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STICKY: A Rising Thunder Snippets

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STICKY: A Rising Thunder Snippets
Post by Duckk   » Thu Dec 15, 2011 5:02 pm

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Re: STICKY: A Rising Thunder Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Thu Dec 15, 2011 10:03 pm

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A Rising Thunder - Snippet 01

A Rising Thunder
David Weber


March 1922 Post Diaspora
"I'd rather not go there, but if we have to, we might as well go all the way."
-- Queen Elizabeth III of Manticore

Chapter One

"Get your goddamned ships the hell out of my space!"

The burly, dark-haired man on Commander Pang Yau-pau's com was red-faced and snarling, and Pang took a firm a grip on his own temper.

"I'm afraid that's not possible, Commodore Chalker," he replied as courteously as the circumstances permitted. "My orders are to protect Manticoran vessels passing through this terminus on their way home to Manticoran space."

"I don't give a damn about your 'orders,' Commander!" Commodore Jeremy Chalker spat back. His six destroyers were 2.4 million kilometers -- eight light-seconds -- from Pang's cruiser, and one might have thought it would be difficult to maintain a properly infuriated conversation over such a distance, especially with the delays light-speed transmissions built into its exchanges. Chalker seemed able to manage it quite handily, however. "You're in violation of my star system's sovereignty, you've evicted Solarian Astro Control personnel from their duty stations, and I want your ass gone!"

"Sir, it's not my intention to violate anyone's sovereignty," Pang replied, choosing to let the rather thornier question of the Solly traffic controllers lie. "My sole interest at this time is the protection of the Star Empire's merchant vessels."

Sixteen more seconds ticked past, and then --

"Shut your mouth, return control of this terminus to the personnel whose control stations you've illegally seized, and turn your ass around now, or I will by God open fire on the next fucking Manty freighter I see!"

Pang Yau-pau's normally mild brown eyes hardened, and he inhaled deeply.

"Skipper," a quiet voice said.

The single word couldn't have been more respectful, yet it was edged with warning, and Pang hit the mute button and glanced at the smaller screen deployed from the base of his command chair. Lieutenant Commander Myra Sadowski, his executive officer looked back at him from it.

"I know he's a pain in the ass," she continued in that same quiet voice, "but we're supposed to do this without making any more waves than we have to. If you hand this guy his head the way you want to -- the way he deserves, for that matter -- I think it would probably come under the heading of at least a ripple or two."

Myra, Pang reflected, had a point. There was, however, a time and a place for everything. For that matter, the Admiralty hadn't sent Pang and HMS Onyx to the Nolan Terminus to let someone like Jeremy Chalker make that sort of threat.

No, they didn't, another corner of the commander's brain told him. At the same time, I don't suppose it's too hard to understand why he's so pissed off. Not that it makes me like him any better.

At the moment, Onyx, her sister ship Smilodon, the Roland-class destroyer Tornado and the much older destroyer Othello were over six hundred and fifty light-years from the Manticore Binary System and barely two hundred light-years from the Sol System. It was not a particularly huge force to have wandering around so deep in increasingly hostile territory, as Pang was only too well aware. In fact, Nolan was a protectorate system of the Solarian League, and Chalker was an SLN officer, the senior Frontier Fleet officer present. He looked old for his rank, which suggested a certain lack of familial connections within the SLN, although he must have at least some influence to have ended up with the Nolan command. The system's proximity to the Nolan Terminus of the Nolan-Katharina Hyper Bridge was what had brought it to the Office of Frontier Security's attention a hundred-odd T-years ago, and the local OFS and Frontier Fleet officers had been raking off a comfortable percentage of the terminus user fees ever since. Judging from the reaction of the SLN captain who'd commanded the OFS-installed terminus traffic control staff when Pang ordered him to turn his control stations over to Manticoran personnel, another chunk of those fees had probably been finding its way into his pockets, as well. Precious little of that revenue had ended up in Nolan itself, at any rate.

Well, at least this time we can be pretty confident we're not hurting some innocent third-party star system's revenue stream, he thought. And it's not like we're planning to keep the terminus…just now, anyway. We'll give it back to them when I'm sure we've gotten all our ships safely through it. And if someone like Chalker takes one in the bank account in the meantime, I'm sure I'll be able to live with my regret somehow.

Of course, Pang never doubted that the rest of the Solarian League Navy was going to be just as infuriated as Chalker by Manticore's "arrogance" in seizing control of Solarian-claimed termini even temporarily. What was going to happen when Lacoön Two kicked in hardly bore thinking upon, although anyone who really thought not executing Lacoön Two was going to make one bit of difference to the Sollies was probably smoking things he shouldn't.

"I'm not the one making the waves," he told Sadowski out loud, then glanced across Onyx's command deck at Lieutenant Commander Jack Frazier, his tactical officer.

"I hope we're not going to have any business for you, Guns," he said. "If we do, I want to hold the damage to a minimum."

"You're thinking in terms of something more like what Admiral Gold Peak did at New Tuscany than what she did at Spindle, Sir?"

"Exactly." Pang smiled thinly. "Do you have Chalker's flagship IDed?"

"Yes, Sir." Frazier nodded with an answering smile. "I do. By the strangest coincidence, I've just this minute discovered that I've got her IDed, dialed in, and locked up, as a matter of fact."

"Good."

Pang paused a moment longer, taking an additional few seconds to make sure he had his own temper under control, then un-muted his audio pickup.

"Commodore Chalker," he said in a hard, flat voice quite different from the courteous one he'd employed so far, "allow me to point out two things to you. First, this terminus is, in fact, not in Nolan's territorial space. Unless my astrogation is badly off, it's five light-hours from Nolan, which puts it just a bit outside the twelve-minute limit. The Solarian League's claim to its possession rests solely on the SLN's supposed power to control the space about it. And, second, in regard to that supposed power, I respectfully suggest you consider the actual balance of force which obtains at this moment. Based on that balance, I submit that it would be unwise to issue such threats against Manticoran shipping…and even less wise to carry them out."

"Well piss on you, Commander! You and the rest of your 'Star Empire' may think you can throw your weight around any way you like, but there's a cold dawn coming, and it's going to get here sooner than you think!"

"I have my orders, Commodore," Pang responded in that same flat voice, "and I don't intend to debate the question of who's responsible for the current state of tension between the Star Empire and the Solarian League. I fully intend to return control of this terminus to the League -- and, obviously, to restore your personnel to their stations -- as soon as I've satisfied myself, as my orders require, that all Manticoran merchant vessels in this vicinity have been given the opportunity to return to Manticoran space through it. I regret" --neither his tone nor his expression was, in fact, particularly regretful -- "any inconvenience this may cause for you or any other Solarian personnel or citizens. I do, however, intend to carry out all of my orders, and one of those orders is to use whatever level of force is necessary to protect Manticoran merchant shipping anywhere. And 'anywhere,' Commodore Chalker, includes Solarian space. So if you intend to fire on Manticoran freighters, why don't you just start with the ones right here under my protection? Go ahead -- be my guest. But before you do, Admiral, I suggest you recall the Royal Navy's position where the protection of merchant shipping is concerned."
*
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 Dec 18, 2011 10:02 pm

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A Rising Thunder - Snippet 02

He sat waiting, watching his com for the sixteen seconds his words took to reach Chalker and for the signal to come back. Precisely on schedule, Chalker's face turned even darker.

"And what the fuck does that mean?" the Solarian snarled.

"It means my tactical officer has your flagship identified," Pang said, and his smile was a razor.

For another sixteen seconds, Chalker glared out of Pang's display. Then, abruptly, his facial muscles went absolutely rigid, as if some magic wand had turned his face to stone. He stayed that way for several seconds, then shook himself.

"Are you threatening me?" he demanded incredulously.

"Yes," Pang said simply. "I am."

Chalker stared at him, and Pang wondered what else the other man could have expected to happen.

