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Uncompromising Honor, snippet #1

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Uncompromising Honor, snippet #1
Post by runsforcelery   » Sat Sep 02, 2017 8:53 pm

First Space Lord

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Guys —

I don't know how regularly I'll be posting snippets, because life is still pretty confused at the moment and I have a lot of digging out yet to do. However, since I have finished the manuscript and handed it in, and since those of you on the first-readers list of already received your copies of it, I figure I can give you at least the first ten pages or so of the manuscript.

Hope you like it.



Unicorn Belt
Manticore B
Star Empire of Manticore

The shuttle drifted through starlight and emptiness, a minnow threading through a pod of dead leviathans.

If there was a sadder sight in the entire universe, Captain Philip Clayton couldn’t imagine what it might be. He sat in the pilot’s couch, his copilot silent beside him, gazing out through the cockpit’s armorplast at a Sargasso Sea of starships, and wondered yet again what he truly felt.

It shouldn’t be that hard to figure out, really. He’d fought hard enough to create this mass of murdered ships, after all. Yet it had been an act of murder, not war. Not really. Not when the Solarian League Navy had been so utterly outclassed.

And not when it had been offered the opportunity to survive . . . and rejected it.

“I never get tired of seeing it, Sir,” Lieutenant Kalet said. Clayton looked at his copilot, and the tall, broad shouldered Manticoran shrugged. “It’s . . . it’s like nothing else in the galaxy,” he murmured, looking back out from his own side of the cockpit. “I mean, look at it.”

“I know,” Clayton said quietly.

Two hundred and forty-two warships – or what had been warships a T-month ago — floated in their lonely parking orbit, keeping deathwatch station on Manticore-B’s Unicorn Belt. A hundred and eighty-nine superdreadnoughts, eleven battlecruisers, twenty-three light cruisers, and nineteen destroyers. The superdreadnoughts alone massed over 1.3 billion tons. Compared to that, the battlecruisers and lighter units were a mere nothing, less than seventeen million tons. And here they lay, abandoned — aside from caretaker crews on half a dozen of the undamaged SDs — waiting.

Waiting, as it happened, for Phil Clayton, and he wondered again how he’d drawn the duty. Oh, he had the engineering background for it, but so did a lot of other officers, and he hated his new assignment. Maybe they had been enemy vessels, but they’d been ships, and he’d loved the inner magic of ships for as long as he could recall.

His earliest memories were of standing with his nose pressed to the window on the south side of his parents’ modest house, watching the atmospheric counter-grav freighters drive across the heavens, splashed in sunlight and cloud shadow, gleaming like the Tester’s own promise of beauty. Pygmies compared to the doomed ships outside his shuttle at the moment, of course, but enormous for pre-Alliance Grayson.

And even more so for the imagination of a little boy who’d realized even then that ships had souls. That anything that lovely, that graceful — anything that many men had given so much of themselves to — had to be alive itself. He’d watched them summer and winter, in sunlight, in driving rain, in snow. He’d watched them at night, roaring low overhead in a bellow of turbines, flanks gleaming with their own private constellations of running lights. By the time he was ten, he’d been able to identify every major class by sight. And when he’d climbed up into the attic (which he’d been able to do only when all of his moms assumed one of the others had him in sight), he could actually get an angle down onto Burdette Port’s docks, where those massive constructs landed.

Oh, the cargoes he’d summoned from dreams of other steadings! The pallets and boxes, the containerized cargo, the nets of fruit and vegetables. He’d watched stevedores unload the cavernous holds — there’d been far more muscle power and far less automation at the time — and wished he was one of them. And he’d devoured everything he could find in print and on vid about not just the atmospheric ships, but about the freighters that called on Grayson, however rarely, from far beyond his own horizons. He’d ingested anything and everything, from the ballad of the Wreck of the Steadholder Fitzgerald to the mystery of the colony ship Agnes Celeste and her vanished crew, and he’d known what he wanted.

Not that there’d ever be much chance he could have it.

His parents had been relatively well-off, by Grayson standards, but certainly not wealthy, and like all too many Grayson families, he’d been the only boy. Besides, Grayson was the backside of nowhere. The atmospheric freighters that fascinated him so spent their time hauling purely Grayson products and produce, because there was none from anywhere else. What chance did a boy from Burdette Steading have of ever seeing another star, smelling the air of a planet that didn’t try to poison him every day of his life?

