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STICKY: Shadow of Freedom Snippets

This is the place where we will be posting snippets of soon-to-be published works!
Re: STICKY: Shadow of Freedom Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Wed Jan 16, 2013 10:02 pm

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Admiral

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Shadow Of Freedom - Snippet 30

Most of the others were prepared to grant at least the possibility that Michelle and Khumalo and their staffs might be correct -- that Manpower or the Mesa System might indeed have been the prime mover. Might even have provided the "invisible" starships which had carried out the Yawata Strike. Michelle doubted any of them found the notion any less bizarre than she did, but they were at least open to it. And if she was reading the ONI appreciations from home accurately, opinion within the Admiralty and the Grantville Government was hardening in the same direction. There was, however, a vast gap between "prepared to grant the possibility" and "willing to bet the farm on it," and she decided -- again -- not to go into all the details of the logic behind her proposed deployments.

She'd considered mentioning that she intended to base herself on Montana, closest to Mesa and what she believed was clearly the greater threat, while assigning the Tillerman force to Vice Admiral Theodore Bennington, who'd become her senior battle squadron commander upon his arrival from the home system. Under the circumstances, though, it would undoubtedly be wiser to let that particular sleeping dog lie. She didn't expect Alquezar or Krietzmann to object, anyway, and they were the Talbott decision-makers who really mattered where fleet movements were concerned.

"In addition to the deployment plan Admiral Gold Peak and I are proposing," Khumalo said after a moment, "there are certain other measures we'd like to set in motion. Three of them are especially important.

"First, as Prime Minister Alquezar, Minister Lababibi, Minister Krietzmann, Minister Clark, and I have already discussed, we need to complete our survey of the Quadrant's industrial capabilities as quickly as possible. I suspect our local resources may be able to contribute more materially to our defense here than some people might think. Nobody's going to be building any superdreadnoughts anytime soon, but several of our systems -- Rembrandt, San Miguel, and Spindle itself come to mind -- have sufficient local industry to provide significant support for both our local defense and striking forces. Obviously, we'll be making technical advisors from Admiral Gold Peak's repair and depot ships available wherever possible.

"Secondly, and possibly even more importantly, Admiral Gold Peak has proposed we begin a vigorous program to expedite the raising and training of naval personnel right here in the Quadrant. The Navy's taken substantial losses in both the Battle of Manticore and the Yawata Strike, and unless I'm sadly mistaken, the emphasis in the home system and Trevor's Star -- where the bulk of our more…technologically sophisticated population is concentrated -- is going to be on reconstituting our skilled labor force as rapidly as possible. I believe that, especially if we make use of the LAC simulators already available to us and request additional simulators from the home system, we'll be able to produce and train a significant number of naval personnel. To be painfully blunt -- and I hope no one will take offense -- providing personnel with the education level we would expect from the home system or Trevor's Star is going to be beyond our capabilities here for some time to come. Within the next several T-years, the effort being invested in improving the Quadrant's educational systems is going to correct that problem. For the immediately foreseeable future, however, it's going to remain with us. That means the personnel we'll be able to train won't be as fully trained as we might hope -- won't have as deep a skill set, let's say -- but they'll still provide a very useful expansion of our manpower, and the technical aspects of their education can be continued aboard ship.

"The third initiative we'd like to consider very seriously is for us to use the Quadrant Guard as the basis for an expansion of planetary combat troops. Manticore has never had a powerful ground combat component and, frankly, a lot of what we did have has become committed to Silesia. Not because there's a lot of armed resistance going on, but because we had to pretty much disband a sizable percentage of the existing Silesian forces when we started weeding out entrenched cronyism and military corruption. With them gone, we had no choice but to provide peacekeeping and law enforcement personnel -- and cadre to train and supervise locally raised police forces -- out of our none-to-large Marine and Army strength. That situation seems to be well in hand, but it's still going to tie up those Marines and Army personnel for many months to come.

"That diversion to Silesia is also the reason we've seen virtually no Army personnel transferred to the Quadrant. Well, that and the fact that the Quadrant isn't Silesia and -- with the exception of Nordbrandt and a couple of other lunatics -- we haven't faced anywhere near the same need for additional peacekeeping and law enforcement personnel as Silesia, particularly with the Guard in the course of formation. In addition, as we all know, our new-build construction is very short on organic Marine detachments, and Tenth Fleet's entire attached Marine strength amounts to little more than a pair of brigades. That's a lot of firepower, given their equipment and training, but it's a very limited total number of men and women. If the situation with the League turns as ugly as we think it may -- if we find ourselves forced to carry out offensive operations against the League, for example -- that shortage in troop strength is likely to come home to roost with a vengeance.

"Because of those considerations, we believe it would be a good idea to use the Guard as a platform to begin raising, training, and equipping at least several divisions of infantry and atmospheric combat support units right here in the Quadrant. We can teach the technical skills an effective ground force would require much more rapidly than we can train personnel in the sorts of shipboard skills the Navy will need. In addition, our existing infrastructure can produce planetary combat equipment as good as or better than anything we're likely to face out here in the Verge…and probably get it into the troops' hands in adequate quantities by the time we can get the necessary recruiting and training programs into place. Frankly, it may turn out that the provision of the ground forces we're almost certain to require may be the most effective immediate contribution to the Star Empire's overall defense that the Quadrant can provide. And, finally, while the skills we'll have to teach our planetary combat forces aren't the same ones the Navy requires, they'll still represent a powerful step upward for a lot of our member star systems here in the Quadrant -- one which is going to carry over to their peacetime economies once the shooting ends.

"In addition to the actual increase in manpower and eventual overall education and training levels, however, the sort of programs we're proposing should also contribute to the Quadrant's sense of solidarity and unity and that, after all, is one reason for the Guard's existence in the first place. We all know this is still a new political unit. We're all still…settling down with one another, and the threat of outside attack is generating a lot of fully justified anxiety and uncertainty. We believe -- I believe -- that directly involving as many as possible of our citizens in their own self-defense will be the best antidote for that anxiety. We're not proposing this as any sort of placebo. If it succeeds as well as we believe it can, it will contribute materially to our ability to defend the Quadrant and probably to the overall defensive strength of the Star Empire outside the Quadrant. For that matter, I personally would strongly oppose any dispersal of effort that wouldn't contribute to that ability and combat strength. I'm simply pointing out that it could contribute in more ways than one."

There was silence for several seconds, then Prime Minister Alquezar looked at Baroness Medusa.

"I'm inclined to endorse Admiral Khumalo's and Admiral Gold Peak's proposals, Madame Governor. I know Henri's already had considerable input into them, and while I'd like the opportunity to read over the details for myself, I have the greatest respect for both Admiral Khumalo's and Admiral Gold Peak's judgment. With your concurrence, I'd like to suggest we authorize them to begin organizing to deploy Admiral Gold Peak's units as they've proposed and that you and I review those details with an eye towards giving them a firm approval -- and requesting the Quadrant Parliament's approval for the necessary funding, of course -- within the next two days."

"That seems perfectly reasonable to me, Mr. Prime Minister," Medusa agreed. "And that ought to give everyone else involved" -- she allowed her own gaze to slew sideways to Lababibi, Clark, and Westman for a moment -- "enough time to review them and put forward any suggestions they might care to make, as well."

"In that case," Alquezar said with a somewhat crooked smile, "I propose we adjourn. I'll see all of you at the War Cabinet meeting Wednesday, I'm sure. By which time, no doubt, the ghost of Murphy will have visited yet another crisis upon us."
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Re: STICKY: Shadow of Freedom Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Sun Jan 20, 2013 10:03 pm

DrakBibliophile
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Shadow Of Freedom - Snippet 31

Chapter Eight

"You know," Michelle Henke said thoughtfully, tipped back in her chair with her feet propped somewhat inelegantly on the coffee table, "these Sollies are beginning to severely piss me off."