"You think you can come waltzing into Solarian space and threaten Solarian citizens? Tell a Solarian warship you'll open fire on it?" Chalker said sixteen seconds later.

"It's not my wish to threaten anyone, Admiral. It is my intention to carry out my orders and to deal with any threat to the merchant shipping for which I'm responsible, and you've just announced your intention to fire on unarmed merchant vessels. Should you do so, I will fire on you, and I suggest you recall what happened to Admiral Byng at New Tuscany. If you actually intend to attack after doing that, go ahead and let's get it over with. Otherwise, Sir, I have rather more important matters which require my attention. Good day."

He punched the stud that cut the connection and sat back in his command chair, wondering if Chalker was furious enough -- or stupid enough -- to accept his challenge. If the Solly officer did anything of the sort, it would be the last mistake he ever made. There was no question about that in Pang's mind, although he was a bit less certain about the potential consequences for the future career of one Pang Yau-pau.

Better to be hung for a hexapuma than a housecat, he thought. And it's not like I could've found some kind of magic formula to keep the jerk happy, no matter what I did! At least this way if he's stupid enough to pull the trigger, it won't be because he didn't know exactly how I'd respond.

He watched his tactical repeater, waiting to see what Chalker would do. Onyx and Smilodon were both Saganami-Cs, armed with Mark 16 multidrive missiles and mounting eight grasers in each broadside. At the moment, SLNS Lancelot, Chalker's antiquated Rampart-class destroyer flagship and her consorts were far outside the effective range of their own pathetic energy armament, and the situation was almost worse when it came to missiles. The Sollies were within their missiles' powered engagement range of Pang's command, but Lancelot was barely twenty percent Onyx's size, with proportionately weaker sidewalls and a broadside of only five lasers and a matching number of missile tubes. If Chalker was foolish enough to carry out his threat, he could undoubtedly kill any merchant ship he fired upon. Lancelot's chance of getting a laser head through Onyx's antimissile defenses, on the other hand, much less burning through the cruiser's sidewalls, ranged from precious little to nonexistent.

Good thing Chalker wasn't on station when we arrived, though, I suppose, Pang thought. God knows what he'd've done if he'd been inside energy range when we transited the terminus! And when you come right down to it, it's a good thing he's such a loudmouthed idiot, too. It was only a matter of time until one of the incoming Solly merchies diverted to Nolan to let someone know what was going on out here. If the jackass had been willing to keep his mouth shut until he managed to get into energy range, this situation could've turned even stickier. In fact, it could have gone straight to hell in a handbasket if someone stupid enough to pull the trigger had managed to get that close before he did it.

Without a clear demonstration of hostile intent, it would have been extraordinarily difficult for Pang to justify actually opening fire on units of the SLN. He would have had little choice -- legally, at least -- but to allow Chalker to approach all the way to the terminus threshold, and that could have turned really nasty. Fortunately, Chalker had been unable to keep his mouth shut, and his open threat to fire on Manticoran merchant ships constituted plenty of justification for Pang to give him the Josef Byng treatment if he kept on closing.

Thank you, Commodore Chalker, he thought sardonically.

As a matter of fact, although Pang Yau-pau wasn't prepared to admit it to anyone, even Sadowski, he was only too aware of his own crushing responsibilities and the sheer vastness of the Solarian League. Nor was he going to admit how welcome he'd actually found Chalker's bellicosity under the circumstances. Any officer who commanded a Queen's starship knew sooner or later he was going to find himself out on a limb somewhere where he'd have to put his own judgment on the line, yet at this particular moment Commander Pang and his small command had crawled out to the end of a very, very long limb, indeed.

They were a mere three wormhole transits away from the Manticore Binary System, but it certainly didn't feel that way. The Dionigi System was only ninety-six light years from Manticore, but it was connected to the Katharina System, over seven hundred and thirty light-years away, by the Dionigi-Katharina Hyper Bridge. And the Nolan-Katharina Bridge, in turn, was one of the longest ever surveyed, at nine hundred and fifteen light-years. Even allowing for the normal hyper-space leg between Manticore and Dionigi, he could be home in less than two weeks, instead of the eighty days or so it would have taken his warships to get there on a direct voyage.

It would have taken a ship with a commercial-grade hyper generator and particle screening better than seven months to make the same trip through hyper, however, as opposed to only thirty days via Dionigi, which rather graphically demonstrated the time savings the wormhole networks made possible for interstellar commerce. And that, in turn, explained the sheer economic value of that same network…and Manticore's commanding position within it.

Which explains why the Sollies back in Old Chicago are going to be at least as pissed off as Chalker, Pang reflected grimly. They've been mad enough for years about the size of our merchant marine, the way we dominate their carrying trade. Now they're about to find out just how bad it really is. Once we get all of our shipping out of Solly space, they're really going to be hurting, and we'll have done it by simply calling our own freighters home, without using a single commerce-raider or privateer. But when Lacoön Two activates and we start closing down as much as we can of the entire network, it's going to get even worse. They don't begin to have the hulls to take up the slack even if all the termini stayed open; with the termini closed, with every ton of cargo having to spend four or five times as long in transit, to boot…
*
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   » Tue Dec 20, 2011 10:04 pm

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Posts: 2122
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A Rising Thunder - Snippet 03

On the face of it, it was ridiculous, and Pang would be surprised if as much as five percent of the total Solarian population had a clue -- yet -- about just how vulnerable the League really was or how bad it was actually going to get. Something the size of the Solarian League's internal economy? With literally hundreds of star systems, system populations running into the tens of billions, and the mightiest industrial capacity in the history of mankind? That sort of Titan couldn't possibly be brought to its knees by a "Star Empire" which consisted of no more than a couple of dozen inhabited planets!

But it could, if its pigmy opponent happened to control the bulk of the shipping which carried that economy's lifeblood. And especially if the pigmy in question was also in a position to shut down its arterial system, force its remaining shipping to rely solely on capillary action to keep itself fed. Even if Solarian shipyards got themselves fully mobilized and built enough ships to replace every single Manticoran hull pulled out of the League's trade, it still wouldn't be enough to maintain the shipping routes without the termini.

Of course, it's not going to do our economy any favors, either, Pang told himself. Not an insignificant point, especially after the Yawata Strike.

He wondered if the Star Empire's continued possession of the termini would be a big enough economic crowbar to pry a few Solarian star systems free of the League's control. If the bait of access was trolled in front of system economies crippled or severely damaged by the termination of cargo service, would those systems switch allegiance -- openly or unofficially -- to Manticore instead of the League? He could think of quite a few in the Verge who'd do it in a second if they thought they could get away with it. For that matter, he could think of at least a handful of Shell systems that would probably jump at the chance.

Well, I guess time will tell on that one. And there's another good reason for us to make sure we're the ones who control the hyper bridges, isn't there? As long as we do, no one can launch naval strikes through them at us…and we can launch naval strikes through them at the League.

Attacking well defended wormhole termini along the bridges between them was a losing proposition, but the tactical flexibility the network as a whole would confer upon light, fast Manticoran commerce-raiders would be devastating. For all intents and purposes, the Star Empire, for all its physical distance from the Sol System and the League's other core systems, would actually be inside the Sollies' communications loop. The League's limited domestic merchant marine would find itself under attack almost everywhere, whereas the Manticoran merchant marine would continue to travel via the termini, completely immune to attack between the star systems they linked.

No wonder Chalker was so livid. He might be so stupid he couldn't visualize the next step, couldn't see Lacoön Two coming, but he obviously did grasp the Manticoran mobility advantage which had brought Pang's squadron to Nolan. He might not have reasoned it out yet. Solarian arrogance might have blinded him to the possibility that Manticore might actually conduct offensive operations against the omnipotent League instead of huddling defensively in a frightened corner somewhere. But the mere presence of Pang's ships this deep into the Solarian space would have been enough to push his blood pressure dangerously high, and Pang suspected that deep down inside, whether Chalker consciously realized it or not, the Solarian officer probably was aware of the implications of Manticoran mobility.

