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STICKY: A Rising Thunder Snippets

This is the place where we will be posting snippets of soon-to-be published works!
Re: STICKY: A Rising Thunder Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Sun Jan 29, 2012 8:01 pm

DrakBibliophile
Admiral

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A Rising Thunder - Snippet 20

Chapter Seven

"Excuse me, Sir, but an Admiral Simpson is on the com. She's asking for a priority appointment with you."

"Admiral Simpson?"

Gabriel Caddell-Markham, the Director of Defense for the Beowulf Planetary Board of Directors, arched an eyebrow at Timothy Sung, his personal aide, whose holo image floated above the director's desktop com. It had taken Caddell-Markham years to master the art of moving only one eyebrow while the other remained motionless. Despite his wife Joanna's more or less tolerant amusement at the affectation (the acquisition of which she ascribed to his many, many years in starship commands with no useful skills to spend his time mastering), he'd actually found it quite handy since he'd resigned from the Beowulf System Defense Force to pursue a political career.

"Yes, Sir," Sung replied in answer to his question.

The dark-haired, brown-eyed Sung's rather pale complexion contrasted sharply with his boss's very black skin, yet there was an oddly familial resemblance between them. Probably because the defense director's aide had been with him for the better part of eleven T-years. Given that Sung was only forty, that meant he'd been young and malleable enough to be influenced by older, more evil examples. That was Sung's own explanation, anyway. Some senior government officials might have taken that explanation amiss, but given that the theory had originally been propounded by Joanna Markham-Caddell, Caddell-Markham wasn't in the best of positions to do that. Besides, the younger man's insouciance was one of the main reasons the director had chosen him as an aide in the first place. Sung had performed his own military service in the Biological Survey Corps, which was scarcely renowned for its spit-and-polish attitude, and the arched eyebrow was usually good for a snort when Caddell-Markham used it on him. Today, he seemed not even to have noticed.

"She's not one of our officers," Sung continued. "In fact, I understand she's on Admiral Kingsford's staff."

Caddell-Markham's eyebrow came down and his face tightened ever so slightly. It would have taken someone who knew him as well as Sung did to notice, but his aide nodded.

"Yes, Sir. She obviously doesn't want to get specific with me, but from her attitude, I think she has to be here about Filareta."

Timothy Sung was thoroughly briefed in on a vast assortment of highly classified information, which was why he knew about the plan to send Massimo Filareta to attack the Manticore Binary System, despite the plan's Utter-Top-Secret, Burn-Before-Reading-and-Then-Self-Terminate Classification. And, like his boss, he thought it was the stupidest, most arrogant excuse for a strategy he'd ever heard of.

What Sung wasn't aware of -- yet -- was that the Beowulf system government had very quietly used an extremely "black" communications channel to warn Manticore Filareta was coming.

"Since you say you think she's here about Filareta, I assume she hasn't said anything specific about the reason she wants to see me?"

"No, Sir. As I said, she obviously doesn't want to get specific with an underling." Sung grimaced. "She was pretty emphatic about the urgency of her need to speak to you as soon as possible, though. And she did say it was something she didn't want to discuss -- with you, presumably, since she was 'discussing' damn-all with me -- over the com."

"I see."

Caddell-Markham pursed his lips, then shrugged.

"I further assume that as the skilled bureaucrat and politician-minder you've become, you haven't told her I'm immediately available?"

"No, Sir." This time, Sung smiled slightly. "In fact, I told her you were out of the office and that I'd see if I could contact you. I'm afraid I may have implied you were closeted with some of the other Directors at the moment and it might not be possible to 'disturb you.'"

"So sad to see a stalwart military officer descending to such depths of chicanery," Caddell-Markham observed with a smile of his own. Then the smile vanished, and he shrugged. "In that case, tell her I'm afraid I won't be able to see her until sometime fairly late this afternoon. Go ahead and feel free to 'imply' that I'm out of the city at the moment -- I'm probably in Grendel, in fact, now that I think about it. At any rate, I'll be happy to meet with her absolutely as soon as I can get back to Columbia. And as soon as you've finished 'implying' that to her and scheduling the meeting, please be good enough to get the CEO, Secretary Pinder-Swun, Director Longacre, and Director Mikulin on a secure conference link."

* * *

"So has anyone ever actually met this Admiral Simpson?"

Chyang Benton-Ramirez, the Chairman and CEO of the Planetary Board of Directors, was about eight centimeters taller than Caddell-Markham's hundred and seventy-five centimeters. He also had dark hair which was turning white, despite the fact that he was barely seventy-five T-years old. Personally, Caddell-Markham suspected Benton-Ramirez preferred things that way, on the theory that it gave him an interestingly distinguished look in a society accustomed to prolong's extended youthfulness. And the snowiness of his hair made a nicely distinctive visual contrast with the darkness of his bushy mustache. The political cartoonists just loved it, regardless of their own political persuasions, at any rate.

His Board colleagues looked around at one another's images, then turned back to him with various combinations of shrugs and head shakes.

"Marvelous," he said dryly.

"I've never met her, Chyang," Director at Large Fedosei Demianovich Mikulin said, "but I did have a chance to give her dossier a quick once over before the conference."

Despite the fact that he was the Board of Directors' oldest member by the better part of two decades, the blond-haired, blue-eyed Mikulin actually looked younger than Benton-Ramirez. He was almost thirteen centimeters taller, as well. A physician by training, he'd been a member of the Board for over thirty T-years, always as a director at large rather than heading any specific planetary directorate. His colleagues in the Chamber of Shareholders and Chamber of Professions had returned him so persistently to the Board because of his demonstrated ability as an all-around troubleshooter, and Benton-Ramirez, like his last two predecessors, had learned to rely on Mikulin's advice…especially in intelligence matters.

"And her dossier told you what, Fedosei?" the CEO asked now.

"She's Kingsford's operations officer," Mikulin replied. "She's also some sort of cousin of his, and she's connected by marriage to Rajampet, as well. Despite that, she's only a rear admiral, and according to her dossier her last shipboard command was as the captain of a superdreadnought. As far as we know, she's never commanded a fleet or a task force or even a squadron in space. She does have a reputation as an operational planner, but that's an SLN reputation, so I'd take it with a grain of salt, especially when someone with her family connections hasn't been promoted beyond junior flag rank. She's obviously trusted by her superiors when it comes to politics and bureaucratic infighting, though. As nearly as I can tell, Kingsford -- or Jennings, at least -- has used her as go-between on some fairly gray operations that no one wanted officially on the record."

Benton-Ramirez nodded. Fleet Admiral Winston Seth Kingsford was the commanding officer of the Solarian League Navy's Battle Fleet. That made him Rajampet's heir apparent as chief of naval operations, and Admiral Willis Jennings was Kingsford's chief of staff. Neither was any stranger to the internecine warfare of the League bureaucracy.

"I think we can safely assume, then," the CEO said out loud, "that none of us are going to be too happy about any minor gray areas she may have been sent to go between in our case."

"Probably not," Director of State Jukka Longacre agreed. "The thing I have to wonder is how unhappy we're going to be?"

The director of state's amethyst eyes narrowed. Those eyes were his most striking feature -- especially against his dark complexion and depilated scalp -- but his powerful, hooked nose ran them a close second. Caddell-Markham had always thought that with the possible addition of a golden earring, Longacre would have made a wonderful HD pirate. In fact, he'd been Chairman of Interstellar Politics at the University of Columbia before his election to the Board seven T-years earlier.

"You're wondering if something's leaked about our warning to Manticore?" Benton-Ramirez' tone made the question a statement, and Longacre nodded.

"I doubt it," Secretary Joshua Pinder-Swun said.
*
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Re: STICKY: A Rising Thunder Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Tue Jan 31, 2012 9:05 pm

DrakBibliophile
Admiral

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A Rising Thunder - Snippet 21

Although his official title was simply Secretary of the Planetary Board of Directors, the red-haired, blue-eyed Pinder-Swun was actually the Vice Chairman and CEO of the system government. He was a little unusual for someone of his exalted political position in that he'd come late to politics, and then through the Chamber of Professions, rather than the Chamber of Shareholders. One of Beowulf's leading physicists before his "temporary" election to the Chamber of Professions some twenty T-years before, he still cherished the illusion that he would someday be allowed to return to his beloved research. Everyone else knew that wasn't going to happen.

"I doubt it," Pinder-Swun repeated when everyone's eyes swiveled to him, and shrugged. "First, from all I've seen, no one has a clue our conduit to Manticore even exists. Second, if anyone on Old Terra had figured out we'd warned Manticore, they would've sent someone a lot more senior -- and probably a lot more official -- to…remonstrate with us." He shook his head. "No, this has something to do with Filareta, all right, but I don't think it's anything to do with our having alerted the Manties."

"I think Joshua has a point," Caddell-Markham said. "The problem is that if she's not here to break our heads over our little security faux pas -- and Joshua's definitely right about that; if that was what they wanted, they would've sent someone more senior -- that means Rajampet's had another brainstorm. One that involves us. And given the fact that we're two T-months from Manticore through hyper-space even for a dispatch boat, and that Filareta's supposed to be leaving Tasmania (assuming he manages to make Kingsford's schedule) in less than two weeks, whatever brilliant inspiration he might've had has to concern our terminus of the Junction."