"No, really?" Captain Cynthia Lecter raised her eyebrows. "I find that difficult to believe, Ma'am."

Michelle chuckled, although the sound was a bit sour, then glanced up as Chris Billingsley appeared with Lecter's whiskey glass and Michelle's own bottle of beer. Over the years, she'd developed a pronounced preference for Honor Harrington's favorite Old Tillman. In fact, her friend had actually converted her to the barbarism of drinking it chilled, and she smiled as she accepted the cold bottle from her steward, then made a face as Dicey hopped up into her lap. The cat landed with a pronounced thump, butted her chest twice with his broad, scarred head, then settled down possessively with a deep, rumbling purr.

"This monster is your cat, isn't it, Chris?" she demanded.

"Yes, Ma'am," Billingsley acknowledged imperturbably.

"I just wondered," she said, rubbing Dicey between the ears in token of abject surrender. "Thanks for clearing that up."

"You're welcome, Ma'am." Billingsley smiled benignly and withdrew, and Michelle shook her head and returned her attention to Lecter.

"As I was saying, these Sollies are beginning to get on my nerves. And I wish to hell I understood what Dueñas thinks he's going to accomplish with this."

"Assuming our information about what he's supposed to've done is correct, of course, Ma'am," Lecter pointed out.

"I realize we have to keep our minds open to all possibilities, Cynthia, but say that again with a straight face," Michelle challenged. "Just what mistake have the Sollies passed up making that would encourage that sort of optimism?"

"I can't think of one right off hand," Lecter acknowledged, "but that's not to say they couldn't have avoided at least one somewhere without our noticing."

"Maybe so, but I'm not inclined to believe it was in Saltash."

Michelle's tone was darker, her expression less amused, and her chief of staff nodded in less than delighted agreement.

Michelle nodded back and sipped beer, continuing to rub Dicey's head, as she contemplated the latest unpleasant decision to land on her desk.

I suppose we're lucky Lörscher was on his way to Montana anyway and decided to share the news with us, she thought.

Michelle and her detachment of Tenth Fleet had arrived in Montana less than three days ago, and she was still in the process of settling down to her new duty station. She'd visited Montana before, on her initial swing through the Talbott Quadrant back before everything had gone to hell in a handbasket, but it had been a brief visit, little more than a quick look in. This time, unless (or, rather, until) something else went wrong, she'd be here for a while, and she'd plunged into a round of courtesy calls with the local system government and the local business sector. Along the way, she'd met -- briefly -- the infamous Stephen Westman. Abbreviated although their meeting had been, she'd recognized a kindred soul in Westman; they were both the sort of people who had a tendency to demolish obstacles with the handiest blunt instrument. Stubborn, too, the both of them.

She was also getting a better feel for the system's economy, and she'd begun to understand why Montana had been one of the more affluent of the old Talbott Sector star systems. Montana beef was among the best Michelle had ever tasted, and the system's location put it within a couple of hundred light years of over a dozen other star systems. For that matter, it was only two hundred and ten light-years from the Mesa Terminus which had given it direct access to the heart of the Solarian League and the Core Worlds' spoiled, wealthy gourmands even before the Lynx Terminus' discovery. Two light-centuries wasn't all that far for the fast freighters which served the meat packing trade, and Montana shipped literally millions of tons of beef a month. None of which even considered the ranchers' ability to penetrate new markets now that Lynx had been discovered.

Always assuming the entire explored galaxy didn't decide to blow itself straight to hell, of course.

What mattered at the moment, however, was that it was Montana's beef production which had brought Captain Li-hau Lörscher, of the Andermani freighter Angelika Thörnich to the star system. He hadn't expected to see a full squadron of Manticoran ships-of-the-wall -- not to mention battlecruisers, CLACs, cruisers, destroyers, and supply ships -- waiting for him here, but he'd grabbed the opportunity with both hands.

"You know, Ma'am," Lecter said after a moment, "it could all be misinformation."

"I thought about that," Michelle acknowledged, sipping more beer, but then she shrugged. "Lörscher seems to be exactly who he says he is, though. And he's got a half dozen regular suppliers here in Montana who're prepared to vouch for him." She shook her head. "Someone who's been on the same run for over ten T-years isn't likely to be a plant, and he's got a wife and family back in the Empire. It's not as if he could just disappear afterward if he'd decided to sell us a bill of goods. Besides, I don't think Emperor Gustav would be especially happy with him if it turned out he was deliberately passing us false information. It might land not only us but the Andermani in the middle of a fresh manipulated incident with the Sollies, and I sort of doubt Gustav's going to be real eager about joining an anti-League crusade even if he is currently our ally against Haven. For that matter, there's the question of who'd want to 'misinform' us about something like this. I agree healthy suspicion is indicated, especially given everything that's already gone down out here, but still…"

She shrugged again, and her chief of staff nodded slowly. Lecter's expression remained troubled, though, and her eyes were thoughtful as she took a sip of whiskey.

"I agree Lörscher's probably exactly who he says he is, Ma'am, and I'll agree that I wouldn't want to be the Andermani merchant skipper who pissed off the Emperor by lying to his allies. That doesn't automatically mean he isn't, though. And what sticks in my mind is that if Manpower or Mesa really has been manipulating things out this way, feeding us something that would draw us into a potential -- another potential -- incident with the Sollies might suit their playbook just fine."

"The thought had crossed my own mind," Michelle agreed.

"Well, if that's what this is, then Lörscher very probably could be telling us the truth…insofar as he knows it, that is. He could have been lied to and sent out to lie to us. though. For that matter, if the Saltash System governor's in Mesa's pocket like Verrocchio -- or even like New Tuscany was, when you come down to it -- Lörscher could be telling us the truth about what actually happened and it could still be a trap designed to draw us into yet another confrontation with the League."

"Agreed." Michelle nodded more grimly, but her tone was firm.

It was one of Lecter's functions to look for the hidden hook inside any potential bait that came Tenth Fleet's way. And God knew there'd been enough skullduggery over the last several months to turn anyone paranoid. In fact, the truth was that despite her own comment to Lecter, she could readily see how whoever was manipulating the situation might relish the possibility of piling another incident with the Solarian League onto the fire. Unfortunately…
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Paul Howard (Alias Drak Bibliophile)
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Re: STICKY: Shadow of Freedom Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Wed Jan 23, 2013 10:00 pm

DrakBibliophile
Admiral

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Shadow Of Freedom - Snippet 32

"I think we have to assume Lörscher's telling the truth," she said. "And one of the reasons I'm inclined to think this isn't deliberate misinformation on anyone's part is that Montana's where Lörscher was headed all along, but no one could've known we'd be here when he got here. He'd probably have passed the information along anyway, but it would've taken two weeks for a dispatch boat to get word back to Spindle even if Montana had one ready to go on zero notice. If they wanted to draw us into doing something unfortunate, I think they would have sent their messenger directly to either Spindle or Lynx, where they could've been sure of finding the Navy waiting for them and drawing a quicker response."

"There is that, Ma'am," Lecter acknowledged.

"And, frankly, the bottom line is that it doesn't matter whether or not this is a set up," Michelle said in a harsher tone. "Either Dueñas really has impounded one of our merchies, or he hasn't. Whoever we send is going to have to mind his feet and be sure he doesn't step on any tender Solly sensibilities if this is some sort of misinformation. But if it's not -- if Dueñas has done what Lörscher says he has -- then I really don't care who put him up to it."