He glanced at the date-time display in the corner of the master plot. Over ten minutes since he'd bidden Chalker good day, he noticed. If the Solly had been infuriated -- and stupid -- enough to do anything hasty, he'd probably have already done it. The fact that he hadn't (yet) didn't mean stupidity and arrogance wouldn't eventually overpower common sense and self-preservation, but it seemed unlikely.

"Unlikely" wasn't exactly the same as "no way in hell," Pang reminded himself. All the same, it was time to let his people get a little rest…and it probably wouldn't hurt for him to display his own imperturbability, either. Confidence started at the top, after all, and he looked back down at his link to AuxCon.

"I think Commodore Chalker may have seen the error of his ways, Myra," he told Lieutenant Commander Sadowski. "We'll stand the squadron down to Readiness Two."

"Aye, aye, Sir," she acknowledged.

Readiness State Two, also known as "General Quarters," was one step short of Battle Stations. Engineering and life-support systems would be fully manned, as would CIC, although Auxiliary Control would be reduced to a skeleton watch. The ship would maintain a full passive sensor watch, augmented by the remote FTL platforms they'd deployed as soon as they arrived, and the tactical department would be fully manned. Passive defenses would be active and enabled under computer control; electronic warfare systems and active sensors would be manned and available, although not emitting; and Onyx's offensive weapons would be partially manned by their on-mount crews. Readiness Two was intended to be maintained for lengthy periods of time, so it included provision for rotating personnel in order to maintain sufficient crew at their duty stations while allowing the members of the ship's company to rest in turn. Which still wouldn't prevent it from exhausting Pang's people if they had to keep it up indefinitely.

"Let Percy take AuxCon while you head back over to the Bridge to relieve me," he continued to Sadowski. Lieutenant the Honorable Percival Quentin-Massengale, Onyx's assistant tactical officer, was the senior of Sadowski's officers in Auxiliary Control. "We'll pull Smilodon and the tin-cans back and let Onyx take point for the first twelve hours, or until our friend Chalker decides to take himself elsewhere. After that, Smilodon can have the duty for the next twelve hours. We'll let the cruisers swap off while the destroyers watch our backs."
And while we keep Othello out of harm's way, he added silently to himself. Unlike her more youthful consort, Tornado, the elderly destroyer wasn't armed with Mark 16s, and Pang had already decided to keep her as far to the rear as he could.

"Run a continually updated firing solution on him, Guns," the commander said out loud to Lieutenant Commander Frazier. "And have CIC keep a close eye on his emissions. Any sign of active targeting systems, and I want to hear about it."

"Aye, aye, Skipper."

Jack Frazier was normally a cheerful sort, fond of practical jokes and pranks, but no trace of his usual humor colored his response.

"Good." Pang nodded curtly, then looked back down at Sadowski. "You heard, Myra?"

"Yes, Sir."

"Well, I figure you already know this, but to make it official, if it should happen that Chalker is stupid enough to actually fire on us or one of the merchies, you're authorized to return fire immediately. And if that happens, I want him taken completely out. Clear?"

"I acknowledge your authorization to return fire if we're fired upon, Sir," Sadowski said a bit more formally, and Pang nodded again, then stood and looked back to Frazier.

"You have the deck until the XO gets here, Guns, and the same authorization applies to you," he said. "I'll be in my day cabin catching up on my paperwork."
*
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 Dec 22, 2011 10:06 pm

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A Rising Thunder - Snippet 04

April 1922 Post Diaspora

"Like the old story about the mule, first you need to hit it between the eyes with a big enough club to get its attention."
-- Hamish Alexander-Harrington,
Earl of White Haven

Chapter Two

"You can't be serious!"

Sharon Selkirk, Shadwell Corporation's senior shipping executive for the Mendelschon System, stared at her com display, and the man on it shook his head regretfully.

"I'm afraid I am," Captain Lev Wallenstein of the improbably named Manticoran freighter Yellow Rose the Third said. "I just got the dispatch."

"But…but --" Selkirk stopped sputtering and shook herself. "We've got a contract, Lev!"

"I understand that," Wallenstein said, running one hand through his unruly thatch of red hair. "And I'm sorry as hell. It wasn't my idea, Sharon! And don't think for one minute that the front office's going to be happy when I get home, either! Running empty all the way back to the Star Kingdom?" He shook his head. "I don't know whose brainstorm this was, but it's going to play merry hell, and that's the truth!"

"Lev, I've got one-point-six million tons of cargo that've been sitting in orbital warehouses for over two T-months waiting for your arrival. One-point-six million tons -- you understand that number? That's the next best thing to a billion and a half credits of inventory, and it's supposed to be in Josephine in less than four weeks. If you leave it sitting here, there's no way I can possibly get it there."

"I understand." Wallenstein shook his head helplessly. "And if I had any choice at all, I'd be loading your cargo right now. But I don't. These orders are nondiscretionary, and they don't come from the front office, either. They come direct from the Admiralty, Sharon."

"But why?" Selkirk stared at him. "Why just…yank the carpet out from under me like this? Damn it, Lev, you've been on this run for over twelve T-years! There's never been a problem, not from either side!"

"Sharon, it doesn't have anything to do with you. Or with me." Wallenstein sat back in his chair aboard the Yellow Rose, gazing at the image of a woman who'd become a friend, not just another business contact. "You're right, there's never been a problem…not here in Mendelschon."

Selkirk had opened her mouth again, but she closed it once more and her eyes narrowed at his last four words. Or at the tone in which he'd spoken, to be more accurate.

"You mean this has to do with that business in, where was it, New Tuscany? And Spindle? That's what this is about?"

"No one's specifically said so," Wallenstein replied, "but if I had to guess, yeah, that's what it's about."

"But that's stupid!" She sat back in her own chair, throwing both hands up in frustration. "That's seven hundred light-years from Mendelschon! What possible bearing could it have on us?"

Despite his very real affection for her, Wallenstein found it difficult not to roll his eyes. Unlike the majority of people who found their way to her seniority in a Solarian multi-stellar, Sharon Selkirk had always been friendly and courteous in her dealings with the merchant service officers who transported the Shadwell Corporation's goods between the stars. She'd never held the fact that Wallenstein wasn't a Solarian against him, either. In fact, that was the one thing about her which had always irritated him. She didn't even realize she was being condescending by not holding the fact that he wasn't a Solarian against him. Why, she was treating him just like a real person!

He was confident she'd never actually analyzed her own attitude, never realized how it could grate on anyone's nerves, because she was, frankly, too nice a person to treat someone that way if she'd ever realized she was doing it. But that was part of the problem. Solarian arrogance, that bone-deep assumption of superiority, was so deeply engraved into the Solarian League's DNA that Sollies never even thought about it.

"Look, Sharon," he said after a moment, "I agree that what happened in New Tuscany and what happened in Spindle don't have anything to do with you, or me, or Mendelschon. But they had one hell of a lot to do with the people who got killed in both those places, and you may not realize just how completely relations between the League and the Star Empire are going into the crapper. But they are, believe me. And looking at these orders, I think it's going to get a hell of a lot worse before it gets any better."

"But that's crazy." Selkirk shook her head. "I mean, I agree it's horrible all those people got killed. And I don't know what happened any more than you do. But surely nobody wants to get more people killed! They've got to settle this thing before that happens!"

"I agree with you, and I wish they would. But the truth is, it doesn't look like that's going to happen. And I'm guessing the government back home's decided it's time to get the Star Empire's merchant shipping out from under before it all comes apart."

"I can't believe this is happening." She shook her head again. "I'm sure that if your people would just sit down with our people we could work this out. There's always a way to work things out if people are just willing to be reasonable!"