Faces tightened, and Mikulin nodded grimly.

"I can't see anything else that would cause the Navy to send us a personal representative," he agreed. "If it were a purely political matter, we wouldn't be looking at someone from the military, and they would've come to call on you, Jukka, not Gabriel. Or if they'd wanted to handle it at a higher level, on you or Joshua, Chyang. And Gabriel's right about the Junction. It's a bit late in the day for them to suddenly decide to ask us if we have any insight into Manticoran capabilities which might have somehow eluded their own inspired analysts." Mikulin's contempt was withering. "Which means some ass in Kingsford's or Rajampet's office has decided there's some way to use the Junction against Manticore."

"I realize we're not talking about mental giants," Pinder-Swun observed, "but surely they have to realize any sort of attack through the Junction would be suicide!"

"You'd think so, wouldn't you?" Caddell-Markham said. "On the other hand, calling the geniuses running the SLN -- and the rest of the League, for that matter -- 'imbeciles' would be a gross slander on imbeciles."

"Are you positive this is coming out of Rajampet or Kingsford?" Longacre asked.

"No, but who else would be sending Kingsford's ops officer as his messenger girl?" Caddell-Markham asked.

"That depends on what it is they're really after," Longacre countered. "I'll grant that Kolokoltsov and his apparatchiks have been acting as if they don't have two brain cells amongst them, but as far as gaming the system he understands is concerned, he's right there in Machiavelli's league. The problem is that he doesn't seem to grasp the possibility that there's any universe outside the system he understands. Or, at least, that he failed to grasp it in time to avoid our current debacle."

"And?" Caddell-Markham knew he looked skeptical, and he twitched his head apologetically. "I'm not disagreeing with your analysis of Kolokoltsov and the Mandarins, Jukka. I just don't understand why he'd send someone from the military to deliver a political message."

"That's because you grew up as a straightforward military officer!" Longacre snorted.

"Maybe he did," Mikulin said, "but I still think it's a valid question."

"Of course it is. But think about this." Longacre looked around the other faces, ice-blue eyes more intent than ever. "We're agreed Kolokoltsov and the others -- probably especially MacArtney -- stumbled into this because they were too arrogant and full of their own omnipotence to realize where it was headed. By now, though, Kolokoltsov, at least, has to've realized he's looking down the barrel of a pulser at a full-fledged political and constitutional crisis. Rajampet's twisting Article Seven like a pretzel to cover what he's already done, far less what he plans on doing. In the end, that pretzel may break. If it does --when it does -- the shit's going to hit the fan in a way the Solarian League's never seen. And even if none of the Mandarins suspect we've already warned Manticore what's coming, they all know how close our relations with the Star Kingdom -- Empire, I mean -- are."

He paused, and Caddell-Markham nodded.

The Star Empire of Manticore was far and away Beowulf's biggest trading partner. Given that fact and Manticore's unwavering support of Beowulf's crusade against the genetic slave trade, it had been one of Beowulf's closer allies for over three T-centuries. Indeed, unlike any other Solarian military organization, the Beowulf System Defense Force had a tradition of close cooperation with the RMN and carried out frequent joint exercises in defense of the Beowulf Terminus. More than that, Manticorans and Beowulfers had been intermarrying (among other things) ever since the Junction's discovery in 1585 PD. At least four members of the Planetary Board of Directors, including its CEO, had relatives in Manticore. For that matter, quite a few Beowulfers (again, including members of the Board) had lost family members in the Yawata Strike. Even the masterminds responsible for the Solarian League's foreign policy had to grasp what that was going to mean where Beowulf's attitude was concerned.

As far as that goes, the director of defense reminded himself, by now it sure as hell ought to have occurred to someone in Kingsford's shop that we must've known a lot more about Manticore's capabilities than we ever shared with the Navy. It couldn't be any other way, given all those joint exercises. So by this time, somebody's got to be asking himself why we never mentioned those multi-drive missiles. Of course, no one ever asked us about them, but still…

"Well," Longacre continued, "suppose it's occurred to them that we're not going to be happy when we find out about the attack on Manticore we're not supposed to know anything about at the moment. And suppose it's also occurred to them that if it comes down to a genuine debate over a formal declaration of war, we're certain to exercise our veto to prevent it. What do you think they might want to do about that?"

"I don't think there's anything they can do," Caddell-Markham replied. "I think they're in so deep they figure the only thing they can do is keep bashing straight ahead and hope for the best."

"Probably so, but that's not going to keep someone like Kolokoltsov from trying to shove an ace or two up his sleeve, Gabriel." Longacre shook his head. "No, he's going to be looking for some way to change the equation. And one way to do that might be to get us involved in the attack. If we help them attack Manticore, we'll be right in the same boat with them when it comes to defending our actions."

"But no one with even half a brain could believe we would help them," Pinder-Swun objected. "Not only do we have obvious commercial and cultural ties with Manticore, but our Assembly delegates've been calling for moderation ever since the Monica Incident. Not to mention Hadley's motion! And we've been steadfast in rejecting the hysteria about the Green Pines bombing, as well. They have to realize how Manticore's allegations of Mesan involvement in everything that's happened to the Star Empire are going to play with our citizens!"

The secretary had that right, Caddell-Markham reflected. Indeed, Pinder-Swun himself was an outstanding example of why that was true, since his mother had been a liberated genetic slave. Liberated, in fact, if memory served, by a cruiser of the Royal Manticoran Navy.

"Of course Kolokoltsov's perfectly well aware of that, Joshua," Longacre agreed. "But if he's taking the long view -- trying to position his little quintet for an actual war, or at least a protracted crisis -- then what he may want is to discredit us with the rest of the League.
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Paul Howard (Alias Drak Bibliophile)
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Re: STICKY: A Rising Thunder Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Thu Feb 02, 2012 9:03 pm

DrakBibliophile
Admiral

Posts: 2125
Joined: Sun Sep 06, 2009 2:54 pm
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A Rising Thunder - Snippet 22

"Try this scenario. The Navy wants our assistance in carrying out its attack on Manticore. Maybe they want the BSDF to participate actively, or maybe they just want to use the Junction to threaten Manticore from the rear and expect us to help with the necessary ship movements. Anyway, whatever they want, they tell us about it, and we turn them down. Under Article Five of the Constitution, we can refuse to place the System-Defense Force under federal control unless the League's formally at war, and the Beowulf Terminus of the Junction is outside the twelve-minute limit, which means it's not 'our' property to dispose of, anyway. They might not want to buy that interpretation, especially given our treaty with Manticore, but technically Beowulf Astro Control is a chartered private company, not an official organ of our government, and it leases the terminus from its Manticoran discoverers. So we've got plenty of wiggle room to keep the lawyers happy for the odd decade or two if they try to push it. Which means that if we do turn them down, refuse to cooperate, we can legitimately argue we're within our rights under the Constitution.

"From their perspective, though, one of two things is going to happen when Filareta reaches Manticore. Either he succeeds and the Manties back down without a fight -- which every one of us knows perfectly well isn't going to happen -- or else there's going to be a battle. Kolokoltsov and the others may actually believe Filareta can win, given how badly Manticore's been damaged. Of course, if any of their so-called analysts think anything of the sort after what happened to Crandall, I'd like to distribute a few kilos of whatever they're snorting at my next fundraiser! At any rate, either Filareta wins, in which case our refusal to cooperate doesn't hurt anything since the crisis is over, or else Filareta gets hammered…in which case, they blame his defeat on our lack of cooperation. You can bet your bottom credit that when the official report gets presented, we'll be the reason Filareta got blown out of space, which will undercut our credibility as opponents to any post-Filareta hard-line position."

"You really think they'd believe they could get away with that?" Caddell-Markham wished his own tone sounded more incredulous.

"I'm pretty sure they would," Longacre replied. "Believe they could get away with it, at any rate. I think they'd probably be wrong, but let's be honest, Gabriel. It wouldn't be any rawer than a lot of other 'facts' they and Abruzzi's shills at Education and Information have sold the public, now would it? I doubt any of them think they could count on brushing us permanently out of their way -- even in the League, the truth has an annoying tendency of coming out eventually. But if there's any basis to my suspicions, then what they're after is a tactical objective, rather than a strategic one. If Filareta's operation blows up in their faces, the Mandarins want us neutralized during any immediate public debate over exactly how that happened or who's to blame for the resultant bloodbath.

"In the longer term, they'll hardly be heartbroken if they can keep us sidelined long enough to get the entire League committed to their policy vis-à-vis Manticore. We all know from personal experience that once a policy's been set, it's a lot harder to change it than it ever would have been to nip it in the bud. And they probably figure that if the Assembly's signed off -- even passively -- on whatever policy they choose, it's a lot less likely anyone's going to be able to generate any effective resistance to that policy."