Lecter's eyes widened in alarm, and Michelle chuckled coldly.

"I'm not going all berserk on you, Cynthia," she said. "But the bottom line is that one of our primary missions ever since there's been a Navy has always been the protection of Manticoran commerce. Nothing in any orders I've seen has changed that. And they haven't put any limitations on who we're supposed to protect our commerce and our merchant spacers from, either. I don't know if this was Dueñas' own brainstorm or if someone put him up to it, and it doesn't matter, when you come down to it. Maybe it is an effort to create a deliberate provocation, but even if it is, it's one we can't ignore or back away from. And to be perfectly honest, I don't want to, either." She showed her teeth. "In fact, that's one of the main reasons I haven't already jumped on it. I wanted to make sure I had myself on a short enough leash to give some thought to it, first."

"I've known you a while, Ma'am," Lecter observed. "And if you'll pardon my saying so, it sounds to me like you've done most of the thinking you intend to do."

"Yep." Michelle gave Dicey's head another rub and nodded her own. "I think this should be right up Zavala's alley. And a destroyer squadron -- especially one that's a little understrength -- will be a lot less threatening than a division of battlecruisers."

"Do you think five tincans will be enough to convince a Solly system governor to back down?"

"When they're bigger than most Solly light cruisers, I think the odds are probably pretty damned good," Michelle said. "And I'd prefer to tailor our response to the nature of the mission. I don't want to use any bigger club than we have to, which is one reason I'm thinking Zavala would be a good choice. He won't take any crap, but he's not going to come in throwing around threats until he's at least tried to get them to see reason. And, to be honest, I can't really afford to start slicing off detachments of cruisers or battlecruisers -- not when the whole notion is to maintain a concentrated force here in Montana."

And not when I don't know when the next Lörscher's likely to turn up with somewhere else I need to send a detachment, she added silently.

"I follow your logic, Ma'am," Lecter said, which wasn't precisely the same thing as saying she agreed with it, Michelle noted. "Should I assume you want to speak to Zavala personally before we send him off?"

"I definitely do." Michelle nodded firmly. "This isn't something you send someone off to do without making damned sure she understands her orders, and that those orders are going to cover her backside if it all goes south on her."

"Understood, Ma'am," Lecter replied, although the chief of staff could think of quite a few flag officers she'd known who would've been more concerned with covering their own backsides than that of the officer they'd designated to carry out a mission like this one.

"Good." Michelle took a final pull at her beer, then leaned forward and set the empty bottle on the coffee table. Dicey gave her a disgusted look as her lap moved under him, then relented and gave her a parting head butt of affection before he hopped down. She smiled as the cat meandered out, then looked back at Lecter. "I'd like to have him underway within the next twelve hours."

"I'll see to it, Ma'am." The chief of staff tossed back the last of her whiskey and set the glass beside Michelle's bottle. Then she rose, nodded respectfully to Michelle, and headed for the day cabin's door.

Michelle watched her go, then she climbed out of her own chair and keyed the holo display above her desk, frowning at the steadily blinking icon of the star called Saltash.

I sure as hell hope it isn't some kind of set up, Cynthia, she thought after her vanished chief of staff. I talk a good stiff upper lip and all that, but I really, really don't want to step into it all over again with the damned Sollies.

It was like picking her way without a map through a waist-deep swamp she knew was filled with patches of quicksand and poorly fed alligators. There was so damned much treachery, so many crosscurrents of deception, so much Solarian arrogance and resentment, and so many things which could go disastrously wrong. The temptation was to fort up, go strictly onto the defensive to avoid the kind of mistakes which could only make the situation worse. But as she'd told Lecter, that wasn't an option in this case. If Lörscher was right about what was going on in Saltash, Michelle had to act.

And I hope to hell this doesn't go as badly for Zavala's squadron as things went for it in New Tuscany, too, she thought.
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Re: STICKY: Shadow of Freedom Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Sun Jan 27, 2013 10:02 pm

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Shadow Of Freedom - Snippet 33

Chapter Nine

"I don't like it," Rosa Shuman said, sitting well back in the outrageously comfortable, throne-like chair behind her desk. She was turned half away from her single guest, looking out through her office windows over the capital city which had been named (with dubious humor) "Capistrano" by the colony's original settlers. "I don't like it at all. Those Allenby yahoos have always been too big for their britches."

"I'm not going to argue with you about that, Rosa," General Felicia Karaxis replied in the sort of tone very few other people would have dared use with the president of the Swallow System Republic. Felicia Karaxis wasn't "other people," though. She commanded the Swallow System Army, and since Swallow had a unified military, that meant she also commanded the security forces responsible for keeping one President Rosa Shuman seated in that throne-like chair. She also knew where most of the bodies were buried on Swallow…especially given how many of them she'd planted herself.

"I've been telling you for years that we needed to go in there and clean them out," Karaxis continued, leaning back in her own chair and reaching into her tunic's inside pocket for one of the thin cigars she favored. She found one, extracted it, and began peeling it out of its sealed wrap as she continued. "Let me make a sweep through their damned mountains with air cav and infantry. I'll sort the bastards out!"

"Believe me, I'd love to let you," Shuman replied, although if she was going to be honest she was a bit less confident than Karaxis about just how simple it would be to "sort the bastards out." She hated the entire Allenby clan with a pure and burning intensity not even Karaxis could match, but she wasn't going to take them lightly.

"I'd love to let you," she continued, "but Parkman and those other bastards over at Tallulah don't want us spoiling the tourist trade."

"Tourist trade!" Karaxis snorted harshly, exhaling smoke. "If I were him, I'd be a lot more worried over what Floyd and Jason might send to visit him than over getting out for a little skiing!"

Shuman rolled her gray eyes. Felicia might be a bit short on tact, she thought, but she did have a way of cutting to the heart of things. And if it had been possible for there to be anyone in the entire Swallow System more hated than Rosa Shuman, it would probably have been Alton Parkman, the Tallulah Corporation's system manager. Hell! Shuman hated his guts, for that matter! Not that she was in much of a position to do anything about it.

At the same time, she had to admit Parkman did have a point…of sorts, at least. Swallow wasn't a particularly wealthy star system, and the Tallulah Corporation wasn't much as Solarian transstellars went. Of course, even a relatively poverty-stricken star system represented a very large amount of money, and as the system's legal president -- duly appointed as vice president by her since deceased husband, Donnie, and his legal successor under the constitution he'd personally drafted -- Shuman was in a position to skim off quite a bit of it. Parkman was in an even better position, since Tallulah (like quite a few of the transstellars) was prepared to wink at 8its managerial personnel's graft, tax evasion, and outright theft as long as they continued to show a healthy bottom line. It was Tallulah's version of an incentive program.

Swallow basically represented a captive market for Tallulah, whose faithful minions Donnie and Rosa Shuman had crafted a tariff policy guaranteed to close anyone else out of the system's economy. Of course, Donnie had gotten a bit too greedy later and tried to insist on taking a bigger slice of the pie, which was how he'd come to suffer that tragic air accident and Rosa had tearfully inherited the presidency. Aside from her husband's untimely demise, however, Rosa had little about which to complain. She knew that, and she was perfectly happy to settle for Donnie's original deal with Tallulah and OFS. A population of over four billion human beings, forbidden the opportunity to trade with anyone else, could produce a very healthy bottom line, with plenty to go around, and Swallow had done just that for Tallulah for the better part of fifty T-years. But the "tourist trade" Parkman was worried about added another nice, solid chunk of change to the Tallulah balance sheets.