"Unfortunately, that requires both sides to be reasonable," Wallenstein pointed out, and Selkirk's eyes widened in surprise. She started to say something back, quickly, but stopped herself in time, and Wallenstein smiled a bit grimly.

Almost said it, didn't you, Sharon? he thought. Of course we're supposed to be reasonable. And I'm sure you meant what you just said about reasonable people working things out. Unfortunately, the Solarian view of "reasonable" is people "reasonably" agreeing to do things the League's way. The notion that the League might have to be reasonable doesn't even come into it, does it?

"Well, of course it does," she said instead of what she'd been about to say, and she had the grace to look a little uncomfortable as she said it. But then she scowled.

"So you're just going to turn around and head back to Manticore? Just like that?"

"Actually, I'm going to turn around and head back to Beowulf, and from there to Manticore," he said. "But, yeah, that's pretty much it."

"And our contract?"

"I'm afraid you're going to have to discuss that with the front office." He shrugged unhappily. "For that matter, you may end up discussing it with the Foreign Secretary's people before this is all over. Since the orders came from the government, I'm guessing the government's going to be responsible for any penalties the shippers collect."

"If they collect them, you mean, don't you?" she asked bitterly. She'd had more than one unhappy experience dealing with the Solarian government's bureaucracies.

"I don't know how it's going to work out. As far as I know, nobody knows how it's going to work out in the end. And I know you're unhappy, but you're not the only one. Don't forget, Sharon, I hold a reserve commission. When I get back to Manticore, I'm likely to find myself called to active duty. If this thing goes as badly as it could, I'm I may just end up hauling something besides freight back into the Solarian League."

She looked at him blankly for a long moment, as if she simply couldn't comprehend what he was saying. Then she shook her head quickly.

"Oh, no, Lev! It's not going to come to that! I know your people are angry, and I would be too, if what they think happened had happened to my navy. And I'm not saying it didn't happen!" she added even more quickly as Wallenstein's expression hardened. "But surely your Star Empire isn't crazy enough to actually go to war with the League! Why, that would be like…like…"
*
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 Dec 25, 2011 10:02 pm

DrakBibliophile
Admiral

Posts: 2122
Joined: Sun Sep 06, 2009 3:54 pm
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A Rising Thunder - Snippet 05

"Like David and Goliath?" Wallenstein provided a bit more sharply than he usually spoke to her, and her eyes widened. "I think that's probably the comparison you're looking for," he continued. "And I'll even grant that it's appropriate. But you might want to think about how that particular confrontation worked out in the end."

They looked at one another in silence for several endless seconds, and as he gazed into Selkirk's eyes, Lev Wallenstein saw understanding dawning at last. The understanding that Manticorans really weren't Solarians. That they truly could conceive of a galaxy in which the Solarian League wasn't the ultimate arbiter and dictator of terms. That they might actually be so lost to all reason that they truly were prepared to fight the Solarian juggernaut.

For the first time, Sharon Selkirk saw him as someone who truly believed he was her equal, whatever she thought, and he wondered if in the process she'd finally realized how unconsciously condescending she'd always been before. He was surprised and more than a little dismayed by the satisfaction that dawning awareness gave him, and he drew a deep breath and made himself smile at her.

"Of course I hope that's not going to happen," he told her as lightly as he could. Whatever else, she'd always been courteous, and he owed her a little gentleness in return. "In fact, I hope it all blows over and I'm back on my regular run ASAP. And if it happens, the front office may find itself cutting some special deals in order to earn back all the goodwill this is going to cost us. But whatever happens down the road, I don't have any choice but to follow the instructions I've been given. That's why I commed you in person. Like you say, we've known each other a long time and we've always done right by each other, so I figured I owed you a personal explanation. Or as close to an explanation as I can give you with what I know. But either way, I'm supposed to be underway for Beowulf within six hours."

"There's going to be hell to pay for this, Lev. You know that, don't you?" Selkirk asked. "I'm not talking about between you and me. I mean, I understand it's not your idea and you don't have any choice, but my bosses aren't going to be happy about this. And their bosses aren't going to be happy about it. And eventually it's going to go all the way to the top and members of the Assembly aren't going to be happy about it. For that matter, if Manticore's really recalling all of its merchantships, this is going to hammer the interstellar economy. It's not just the transstellars that're going to be pissed off once that happens -- it's going to be everyone!" She shook her head. "I don't know what your government hopes this is going to accomplish, but I can tell you what it's really going to do, and that's to squirt hydrogen right into the fire!"

"Maybe it is," Wallenstein conceded, "but that's a decision that's way above my pay grade, Sharon." He smiled again, a bit crookedly. "Take care of yourself, okay?"

"You, too, Lev," she said quietly.

"I'll try," he told her. "Clear."

* * *

"I don't care what your damned orders say," Captain Freida Malachai said flatly. "I've got three and a half million tons of cargo onboard, and I'm supposed to deliver it in Klondike one T-month from today. Do you have any frigging idea what the nondelivery penalty on that's going to be?! Not to mention the question of piracy if I just sail off with it into the sunset with it!"

"I realize this is highly…inconvenient, Captain Malachai," Commander Jared Wu replied as reasonably as he could. "And it wasn't my idea in the first place. Nonetheless, I'm afraid the recall's nondiscretionary."

"The hell it is!" Malachai shot back. "I'm a free subject of the Crown, not a damned slave!"

"No one's trying to enslave anyone, Captain." Wu's voice was tighter and harder than it had been. "Under the Wartime Commerce Security Act, the Admiralty has the responib --"

"Don't you go quoting the WCSA to me!" Malachai's blue eyes glittered with rage and her short-cut blond hair seemed to bristle. "That thing's never been applied in the history of the Star Kingdom! And even if it had, we're not at war!"

Commander Wu sat back in his command chair and ordered himself to count to ninety by threes. It wasn't going to do any good -- probably -- to lose his own temper with her. He was tempted to try it anyway, but from what he'd seen of Captain Malachai of the good ship RMMS Vortrekker, a tantrum on his part would only make her dig in deeper. And the hell of it was that he sympathized with her.

Vortrekker didn't belong to one of the big shipping houses. The Candida Line owned only four ships, one of them Vortrekker, and Malachai was owner-aboard of her ship. She owned, in fact, a fifty percent share of the ship, which meant fifty percent of the profits belonged to her. But so did fifty percent of the expenses…and any penalties Vortrekker was forced to pay for breach of contract. The mere thought of how much the nondelivery penalty on close to four million tons of cargo could run was enough to make anyone wince. And that was assuming the admiralty courts didn't decide to attack on additional fees or fines for damages.

"Captain," he made himself say calmly after he reached ninety, "I truly understand what it will mean financially for you personally, not just Candida, if you find yourself liable for nondelivery of your cargo. I understand the numbers, and I know you're an owner-aboard. I sympathize with your concerns. But you know as well as I do that the WCSA gives the Admiralty the authority to issue a mandatory, nondiscretionary recall of all Manticoran registry merchant vessels if the Crown determines that a state of war is imminent. While I'm here to tell you a state of war with the Solarian League is damned well is imminent as it gets! We've already destroyed or captured seventy Solarian superdreadnoughts. You think Manticoran merchantships wandering around inside the Solarian League aren't going to find themselves at risk if this continues?!"

Malachai glared at him, but she also made herself sit back visibly and drew a deep breath.

"You may understand the numbers, Commander," she said then, her nostrils flaring, "but whatever you think, you probably don't have a clue how bad the consequences would be. I've got a note coming due in six T-months. A big one. If I forfeit this charter, I'll probably come up short on the due date. If I get hit with a nondelivery penalty on top of that, I'll certainly come up short. And if I do, I lose my ship."

"You're right, I didn't know about that part of it," Wu said after a long, silent moment. "And I'm sorrier than I can say that you're facing that kind of a problem. But the order isn't discretionary -- not for you, and not for me. You're required to obey it, and I'm required to enforce it…by whatever means are necessary."