The director of state leaned back in his office chair, folding his arms across his chest, and the other participants in the holo conference looked at one another's images. Caddell-Markham was pretty sure most of the others were thinking the same thing he was. Unfortunately, what Longacre had just suggested sounded entirely too likely for comfort.

"All right," Benton-Ramirez said after a moment. "Personally, I hope you're being excessively paranoid, Jukka. I'm not prepared to bet against you, though. So the question before us becomes how we respond to whatever 'request' this Simpson is here to make."

"You want my honest, off-the-cuff, immediate reaction to it, Chyang?" Pinder-Swun asked.

The CEO nodded, and the secretary gave a harsh, barking laugh. It sounded like the hunting cry of some forest predator, and Pinder-Swun's always ruddy complexion was about half a shade darker than usual.

"Okay," he said. "What I'd really like to do is point them at the terminus and invite them to go right ahead!"

He smiled nastily, and Caddell-Markham winced.

The ceiling on any simultaneous mass transit of the Manticoran Wormhole Junction was around two hundred million tons. That meant the largest force the SLN could throw through the Beowulf Terminus in a single wave would be about thirty of its Scientist-class superdreadnoughts, after which the terminus would be destabilized and useless for over seventeen hours. That sounded like a lot of ships…until one reflected that a single missile salvo from a force composed solely of cruisers and battlecruisers had completely destroyed twenty-three units of the same class in the Battle of Spindle. What the Manticoran Home Fleet's ships-of-the-wall -- or even just the Junction forts -- could do would make Spindle look like a love tap.

"While I'll admit to a certain vengefulness of my own, Joshua," Benton-Ramirez said after a moment, his tone mild, "we might want to bear in mind that the spacers aboard those ships wouldn't be the ones who decided to attack Manticore in the first place. Not to mention the fact that they're our fellow Solarians…and somebody's husbands, wives, sons, or daughters."

"I said it was my immediate reaction," Pinder-Swun replied. "You're right, though, of course. Although when I think about how often the Navy's sat on its collective ass and watched slavers go trundling past, my sense of empathy becomes oddly deadened. Despite that, I agree we shouldn't be encouraging Rajampet and Kingsford to get job lots of Navy personnel killed in one-sided massacres."

"So what do we do?" Benton-Ramirez looked around his colleagues' faces once more. "Suggestions, anyone?"

* * *

"Thank you for agreeing to meet with me so promptly, Director," Rear Admiral Marjorie Simpson said, reaching across the desk to shake Caddell-Markham's proffered hand. Her smile actually looked genuine.

"I'm sorry I wasn't available when you first screened, Admiral," Caddell-Markham replied with an equally warm (and false) smile. "According to Mr. Sung's message, though, it sounded fairly urgent, so I cleared space on my calendar as quickly as I could."

"I appreciate that," Simpson told him, but she also cocked her head at the fair-haired, gray-eyed woman who'd risen from one of the armchairs in front of Caddell-Markham's desk. The rear admiral's expression was politely inquiring, and Caddell-Markham released her hand and gestured at the other woman.

"Allow me to introduce Assistant Director of Defense Justyná Miternowski-Zhyang," he said. "Justyná is the assistant director for the BSDF's naval component." He smiled. "Given your own naval rank, it seemed likely your errand here on Beowulf was going to involve Justyná's bailiwick. Assuming it does, it seemed simplest and most efficient to have her here at the outset."

"I see. And I appreciate your forethought," Simpson said, although her own smile seemed just a little forced as she reached out to shake Miternowski-Zhyang's hand in turn.

"Please," Caddell-Markham said then, waving at the waiting armchairs. "Let's all have seats and get down to whatever brings you to Beowulf, Admiral. Can I offer any refreshment?"

"I'm fine, Director," Simpson demurred, shaking her head. "Perhaps later."

"Fine." The director of defense tipped back slightly in his own chair and waved one hand in an inviting "go-ahead" gesture.

Simpson paused for a moment, as if making certain her mental note cards were properly arranged, and he took advantage of the opportunity to study her unobtrusively. She wasn't a particularly tall woman, although she was solidly if compactly put together. According to the dossier Mikulin had shared with him, she was in her early seventies, but her hair was still dark, without a hint of gray, and her brown eyes were commendably open and mild. Earnest. Even guileless, one might almost have said. Which, given her position and duties, had to be deceptive.

"What I'm about to discuss with you," she said finally, "is Top Secret, Level Seven classified material."

She paused again, briefly, as if for emphasis. In the Solarian classification system, there was only one level above that, and Caddell-Markham reminded himself to look suitably impressed.
*
Paul Howard (Alias Drak Bibliophile)
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Re: STICKY: A Rising Thunder Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Sun Feb 05, 2012 9:13 pm

DrakBibliophile
Admiral

Posts: 2125
Joined: Sun Sep 06, 2009 2:54 pm
Location: East Central Illinois

A Rising Thunder - Snippet 23

"I'm sure you and Assistant Director Miternowski-Zhyang have been fully briefed on what happened to Admiral Crandall's task force at Spindle," she resumed. "Obviously that came as a shock to all of us in the Navy. We're not convinced by any means that the Manties' version of what happened is accurate, of course. In particular, given what we know of Admiral Crandall's standing orders, it seems unlikely her actions and attitudes were actually as provocative as they've been portrayed. It does seem probable that she…mismanaged the situation badly, but some of our analysts believe the com records the Manties sent us have been skillfully edited. Be that as it may, however -- whatever actually happened and whoever really fired the first shot -- we're all left facing the consequences of Manticore's actions."

She paused again, as if inviting a response to what she'd just said. Particularly, Caddell-Markham suspected, to her version of just whose actions were responsible for the consequences in question. Both Beowulfers had their expressions as thoroughly under control as her own, however.

"Clearly," she continued with an air of candor when neither of them rose to the bait, "what happened to Admiral Crandall indicates we in the Navy have badly underestimated Manticoran military capabilities. Our analysts are firmly of the opinion that the missile performance we observed at Spindle never came from anything that could be launched from cruiser or battlecruiser missile tubes, whatever they may be claiming or seeking to imply. But even with that caveat -- even assuming what they actually used were heavy system-defense missiles -- their capabilities were, frankly, little short of terrifying. It's painfully evident that at the moment, at least, the Manty navy has a significant technological edge.

"At the same time, however, the Solarian League has a tremendous quantitative advantage. There's simply no way anything the size of the Manties' 'Star Empire' could possibly match our productivity and available manpower. In the end, those advantages have to prove decisive.

"Unfortunately, despite the fact that their defeat would be ultimately certain, God only knows how many of our own people would get killed along the way." She shook her head, expression grave. "Even completely ignoring our moral responsibility not to throw away lives unnecessarily, those sorts of casualty levels would inevitably -- and rightly -- lead to universal repugnance in the League. Bearing all of that in mind, it seemed evident to everyone on Admiral Kingsford's staff -- and to Admiral Rajampet and his staff, for that matter -- that Assemblywoman Hadley had a point. Even if not everyone agreed with her logic, the ultimate conclusion was effectively the same: despite the Navy's understandable fury and desire for vengeance, any sort of precipitous operations against Manticore were out of the question. At the very least, every diplomatic avenue had to be explored first."

She paused again, and this time Caddell-Markham allowed himself to nod in sober agreement, despite his quick lick of anger at Simpson's clumsy effort to suggest some sort of agreement with Felicia Hadley.

"Unfortunately," the admiral went on, "it's become evident to Foreign Minister Roelas y Valiente and to Permanent Senior Undersecretary Kolokoltsov that Manticore has no intention of negotiating in good faith." She sighed. "Whatever Assemblywoman Hadley and those who share her concerns may think, the Manties' diplomatic correspondence -- not to mention the obvious duplicity of the way in which they misrepresented the Republic of Haven's diplomacy in the resumption of their long-standing war against Haven; the shameless, cynical imperialism of cold-bloodedly partitioning a sovereign star nation in the Silesian Confederacy's case; the unilateral decision to close not just their own Junction but every other terminus they control against Solarian traffic; and their questionable actions in the Talbott Cluster -- all make it clear they have every intention of pressing their current military advantage for all it's worth."

That wasn't, Caddell-Markham reflected, the way he would have described the Star Empire's diplomatic exchanges with the League. Or any of the rest of its foreign policy over the last, oh, fifty T-years or so. As fantasies went, though, it stuck together fairly well, he supposed. Or would have, assuming anyone with the IQ of a gnat had been prepared to believe a single word that came out of the Office of Frontier Security.

And isn't it interesting that she never even mentioned Green Pines? He thought sardonically.

"That was the unpalatable situation in the immediate aftermath of the New Tuscany and Spindle incidents," Simpson said. "More recently, however, that situation has changed radically. I'm sure you here in Beowulf have an even better appreciation than most for just how badly the Manties were damaged by that attack on their home system."

For just a moment, despite her obviously formidable self-control, those brown eyes hardened. Obviously she and her superiors suspected Beowulf really did have a far better "appreciation" for events in Manticore than it had chosen to share with them. Caddell-Markham and Miternowski-Zhyang only nodded courteously, however. Her lips thinned ever so briefly, but then she shrugged and actually smiled.