The Cripple Mountains were among the more spectacular mountain ranges in explored space. Broken Back Mountain, the Cripples' tallest peak, was almost two hundred and fifty meters taller than Old Earth's Mount Everest, and three more of the Cripples' mountains were at least as tall as Everest. The rest of the mountain range was scaled to match, providing superlative skiing, some of the most rugged and towering (and beautiful) scenery in the galaxy, and opportunities for mountaineering, camping, hunting, and fishing in a genuinely unspoiled wilderness paradise. True, that same "wilderness paradise" could kill the unwary in a heartbeat, yet that only added to its appeal for the true aficionado, and Tallulah Travel Interstellar had a complete lock on that part of the system's economy, as well.

Unfortunately, the descendants of the people who'd homesteaded the Cripple Mountains were about as hard to tame as the mountains themselves, and Floyd Allenby was a case in point.

"I'm telling you, Rosa," Karaxis said, jabbing the air with her cigar as if it were a pointer or a swagger stick, "sooner or later we're going to have to go in to deal with the Allenbys, and the longer we put it off, the worse it's going to be when we do. Let me go in quick and dirty and will see how long this 'Cripple Mountain Movement' of theirs lasts!"

Shuman considered pointing out that it had been Karaxis' security people who'd killed Floyd Allenby's wife eight T-years ago. To be fair, they hadn't meant to. Sandra Allenby's air car had simply happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. In fact, Shuman had acknowledged that Sandra's death had been a terrible accident and offered a very generous financial settlement. Unfortunately, Floyd Allenby didn't seem to think a surface-to-air missile came under the heading of "accidents," and he'd wanted blood, not money. A lot of those Cripple Mountains rednecks thought that way. In fact, his entire damned family seemed to agree with him.

"Felicia," the president said, "we can't afford to kill off Allenbys in job lots -- especially right now -- for a lot of reasons. You know the way they think. If we go in after any of them, we have to go after all of them, and the effect of eliminating the biggest, most highly skilled, and most profitable group of guides would not make our Mister Parkman very happy. And to be honest, I don't think your people would really enjoy going after them on their own ground. I don't doubt you could deal with them in the end," she continued quickly (and not entirely accurately) when she saw Karaxis' expression, "but it wouldn't be a pleasant experience and I'm pretty sure it would take longer than either of us would believe at this point. Even worse, they aren't exactly the only bunch up in those mountains who'd raise all kinds of hell if you went after them the way you'd have to make them give up Floyd or the others."

Karaxis growled something unintelligible around her cigar, eyes angry, but she couldn't very well dispute what Shuman had just said.

"Besides," the redhaired president continued, "as near as we can tell, even the Allenbys are still split over whether or not they should be supporting Floyd. All of them hate our guts, but for right now at least a majority of the clan doesn't seem to feel that going up against us openly is a winning strategy."

"Because they aren't all completely crazy after all," Karaxis grunted. "If they ever come out in the open where we can get at them, we'll chop them into husky bait!"

"I'm sure that's a factor in their thinking," Shuman agreed. "The problem is that they're so damn bloody-minded. If we step on their toes hard enough, they may just decide they don't care how ugly things could get. Don't forget what old Simon was like!"
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Re: STICKY: Shadow of Freedom Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Wed Jan 30, 2013 10:10 pm

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Shadow Of Freedom - Snippet 34

That reminder seemed to give even Karaxis pause, and the general nodded soberly.

"At least Floyd never got prolong in time," Shuman continued. "He's -- what? Thirty? Thirty-five? -- by now. Give him a few more T-years, and he's likely to decide this 'liberation movement' of his is a game for younger men. Looked at that way, time's on our side, wouldn't you say?"

Karaxis gave an unconvinced-looking nod. Shuman suspected the general was thinking about Simon Allenby, Floyd's grandfather. Old-age hadn't slowed Simon up noticeably. According to tradition -- and Shuman was pretty sure the tradition was correct -- Simon Allenby had fought his last duel at the tender age of ninety.

And he'd won.

Handily.

Hadn't even had to kill his opponent, only crippled him for life.

"Either way, Felicia," the president said with a shrug, "I couldn't green light that kind of operation right now even if I were completely convinced it was a good idea. Not with that pain-in-the-ass Luther and his other Nixon Foundation buddies here in the system."

Karaxis' frown turned into an active glower. Shuman understood perfectly, since she, too, would have liked nothing better than to arrange a creative (and hopefully fatal) accident for Jerome Luther and the rest of the Nixon Foundation team investigating all those ridiculous allegations of human rights violations here in Swallow. She would have gone ahead and authorized the accident without hesitation if Parkman hadn't warned her that the Nixon Foundation's expedition was being financed by one of Tallulah's competitors in hopes of turning up something egregious enough to justify Frontier Security intervention. Tallulah was currently involved in a bidding war to buy OFS off, but until that was resolved, they had to be cautious about creating pretexts Frontier Security could use to mandate régime change…and hand Swallow (and its cash flow) over to someone else. Or, even worse, turn the entire system into a direct OFS protectorate, which would put the bulk of the system economy straight into Frontier Security's pocket.

"That's why I said I don't like it," Shuman continued. "If we let ourselves be provoked into a large-scale operation in the Cripples, it's bound to get out and that busybody from Nixon will jump right onto it. I think he genuinely believes his foundation can 'make a difference' out here, and if we give him a toehold…"

She let her voice trail off and shrugged, and Karaxis glowered some more.

"All right," the general said finally. "I understand your reasoning, and I don't want to upset the apple cart any more than anyone else does. But if these rumors my people are picking up are accurate -- if Allenby and the others are genuinely planning to start some kind of active guerrilla campaign -- we're going to have to respond. And when we do, it's going to escalate. That's why I'm still convinced it would be better to go in fast and hard now, break as many eggs as we have to nip this thing in the bud, instead of letting it drag on and turn into something even bigger and messier."

"I agree there's a risk of that happening, and I've pointed that out to Parkman. His theory is that as long as we restrict ourselves to reactions to the other side's provocations, we can pass it off as a standard law enforcement response to criminals, not a military campaign against some kind of political resistance organization. To be honest, I think what he's really hoping is that Luther and those other Nixon pests will get tired and go home before this reaches the messy stage. Once we get them out of here, I'll be a lot more willing to go ahead and turn you loose. We just need to keep a lid on things for a few more T-months. Maybe a whole T-year."

"I'm willing to keep a lid on it," Karaxis said sardonically. "The question is whether or not Allenby is!"

* * *

"What do you reckon the odds really are, Floyd?" Jason MacGruder asked.

"Odds of what?" Floyd Allenby hawked up a gobbet of phlegm and spat it into the campfire. "Whether or not it's going to snow? Or what the snow bear hunting's going to be like this year?"

"How 'bout whether or not we're gonna be alive this time next year?" MacGruder suggested.

"Oh, that." Allenby shrugged and looked back down at the snowshoe he was mending. "Couldn't tell you that, Jason. Looks to me like there's only one way to find out."

"Figured that was what you were gonna say," MacGruder said gloomily, and Allenby smiled down at his work.

MacGruder was his second cousin, with the same brown hair and brown eyes -- not to mention the beak-like Allenby nose -- although MacGruder favored the tall and lanky side of the family while Allenby came from its compact, broad shouldered, fireplug side. There wasn't much to choose between them in a lot of ways, but MacGruder did have a positive gift for looking on the gloomy side.

Not that there was all that much of a side that wasn't gloomy at the moment.