"But Klondike isn't even a Solly system," Malachai pointed out, and there was a note of pleading in her voice -- a note that obviously came hard for her. "We'd be in hyper the entire way there, and nobody could even find us there, much less touch us. I drop into Klondike, I offload my cargo, and that's all there is. Then I'll come straight home, I promise!"
*
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   » Tue Dec 27, 2011 10:02 pm

DrakBibliophile
Admiral

Posts: 2122
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A Rising Thunder - Snippet 06

Wu stared into those angry, pleading, desperate blue eyes and hated himself and his orders. But they were orders, and he was responsible for enforcing them.

The government's got to come up with some kind of compensatory arrangement, he told himself. They have to know what kind of economic hardship this kind of order's bound to inflict, and it's not the Crown's job to put honest merchants skippers out of work. Take away their life savings!

Unfortunately, no requirement for compensation had been written into the Wartime Commerce Security Act when Parliament passed it over three hundred T-years earlier. Maybe nobody had thought of it at the time, but maybe someone had, too. Maybe somebody had realized just how stupendous the price tag might become, given the size the Manticoran merchant marine might attain in the next three T-centuries, and declined to obligate the government to pay it. And even if they had, where was the government going to find the cash to pay it after the Yawata Strike? And especially if it was calling home the enormous merchant fleet which provided so much of its total revenue flow?

And then there was the minor question of just how the Star Empire of Manticore was going to manage to pay the bills for a war against something the size of the Solarian League. Even with a healthy tax base, that would've been a Herculean task. With what the Yawata Strike had left behind and the inevitable loss of Solly traffic through the Junction on top of everything else…

If there is compensation, it's likely going to come slow, he thought grimly. A hell of a lot too slow to pay off a note that's due in only six T-months. And it'll be cold comfort to Malachai if she finally gets a cash settlement -- even assuming it's not discounted -- when she's already lost everything she's worked for her entire life.

"Captain," he said finally, "first, I don't see how you could possibly be accused of piracy. You're covered by the fact that you were ordered to return immediately to the star kingdom. Any accusations of piracy or theft on your part would fall legally at the government's door, not yours. Second, I think it's highly probable that the 'act of God or act of war' clause of your contract would protect you against any nondelivery penalty. Obviously, I can't guarantee that, because I frankly don't know how the courts are going to look at this after the dust settles. But my legal officer and I have discussed this, and that's her opinion."

"And if she's wrong?" Malachai demanded harshly.

"If she's wrong, she's wrong, and you're screwed, Captain," Wu admitted. "I'm sorry, but there it is."

"Even if I don't get hit with the nondelivery penalty, I'm going to come up short on the note, especially if I have to sit in a parking orbit somewhere in the home system between now and then," she pointed out. "A ship that's not moving is only a hole in space that people pour money into. It sure as hell not a hole money comes out of!"

Well, that's true enough, Wu reflected. And what are you going to do if she refuses?

HMS Cometary was a mere light cruiser. Admittedly, she was an older ship, which meant she carried a larger Marine detachment than most current battlecruisers did, but he couldn't go peeling off details of his Navy personnel to take over the engine rooms and bridges of freighters and passenger liners. In theory, he could order his Marines to take control of Vortrekker and force Captain Malachai and her own crew to sail directly to Manticore, yet he shied away from the possibility. It wasn't the Royal Manticoran Navy's job to seize control of honest merchantships, damn it! But if he didn't do something…

"Klondike, you said," he heard himself say, and swore at himself silently when Malachai's eyes lit with sudden hope.

"Right, Klondike." She nodded vigorously. "I can be there in three and a half T-weeks. And from there to Beowulf's only another three T-weeks. Just six T-weeks -- that's all I need."

"And it's only two T-weeks from Hypatia to Beowulf," he pointed out.

Her lips tightened, but she didn't say anything. She only looked back at him, blue eyes unaccustomed to asking for anything pleading with him to relent.

He looked back at her, wrestling with those eyes and his own temptation. He had no doubt the Admiralty would have quite a few choice things to say to him if he granted an exemption from a nondiscretionary order. Worse, once he started down that slippery slope, where did he stop? How did he justify letting Vortrekker slide if he wasn't going to grant exemptions to everyone else who asked, as well? Hypatia wasn't a major traffic node, and it was unlikely he was going to see a lot more Manticoran ships before his own orders took him home again, but still…

You're a Queen's officer, Jared, he told himself. You took an oath to obey all legal orders, and the shit's busy hitting the fan on a scale you never even dreamed of. It's not your job to go around second-guessing the Admiralty. Especially not at a time like this!

All of that was true, but there was another side to the coin, as well. Cometary was only an old, obsolescent light cruiser, but she was still a Queen's ship and Jared Wu was still her commanding officer. And that meant he was supposed to have the guts to do what his orders required him to do…and to be willing to put his own judgment on the line when it came to those selfsame orders.

"Captain Malachai," he said at last, "I have exactly zero authority to ignore the orders I've been given. You realize that?"

Malachai gave a single, choppy nod, her face grim, her eyes bleak once more. He let silence linger between them for two or three breaths, then squared his shoulders.

"I have no authority," he repeated, "but…I'm going to, anyway."

The last four words came out in more of a sigh of resignation than anything else, and he felt himself shaking his own head in disbelief as he said them. Malachai's eyes lit up like light-struck sapphires, though, and her face blossomed in an enormous smile.

"Understand me, Captain!" he said much more sharply, waving an index finger at the com pickup. "Straight to Klondike, unload your cargo, then straight to Beowulf and back to Manticore. I don't want to hear about any other charters you've got. I don't want you picking up any other cargoes. You're dropping off what you have aboard, and you're heading straight home. Is that perfectly clear?"

"Perfectly, Commander!" Malachai said, nodding hard.

"I hope to hell it is," he said, "because frankly, we're both going to be in a world of hurt if you don't do exactly that. I remind you that the WCSA's penalties for noncompliance are ugly, Captain."

"Don't worry, Commander," Malachai said, her voice far gentler than anything Wu had yet heard from her. "I owe you big time for this." She shook her head. "I'm not going to do anything to screw you over, I swear."

Wu looked at her hard for several seconds, then smiled faintly.

"Glad to hear it. And I'm going to hold you to it, too, Captain!" Their eyes held for another heartbeat, and then he waved his right hand at the pickup. "Now, go on. Get out of here before I come to my senses and change my mind!"
*
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   » Fri Dec 30, 2011 12:12 am

DrakBibliophile
Admiral

Posts: 2122
Joined: Sun Sep 06, 2009 3:54 pm
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A Rising Thunder - Snippet 07

Chapter Three

"Oh, crap."

The words were spoken quietly, almost prayerfully. For a moment or two, Lieutenant Aaron Tilborch, commanding officer of the Zunker Space Navy's light attack craft Kipling, didn't even realize he'd spoken them out loud, and they were hardly the considered, detached observation one might have expected from a trained professional. On the whole, however, they summed up the situation quite nicely.

"What do we do now, Sir?" Lieutenant Jannetje van Calcar, Kipling's executive officer, sounded as nervous as Tilborch felt, and Tilborch thought it was an excellent question. Not that there was much Kipling's small ship's company could do about the events preparing to unfold before them.

The ZSN wasn't much as navies went. There were several reasons for that, and one was that the Zunker System's nominal sovereignty had depended for the last T-decade and a half or so upon a delicate balancing act between the Star Kingdom of Manticore and the Solarian League. The Office of Frontier Security's local commissioners had cast greedy eyes upon the Zunker System ever since the wormhole terminus associated with it had been discovered, but the terminus was the next best thing to six and a half light-hours from the system primary. That put it well outside Zunker's territorial space, which meant simply grabbing off the star system wouldn't necessarily have given OFS control of the terminus…especially since its other end lay in the Idaho System.