"We don't know who was responsible for that attack. I assure you, ONI is working overtime to figure out who it could have been! The obvious fact that at least one other navy also has capabilities we can't match at the moment doesn't make any of us very happy. At the same time, it's clear this mysterious third party has managed to significantly prune back Manty capabilities. In fact, our analysis suggests the Manticoran heavy industrial structure's been effectively destroyed, with obvious consequences for their ability to support sustained operations. None of which has done anything to mitigate Manty ambitions, unfortunately. To be honest they seem to have become even more ambitious -- or aggressive, at any rate -- judging by their actions where the wormhole network is concerned. In fact, we have reports -- unconfirmed at this time, but from usually reliable sources -- that they've begun to go beyond shutting down their own termini by actually seizing control of any other termini they can reach, regardless of who they may belong to, to close them against us, as well.

"Given the Manticorans' clear, unwavering intention to hold to the aggressive course they've set, Prime Minister Gyulay concurs with Admiral Rajampet's view that it would be criminally negligent to give them the gift of time to rebuild their military. Ultimately, that would almost certainly result in an unconscionable death toll for our own military. For that matter, it would result ultimately in a staggering death toll for the Manties, once we fully mobilized against them. So, the Navy intends to move quickly, taking advantage of this window of opportunity. We happen to have a force of approximately four hundred ships-of-the-wall either already at or within a very few days' hyper travel of the Tasmania System. Within the next two or three weeks, those ships, reinforced by everything we've been able to get to them, will advance on Manticore under Fleet Admiral Filareta. They should reach Manticore no later than the middle of June."

Simpson's voice had become deeper and more measured, and this time the Beowulfers allowed their own eyes to widen in surprise leavened by more than a hint of trepidation.

"Admiral Rajampet fully realizes the grave risks of the operation he's instructed Admiral Kingsford to mount. Obviously, we hope the combination of the damage the Manties have already suffered and the speed with which Admiral Filareta can reach their home system will convince them to see reason. Failing that, we believe their defensive capabilities will have been sufficiently reduced for Admiral Filareta to succeed in defeating their remaining forces with a minimum of casualties. Nonetheless, the possibility does exist that he'll take severe losses if it turns out their defensive canopy hasn't been quite so badly eroded as our current analyses suggest. Which is what brings me to Beowulf."

She stopped speaking almost abruptly and sat back in her own chair, gazing at Caddell-Markham levelly.

"I beg your pardon?" he said. "I'm afraid I don't quite understand how Admiral -- Filareta, you said? -- and his operations affect us here in Beowulf, Admiral Simpson."

"It's actually fairly simple, Director," Simpson replied. "In an ideal universe the psychological aspects of this operation will allow Admiral Filareta to succeed without firing a single shot. The idea is to demonstrate to the Manties that whatever their present, transitory advantages, they can't ultimately hope to defeat something with the size and staying power of the Solarian League and the Solarian League Navy. To help push that lesson home, we need to apply pressure from as many directions as possible as closely to simultaneously as possible."

"Wait a minute," Caddell-Markham said (after all, it wouldn't do to appear too obtuse). "I do hope you're not proposing to launch a second prong of this attack through the Beowulf Terminus, Admiral Simpson!"

"That's exactly what we're proposing, Sir."
*
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Re: STICKY: A Rising Thunder Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Tue Feb 07, 2012 9:03 pm

DrakBibliophile
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A Rising Thunder - Snippet 24

"Well, I'm afraid I can't agree that it's a very good idea," he told her flatly.

"Why not?" If Simpson was dismayed (or surprised) by his response, her tone gave no indication of it.

"Several reasons occur to me right off hand. First and foremost, there's the question of pre-transit intelligence." Caddell-Markham shook his head, his expression sober. "I'm sure you realize how much Manticore's closure of the Junction is hurting us here in Beowulf. They've shut it down from their end, not ours, but with Manty merchant traffic all heading for home or already there and the Junction closed to all Solarian traffic, one of our major revenue producers is effectively completely off-line. I'm sure Admiral Kingsford and Admiral Rajampet were aware of that when they sent you to make this proposal to us, and no doubt there are some people right here on Beowulf who want to see our terminus reopened just as badly as anyone in Old Chicago might. But whether that's true or not, the fact that it's currently closed to Solarian traffic -- including ours -- means we don't have a clear idea of what's currently happening in and around the Junction. Everything we have heard and been able to piece together, however, suggests they've concentrated their defenses to cover the Junction from their side more thoroughly than at any time since the Star Kingdom took Trevor's Star away from the People's Republic. At the very least, the forces they already had in place have to be at a very high level of alert.

"Even leaving that consideration aside, though, there's the problem of coordinating our own forces. Manticore may be only a single wormhole transit from Beowulf, but it's light-centuries away in n-space. Trying to coordinate simultaneous assaults between two forces which are literally months apart in terms of communications time strikes me as a recipe for disaster. Especially when, if I understand what you said earlier correctly, there won't be time to get a dispatch boat to Admiral Filareta with the news that your second force is even coming!"

"You're right," Simpson conceded, "and we've considered that. We can't communicate directly with Admiral Filareta, of course, but we've already infiltrated one of our own dispatch boats into the Manticore System. It's covered as a news service vessel, since the Manties are so 'graciously' allowing even Solarian courier and dispatch vessels passage, and we've arranged to rotate additional couriers through the Junction under similar covers throughout the entire operational window. The Manties' own movements should make it evident to everyone in the system when Filareta arrives, at which point our dispatch boat transits to Beowulf and another thirty or so of our SDs transit directly into the Junction. The sudden arrival of another task force that powerful in their rear should certainly drive home to the Manties the sheer disparity between our resources and theirs."

"Even assuming your courier boat's allowed to make transit -- which it might well not be, once Filareta arrives and the system goes to a high state of military alert," Miternowski-Zhyang said, speaking for the first time, "what makes you think the Manties will let you make transit with that many wallers?" The assistant director of defense wasn't making any particular effort to disguise her own incredulity. "I'm assuming from the number you've just given us that you're talking about a simultaneous transit, but whether you plan on a simultaneous transit or a phased transit, those ships are still going to be emerging suddenly, without clearance, when the Manties are already facing the open arrival of four hundred Solarian wallers. As Director Caddell-Markham just pointed out, all our sources indicate their Junction defense forces are at a strength and readiness level we haven't seen in years. And, to be blunt, whoever's in command of those forces is going to shoot first and worry about IDs later."

"That's clearly a possibility." Simpson nodded. "Fleet Admiral Bernard and the Office of Strategy and Planning feel the odds are in favor of their standing down -- or being momentarily paralyzed, at least -- in the face of such a sudden multiplication of threat axes, however."

"'The odds are in favor' of their standing down?" Miternowski-Zhyang sounded as if she couldn't believe her own ears. "You're talking about sending better than thirty ships-of-the-wall with—what? A hundred and eighty thousand men and women onboard? -- into a situation from which they can't possibly retreat, because the odds 'are in favor' of the Manties not pulling the trigger?" She shook her head. "Fleet Admiral Bernard does understand Manticore's been at war effectively continuously for twenty T-years, doesn't she?"

"Of course she does." Simpson's tone had become a bit testy at last. "I would submit, however, Assistant Director, that there's a vast difference between fighting something as ramshackle as the People's Republic of Haven and fighting the Solarian League. And that has to be especially true after they just got their entire system-defense force royally reamed by whoever got through to their industrial platforms!"

Miternowski-Zhyang shoved herself further back in her chair, shaking her head yet again.

"I'm sure there is a 'vast difference,' Admiral," she said with a noticeable edge of frost. "At the same time, I think we've probably seen a bit more of Manticore here than the Office of Strategy and Planning's seen in Old Chicago. I'm not trying to cast any aspersions on the analysts and planners in question" -- there might, Caddell-Markham thought, have been just a hint of insincerity in that last little bit -- "but everything we've ever seen out of the Manties suggests their first reaction to any threat, especially to their home system, is going to be to kill it. And whatever they may have used at Spindle, I think we can safely assume they have even heavier weapons defending the home system."

"Which someone else has already cleared a path through for us," Simpson pointed out. "And which the damage to their industrial capacity will prevent them from replacing."

"Assuming they hadn't taken the elementary military precaution of having more of them stockpiled in secure areas, well away from their industrial platforms," Miternowski-Zhyang shot back. She shook her head yet again, more sharply than ever. "I'm sorry, Admiral Simpson. I realize this isn't your plan, that you're simply in the position of describing it to us. But speaking as someone who's spent the last thirty or forty T-years helping manage the naval side of our own system-defense force, there's no way I could possibly sign off on such a high-risk, no-fallback operational plan."

"And if Justyná could sign off on it, Admiral," Caddell-Markham put in, "I'm afraid neither Chairman Benton-Ramirez nor I could."

"I see."

Simpson sat for a moment, looking back and forth between the two Beowulfers. Then she shrugged.