Allenby finished replacing the broken rawhide lacing, knotted it, and carefully trimmed off the excess length. He set the repaired shoe aside and leaned closer to the fire to pour a cup of coffee from the battered black pot. Then he sat back again, leaning against the flat stone face which helped to both conceal their fire and to reflect its heat back into their tiny encampment.

"You know," MacGruder said in a thoughtful tone, leaning back against his own bedroll and folding his arms behind his head, "our mighty liberation movement's bitten off quite a mouthful here, Floyd."

"Yep," Allenby agreed.

"'Pears to me we're just a tad outnumbered," MacGruder continued. "Something like, what, around three or four-thousand-to-one?"

"'Bout that."

"With air cars, recon drones, sting ships, armored personnel carriers, tri-barrels. Heck, Floyd, they've even got tanks, I hear!"

"Heard that, too," Allenby agreed, sipping the scalding hot coffee.

"Don't think those odds might be a little steep even for an Allenby, do you?"

"Maybe just a little."

MacGruder made a disgusted sound, but his lips twitched, and Allenby smiled down into his cup. Then he stopped smiling and looked back up.

"The truth is, Jason," he said much more seriously, "this is probably a losing hand. You sure you want to sit in?"

"You don't want to go around insulting people by asking a man a question like that," MacGruder pointed out, looking up at the huge, brilliant starscape above the Cripple Mountains' thin atmosphere.

"I'm serious, Jason. I think we've got a chance, or I wouldn't be doing this, but having a chance isn't the same as having a good chance."

"And what does Vinnie have to say about that?" MacGruder inquired politely.

"You know what Vinnie has to say about it." Allenby's voice was suddenly harsher and much colder than it had been, and a look of apology filled MacGruder's eyes as they flicked to his cousin's face.

Vincent Frugoni was the brother of Sandra Frugoni Allenby, Floyd Allenby's dead wife. Like Sandra, he'd been born off-world. He'd been ten T-years younger than Sandra when Doctor Frugoni had come out to Swallow after their parents' deaths. Sandra had been in the Tallulah Corporation's employ at the time, but it hadn't taken her long to realize what was going on in Swallow, at which point she'd resigned and set up her own practice in the Cripples. Vincent had been delighted with her decision, and they'd both always felt comfortable around the stubborn, hard-working, bloody-minded folk of the Cripple Mountains. In fact Vincent was even more stubborn and bloody-minded than most of Swallow's clansmen. In a lot of ways, killing his sister had been just as big a mistake as killing Floyd Allenby's wife.

Leave it to that bitch Karaxis to piss both of them off with one frigging SAM, MacGruder thought now. And me, too, come to that.

Blood and family meant a lot up in the Cripples. Sandra Allenby had been as treasured for who she was as for her medical skills or the fact that she'd married one of their own, and MacGruder was an old-fashioned clansman, just like Allenby himself. He'd have rallied around his cousin even if he'd never met Sandra, but like everyone else who'd known her, he'd loved her. It would have been personal for him, anyway, but he was honest enough to admit to himself that it was even more personal than it might have been.
*
Paul Howard (Alias Drak Bibliophile)
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Re: STICKY: Shadow of Freedom Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Sun Feb 03, 2013 10:00 pm

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Shadow Of Freedom - Snippet 35

"What I meant, Floyd," he said in a softer, less bantering tone, "was whether or not Vinnie thinks we can pull it off, not whether or not it's a good idea."

"To be honest, I'm not sure whether or not he thinks we can actually bring Schuman and Karaxis down," Allenby admitted after a moment. "I think he's convinced we can at least make both of them wish they'd never been born, but actually knock off the government?" He shrugged. "That's a lot steeper order. All I can say is he thinks there's at least a chance, and if this contact of his comes through for us, we may have a lot better chance than I thought we did when we started."

"Makes a man a little nervous counting on 'contacts' he's never met," MacGruder observed.

"Naw." Allenby shook his head. "Doesn't make a man a little nervous, Jason. Not 'less he's the kind of idiot couldn't count to eleven without taking his shoes off, anyway."

MacGruder chuckled, although in his saner moments he knew Allenby was right about that. At the moment, their Cripple Mountain Movement consisted of a grand and glorious total of just under four hundred volunteers. Given the imbalance between the imported equipment of Karaxis' military and the civilian weaponry available to them, angering even that many enough to step forward had been a monumental achievement on the Shuman Administration's part. And virtually all of those four hundred were Cripple Mountains clansmen and women, which meant that even family members unwilling to take up arms themselves would greet any outside pursuers or investigators with hostile, willful ignorance of the guerrillas' whereabouts.

Some of the CMM's members wanted to open a large-scale campaign of attacks on the Tallulah Corporation's infrastructure, but for the moment, Allenby was restricting their operations to keeping their mountainous stronghold free of the system security forces. There'd been perhaps a dozen serious clashes between his people and Karaxis' over the last local year or so, and their frequency seemed to be accelerating, yet they were still the exception, not the rule. In fact, most of them had been the result of accidental collisions between the two sides, not something either of them had planned.

Things had begun to accelerate in other ways, though -- especially since First Sergeant Vincent Frugoni, Solarian Marine Corps (retired) had returned to Swallow. Frugoni shared his dead sister's blond hair and blue eyes, and his face, while undeniably masculine, was an almost painful reminder of Sandra. He was also -- as his sister had been -- a prolong recipient, which neither Allenby nor MacGruder was. Twenty years older than either of them, he looked more like someone's adolescent brother than the tough, decidedly nasty character he was, and he kept a well honed artfully innocent expression ready for instant use at need.

He'd also spent twenty-seven T-years in the Solarian Marines, rising to the second highest noncommissioned rank available, and under his tutelage the four hundred members of the CMM had attained a level of training and tactical sophistication light-years ahead of the majority of Felicia Karaxis' so-called soldiers.

That wasn't enough to offset the imbalance in the equipment and technical capabilities available to the two sides, of course. Although…

"Tell me true, Floyd," MacGruder said finally, his expression unwontedly sober. "You know I'm with you all the way, however it works out. Bastards've got it coming, and I'm ready to give it to them, however it comes out at the finish line. But do you really think these people -- these 'Manties' -- are ready to help out?"

"I don't know. Not really," Allenby admitted, returning honesty for honesty. "If half the stuff we're hearing is true, they're going to need every edge they can get, though. Makes sense to me they'd want to…distract the Sollies' attention, and you know as well as I do how it really works out here. Frontier Security's not backing Tallulah just because of that asshole Parkman's beautiful eyes! They're getting a cut from every credit Tallulah rakes off from Swallow, and if the League's got a real war on its hands for the first time in its life, it's going to need all the cash it can squeeze out of the Protectorates…and us. So if the Manties can make it hard for them to do that, it's got to help Manticore, right?"

"Even I can get that far," MacGruder said dryly. "What bothers me is whether or not they're going to give a fart in a windstorm what finally happens to us."

"Fair enough." Allenby nodded. "And while I'm being fair, why should they give a fart in a windstorm? They don't know us, and they sure as hell don't owe us anything! But the truth is, it's not going to take a lot of effort on their part to provide us with the guns and the support weapons we'd need to take Karaxis on. It's not like we're going to be some kind of long-term heavy burden on them. In fact, this is about the cheapest way they can get into the Sollies' henhouse, when you come down to it. And if they promise to help us and then don't come through -- if they don't provide what they've agreed to and just leave us hanging -- it's going to get out. I'm thinking anyone ballsy enough to take on the League isn't going to want the rest of the galaxy to think they just use up allies and throw them away. Might make sense to them in the short term, but in the long term it'd do them a lot of damage with all the independent star systems. And if they're going to survive facing up to the League, they can't afford to piss off the independents, Jason. They're going to need access to markets out here to replace the ones they're going to lose in the League. And they're going to need allies, not just trading partners. Somehow I don't think someone who goes around screwing people over and then throwing them to the ogre wolves is going to find a lot of people willing to stick their necks out for them against something like the League."