That had been his father’s opinion, at any rate, and all of his mothers had loyally shared it, although Mom Joan had seemed just a little less convinced than the others. She always had appreciated that stubborn streak of his.

He never had gotten aboard one of the atmo-freighters. For that matter, he’d never gotten aboard a space freighter. But he’d gotten into space, anyway, and now, as he gazed at that endless vista of captive warships, looked at the torn and shredded armor — at the ink-black holes punched deep into core hulls and the blown out scabs of armor where life pods had erupted into space — he remembered another ship, in other battles. He remembered GMS Covington and the Battle of Yeltsin, the Battle of Blackbird. He remembered the stench of smoke and burning flesh through the ventilators, the scream of damage alarms, the incoming missiles and the indescribable shockwave of hits lashing through her hull.

He remembered a young lieutenant, who’d known he was going to die defending his planet.

But that lieutenant had lived, instead, because a foreign-born woman, already wounded from the battle which had saved his Protector’s life, had flung her ship and her crew between someone else’s world and those who would have killed every human being on it without her. Which was how a considerably older captain of the Grayson Space Navy, serving in the Protector’s Own, found himself here, playing sorter of the slain to the Solarian League Navy.

“What’s the latest from Seven, David?” he asked Lieutenant Kalet.

“They’re about ready for the first tranche,” Kalet replied, keying up the report on his uni-link, and grimaced. “They’re due to finish the last of the Yawata Strike wreckage by Tuesday.”

“I don’t know which is worse — that, or this.” Clayton waved at the silently waiting starships.

“Believe me, Sir, it’s the Yawata wreckage.” Kalet’s expression was grim. “These people,” he twitched his head at the same starships, “got hammered because they frigging well deserved it. We didn’t go looking for them; they came looking for us. I’m sorry it got so many of them killed, but that’s what happens when you attack somebody without bothering to declare war first. And at least every damned one of those ships was at battle stations, with everybody aboard in skinsuits. Not so much for the Yawata Strike.”

The lieutenant turned to stare out at the barely visible cluster of working lights that marked the enormous Unicorn Seven asteroid refinery. Unicorn Seven had been repurposed as one of the Manticore-B reclamation centers, processing the wreckage from the orbital infrastructure which had been torn to pieces in the Yawata Strike less than five T-months ago.

“The reclamation crews are still finding bodies Search and Rescue missed,” he said. “Last week, one of the Seven crews found their own forewoman’s cousin.” His nostrils flared. “I’m sure we’ll find a few bodies when we start scrapping these, too, but at least they won’t be our damned relatives!

Clayton nodded. He was grateful he’d been spared from the cleanup after the Blackbird Strike, but he knew enough men — and women, now — in the GSN who hadn’t been.

“There was a curse back on Old Earth,” he said. “I don’t know if you Manties have it, but we still have it back on Grayson. It goes ‘May you live in interesting times.’”

“‘Interesting times,’ is it?” Kalet snorted. “Well, that’s one way to put it, Sir. More ‘interesting’ for some than for others, though.”

“Look at it this way,” Clayton turned back to the flight controls, “one day we’ll all be in the history books and some idiot child — just like the idiot children you and I were, once upon a time — will dream about how exciting and glorious it all must have been. Maybe they’ll be luckier than we are and not find out how wrong they are.”

HMS Imperator
Manticore A
Star Empire of Manticore

“Excuse me, My Lady, but that report you asked for is here.”

“Don’t you mean that other report I asked for?” Admiral Lady Dame Honor Alexander-Harrington, Steadholder and Duchess Harrington, asked wryly, looking up from the readiness report on her desk display.

“Well, yes,” Commander Angela Clayton acknowledged. She wore the blue-on-blue of the Grayson Space Navy with the salamander flash of the Protector’s Own, but her accent was Manticoran. In fact, it was pure Gryphon Highlands. “You did ask for it, though,” she pointed out with something close to a twinkle.

Commander Clayton was a new addition to Honor’s staff, serving both as a liaison with High Admiral Judah Yanakov and as Grand Fleet’s logistics officer. A sturdy, no-nonsense sort, Commander Clayton. Although she’d been born in Rearson, the same barony as Anton Zilwiki, she’d become a citizen of Harrington Steading following five years of “loaner” service with the GSN, which explained why she habitually addressed Honor as “My Lady” rather than “Your Grace.”

“And what does Phil have to report?” Honor asked now.