"I'm sorry to hear that. We'd hoped the BSDF would help flesh out the secondary force. In fact, I'm afraid my instructions are to officially request that of the Planetary Board of Directors, even if Chairman Benton-Ramirez is as likely to reject our request as you're suggesting. Fortunately, we should be able to make up the necessary numbers out of SLN units, although without Beowulfan support we won't have the redundancy to follow up once the terminus stabilizes again. I hope the Chairman will at least consider the…advisability of providing that minimal level of support to an operation of such obviously critical importance."

Well, score one for Jukka's "paranoid" analysis, Caddell-Markham thought. Although, to be honest, I find it difficult to believe anyone even in Rajampet's office is crazy enough to think something like this could possibly succeed!

"If you intend to make a formal request for BSDF support, I will of course present it to Chairman Benton-Ramirez," he said out loud. "And while I understand your viewpoint, I'm afraid my own recommendation will be that he turn it down. I'm sorry, Admiral, but I fully share the Assistant Director's view of the probable outcome of any such operation. Under the circumstances, I can't recommend anything which might be construed as approval of it."

"Obviously, that's your privilege, Sir," Simpson said more than a little coldly.

"I see it not as a 'privilege,' but as a moral duty, Admiral," Caddell-Markham said equally coldly. "In fact, to be frank, my initial reaction is that this entire plan is based on overly optimistic and extremely problematic assumptions which rest on completely unverified -- and unverifiable -- estimates of the Manties' current vulnerability. I'm perfectly prepared to review any intelligence analyses which would appear to support those assumptions and estimates, but all of the intelligence available to us here in Beowulf, right on the other side of the terminus, suggests that Justyná's view of the Manties' probable response is unfortunately accurate. Indeed, I suspect the Planetary Board will officially go on record as opposing the entire operation as hasty, ill-conceived, and likely to result in extraordinarily heavy casualties."
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Re: STICKY: A Rising Thunder Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Thu Feb 09, 2012 9:05 pm

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A Rising Thunder - Snippet 25

Chapter Eight

"I don't know, Luis."

Governor Oravil Barregos paused and took a sip of the really nice Mayan burgundy Admiral Luis Roszak had chosen to accompany dinner. It wasn't actually very much like Old Terran burgundy, despite the name. Fermented from the Mayan golden plum, not grapes, it reminded Roszak more of a rich, fruity port, but no one had consulted him when it was named, and it was one of Barregos' favored vintages. The governor's expression was not that of a man savoring a special treat, however, and he sighed as he lowered the glass.

"I don't know," he repeated, gazing down into its tawny heart. "After the way you got hammered at Congo and given how that maniac Rajampet seems to be calling the shots, I have to admit I'm feeling at least a minor case of…cold feet, let's say."

Roszak sat back, nursing his own wineglass, and studied the Maya Sector Governor across his small kitchen table. He'd known Oravil Barregos a long time, and "cold feet" were something he'd never before associated with the other man. Especially not where the "Sepoy Option" was concerned.

Then again, the admiral thought, we've never been this close to actually pulling it off, and none of our calculations considered the possibility of an outright shooting war between the League and someone like the Manties. Throw in "mystery raiders" with invisible starships, and I suppose even Alexander of Macedon might experience the odd moment of trepidation. And Oravil, bless his Machiavellian little heart, never believed he was a demigod to begin with!

"I agree we got hammered," he said after a moment. "And when it comes right down to it, it's my fault we did."

He made the admission unflinchingly, and raised his free hand in a silencing motion when Barregos started to contest his self indictment.

"I'm not saying I made wrong decisions based on what I thought I knew," he said. "I am saying I was too damned complacent about thinking that what we all thought we knew was accurate. Or, rather, that we understood all its implications, let's say." He shrugged. "We knew Mesa was using Luft and his people as deniable mercenaries, and we assumed -- on the basis of what happened at Monica with the Manties -- that they might reinforce them with heavy Solarian-built units, which is exactly what they did. Our mistake -- my mistake -- was to assume that if they were using Solarian-built units, they'd be using SLN missiles, too. I built all my tactics around the assumption my opponents would be range-limited, unable to reply effectively." He shrugged again, dark eyes bitter with memory. "I was wrong."

"If you were wrong, so was everyone else," Barregos pointed out. "Edie Habib and Watanapongse both thought the same thing."

"Of course they did. They're no more mind readers than I am, and it was a logical assumption. And there was no sign they had any missile pods on tow, either, since they didn't. If they had been towing pods, though -- if we'd seen something like that -- even I might have remembered those long-ranged missiles Technodyne provided for Monica and at least considered the possibility that Mesa had given something similar to Luft.

"My point, Oravil, is that I was the commanding officer. There's an old saying, one I think too many officers and politicians routinely ignore: 'The buck stops here.' I was the commander; the responsibility was mine. And what made it my fault we got hammered was that if I'd thought about it at all, I didn't have to close as far as I did. Even with those 'cataphract' missiles, we had them out-ranged. But I wanted to get right in on the edge of their powered envelope, get the best accuracy I could while staying too far away for them to fire effectively on us. If I'd been more cautious, settled for poorer firing solutions and just accepted that I was going to expend more ammunition, they wouldn't have been able to hurt us anywhere near as badly as they did. In fact, we probably wouldn't've gotten hurt at all."

"I still say it's not your fault." Barregos shook his head stubbornly. "You have to go with the information you've got when you plan something like a battle. I may not be an admiral, but I know that much! And no plan survives contact with the enemy. I don't know how many times I've heard you say that, and it's as true in politics as it is in the military. It works both ways, too. They may have surprised you with the range of their missiles, but you surprised the hell out of them, too! And your deployment gave you the reserve to run the table once you'd taken out their battlecruisers." The governor shrugged. "You got hurt a lot worse than we ever anticipated, but you still won the battle -- decisively -- because you were prepared to deal with Murphy when he turned up."

"All right, I'll give you that." Rozsak nodded. Then he smiled, and his eyes narrowed. "And where I was headed, using the strategy of the indirect approach, was to point out that you do a pretty good job of disaster-proofing your plans, too. We always knew we were going to have to make a lot of it up as we went along when the token finally dropped, Oravil. You've laid your groundwork; despite all the people I managed to get killed at Congo, we've still got most of our critical senior personnel in position; and I can't really think of something closer to producing the conditions Sepoy envisioned than what's going on with the Manties now. We just have to be ready to improvise and adapt when Murphy starts throwing crap at us on the political front, as well."

Barregos gazed at the admiral for several seconds, then snorted in harsh amusement.

"'Indirect approach' is it? All right, you got me. But this is a little different from defending Torch against an Eridani violation, Luis. If I push the button on Sepoy, it's for all the marbles. We have to come out into the open, and that's going to put us up against Frontier Fleet, maybe even Battle Fleet, and we're nowhere near the Manties' size and weight!"

"I think your plans for staying in the shadows a bit longer will hold up," Rozsak demurred. "Oh, there's a risk they won't, but don't forget the rumblings we're getting from other Frontier Security sectors. I think the situation's going to go a lot further south on Kolokoltsov and Rajampet than they ever imagined. It's going to happen a lot faster than even you and I assumed it would, too, and this confrontation with the Manties is what's driving it, because it's destroying the League's perceived omnipotence among the independent Verge systems. I'm sure the fear of where that's going to lead is a big part of what's driving Kolokoltsov to back MacArtney and Rajampet, but they don't seem to've considered that a lot of the more restive protectorates may have read the evidence the same way as the independent systems. I think they're in for a rude awakening on that front sometime really soon now, and when the shitstorm hits, they're going to be so busy worrying about outbreaks closer to home that we're going to sort of disappear into the general chaos, at least at first. They aren't going to be sending any major fleets out here while they're dealing with forest fires in the Core's front yard. Especially when we keep explaining that we're really good, loyal OFS thugs just doing what we have to maintain order in the League's benevolent name."
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Paul Howard (Alias Drak Bibliophile)
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Re: STICKY: A Rising Thunder Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Sun Feb 12, 2012 9:08 pm

DrakBibliophile
Admiral

Posts: 2125
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A Rising Thunder - Snippet 26

Barregos frowned thoughtfully, his eyes focused on something only he could see. He stayed that way for a while, then inhaled deeply and refocused on his host across the table.

"All right, I'll give you that," he said, deliberately reusing Rozsak's own words. "And you're right about where their attention's likely to be focused … assuming they don't just go ahead and steamroller the Manties after all. But that could still happen, especially after the Yawata Strike."

Rozsak nodded soberly. No one in the Maya Sector was yet clear on exactly how much damage the Manties had taken from that surprise attack. It had happened barely five weeks ago, and the Maya System was ten days from the Manticore Binary System by dispatch boat even using the shortcut from the Manticoran Wormhole Junction via Hennessy, Terre Haute, and Erewhon. What they did know, though, was that casualties -- civilian casualties this time, unlike those suffered in the Battle of Manticore -- had been horrific, and it sounded as if Manticore's industrial capabilities had taken a major blow. That had to have serious implications in any conflict with the League, and the absence of any evidence as to who'd actually attacked the Manties increased the uncertainty quotient exponentially.