MacGruder's eyebrows rose. Sometimes, listening to his cousin speak, Allenby's rustic mountain accent could fool even him into forgetting the acuity of the brain behind those brown eyes. But then Floyd would come up with a piece of analysis like that and remind him.

"I'm not saying the Manties are going to back us out of the pure goodness of their hearts any more than I think OFS is backing Tallulah because they love Parkman so much," Allenby continued. "I'm just saying we both have reasons to be pissed off as hell at Frontier Security, and if it makes sense to the Manties to go after Schuman and Karaxis -- and Parkman -- here in Swallow, it makes sense to me to let them help us do it."

"Put that way, makes sense to me, too," MacGruder admitted after a moment. He considered what his cousin had said in silence for several seconds, then cocked his head.

"So when do we expect to hear back from Vinnie?" he asked.

"Sometime in the next week or so." Allenby refilled his coffee cup again. "I don't think Karaxis even realizes Vinnie's back on-planet, but the only place he could make contact is in Capistrano, so we're not going to know how it went until he's had time to get back here without attracting anyone's attention. So" -- he shrugged -- "about a week or so."

"And just how are the Manties planning on getting weapons shipments through to us when Tallulah controls all the traffic into and out of Swallow?" MacGruder sounded as much honestly curious as skeptical, and Allenby snorted a laugh.

"Damned if I know!" he admitted cheerfully. "That's up to Vinnie and this Manty super secret agent he's hooked up with." He shrugged. "If Mister 'Firebrand' can come up with a way to get the guns to us, though, I'm pretty sure we'll be able to figure out what to do with them after he does."
*
Paul Howard (Alias Drak Bibliophile)
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Re: STICKY: Shadow of Freedom Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Wed Feb 06, 2013 9:59 pm

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Shadow Of Freedom - Snippet 36

Chapter Ten

"Well, Hosea, I hope you've completed your homework assignment," Naomi Kaplan said dryly as HMS Tristram bored through hyper-space, twelve hours after leaving Montana orbit. "I'd like to sound like I've got some clue what I'm talking about for the Commodore's conference."

"I wouldn't say I'm happy about the amount of detail I've managed to turn up, Skipper," Lieutenant Hosea Simpkins, Tristram's astrogator replied with a wry smile. "I've pulled everything I could find out of the files, but Tester knows it isn't much."

"Somehow, I'm not surprised." Commander Kaplan shrugged and leaned back in her chair at the head of the briefing room's conference table. "Go ahead and give us what you've got, though."

"Yes, Ma'am." Kaplan's Grayson-born astrogator didn't bother to consult his notes. "Technically, Saltash's an independent star system. Actually, it's been an OFS client for about sixty T-years. The single habitable planet is called Cinnamon. Orbital radius is about nine light-minutes, population's just under two-point-five billion. Planetary diameter's only point-nine-six Old Earth, but gravity's almost a full standard gravity, so it's obviously a little denser than most. Hydrosphere is right on seventy-three percent, and its axial inclination's only nine degrees, so it sounds like a fairly nice place to live.

"Unfortunately, the local political structure was a real mess sixty or seventy T-years back. The Republic of McPhee and the Republic of Lochore both claimed to be the sole legitimate system government, and they'd fought two or three wars without settling things. They were headed towards another war, and all indications were it was going to be a really ugly affair this time around, when the president of MacPhee called in Frontier Security to play referee."

"Where have we heard this story before?" Lieutenant Commander Alvin Tallman muttered with a scowling expression.

"I hate to say it, Sir," Simpkins told Tristram's executive officer, "but in this case OFS really did end up doing one of the things it was ostensibly created to do. I'm not saying it did it out of the goodness of its heart, you understand, but if the League hadn't intervened, McPhee and Lochore were probably getting ready to pretty well sterilize Cinnamon. That's how bitter the situation had gotten."

"Any idea why things were that bad, Hosea?" Kaplan asked, her eyes intent, and Simpkins shrugged.

"Not really, Ma'am. Given the intensity of the last war they actually fought, these people were as unreasonable as we Graysons were before we exiled the Faithful to Masada, but it doesn't seem like religion was behind the antagonism in Saltash's case. The only thing I can tell you for sure is that the two sides had obviously hated each other for a long time, and it looks like they'd simply reached the point of being so pissed off, if you'll pardon my language, that they were ready to pull the trigger even knowing there was a pretty good chance they'd wreck the entire planet."

"Well, that sounds promising as hell," Lieutenant Vincenzo Fonzarelli sighed.

"It might not be that bad, Vincenzo," Abigail Hearns said, smiling slightly at Tristram's chief engineer. Fonzarelli looked back at her skeptically, and she shrugged. "We're not really here to deal with the Saltashans directly, so it doesn't matter if they're as crazy as the Faithful…or even Graysons." Her smile turned dimpled. "All we have to worry about is the OFS presence in the system."

"That's a reassuring thought," Lieutenant Wanda O'Reilly observed waspishly. The communications officer's resentment of Abigail's promotion and (in her opinion) privileged status had abated -- slightly -- but it still rankled, and no one was ever going to accuse O'Reilly of giving up a sense of antagonism easily.

"I could wish we weren't here to confront the Sollies, too, Wanda," Kaplan said mildly. "Unfortunately, we wouldn't be making the trip if there weren't Sollies at the other end of it, now would we?"

"No, Ma'am," O'Reilly acknowledged.

"So how much system infrastructure is there, Hosea?" Kaplan asked, turning her attention back to the astrogator.

"Not much, actually." This time the Grayson did look down at his notes. "There's some mining in the Casper Belt between Saltash Delta and Himalaya, the system's only gas giant, although the total belter population -- work force and dependents, combined -- is way under a half million. And there's a gas extraction plant orbiting Himalaya itself. There doesn't seem to be much local heavy industry, though, and the system's only real cargo transfer platform is Shona Station. Which also happens to be Cinnamon's only significant orbital habitat."

"How big a population does it have, Hosea?" Abigail asked with a frown, and Simpkins checked his notes again.

"Almost a quarter million," he said, and Abigail's frown deepened.

"Something bothering you, Abigail?" Kaplan inquired, and Abigail gave herself a slight shake.

"Only that that's a lot of civilians to be potentially getting in harm's way, Ma'am," she said. "I was just thinking about how ugly things almost got in Monica."

Kaplan gazed at her for a moment, then nodded.

"I see your point. Hopefully nobody's going to be stupid enough for us to have to start throwing missiles around this time, though."

"Hopefully, Ma'am," Abigail agreed, and Kaplan turned back to Simpkins.

"Should I take it there's no indication that this Shona Station's armed?"

"Not according to anything in the files, Ma'am."

"Then given the Sollies' well demonstrated ability to screw things up by the numbers, I suppose we'd better hope the files are accurate in this case," Kaplan said dryly.

A flicker of laughter ran around the conference table, and Tallman cocked his head at his commanding officer.

"Do we actually know whether this Dueñas character is likely to be reasonable or not when we turn up, Skipper?"

"That is the million-dollar question, isn't it?" Kaplan's smile was thinner than ever. "And the answer, I'm afraid, is that we don't have a clue. Our bio data on him is even thinner than Hosea's info on the star system. Officially, he's not the system's governor -- legally it's only a 'courtesy title,' it says here -- " she tapped her copy of the squadron's orders from Michelle Henke and rolled her eyes, "but from what Hosea's said, when he says 'jump' the only question anyone in Saltash asks is 'how high.'"