In point of fact, the "Zunker Terminus" had been discovered by a survey crew operating out of Idaho seventeen T-years earlier. And Idaho, unlike Zunker, lay only seventy-two light-years from the Manticore Binary System -- three weeks' hyper flight for a merchant ship from the Manticoran Wormhole Junction. Actually, the survey ship had been Manticoran, not Idahoian, although it had been under charter to the Idaho government at the time. Prior to the discovery of the Idaho Hyper Bridge, Idaho had been a relative backwater, completely overshadowed by the bustling trade and massive economy of its Manticoran neighbor and fellow member of the Manticoran alliance.

For Zunker, whose existence had always been even more hand-to-mouth than that of many other Verge star systems, the consequences had been profound. The hyper bridge between it and Idaho was over four hundred light-years long, and the system lay roughly a hundred and ninety light-years from the Sol System and just over a hundred and fifty light-years from Beowulf. In fact, it lay almost directly between Beowulf and Asgerd, closing the gap between the Beowulf Terminus of the Manticore Wormhole Junction and the Andermani Empire's Asgerd-Durandel Hyper Bridge. That had turned both Zunker and Idaho into important feeder systems for the ever more heavily traveled Manticoran Wormhole Junction.

The sudden influx of so much traffic, and the kind of cash flow that went with it, dwarfed anything Zunker had ever imagined…and it had turned out to be a mixed blessing. The cascade of credits and the frenzied construction of shipping and support structures for the traffic that produced it had fueled an economic boom such as no Zunkeran had ever dreamed was possible. Over the last fifteen T-years, something like decent medical care, a proper educational system, and the beginning of true prosperity had sprouted in Lieutenant Tilborch's home star system. Yet that same abundance of cash had inevitably attracted the avarice of the Office of Frontier Security and its transstellar "friends."

Unfortunately for OFS, Idaho had no desire to do business with yet another tentacle of the OFS/corporate monstrosity. So when Frontier Security started sniffing around Zunker, Idaho mentioned the sudden upsurge in Solarian compassion and philanthropic urges to its neighbors (and allies) in Manticore. And those neighbors (and allies) in Manticore had intimated to Permanent Senior Undersecretary of the Treasury Brian Sullivan, Agatá Wodoslawski's immediate predecessor, that Solarian transit fees through any of the Manticoran Wormhole Junction's many termini might well experience an inexplicable upsurge if anything unfortunate were to happen to the Zunker System.

The result was an official Solarian consulate in Effingham, Zunker's capital city, an equally official OFS observation post right next door to it, and a clear understanding that although the League would be permitted influence in Zunker, it would not be allowed the sort of puppetmaster control it exercised in so many other "independent" star systems. As a sort of quid-pro-quo for the League's…restraint, it was understood that Zunker fell ultimately under Solarian "protection," rather than Manticoran. The terminus itself, on the other hand, was granted Idahoian extraterritoriality, recognized by both Manticore and the League, although Prime Minister Cromarty of Manticore had insisted that the Zunker System government receive one third of all transit fee revenues it generated.

All of which meant the Zunker Space Navy consisted of little more than a double handful of LACs, suitable for policing the traffic which flowed through the star system's freight-handling and servicing facilities. The ZSN certainly didn't possess anything remotely like a true warship, although it did assign a squadron of its LACs to Zunker Terminus Astro Control, where it worked in concert with a similar force of Idahoian vessels.

Which was how Lieutenant Tilborch and the crew of ZSNS Kipling came to have a ringside seat for what promised to be a most unhappy day in near-Zunker space.

"What do we do, Jannetje?" he asked now, never looking away from the display where a single Solarian merchant ship headed directly towards the terminus, escorted by six Solarian League Navy battlecruisers. "What we do is get the hell out of the way and com home to Effingham."

"But what about --?" van Calcar began.

"The Manties are the ones who announced they were closing the terminus to Solarian traffic, and Idaho backed them," Tilborch replied, cutting her off. "You know where my sympathies lie, but we've got no official business poking our noses in. Besides"-- he smiled humorlessly --"it's not like Kipling was going to make any difference, is it?"

* * *

Captain Hiram Ivanov watched his tactical display and frowned as he considered the odds and how they must look from the other side. His division of Saganami-C-class heavy cruisers was one ship understrength, leaving him only three to confront the oncoming Solarian battlecruisers. He also had four Roland-class destroyers, however, which actually gave him the numerical advantage, although destroyers and heavy cruisers were scarcely in the same league (nominally, at least) as battlecruisers. On the other hand, all of his ships had Mark 23-stuffed missile pods tractored to their hulls, which put rather a different complexion on traditional calculations combat power. Unfortunately, it appeared these particular Sollies still hadn't worked through the implications of the Battle of Spindle.

"How do you want to handle it, Sir?" Commander Claudine Takoush asked softly from his command chair com display. Ivanov looked down at her image and raised his eyebrows, and she shrugged. "I know what we're supposed to do, Sir. I'm only wondering how much talking you plan to do first? I mean, this" -- she twitched her head in the direction of her own tactical plot -- "is just a bit more blatant than we expected."

"Blatant isn't precisely the word I'd choose, Claudine," Ivanov replied in a judicious tone. "In fact, on reflection, I believe 'stupid' comes a lot closer to capturing the essence of my feelings at this moment. 'Arrogant' and 'pigheaded' probably belong somewhere in the mix, too, now that I think about it."

"Do you think it's the local Frontier Fleet CO's idea? Or that it represents orders from their admiralty?"

"I'm inclined to think it's the locals," Ivanov said. "Especially given Commissioner Floyd's attitude towards the Star Empire's 'interference' in his personal arrangements," he added, eyes drifting back to his own display.

The incoming icons had made their alpha translation the better part of fifty million kilometers from the terminus. That represented either pretty poor astrogation or else a deliberate decision to give any Manticoran warships plenty of time to see them coming. Ivanov suspected the latter. It was entirely likely that someone like Commissioner Floyd would figure the Manticorans' nerve would fail if they had to watch the slow, inexorable approach of the Solarian League Navy. Whether or not the Solly flag officer assigned to the mission would share that belief was another question, of course. Either way, it was going to take them a while to reach Ivanov's small force. The velocity they'd brought over the alpha wall into normal-space was barely a thousand kilometers per second, and their acceleration rate, held down by the 4,800,000-ton freighter at the core of their formation, was barely 2.037 KPS2. At that rate, it would take them over two and a half hours to reach the terminus with a zero/zero velocity.

"It's only been a week since Idaho announced it was closing the terminus to Solly traffic," Ivanoff continued. "That's not enough time for the word to have reached Old Terra, much less for orders to deliberately create a provocation to've gotten all the way out here from Old Chicago. And this is a deliberate provocation if I've ever seen one." He snorted. "It's sure as hell not a case of a single merchie who simply hasn't gotten the word, anyway!" He shrugged. "I know Astro Control's transmission hasn't had time to reach them yet -- they're still the better part of three light-minutes out -- but I'll bet a dollar I know what they're going to say -- or not say, more likely -- when Captain Arredondo orders them off."

"No takers here, Skipper," Takoush said sourly.
*
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 Jan 01, 2012 10:06 pm

DrakBibliophile
Admiral

Posts: 2122
Joined: Sun Sep 06, 2009 3:54 pm
Location: East Central Illinois

A Rising Thunder - Snippet 08

"Well, until they get around to not saying it, there's not a lot we can do." Ivanov shrugged again. "We'll just have to wait and see if they really are stupid -- and arrogant and pigheaded -- enough to keep coming. And after they demonstrate that they are," he showed his teeth, "we'll just have to see if we can't convince them to…reconsider their intransigence."

"You know, Skipper," Takoush observed, "I've always admired your way with the language."

