Daniel Leary in the role of Jack Aubrey and Adele Mundy as Stephen Maturin (only with her being the ship’s comms officer rather than its surgeon).

          “From the author’s note from The Way to Glory, fourth book in the series: “The general political background of the RCN series is that of Europe in the mid-eighteenth century, with admixtures of late-Republican Rome. (There’s a surprising degree of congruence between British and Roman society in those periods.)”

          And from the Wikipedia’s page of the series:

          “The RCN Series[1] (also known as the Lt. Leary series) is a sequence of stand-alone science fiction novels by David Drake. They center around Daniel Leary, an officer in the Republic of Cinnabar Navy (RCN), and Adele Mundy, a librarian and spy. Drake has described it as “an SF version of the Aubrey/Maturin series” by Patrick O’Brian.

  4. Mr Squid says:


    You seem to miss a key component of writing as a career.

    The primary question is always going to be:

    Can the publisher sell a given book or books?

    Just about the only time in fiction publication that you can enforce a literary model on a given series or section of a series, is when you are paying all of the printing, shipping and storage fees yourself.

    Otherwise it always comes down to the judgment call of the publishing professional who is evaluating or editing it.

    Presenting academically or culturally correct, however overly pedantic observations about changes from accepted norms/themes or historical fact, does you and us NO good when we are looking at a work of FICTION that was written by a very successful author whose success is a good indicator that the book buying public wants what he or she is writing.

    Can you take a moment and think about that?

    Some of your comments indicate a reader who actually gives a damn about improving the story. Trying to do so here with comments about excerpts of manuscripts that are essentially final is a waste of your time.

    It is clear that you have a brain that works.

    How about applying that effort where it may be effective and not wasted?

    Have you thought about offering to be a beta tester/reader to the author(s)?

    You need to approach them directly, not critique details in a forum that they generally do not read.

    As a side note, I fully understand your frustration over some of the technical/historical errors you see in speculative fiction these days. My own language skills and history background cringe at some of the assertions and presentations of fact or personality I have read over the years. Where I could, I addressed them with the author or reminded myself: “His book, his rules AND it is clearly marked as fiction. Let it go.”

    • Terranovan says:

      I think that Lyttenburgh wants to incite an uprising among the readers against the authors and force them to rewrite the books. In which case, it’s backfiring as regards me – I’m considering buying a copy of 1637: The Volga Rules just to spite him. Although to judge from the free samples we’re getting here, it’s worth it just for the entertaining story.

      • Lyttenburgh says:

        “I think that Lyttenburgh wants to incite an uprising among the readers against the authors and force them to rewrite the books.”


        You think wrong. But your paranoid comment is hilarious, I grant you this :)

        “In which case, it’s backfiring as regards me – I’m considering buying a copy of 1637: The Volga Rules just to spite him”

        Watch out in your devotion to spite me, Terranovan! I’m a known opponent of inflicting harm on yourself and also against jumping off the cliffs!

      • Obelix says:

        … no don’t think so. I like the 163x series, and Eric Flint has tried to keep it at least somewhat realistic, but for Russia, (while the “Datcha” story was ok) the Volga rules is simply ridiculous. The story is simply so far away from realistic that – in the frame of 163x – I cannot stomach it anymore.

    • Lyttenburgh says:

      “Can you take a moment and think about that?”

      No, I want YOU to take a moment and think about what YOU imply, You imply, that the target audience are omnivorous idiots, who can’t make right from wrong. You are referencing the lowest denominator possible. Are you saying that the books could be only judged on the amount of copies sold, that these really describes the art? But what about future – could you say that these series would “age well” and remain popular through ages? More so – can anyone in their right mind deny that there is Good and Bad art, done either Masterfully or Awful?

      “Some of your comments indicate a reader who actually gives a damn about improving the story. Trying to do so here with comments about excerpts of manuscripts that are essentially final is a waste of your time.”

      Yup. These books were “in the queue” to be published for years probably. Which makes me wonder – what, no one in the intervening years took their time to re-read and re-evaluate the thing? What does it tell us about the “meh, don’t care!” attitude of the publishers, who simply think that already “hooked” target readership gonna swallow any half-baked product?

      I can’t do anything with this particular book, true. But I can, at least, raise the alarm of this (mal)practice, and to warn for the future. Or, what, the esteemed authors and publishers won’t take notice of my Cassandra’s warnings till their whole edifice will be on fire?

      “Have you thought about offering to be a beta tester/reader to the author(s)?”

      That’s interesting suggestion. But – how? How one cane become one? Don’t they have said “beta-readers” already? If no, why would they want to have them now? If yes, well, they are either ignored or doing a sloppy job.

      But, yes, I‘d really like to see improvements in the series that I like so much and deeply care about, the series I’ve been reading for years now. Sure, I can attempt that – but what makes you think in that case of me trying to “approach” them (on-line!), they won’t just delete my messages as spam? What’s the established norm for this type of things?

      P.S. Thank you for your civil comment, Mr Squid. I appreciate that.

      • Obelix says:

        The age of “immortal” books is probably over. Everybody drowns in hundreds of thousands of books. The tempo of societal change is currently is till increasing, I think, but at a minimum, thanks to Apple, Samsung et al, the distractions have multiplied.
        Some of the old Classics are still surviving, but I think in a few decades, the best they can do is hang on by the skin of their teeth.

        There will always be people who will enjoy a good read, but finding the gems will be far harder than even 30 years ago.

        • Lyttenburgh says:

          “There will always be people who will enjoy a good read, but finding the gems will be far harder than even 30 years ago”

          That because Art is becoming an industry.

  5. gahrie says:

    I prefer to read books written by storytellers to those written by pendants.

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