"That's about right, from everything I've been able to find, Ma'am," Simpkins put in. She cocked an eyebrow at him, and he shrugged. "Under the terms of the Frontier Security 'peacekeeping agreement,' OFS was assigned responsibility for managing the system's local and interstellar traffic. Just to make sure no one was sneaking any warships into position for attacks, you understand. Of course, it was necessary for Frontier Security to levy a slight service fee for looking after Saltash's security that way."

"How big a service fee?"

"Try thirty-five percent…of the gross, Ma'am," Simpkins replied grimly, and Kaplan's lips pursed in a silent whistle. That was steep, even for OFS.

"Do you know if that level was part of the original agreement?" she asked. "Or did Dueñas and his predecessors crank it up to give them a better level of graft after they were in place?"

"That I couldn't tell you, Ma'am. Sorry."
*
Paul Howard (Alias Drak Bibliophile)
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Re: STICKY: Shadow of Freedom Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Fri Feb 15, 2013 12:05 am

DrakBibliophile
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Shadow Of Freedom - Snippet 37

"Not your fault." Kaplan shook her head. "You've actually done better than I expected, given how small -- and how far from home -- Saltash is. I didn't think you'd be able to pull this much out of the files."

Simpkins' smile showed his pleasure at the compliment, and she smiled back at him briefly. Then she returned her attention to Tallman.

"Like I say, Alvin, we don't really have a good enough feel for Dueñas to make any predictions on how he's likely to react when we turn up on his doorstep. Unless he's a fool, he has to've known word of his activities was going to get to the Talbott Quadrant sooner or later, though, so I'm not exactly inclined towards wild optimism about how reasonable he's likely to be. Captain Zavala checked with everybody in Montana who's had dealings with Saltash, but he's only held the governorship for less than a T-year. That's not long enough for anyone to've gotten a real handle on his personality. On the other hand, he was sent out here specifically to replace his predecessor after things started going into the crapper between us and the League, and try as I might, I can't convince myself that's a good sign."

"Well, I guess there's only one way to find out, isn't there, Ma'am?" Tallman smiled fleetingly. "Just once I wish we could do it the easy way, though."

"Oh, I do, too," Kaplan told him, and then she showed her own teeth in a thinner and far colder smile. "I do, too," she repeated, "but one thing Saltash is not going to be, people." She looked around the conference table. "It isn't going to be another New Tuscany. Not this time."

* * *

"Any new thoughts occur to anyone since our last meeting?" Jacob Zavala asked.

His squadron was eleven days out from Montana and still four days short of Saltash by the clocks of the galaxy at large, although only eight days had passed by DesRon 301's clocks, and his com display was split into four equal sized quadrants. Each quadrant was further subdivided into thirds to show the commanders, executive officers, and tactical officers of four of his squadron's five destroyers. Commander Rochelle Goulard, Lieutenant Commander Jasmine Carver, and Lieutenant Samuel Turner of HMS Kay were physically present in his flagship's briefing room, along with Lieutenant Commander George Auerbach, his chief of staff, and Lieutenant Commander Alice Gabrowski, his operations officer. Now he looked around the faces -- electronic as well as flesh and blood -- with one eyebrow raised.

"I've got something, Sir," Lieutenant Commander Rützel, HMS Gaheris' CO said. He was a heavyset man with a face designed for smiling, but at the moment he was frowning slightly, instead. "Not so much a new thought as an observation, though."

"Observe away, Toby," Zavala invited.

"I've been looking back at the information -- such as it is -- we've been able to pull together on Shona Station, Sir. I know none of our data suggests the station mounts any anti-ship weaponry, but according to the best info we have, there's an OFS intervention battalion permanently stationed there. I realize it's probably going to have a lot of its personnel deployed as detachments on Cinnamon and elsewhere around the system, but if they've managed to hang on to any significant portion of that troop strength and we have to actually board the station, things could get ugly."

There was silence for a moment. Then Captain Morgan, HMS Gawain's CO and the squadron's senior captain, spoke.

"Toby's got a point, Sir," he said. "Under most circumstances, it probably shouldn't be a problem, but we've already had ample evidence the Sollies are willing to push things way past the point of reason. Especially when we don't have a batch of Marines of our own to send aboard to help them recognize the logic of our argument."

Zavala nodded soberly.

"You've both got points," he agreed. "I'd like to think any responsible officer would recognize the need to stand down when we turn up in strength, but people have different definitions of 'responsible.' And let's be fair here. I'd find it difficult to roll over and play dead if a Solly squadron came sailing into a star system I was responsible for defending and started throwing around demands."

"And Frank's right about our dearth of Marines, Sir," Naomi Kaplan said a bit grimly. "Holding down crew size is all well and good, and I'm all in favor of the increased efficiency for shipboard operations, but not having any Marine detachment for moments like this is a pain in the ass."

Abigail Hearns, by far the youngest officer attending the conference, nodded unconsciously in agreement with her CO's observation. She seemed to specialize in being short of Marines when she needed them, Abigail thought wryly, remembering a really unpleasant afternoon on a planet called Tiberian and another, almost as bad, aboard a shattered hulk which had once been the Solarian superdreadnought Charles Babbage.

Never around when you need one, she reflected wryly. Well, aside from Mateo, she amended, thinking about Lieutenant Mateo Gutierrez.

"There are moments when something more…flexible than a laser head seems indicated," Zavala acknowledged. "Hopefully this won't be one of them. We do need to be prepared in advance if it turns out it is, however. Now I wonder who among us might be best qualified by experience and training to oversee a little responsibility like this?"

His tone was almost whimsical as his eyes tracked across the com display. He smiled as they came to rest upon one of his officers' faces, and Abigail found herself looking back at him.

"I believe you've had some small experience in matters like this, haven't you, Lieutenant Hearns?"

* * *

"What's this all about, Vice Admiral?" Damián Dueñas demanded a bit testily. He'd been in bed for less than two hours when the emergency com call came in, and he wasn't one of those people who woke up cheerful.

"We've confirmed a significant hyper footprint, Governor," Vice Admiral Oxana Dubroskaya replied from his display. "Gravitics make it five separate point sources."

Dueñas stiffened and felt his face oozing towards expressionlessness. Merchantships didn't travel in shoals like that in Solarian dominated space, and he wasn't expecting any additional Navy visitors. Or not from his own Navy, at any rate.

"What else can you tell me, Vice Admiral?" he asked after a moment.

"Less than I'd like to, Sir." Dubroskaya she didn't much care for Dueñas, and she'd argued -- respectfully -- against his plan from the outset, which was one reason she took such care to address him as courteously as possible. "They're headed in-system now, but they made their translation right on the hyper limit, and they're still over nine light-minutes from Cimarron. It'll be another couple of minutes before we can get any lightspeed sensor reads on them. I can confirm that they're headed for the inner system on a least-time course for a zero/zero intercept with the planet in approximately" -- her eyes moved to the time display in the corner of her own com -- "another one hundred and seventy-one minutes, however. From their footprints and the strength of their wedges, CIC puts them in the hundred and fifty to two hundred-ton range, but their initial velocity was nine hundred and twenty-six kilometers per second, and they're up to just over thirty-two hundred now. That means they're accelerating at five-point-six KPS squared, Governor."
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Re: STICKY: Shadow of Freedom Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Fri Feb 15, 2013 12:06 am

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Shadow Of Freedom - Snippet 38

Dueñas looked blank, and Dubroskaya reminded herself not to sigh.