* * *

Although there was no way for Captain Ivanov to know it, Rear Admiral Liam Pyun, the commanding officer of Battlecruiser Division 3065.2 of the Solarian League Navy, rather agreed with the Manticoran officer's assessment of the orders he'd been given. Unfortunately, they were orders, legally issued by one Hirokichi Floyd, the Office of Frontier Security's commissioner for the Genovese Sector.

Floyd was one of the people who'd most resented OFS' failure to add Zunker (and the terminus associated with it) to its long list of unofficially annexed star systems. It affronted his sense of the way the universe was supposed to run…and deprived him of his custom-hallowed rakeoff from the terminus' lucrative use fees. To make matters worse, he'd been deprived by the then-Star Kingdom of Manticore, the most uppity of the neobarb star nations which were disinclined to grant the Solarian League the deference to which it was so obviously due. And, just for the frosting on Floyd's cake of discontent, the Star Kingdom had pulled no punches when the terminus was discovered. Despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that it was even then fighting for its life against the People's Republic of Haven in a war which had begun at a place called Hancock less than three months earlier, Manticore's explanation of why the League might choose to keep its fingers off Zunker had been presented rather more bluntly, one might almost say forcefully, than anyone ever spoke to the Solarian League, and Floyd had been a member of the delegation to which that "explanation" had been given.

Hirokichi Floyd was scarcely unique among Solarian bureaucrats in having personal reasons to loathe the Star Empire of Manticore and its intolerable insolence. Rear Admiral Pyun was only too well aware of that. Most of those bureaucrats, however, were far, far away from Liam Pyun, and he wished Floyd were equally far away.

"Sir," Lieutenant Commander Turner, Pyun's staff communications officer, said quietly, "we've received a transmission from Astro Control."

"Have we?" Pyun never turned away from the master display. There was silence on HMS Belle Poule's flag deck for several seconds. It was a rather uncomfortable silence, and Pyun's lips twitched humorlessly as he finally took pity on the com officer and looked over his shoulder at him.

"What sort of transmission, Ephram?" he asked.

"It's addressed to the senior officer present, Sir." Turner looked relieved by Pyun's even-toned response, but he clearly wasn't happy about the message itself. "Should I put it on your personal display, Sir?"

"No." Pyun shook his head. "Put it up on the master."

"Yes, Sir." Turner didn't -- quite -- shrug, but there was an undeniable, if respectful, element of "if you say so" in his body language. A moment later, the face of a dark-haired, bearded man appeared on the main communications display.

"I am Captain Fergus Arredondo, Zunker Terminus Astro Control Service." The bearded man spoke with a pronounced Manticoran accent, despite the fact that he wore the uniform of the nominally autonomous ZTACS. Not surprisingly, Pyun reflected. Idaho was a Manty ally, and most of the experienced personnel handling traffic through the Zunker Terminus were actually Manties "on loan" to ZTACS.

"You are hereby advised that, by order of the Royal Manticoran Navy, this terminus is closed to all Solarian warships and Solarian-registered merchant traffic," Arredondo continued. "Be aware that the Royal Manticoran Navy has issued instructions to Astro Control to inform all incoming shipping that vessels approaching this terminus are required to activate their transponders immediately upon receipt of this transmission. In addition, all Solarian vessels are prohibited from approaching within one light-minute of the terminus. The Star Empire of Manticore has declared this volume of space a prohibited zone and will act in accordance with international laws governing such zones. Arredondo, clear."

"Well, that's certainly clear enough, Sir," Steven Gilmore, Pyun's chief of staff said almost whimsically. "Arrogant, maybe, but clear."

"And not exactly a surprise," Pyun agreed. "Interesting that Idaho's telling us the Terminus is closed 'by order of the Royal Manticoran Navy' rather than on its own authority, though, isn't it?" He smiled humorlessly. "There probably isn't anything Idaho could've done to keep the Manties from closing the terminus, whatever their own feelings might be. But this way they get to hide behind the Star Empire -- 'Look what they made us do!' -- without officially doing anything to piss us off."

His eyes strayed to the single green light-bead of the Zambezi Treasure, the freighter Floyd had ordered his division to escort through the terminus, and wondered how Captain McKenzie had reacted to the transmission. He doubted, somehow, that McKenzie was any happier about it than he was.

Not that the Manties are likely to start right out shooting at him if push comes to shove, the rear admiral reflected.

"Any sign they've reinforced their picket, Josette?" he asked his operations officer, and Captain Josette Steinberg shook her head.

"No, Sir. I can't speak to what they might have lying doggo with its impellers down, but judging from the signatures we can see, it's still just the three cruisers and four of those big-assed destroyers of theirs."

"Seven-to-six odds, their favor," Gilmore observed. "In hulls, anyway. Of course, the tonnage ratio's in our favor."

Pyun nodded. His six battlecruisers were all Indefatigable-class ships, rather than Battle Fleet's newer Nevadas, but their combined mass was still over five million tons, whereas the Manty picket couldn't mass much over two million, despite the fact that the Manticoran "destroyers" were larger than most SLN light cruisers. By any traditional measure, his force advantage ought to be overwhelming.

One of the nagging little problems with traditions, however, was that they were subject to change.

I wonder how many missile pods they have? he thought. Whatever Floyd thinks, they have to have some. I mean, Idaho's barely seventy light-years from their home system! No matter how much damage they've taken, they've got to have scraped up at least some additional firepower if they're going to count on only seven ships to cover the entire terminus.

He would have been a lot happier if he'd had better information on what had happened in the Spindle System last month. He was sure the official version was on its way to Genovese from Old Terra, but Genovese was twenty light-years further from Sol than Zunker. It took the better part of a T-month for anything from Old Terra to reach Genovese, as opposed to the one week of hyper travel between Zunker and Genovese, so at the moment all he -- and Commissioner Floyd -- had to go on were the reports which had come through from Idaho. Which meant all they really knew was what the Manties had told them. Well, what the Manties had told them and the fact that someone -- and not, apparently, the SLN -- had kicked the ever-loving hell out of the Manty home system shortly after whatever they'd done to Admiral Crandall at Spindle. Assuming, of course, that they'd actually done anything to Admiral Crandall at Spindle.

Commissioner Floyd was inclined to think they hadn't.

Rear Admiral Pyun was inclined to think Commissioner Floyd was an idiot.

"Anything from their picket commander, Ephram?" he asked out loud.

"No, Sir. Not yet, at least."

"I see."

Pyun turned his attention back to the master display.

* * *

"I don't suppose we've heard anything back from our visitors, Justin?" Captain Ivanov asked. "No transponder signals? No snappy little comebacks to Captain Arredondo's instructions?"

"No, Sir," Lieutenant Justin Adenauer replied.

"Somehow I thought you would have mentioned it if we had," Ivanov said dryly, then looked down at the display screen connecting him to Auxiliary Control at the far end of HMS Sloan Tompkins' core hull from his own command deck.

"I guess it's time we got into the act, Claudine," he observed.

"Bound to get interesting when we do, Sir."

"There's a lot of that going around." Ivanov smiled grimly. "It seems we've been cursed to live in 'interesting times.'"

"True." Takoush nodded. "Of course, we can always try to make things more interesting for others than for us."

"My goal in life," Ivanov agreed, then turned back to Adenauer. "Record for transmission, Justin."

* * *

"Admiral, we have another message," Ephram Turner announced. "This one's not from Astro Control."

"No?"

Pyun turned away from the master display and crossed to Turner's station. Zambezi Treasure (and his battlecruisers) had been in n-space for almost exactly ten minutes. During that time they'd covered almost a million kilometers and raised their closing velocity relative to the terminus to approximately 2,200 KPS. He'd wondered how long the picket force commander was going to wait to contact him. In fact, he'd just won five credits on a side bet with Captain Steinberg on that very point.
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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   » Tue Jan 03, 2012 9:59 pm

DrakBibliophile
Admiral

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A Rising Thunder - Snippet 09

"Go ahead and play it, Ephram," the rear admiral said, standing at Turner's shoulder and looking down at the com officer's console.