“His survey crews are finished with the first half-dozen superdreadnoughts, My Lady,” the commander replied. The almost-twinkle in her eye had faded and she sighed. “He purely hates the assignment. Says it makes him feel like a swamp grubber.”

Honor grimaced at the simile. She knew Captain Clayton, just as she’d made it her business to know all of the Protector’s Own captains, so she understood what Angela was saying, but he was being grossly unfair to himself. The Grayson swamp grubber was one of the more loathsome carrion eaters in the explored galaxy, and it was none too picky about how its meal turned into carrion.

“That aside, his report’s about what we expected, except that his techs are a bit more impressed by the Sollies’ current graser mount than anyone anticipated.” Clayton shook her head. “I glanced at the specs, and he’s right; that is an impressive piece of hardware, My Lady.”

“Nobody ever said the Solarian League doesn’t have good tech,” Honor pointed out. “Their problem is they don’t always have the right tech when they need it.”

“Coupled with the fact that they think they do,” Clayton agreed.

“Point,” Honor conceded. She tipped back in her chair. “So, Phil’s impressed by it?”

“Yes, My Lady. He did point out that he can’t imagine what we’ll do with all of them, though.”

Honor nodded. No doubt quite a few people were wondering the same sorts of things, but they had to do something with the wreckage of Massimo Filareta’s Eleventh Fleet. That was why its surviving units had been moved to Manticore-B after the Second Battle of Manticore. The Massacre of Manticore, really, she thought, eyes darkening in memory.

Under normal circumstances, they might have been parked somewhere as a potential bargaining chip to be returned to the other side following successful peace negotiations. Nobody seemed likely to be doing any negotiating anytime soon, however, and even if they’d been inclined to, no one would want Filareta’s orphans back. In an era of pod-launched missiles, they were deathtraps, hopelessly obsolete both tactically and conceptually, however good the technology with which they’d been built.

Failing the possibility of repatriation, they’d normally have been sent to the ship breakers to be sawn up into chunks and run through the smelters and refineries for reclamation and separation. No one would have worried too much about the technology; all they would have wanted were the raw materials from which Manticore’s voracious orbital industry would have built the newer and far more useful technology the Star Empire needed.

But that orbital industry had been hammered into ruin by the Yawata Strike in February. Five months later, it remained less than a shadow of a memory of what it once had been. The fabricating plants to use the raw materials were only beginning to be rebuilt, and even with every gram of assistance Beowulf and the Star Empire’s new Havenite allies could provide, it would be at least six months before the fabricators and nano farms were back online once again. Even then, they’d possess only a fraction of their pre-Yawata capacity for a long time to come. Which was why Phil Clayton and his combined Manticoran-Grayson-Havenite salvage crews were crawling all over the captured Solarian ships. Their internal systems might be of Solarian manufacture, with all the compatibility headaches that promised, but they already existed. Under the circumstances, it made sense to see what could be removed for reuse — from fusion plants to reconfigurable mollycircs to point defense lasers — before the gutted hulks were consigned to the reclamation platforms.

For that matter, Sandra Crandall’s surviving units were Manticore-bound with minimal passage crews to share exactly the same fate. Hopefully they could find someone besides Captain Clayton to deal with them when they arrived.

“Well,” she said now, “if nothing else, we could probably use the grasers for hellacious wormhole ‘minefields.’ Have you seen the design Admiral Foraker came up with for that?”

“No, I haven’t, My Lady. I’ll bet it was . . . interesting, though.”

“Admiral Foraker does have a tendency to think outside the box,” Honor acknowledged with a smile. “In this case, though, what she’s suggested is basically an array of remotely deployed energy weapons. Capital ship-sized weapons, as a matter of fact. She’s thinking something like Moriarty, not Mycroft. In fact, she’s already worked out the quickest way to run up a remote platform tied into the central fire control system of a standard terminus fort.”

“I thought that was what the minefields we already have were for, My Lady.”

“Oh, they are! But those are basically one-shot, bomb-pumped platforms. She’s talking about feeding these things with broadcast power for the plasma capacitors. If her numbers hold up, they’d be good for at least five or six full-power shots each before the platforms had to shut down until the maintenance crews could recharge the capacitor reservoirs. So if these Solly grasers are as good as Phil seems to be suggesting, and given the fact that a Joseph Buckley-class SD mounts — what? sixty-four? sixty-five? — grasers, stripping a couple of hundred of them could let us build a really nasty defensive array, don’t you think?”