"I'm not going to say the Manties aren't in a deep crack," the admiral said. "We don't know how deep it is, but it's not someplace I'd like to be. On the other hand, they've been in cracks before, and it's usually worked out worse for the other side than for them, so I'm not prepared to write them off. And even if they do go down, they're not going easy. Old Chicago's still going to be concentrating primarily on them for at least a while, and the fact that Erewhon's no longer part of the Manticoran Alliance works for us, too. No one on Old Terra's looking in Erewhon's direction at the moment, and if our reports go on stressing how our investment in the system is giving us additional clout to suck them deeper into the League's pocket, we can keep it that way for quite a while."

"Probably," Barregos conceded with a nod. That had been part of his own core planning from the outset, after all.

"Well, new construction's already more than replaced everything I lost at Congo," Rozsak pointed out. "We're two and a half T-years into our master building program, too, and the Carlucci Group's actually a bit ahead of schedule on the wallers. Not a lot -- we're still looking at somewhere around two more T-years before we'll be able to put the first SD into commission -- but the light units will be ready a lot sooner than that. They're already starting to supply us with all-up multidrive missiles for our arsenal ships, as well, and however long the podnoughts are going to take, we should have the first pod battlecruisers in another ten months or so. Call it mid-October for the first units' builder's trials. Whatever happens with the Manties, I'm pretty damn sure they'll last at least that long against anything a thumb-fingered 'strategist' like Rajampet can throw at them, if only because of the transit times involved! And, like I say, Kolokoltsov and MacArtney are going to be a lot more occupied with the unrest that's headed for them out in the open than by our own discreet activities. On that basis, I'd say we're almost certain to get at least a few squadrons of wallers ready for service before Rajampet decides we're another nail that needs hammering."

Barregos nodded again. It wasn't as if Rozsak were telling him anything he didn't already know. And as the admiral had also suggested, Oravil Barregos had known from the beginning that his plans were going to require fancy footwork. He'd seen this storm coming long ago, even if he'd never counted on actual hostilities between the League and someone like the Star Empire. The cataclysm poised to demolish the League's arrogant complacency was going to come as an even greater shock to the men and women who thought of themselves as its masters than his original plans had dared anticipate, but to reach his destination he'd have to embrace the storm, use its downdrafts and savage crosscurrents.

And skydiving in a thunderstorm never was the safest hobby, was it, Oravil? He asked himself dryly. I guess it's time you find out whether you've got the intestinal fortitude to really do this after all.

He took another sip of wine, thinking about all the years of effort and careful planning, of cautious recruitment and trust-building, which had led him to this point. And as he did, he realized that however nervous he might feel, what he felt most strongly of all was eagerness.

No one who'd ever met Oravil Barregos could have doubted for a moment that he was intensely ambitious. He knew it himself, and he'd accepted that he was the sort of man who was never truly happy unless he was the one wielding authority. Making decisions. Proving he was smarter, better, more qualified for the power he possessed than anyone else. Nor, he admitted, was he averse to wealth and all that came with it.

That, in many ways, was the perfect profile of an Office of Frontier Security commissioner or sector governor, and it explained a great deal about how he'd risen to his present position. But it didn't explain all of it, and that was important, because the bureaucrats who'd accepted him as one of their own had made a fatal mistake. They'd failed to recognize that unlike them, Barregos actually cared about the people he governed. That he'd recognized the rot, seen the corrosion, realized the reaction Frontier Security's abuse of the protectorates must inevitably provoke.

Whether or not he and Luis Rozsak and the other men and women committed to the Sepoy Option succeeded, the storm was coming, and the League's confrontation with the Star Empire of Manticore could only speed the day its winds swept over the explored galaxy. And that was really the point, wasn't it? When that storm broke, the chaos and confusion, the warlordism and the violence, which followed the shipwreck of any empire, were going to sweep across the protectorates, as well. They were going to sweep across the Maya Sector, and Maya's wealth could only make it even more attractive to brigands and pirates and potential warlords.

That wasn't going to happen to the people Oravil Barregos was responsible for. On oh so many levels, it wasn't going to happen. And for him to prevent it, he and Rozsak had to build the strength to stand against the hurricane.

To stop the warlords, they had to become warlords…and the biggest, nastiest warlords on the block, at that.

"You're right, Luis," he said, setting the glass down with a snap. He looked across the table at the admiral who was not simply his accomplice in treason but his closest friend and smiled. "You're right. So let's just consider my cold feet warmed up."

Rozsak smiled back at him and raised his own glass.

"I'll drink to that," he said.
*
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Re: STICKY: A Rising Thunder Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Tue Feb 14, 2012 9:04 pm

DrakBibliophile
Admiral

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A Rising Thunder - Snippet 27

Chapter Nine

"I don't suppose we've received any updates on those damned missile ships?"

Fleet Admiral Massimo Filareta's hundred and ninety centimeters, broad shoulders, close cropped beard, strong chin, and dark eyes gave him an undeniably commanding physical presence. When he was angry, that presence tended to become actively intimidating, and at the moment, Admiral John Burrows, his chief of staff, estimated, he was somewhere well north of "irritated" and closing rapidly on "irate." The rest of his staffers were busy finding other places to park their gazes, and quite a few seemed to have discovered that the wallpaper on their personal computers had become downright fascinating.

"No, Sir, we haven't," the short, fair-haired Burrows said calmly.

He'd been with Filareta long enough to develop a certain deftness at managing the fleet admiral, and to Filareta's credit, he realized he needed a manager. He hadn't risen to his present rank without family connections, but in Burrows' opinion he was also one of a handful of truly senior officers who were actually competent. He was hardworking, levelheaded, and paid attention to the details all too many other flag officers simply ignored or shoveled onto their overworked staffs. At the same time, though, he was a man of passions, unruly emotions, and huge appetites, and he needed someone like Burrows to keep him balanced…or at least focused. Which was one reason John Burrows routinely faced an irritated Filareta with a confidence which filled lesser staffers with the sort of admiration normally reserved for counter-grav-free skydivers, alligator wrestlers, and similar adrenaline junkies.

"Of course we haven't!" Filareta more than half snarled, and this time Burrows simply nodded, since he and Filareta were both aware the fleet admiral had known the answer before he ever asked the question.

Filareta clamped his teeth hard on his frustrated anger and turned to the briefing room's smart wall bulkhead and the distant, fiery spark of the star named Tasmania. He clamped his hands equally tightly behind him and concentrated on fighting his temper under control.

What he really wanted to do was to turn that temper loose. A good. old-fashioned, red-in-the-face-and-screaming tantrum might relieve at least some of the anger, frustration, and (little though he cared to admit it even to himself) fear swirling around inside him. Unfortunately, any relief would have been purely temporary, and he didn't need to be displaying his own reservations in front of his staff.

Especially not on the eve of the biggest combat deployment in the eight hundred-year history of the Solarian League Navy.

"All right," he said, once he was fairly confident he'd locked down his temper. "Since we're stuck here, twiddling our thumbs until they do deign to arrive, I suppose we should look at the results of yesterday's exercise." He looked over his shoulder at Admiral William Daniels, his operations officer. "Suppose you start the ball rolling, Bill."

"Yes, Sir."

The brown-haired, brown-eyed Daniels had been with Filareta almost as long as Burrows, but he wasn't as good at fleet admiral-managing, and he couldn't hide his relief as the meeting turned to something less inflammatory than the ammunition ships' much-discussed tardiness.

"First, Sir," he continued, "I'd like to observe that Admiral Haverty's task force did particularly well in the missile-defense role. We all know ONI's current opinion is that whoever leveled the Manties' home system has to've blown a huge hole in their missile umbrella, and I know we all hope that's true. If it isn't, though, we're going to need the kind of performance Haverty's people turned in. In particular," he activated his previously prepared report and a stop-motion hologram of a detailed tactical plot appeared above the briefing room conference table, "I'd like to direct everyone's attention to this missile salvo here." A flight of missile icons blinked scarlet on the plot. "As you can see, we adjusted the simulation's parameters to reflect the reports of extended ranges we've been receiving. As of this time, we still don't know what their actual ranges are, of course, but this simulation assigned them a fifty percent increase in powered envelope, and we didn't warn anyone it was coming ahead of time. Despite that, though, if you watch what happens when Admiral Haverty's task force detects them incoming," he entered a command and the missile icons began moving steadily across the holographic plot, "you'll see that --"

* * *

"What did you think of Daniels' analysis of Haverty's performance?" Filareta asked Burrows some hours later.

The two of them sat in Filareta's dining cabin, forming a small island of humanity at the enormous compartment's center, with the remnants of a sumptuous lunch on the table between them. Burrows was always a little astonished Filareta could eat as heartily as he did without ever appearing to gain a single gram. Of course, the fleet admiral did work out regularly, and there were those…other interests of his.

"I thought he was pretty much on the mark, Sir." The chief of staff sipped from his wine glass. "I think we probably need to push the simulator parameters further out -- I agree with you there, entirely -- but he was right about how well Haverty did within the existing parameters. And, frankly, there's at least some question in my mind about how far we want to go in simulating Manticoran range advantages."