"Yes, Sir."

Turner touched a stud, and a brown-haired, green-eyed man in the uniform of a senior-grade RMN captain appeared on a small display.

"I am Captain Hiram Ivanov, Royal Manticoran Navy." Ivanov's voice was crisp and professional, and if he was dismayed by the disparity between Pyun's force and his own there was no sign of it in those green eyes. "I'm aware that you've been instructed by Astro Control to activate your identification transponders and that no Solarian warships or Solarian-registry merchant vessels are allowed to approach within eighteen million kilometers of this terminus. Be informed at this time that while my Empress continues to desire a peaceful resolution to the current tensions between the Star Empire and the Solarian League, I have orders to enforce my government's directives concerning this terminus by force. Moreover, I also hereby inform you that I have no choice but to construe the presence of so many 'unidentified' battlecruisers in company with a single merchant ship as a deliberate effort on your part to defy those directives. Should you continue to approach this terminus without active transponders and close to a distance of less than thirty million kilometers, I will engage you. I would prefer to avoid that, but the choice is in your hands. Ivanov, clear."

Ivanov nodded almost courteously, and Turner's display blanked. Pyun stood gazing down at it for a heartbeat or so, then inhaled deeply.

"Thank you, Ephram." He patted the com officer on the shoulder and walked back across the flag bridge to Captain Gilmore.

"Well, that's clear enough, too," he observed dryly.

"Yes, Sir. And that thirty million-klick tripwire of his is consistent with what they say happened at Spindle, too."

"Agreed. On the other hand, it would be consistent, don't you think? Whether the 'Battle of Spindle' ever really happened or not."

Gilmore nodded, but his expression was unhappy, which pleased the rear admiral no end, since it indicated the presence of a functioning brain. Plenty of Frontier Fleet officers were just as wedded to the notion of Solarian invincibility as any Battle Fleet pain in the ass, but Pyun hadn't chosen his staff from among them. No one could ever reasonably call Steven Gilmore an alarmist, yet he was at least willing to admit the Manties might actually have learned a little something -- or even developed a few new weapons systems -- in the course of surviving a twenty-T-year war against the far larger People's Republic of Haven.

Of course, neither he nor Pyun had been anywhere near the Talbott Sector when that incomparable military genius Josef Byng managed to get his flagship blown away at New Tuscany. Nor had they been in the vicinity when Sandra Crandall set out to avenge her fellow genius, so there was no way they could have any firsthand impression of the weapons Manticore might have used. Unlike Gilmore, however, Pyun had enjoyed the dubious pleasure of actually meeting Crandall, and based on that, the Manties' version of what she'd done at Spindle carried a pronounced ring of truth. Which suggested the rest of their version of the Battle of Spindle was also at least reasonably accurate. Pyun might be willing to play devil's advocate with Gilmore, but he shared his ops officer's disinclination to simply dismiss the "preposterous" ranges which had been reported by at least some Solarian observers even before whatever happened to Crandall. Thirty million kilometers still sounded like too much to be true, but…

Pyun considered his orders once again. They were as clear as they were nondiscretionary, yet he hadn't earned flag rank in the Solarian Navy without discovering how much easier it was for people who were going to be far, far away at the critical moment to issue such unflinching directives.

Maybe it is, but he's still the Commissioner, and you're still a Frontier Fleet officer assigned to his sector.

"Copy Captain Ivanov's message to Captain Zyndram, Ephram. Inform the Captain that I see no reason to alter our intentions at this time."

"Yes, Sir."

He folded his hands behind himself and stood gazing into the master display once more.

* * *

"I don't suppose the Admiral actually replied to this, Vincent?" Captain Nereu Zyndram, CO of SLNS Belle Poule, asked.

"No, Sir," Lieutenant Vincent Würtz replied. The com officer started to say something else, but then he closed his mouth, and Zyndram smiled thinly.

Würtz was young, the flag captain thought. In fact, he was younger than he thought he was, prey to both the confidence and the trepidation of his youth. There was no way, in young Würtz' worldview, that any neobarb Navy could possibly stand up to the SLN. As far as the lieutenant was concerned, the Manty accounts of the Battle of Spindle could only be disinformation. No other possibility was admissible. Yet despite that, another part of the youngster was secretly afraid the Manty claims might contain at least a particle of truth, after all. And like the vast majority of Belle Poule's company, Würtz had never seen actual combat. The possibility that he might see it very soon now had to be gnawing away inside him.

Fair enough, Zyndram thought. You have seen combat, Nereu. And you've been around long enough to have a better feel than young Vincent for when someone's shooting you a line of shit, too. Which is why you're feeling a little nervous just this moment, yourself.

Nereu Zyndram had felt profound reservations about this operation from the moment Rear Admiral Pyun shared their orders with him. Those reservations hadn't grown any smaller since, either. On the other hand, he'd known Pyun for a lot of years. There wasn't much chance the admiral was going to start ignoring orders just because he thought they were stupid.

* * *

"He doesn't seem very impressed by my warning, does he?" Hiram Ivanov observed as the icons of the Solarian formation continued their remorseless, silent advance on the terminus.

"Typical pain-in-the-ass Solly response, Sir, if you don't mind my saying so," Lieutenant Commander Brian Brockhurst, Sloan Tompkins' tactical officer, replied, his voice harsh. "Or maybe I should say lack of response!"

"I don't mind your saying it, BB," Ivanov said in a rather milder tone. "On the other hand, let's not jump to any conclusions. We're a long way from Spindle, and there's no way this fellow could've gotten any detailed information from Old Terra yet. All he's got is whatever's come through from Idaho and trickled into his information net. So it's entirely possible he's basing his assessment of the opposing force levels on…flawed data, let's say." The captain's expression turned bleak. "He may be almost as ill-informed about our actual capabilities as we were about whoever ripped up the home system last month."

Brockhurst's own mouth tightened. His older brother, his sister, and their families had lived on a space station called Hephaestus prior to the attack on the Manticore Binary System, and a part of him wanted vengeance on someone -- anyone. If he couldn't get at the people who'd actually launched "the Yawata Strike," he'd settle for any legitimate target he could get at. Nor was he inclined to be any more sensitive to the Star Empire's enemies' perceptions, or the reasons for them, than he had to be.

"Closing velocity when they get to thirty million klicks?" Ivanov asked after a moment, and Brockhurst punched in the numbers.

"Just a shade under nine thousand KPS when they cross the line, Sir." He looked back up at his CO. "That'll add about another three-point-two million klicks to the powered envelope."

Ivanov nodded. He'd factored that into his calculations when he warned the Sollies not to approach within thirty million kilometers of the terminus. That was actually exceeding the letter of his orders, but the Royal Manticoran Navy's tradition was that an officer was expected to use his own judgment -- and discretion -- within the understood intent of his orders. Case Lacoön, the Royal Navy's long-standing contingency plan to close all termini normally under its control to Solarian shipping, didn't really apply to blowing Solarian battlecruisers out of space thirty million kilometers short of any of the termini in question. On the other hand, it was obvious the Navy was shortly going to move to full implementation of Lacoön Two. When that happened, Manticore would begin seizing control of every terminus it could, whoever those termini legally (or nominally, at least) belonged to, and closing all of them to the Sollies, as well.

Whatever that took, and whatever the range at which the Navy found itself opening fire.

The fat is well and truly in the fire, no matter what happens, Hiram Ivanov thought grimly. If those bastards in Old Chicago were going to do the reasonable thing, they'd already've done it. Since they haven't, things are going to get a hell of a lot worse before they get any better, and I think it's time to begin making that clear to the other side.

"All right, BB," he told Brockhurst after a moment. "We'll go with Volley Alpha if our uncommunicative friends do cross the line."
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Paul Howard (Alias Drak Bibliophile)
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Sometimes The Dragon Wins! [Polite Dragon Smile]
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