“Yeah, I think you could call it that,” Commander Clayton said, her expression suddenly very thoughtful indeed. The thought of what nine or ten thousand ship-of-the-wall-sized grasers could do to any target emerging from a wormhole terminus — when it could have neither wedge nor sidewalls for protection — was . . . sobering.

“I’m not sure how well it’ll work out in the end,” Honor said, “but I’ve observed that Admiral Foraker tends to get what she goes after. And now that Admiral Hemphill’s finally taken the Weyland R&D staff out to Bolthole . . . .”

Clayton nodded. The notion of sharing the Star Empire’s latest technology and research projects with a star nation with which it had been at war — cold or hot — for the better part of a T-century had . . . sat poorly with quite a lot of the RMN. In fact, there’d been enough passive resistance and foot-dragging to provoke a display of the famous Winton temper. Clayton hadn’t been present for the meeting at which Empress Elizabeth had made her feelings on the subject abundantly, one might almost have said super-abundantly, clear, but Duchess Harrington had. And it was remarkable how quickly things had begun moving after that little interview.

On the other hand, the commander thought with a mental smile, it would appear there’d been just as much foot-dragging on the Havenite side when it came to telling their erstwhile enemies and present allies exactly where Bolthole itself lay. Not surprisingly, since it was so much closer to the Manticore System than to the Haven System. In fact, it was the next best thing to six hundred light-years from Nouveau Paris . . . and less than three hundred and fifty from Landing City.

No wonder ONI never found it, she thought. We were busy looking for something in the Republic. It never even occurred to us to look on the far side of Manticore for it. And even if it had, a ‘lost colony’ would’ve been the last thing we looked for!

Still, Bolthole’s location did explain why the Legislaturalists had selected it as a site for their secret naval base once the system more or less fell into the People’s Republic’s lap. And as a Gryphon Highlander — not to mention someone who’d married a Grayson — Angela Clayton had a better idea than most of what it had taken for the people of the planet Sanctuary to survive until Haven’s survey crew rediscovered their existence at the end of the J-156-18(L)-KCR-126-06 warp bridge.

And how they found the place is a lot less important than what they’ve done with it since, she reminded herself. After the Yawata Strike’s devastation here in Manticore, Bolthole had become easily the largest single shipbuilding facility of the entire Grand Alliance, not to mention the site of the redoubtable Shannon Foraker’s R&D command.

So if there’s one place in the galaxy none of us want the people behind the Yawata Strike to find, it’s damned well Bolthole!

“Do we know how Bolthole’s coming on Mycroft, My Lady?” she asked, and Honor smiled as she followed the commander’s obvious chain of thought.

“It’s going to be a while before they get the system fully up and running,” she said, “but Admiral Hemphill’s taking along an entire squadron of Invictuses to provide Apollo and Keyhole-Two coverage in the meantime. And I understand Admiral Foraker’s already rung in some new variations on her sensor platforms. Once she and Hemphill sit down and put their heads together, the rest of the galaxy better hang onto its socks!”

“A thought that doesn’t break my heart at all, My Lady,” Clayton said. “Not one little bit.”

"Oh, bother!" said Pooh, as Piglet came back from the dead.
Re: Uncompromising Honor, snippet #1
Post by munroburton   » Sat Sep 02, 2017 9:11 pm


Posts: 2285
Joined: Sat Jun 15, 2013 10:16 am
Location: Scotland

Thank you! :D

I wonder why Honor/Shannon thinks it might be necessary to upgrade defences against wormhole-based assaults. Ten thousand Chekhov's cannons, eh?
Re: Uncompromising Honor, snippet #1
Post by cthia   » Sat Sep 02, 2017 9:18 pm

Fleet Admiral

Posts: 14386
Joined: Thu Jan 23, 2014 1:10 pm

Honor is back! Honorrrrrrrrrrr!

My girlfriend's back and somebody's gonna be in trou-bllle.

Hey la-di-la, my girlfriend's back!

Hmmm, I'm in love!

Son, your mother says I have to hang you. Personally I don't think this is a capital offense. But if I don't hang you, she's gonna hang me and frankly, I'm not the one in trouble. —cthia's father. Incident in ? Axiom of Common Sense
Re: Uncompromising Honor, snippet #1
Post by kzt   » Sat Sep 02, 2017 9:31 pm

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Posts: 10982
Joined: Sun Jan 10, 2010 8:18 pm
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Thanks. That's great. Feel free to drop one anytime you feel like it.