Not many officers would have admitted that so frankly, Filareta reflected, but Burrows had a point. If they started putting their fleet through simulations which assumed the Royal Manticoran Navy's effective missile ranges really were as extreme as some reports claimed, it would devastate their own morale.

And if the bastards do have that kind of range -- and accuracy -- there's no point training to fight them, anyway. We'll be dead meat no matter what we do!

It wasn't a thought he was prepared to share even with Burrows, although he suspected the chief of staff had reached the same conclusion. On the other hand, Burrows continued to believe -- probably correctly, Filareta thought -- that the Manty missiles at Spindle must have come out of system-defense pods, not shipboard launchers. No matter what else, missiles that long-ranged had to be huge, which meant no mobile unit could carry them in the numbers which had been reported. And if they had come out of system-defense pods, then even that incomparable military genius Rajampet was probably right about how the January attack on the Manties' home system had depleted their supply of them.

Unfortunately, that attack had occurred at least six T-months before Filareta could possibly get there to exploit it. He wasn't as confident as Rajampet that the Manties wouldn't be able to make a lot of that damage good in the meantime. And, even more unfortunately, there were a few things Burrows didn't know and Filareta was in no position to tell him.

The fleet admiral picked up his own wineglass, sipping with less than his usual appreciation while his mind flowed down internal pathways which had become entirely too well worn over the two T-weeks since he'd received his orders for Operation Raging Justice. Actually, they'd started wearing their way into his cortex the instant he heard about Sandra Crandall's debacle. Or, at least, the instant he first heard the Manticorans' analysis of how Crandall had come to be aimed at them in the first place.

Burrows, he knew, put zero credence in Manty claims that Manpower and/or other Mesa-based transstellars had deliberately fomented the incidents in the Talbott Quadrant. The chief of staff was no innocent virgin where corporate influence on naval policies was involved, but it was preposterous to suggest that any transstellar, however powerful, could actually control major fleet movements! That was the stuff of paranoid conspiracy theories, as far as Burrows was concerned.

It might not have been if he'd known what Massimo Filareta knew.

Filareta couldn't be positive Crandall had been influenced by Manpower, but he knew for damned certain that he had. He knew all about his own reputation as a hard-partying fellow, and he knew there were rumors about certain other of his more…esoteric tastes. As far as he knew, though, no one knew about his most deeply hidden cravings. No one, at least, but his "friends" at Manpower, who'd long since fallen into the habit of providing for those cravings. Those same "friends" had eased his way in other fashions, as well, and he'd always known that someday they'd want payback. But he'd been all right with that; it was the way the system worked, even if his particular set of incentives would have been regarded as beyond the pale even by jaded Solarian standards.
*
Paul Howard (Alias Drak Bibliophile)
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Sometimes The Dragon Wins! [Polite Dragon Smile]
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Re: STICKY: A Rising Thunder Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Thu Feb 16, 2012 9:18 pm

DrakBibliophile
Admiral

Posts: 2125
Joined: Sun Sep 06, 2009 2:54 pm
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A Rising Thunder - Snippet 28

So he hadn't been surprised when one of his "friends" explained why they wanted him in command of the task force to be deployed to Tasmania. They wanted a Solarian naval presence close to the Manties -- close enough to discourage them from diverting strength to Talbott to respond forcefully to Manpower's proxies -- and they wanted its CO to be someone they could trust to make that point to Manticore if the need arose.

And you just can't quite brush off the suspicion that they may have sent Crandall out to Talbott with exactly the same "you're just a diversion" explanation, can you, Massimo? Especially when you're sitting here waiting for the damned missile colliers.

That was the final element which had him considering the sort of "paranoid conspiracy theories" with which Burrows had so little patience. The order to prepare to receive a massive influx of reinforcements had arrived on April the eleventh, with instructions to sortie no later than the twenty-fifth. Obviously, the reinforcements he was to expect had already been put into motion, and although the timetable had been tight, he'd felt reasonably confident of making the ordered departure date. Except that two days later, he'd received orders to await a convoy of ammunition ships loaded with the latest Technodyne ship-to-ship and system defense missile variants. As a follow-up dispatch had explained, it would delay the operation by no more than forty-eight hours, assuming the missile colliers experienced no delays of their own.

He'd been surprised Technodyne was supplying anything, given the legal firestorm still swirling around the huge arms manufacturer. But then he'd examined the new order a bit more closely and discovered that the "Technodyne" shipment had actually originated in the Mesa System.

Which was odd, since there was no Technodyne manufacturing facility in that star system.

Technodyne did have a corporate headquarters on Mesa, so it might have made sense for shipping orders to originate there, but there was no way the missiles themselves should be coming from that star system. Not if they'd actually been built by Technodyne, at least. Unless, perhaps, they were coming out of ammunition stockpiles already amassed by someone -- someone other than the Solarian League Navy -- in the aforesaid system.

As far as Filareta knew, not even Burrows had noticed that discrepancy. Nor had the chief of staff looked at the transit times involved. Oh, if anyone did look, they'd probably find that the colliers had been "diverted in transit" from some other, reasonably innocent destination, just like quite a few of his reinforcing superdreadnought squadrons. Massimo Filareta wasn't "anyone," however. He was as certain as a man could be that the missiles in question had actually left Mesa before his orders to sortie had been written on Old Terra, and they hadn't been "diverted in transit," either. They'd been intended for Tasmania from the outset…which, in turn, suggested that the same someone in the Mesa System from whose stockpiles they'd been drawn had calculated that Filareta's command was going to receive exactly the orders it had received.

And those orders had been written only as a consequence of what had happened to Sandra Crandall.

Given all that, the Manties' "preposterous" claims about Mesa began to seem a lot less preposterous. And the fact that "Technodyne" just happened to have been developing a longer-ranged, tube-launched shipkiller missile at the very moment the analysts back home in Old Chicago had finally become aware of Manticoran missile ranges was another of those "coincidences" Filareta found difficult to swallow.

No, he thought now, lowering his glass and staring down into the wine. No, you're a pulser dart aimed at Manticore by your "friends," Massimo. And so was Crandall. And someone else -- someone back in the Sol System itself -- has to be in on this, too. It's the only way those oh-so-fortuitously available missiles could have been slipped into the order queue so smoothly. It could be Kingsford, I suppose. He's spent long enough learning to punch Rajampet's buttons. Or it could be Rajampet himself. I never would've thought he was smart enough to make a good conspirator, but someone else could be calling the shots for him the same way they were for Crandall…or me, for that matter. And when you come down to it, it doesn't really have to've been someone at the top. Someone in the right position in Logistics could've stage-managed the whole thing, at least as far as the missiles are concerned. Not that it really matters how they managed that part. No, what matters is whether they pre-positioned me just in case I'd be needed, or because they figured all along that Crandall was going to get reamed? Because if they deliberately set her up to get wasted, they could be doing exactly the same thing to me.

On the face of it, he couldn't see any advantage for anyone in the Mesa System in getting another three or four hundred Solarian ships-of-the-wall killed. On the other hand, he was damned if he could see what advantage they'd gotten out of what had happened to Crandall. So either they'd miscalculated in her case, or else they saw an advantage he couldn't.

It was odd how neither of those possibilities reassured him.

* * *

The bored-looking electronics tech swiped her ID and presented a palm to the scanner before stepping onto SLNS Philip Oppenheimer's flag bridge. The scanner considered the card's biometric data, comparing it briefly but thoroughly to the DNA of the proffered hand. Then it blinked a green light, and the officer of the watch glanced in the newcomer's direction with a raised eyebrow.

"Permission to enter Flag Bridge, Ma'am?" the tech asked with a salute which might have been a bit sharper.

"Do we have a fault I don't know about, PO…Harder?" the officer of the watch responded, checking the readout from the ID for the tech's name before acknowledging her salute.

"I don't think so, Ma'am," Harder replied. "Just a routine, scheduled maintenance check somebody forgot to make. Or forgot to log, anyway."

Harder's tone made it clear she didn't appreciate having been sent to tidy up someone else's mistake.

"The Chief Engineer sent me to make sure it's done and done right," she continued. "Everything's probably fine, really, but Captain Hershberger wants to be certain it really is, under the circumstances."

"Well, I'm not about to argue with that," the officer of the watch agreed, and nodded for Harder to get on with it.

The noncom pulled up her mincomp work order, then double checked the command station number to be certain before she headed across the bridge. She pulled the access panel on the back of Admiral Daniels' console, laid out her toolkit, flopped down, on the decksole and slid under the complex collection of molecular circuitry with her testing equipment.

* * *

"Well, there's a thing," Anton Zilwicki said mildly.

He sat at the communications officer's station on the Havenite dispatch boat's cramped bridge. Such bare-bones craft couldn't begin to match the sensor reach of a real warship, and their much simpler sensor suites had no dedicated plot, either. Instead, they used the main com screen to display such data as they managed to collect, and it was customary for the com officer to be responsible for them. As it happened, the dispatch boat's official com officer -- who seemed to be about twelve, anyway -- was in sickbay with, of all ridiculous things, an impacted wisdom tooth.

The situation, Zilwicki thought, said volumes about just how poor medical care, and especially preventative medical care, had been under the People's Republic of Haven. The restored Republic was working hard to get the backlog of completely preventable complaints -- like dental problems -- under control, but it hadn't caught up yet.

Fortunately for Lieutenant Dahmer, the boat's skipper, Anton Zilwicki had forgotten more about sensor systems and communications equipment than his ailing com officer had yet learned. Which explained why Zilwicki was monitoring the display as the small vessel accelerated towards the planet of Haven. Now he leaned forward, fiddling with the controls and frowning at the icons before him.

"What?" Victor Cachat demanded after a moment, and Zilwicki looked up over his shoulder.

"What 'what'?"

"You said, and I quote, 'Well, there's a thing."

"Did I?" Zilwicki raised both eyebrows and sighed. "A bad sign, Victor. Talking to myself, I mean." He shook his head. "I hope you avoid this kind of mental disintegration when you get to be my age."
*
Paul Howard (Alias Drak Bibliophile)
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Sometimes The Dragon Wins! [Polite Dragon Smile]
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Re: STICKY: A Rising Thunder Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Sun Feb 19, 2012 9:16 pm

DrakBibliophile
Admiral

Posts: 2125
Joined: Sun Sep 06, 2009 2:54 pm
Location: East Central Illinois

A Rising Thunder - Snippet 29

The Havenite glowered at him. Victor Cachat was extraordinarily capable, even gifted, in certain very specific, very narrow types of human endeavor. You needed someone killed? Victor Cachat was your man. A lock picked, an extortionist shown the error of his ways, a counterespionage sting run with consummate artistry, a planetary régime destabilized? Pish-tush! Mere bagatelles! Any of those minor challenges, and he was quite literally in a league of his own.

Step outside those…call them his "core competencies," however, and his expertise disappeared rapidly. When it came to electronics (other than those specifically associated with explosions, arson, and general mayhem, at least) he was not, to put it charitably, at his best. Indeed, Thandi Palane had been known to observe that he was the only man in the universe who could make a standard wrist chrono explode…accidentally. Zilwicki, on the other hand, was one of the galaxy's top handful of hackers, cyberneticists, and mollycirc wizards. Worse, at the moment, he was a trained naval officer, fully at home on the bridge and (unlike Cachat) able to absorb and interpret its displays as naturally as breathing.

"You know," Cachat said now, "it would be a tragedy if the working relationship you and I have developed should come to a catastrophic end due to the sudden, unanticipated demise of one half of that relationship."

"Really?" Zilwicki's tone remained grave, but there might have been the merest hint of the twinkle in those dark eyes, and his lips twitched ever so slightly. "Are you feeling ill, Victor? You don't have a bad tooth, do you?"

"Oh, no." Cachat smiled sweetly. "I'm feeling just fine."

"Oh, stop it, you two!" Yana said from behind them. Both men looked at her, and she shook her head, her expression disgusted. "I swear, I've known three-year-olds with higher maturity quotients than either of you!"

"Hey, he started it!" Cachat said virtuously, jabbing a finger in Zilwicki's direction.

"Did not."

"Did too!"

"Didn't!"

"Did!"

"Stop it!" Yana thwacked Cachat on the back of the head, then shook an index finger under Zilwicki's nose. "Victor isn't the only one you're teasing, Anton, so don't think I'm going to let you keep this up."

"Just as a matter of idle curiosity, what do you propose to do about it?" he inquired mildly.

"Me? Nothing." Yana's smile was even sweeter than Cachat's had been. "Not directly, anyway. No, I'll just mention your behavior to Her Majesty. I'm sure you don't want Berry taking you to task for picking on Victor this way, do you?"

Zilwicki regarded her thoughtfully, then shrugged. His daughter was unlikely to "take him to task,' but that didn't mean she couldn't find ways to demonstrate her disapproval. And Yana had a point. Berry did have an especially warm spot in her heart for Victor Cachat, galaxy-renowed assassin, ice-cold killer, and general purveyor of doom, chaos, and despair. Besides…

"All right," he said. "There's good news, and there's bad news. The bad news is that there's no sign of Eighth Fleet. The good news is that the star system's still intact. So we're not likely to find Duchess Harrington on-planet, but it doesn't look like the talks could've collapsed too disastrously."

"Are you sure you'd be able to find Eighth Fleet if it was still here?" Cachat asked. Zilwicki looked at him, and he shrugged. "You're the one who told me our sensors were crappy, Anton, and everybody knows Manty stealth is better than anyone else's."

"That's true," Zilwicki acknowledged. "On the other hand, according to your friend Justice, Eighth Fleet wasn't making any effort to hide. First, I imagine, because the whole point was for the Pritchart administration to be well aware --painfully well aware, if I may be so bold -- of the iron fist inside Duchess Harrington's velvet glove. And, second, because sitting there with its stealth and EW online for such extended periods would give your Navy entirely too good a look at their capabilities under what would amount to laboratory conditions. In other words, if they were still here, we'd be able to see them even with this one-eyed bastard."

He jerked his head at the display pretending to be a plot, and Cachat nodded. It would have taken someone who knew the Havenite spy as well as Zilwicki did to recognize the worry in his expression.

"Hey, it's not the end of the world, Victor," Zilwicki said more gently. "Like I said, the system's still here. For that matter, I'm picking up Capital Fleet's transponder beacons. If the talks had come apart spectacularly, there'd be a lot fewer ships and a lot more wreckage."

"True enough, I suppose." Cachat nodded brusquely, then gave himself a mental shake. "I could wish Duchess Harrington were still here, for a lot of reasons. But all we can do is the best we can do. Are we close enough for me to call in?"

"You'll still be looking at a twenty-five minute two-way lag," Zilwicki told him. "Do you want to send a one-way burst, or are we going to have to go through some kind of challenge-response validation?"

"Burst, I think," Cachat said after a moment's reflection. "We can at least get the ball started rolling."

"Fine. In that case, you'd better get started recording it."

* * *

The officer of the watch looked up from her own paperwork as Petty Officer Harder finished re-securing the access panel and started folding up her toolkit once more.

"Any problems, PO?"

"No, Ma'am." Harder smiled wryly. "Matter of fact, it looks like they did catch up on the last inspection and just forgot to log it. Everything's fine."

"Good." The officer smiled back and shook her head. "Sorry you had to come all the way down for something that was already done, but Captain Hershberger's right. Everything has to be four-oh on this one."

"You got that one right, Ma'am," Harder agreed, and headed for the flag bridge hatch.

* * *

The uniformed four-man escort waiting dirt-side for the shuttle seemed unable to decide whether its passengers were honored guests, prisoners, or homicidal maniacs. Since the escort was meeting Victor Cachat, Zilwicki thought that wasn't an unreasonable attitude on its part.

"Officer Cachat," the senior man said, looking at Cachat.

"Yes," Cachat replied tersely.

"And this would be Captain Zilwicki, then?"

"Yes, and this is Yana Tretiakovna." Cachat's tone had taken on a certain dangerous patience, Zilwicki noted.

"Thank you, Sir. But I don't believe anyone's told me who this is," the escort commander said, twitching his head in Herlander Simões' direction.

"No, they haven't, have they?"

"Sir, I'm afraid I'm going to have to insist on some identification."

"No," Cachat said flatly.

"Officer Cachat, I realize you're senior to me, but I'm still going to have to insist. My orders are to escort you directly to Péricard Tower, and I don't think Presidential Security's going to be happy about admitting someone they don't even have a name for!"

"Then they're just going to have to be unhappy," Cachat told him. "I'm not simply posturing, Officer…Bourchier," he went on, reading the other man's nameplate. "This man's identity -- for that matter, the very fact of his existence -- is strictly need-to-know. Frankly, I'd be a lot happier if you'd never even seen him. But the only four people who have the authority to decide you have a need-to-know who he is are Director Trajan, Director Usher, Attorney General LePic, or President Pritchart. Now, do you want to get one of them on a secure com to get that kind of clearance, or do you want to just take my word for it?"

"Believe me," Yana said in an exaggerated stage whisper, one hand cupped beside her mouth. "You want to just take his word for it."

Bourchier looked at all of them for a long moment, then inhaled deeply. Obviously he'd heard the stories about Victor Cachat.

"Fine," he said. "Have it your way. But if Agent Thiessen shoots him on sight, nobody better blame me for it."

* * *

Approximately ninety minutes later, Cachat, Simões, and Zilwicki were escorted into a maximum security briefing room. Yana had declined Cachat's invitation when she found out who else was going to be present. Apparently there were limits to her insouciance, after all.

Actually, Zilwicki didn't really blame her as he surveyed the briefing room's occupants. President Eloise Pritchart, Secretary of War Admiral Thomas Theisman, Attorney General Denis LePic, Vice Admiral Linda Trenis of the Bureau of Planning, and Rear Admiral Victor Lewis, the CO of the Office of Operational Research, sat waiting for them, along with three members of the President's security detail. All of whom, Zilwicki noted, looked just as unhappy as Officer Bourchier had suggested they might.
*
Paul Howard (Alias Drak Bibliophile)
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Sometimes The Dragon Wins! [Polite Dragon Smile]
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