But minor nitpick - I really don't know why Honor would have need to know where Bolthole is. I can imagine she might want to know, but need to know? Three can keep a secret... And it's a really important secret.

I am somewhat amused to hear that their energy weapons were highly sophisticated, which makes the whole "LACs charge in" even more of a suicide mission that I thought.
Re: Uncompromising Honor, snippet #1
Post by ldwechsler   » Sat Sep 02, 2017 10:13 pm

Rear Admiral

Posts: 1235
Joined: Sun May 28, 2017 12:15 pm

kzt wrote:Thanks. That's great. Feel free to drop one anytime you feel like it.

But minor nitpick - I really don't know why Honor would have need to know where Bolthole is. I can imagine she might want to know, but need to know? Three can keep a secret... And it's a really important secret.

I am somewhat amused to hear that their energy weapons were highly sophisticated, which makes the whole "LACs charge in" even more of a suicide mission that I thought.

Note that it was the hardware...the mounts...that were so impressive. Not necessarily the whole system. Of course when Hemphill and Foraker get finished with it...
Re: Uncompromising Honor, snippet #1
Post by Annachie   » Sat Sep 02, 2017 10:56 pm

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Posts: 3099
Joined: Fri Jun 17, 2011 7:36 pm

RFC killed our favorite dead horse

You bastard!


Sent from my SM-G930F using Tapatalk
You are so going to die. :p ~~~~ runsforcelery
still not dead. :)
Re: Uncompromising Honor, snippet #1
Post by Jonathan_S   » Sat Sep 02, 2017 11:39 pm

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Posts: 7510
Joined: Fri Jun 24, 2011 2:01 pm
Location: Virginia, USA

First - thanks so much for the snippet.

Second I was a bit surprised to see reference to a new SLN SD class, the "Joseph Buckley-class SD".
(Though it's graser count seems reasonable, even the Scientist class carried 26 grasers per broadside, so another 6 chase mounts would bring you to 64. And 6 grasers per hammerhead might even be a touch light for those ships)

It's true I couldn't find any statement about what classes of ships Filareta had with him (just a statement that about 30 Scientist-class is the most you could stuff down a leg of Manticore's Junction). So it's not impossible that there are previously unmentioned classes in his 11th fleet.

On the other hand Crandal's flagship at Spindle was one SLNS Joseph Buckley, and we are told "There was an impressive uniformity among the superdreadnoughts, as well. All but seven of them were Scientist-class ships, and all seven of the others were members of the Vega class". So we know that the SLNS Joseph Buckley is not a Joseph Buckley-class SD.
It seems, unlikely, to me that any navy would have a ship in active service sharing the name of a ship class yet not be a member (much less lead ship) of that class...

(So how good are are the chances this is not only deliberate but there's an explanation coming a chapter or two from this snippet?)
Re: Uncompromising Honor, snippet #1
Post by Fireflair   » Sat Sep 02, 2017 11:44 pm

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Posts: 570
Joined: Wed Sep 05, 2012 6:23 pm

And that, as they say, is that.

We've been told often enough that Sollie tech isn't really bad. Misused, bad software, but not bad tech. Now we know for sure what happened tot hose SDs.

Always good to get a snippet and I'm quite glad to see the story moving forward at long last on the main thread!

Jospeh Buckley, the poor guy...
Re: Uncompromising Honor, snippet #1
Post by Greentea   » Sat Sep 02, 2017 11:47 pm


Posts: 161
Joined: Wed Jan 15, 2014 3:25 pm
Location: Pittsburgh, PA

Annachie wrote:RFC killed our favorite dead horse

You bastard!


Sent from my SM-G930F using Tapatalk

I'm glad this dead horse has been officially mounted and stuffed. No more pointless debates. Now we know they will salvage what tech they can and scrap the rest for raw materials.
Cup of tea? Yes, please.
Re: Uncompromising Honor, snippet #1
Post by Weird Harold   » Sat Sep 02, 2017 11:48 pm

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Jonathan_S wrote:Second I was a bit surprised to see reference to a new SLN SD class, the "Joseph Buckley-class SD".

Mostly somewhat of an in-joke as "Joseph Buckley" is the most red-shirted SF fan in history. Killing Joseph Buckley is an unofficial requirement to be a professional Science Fiction author. :twisted:
Answers! I got lots of answers!

(Now if I could just find the right questions.)

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