"Sir, our Rampart-class destroyers are only half that big, and their maximum acceleration rate, with zero safety margin on the compensator, is only five-point-zero-nine KPS squared."

Understanding blossomed in Dueñas' eyes.

"Manties," he said.

"I don't see how it could be anyone else with that accel, Sir," Dubroskaya agreed.

The system governor didn't look very surprised, she thought. Unhappy, yes; but not surprised.

"Damn," Dueñas said mildly after a moment. "I'd hoped to get some additional reinforcements in here before they turned up." Dubroskaya stiffened visibly, and the governor shook his head quickly. "That's no reflection on you or your ships, Vice Admiral, I assure you. But I'd be happier if we had an even greater margin of superiority. One thing these people have already demonstrated is that they're not exactly likely to be reasonable."

Dubroskaya contented herself with a silent nod, although she wasn't sure "reasonable" was a word Damián Dueñas should be throwing around at a time like this. Impounding the merchant vessels of a sovereign star nation and jailing their entire ships' companies without trial or bail didn't strike her as meeting the dictionary definition of that adverb, either, no matter what theoretical justification for it he might have concocted. On the other hand, the decision wasn't hers to make, and she wasn't going to shed any tears about pinning the Manty upstarts' ears back the way they needed.

"Even assuming there's any truth to the rumors about Spindle, Governor," she said, "we're not picking up anything that could be transporting the missile pods they'd need to equalize the odds here in Saltash."

Those rumors were a lot more fragmentary than she would have preferred, but they did seem to strongly suggest that Fleet Admiral Sandra Crandall's visit to the Spindle System hadn't gone very well. The only problem was that no one in Saltash had a clue as to how badly it might have gone. The battle (if a battle had actually been fought at all) had taken place little more than two months earlier, and there simply hadn't been time for any reliable account of it to reach a backwoods star system like Saltash.

One thing Dubroskaya was confident of was that the stories they had heard -- like the ones about what had happened to Josef Byng in New Tuscany -- had obviously grown in the telling. There had to be at least some core of truth to the wild tales of disaster, but the destruction of dozens of SDs while the Manties got off scot free? Ridiculous! Still, the SLN had clearly taken losses and, presumably, retreated from the system in the face of unexpectedly heavy resistance, and that was more than bad enough for Oxana Dubroskaya. The fact that a Solarian fleet had failed to take its objective for the very first time in the SLN's history was a sobering -- and infuriating -- thought, and she was determined not to let overconfidence lull her into creating her own disaster, which was one reason she was less than enthralled by Dueñas' strategy. She and her staff had analyzed the badly garbled bits and pieces of information they had as carefully (and pessimistically) as possible, however, and it seemed evident that the Manties must have managed to get more system-defense missile pods into the system than Crandall had realized. They'd probably been longer-ranged than Crandall had expected, too, judging by the limited accounts they had. That was the only explanation they could come up with…and as she'd just pointed out to the governor, missile pods in Spindle weren't going to help them in Saltash.

"I'm glad to hear that, of course, Vice Admiral." Dueñas nodded. "But I'd like to settle this without an exchange of fire if we can, and having more of our warships in attendance might help assure that outcome."

"I'd just as soon not shoot myself, Sir," Dubroskaya said. "If the Manties are crazy enough to push it, though, they'll soon discover they shouldn't have."

"I don't doubt that at all, Vice Admiral," Dueñas replied. "My concerns have nothing at all to do with your ships or your people. I'm just thinking about the political and diplomatic as opposed to the directly military implications."

"Understood, Governor." Dubroskaya nodded, although the truth was that she was far from certain of exactly what Dueñas' political objectives were in this case. Still, whatever his intentions, his orders had been clear enough.

He wasn't especially shy about handing those orders out, either, she thought with more than an edge of resentment. She'd been a flag officer for over twenty T-years, and she didn't enjoy being ordered around by the governor of a single star system on the backside of nowhere that wasn't even officially League territory. Unfortunately, her deployment orders made the chain of command clear and unambiguous. And according to Tucker Kiernan, her chief of staff, Dueñas was well-connected back on Old Terra, which suggested that pushing back against his presumptuousness might not be a career-enhancing move, however much the pain in the ass deserved it.

What I'd like to do is squash him like a pimple, she thought. But then she gave a mental snort. Not like he's the first arrogant civilian you've had to take orders from, Oxana! And at least the Manties only sent along light cruisers. However…questionable his strategy may be, you've got more than enough force advantage to keep a lid on the situation.

"Thank you for getting this information to me so promptly," Dueñas continued after a moment. "I need to confer with my people here in Kernuish. Please keep us apprised of any additional information that comes your way."

"Of course, Governor."

* * *

"What do you think, Cicely?" Damián Dueñas asked two minutes later.

"Probably the same thing you do," Lieutenant Governor Cicely Tiilikainen replied from his com, and shrugged. "Dubroskaya's right -- they have to be Manties, with that acceleration rate."

"But why haven't they said anything yet?" Dueñas wondered out loud.

"Who knows?" Tiilikainen shrugged again. She'd never shown any particular enthusiasm for Dueñas' plan, and he felt a flicker of anger at her obvious intention to stand back and make it abundantly clear it was his plan. "Maybe it's some kind of psychological warfare ploy. They have to've thrown this together pretty quickly to get here this soon, so maybe they figure we don't have any Navy detachment of our own. If that's the way they're thinking, they may figure that letting you worry about them for a while will soften you up for their demands."

"Maybe." Dueñas rubbed his chin, eyes narrowed in thought, carefully taking no note of the second-person pronoun in her last sentence. Then he gave himself a shake and straightened up.

"I'd better get dressed. Meet me in my office as soon as you can."

"On my way now," she said, panning her visual pickup to let him look out the side window of her air car as it sped through the sparse late-night aerial traffic of the city of Kernuish. "I'll be waiting by the time you can get there."
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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: Shadow of Freedom Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Sun Feb 17, 2013 10:00 pm

DrakBibliophile
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Shadow Of Freedom - Snippet 39

Chapter Eleven

"We're getting back good data on the forward platforms, Skipper," Abigail Hearns said, and Naomi Kaplan turned her command chair to face the tac section and cocked her head in response to Abigail's tone.

"I'm seeing three merchies in parking orbit with the platform, Ma'am," Abigail said, replying to the unspoken question. "They're not squawking transponders, but we're close enough for good visuals, and at least two of them look Manticoran-built to me. That's not the interesting thing, though."

"No?" Kaplan smiled thinly. "That sounds interesting enough to be going on with to me, Abigail."

"Oh, I agree, Ma'am. But what I thought was really interesting were the four battlecruisers lying doggo in the inner system."

A frisson of tension ran around Tristram's bridge.

"You're right, that is interesting," Kaplan conceded after a moment. "I'm assuming Commodore Zavala has that information, as well?"

"Yes, Ma'am. It's on the distributed feed."

"Good." Kaplan's hexapuma smile was even thinner -- and much colder -- than before. "I think this little spider may have underestimated the fly."

* * *

"It's confirmed, Sir," Lieutenant Commander Gabrowski said a half-hour later. "All four of the battlecruisers are Indefatigables -- older units, from their emissions signatures -- and the recon platforms say they have hot nodes. Our platforms've gotten a good look at the entire inner system now, though, and aside from the trio of tincans on the far side of Cinnamon's moon, that seems to be all they've got."

"And still not a peep out of any of them, correct, Abhijat?" Jacob Zavala asked Lieutenant Abhijat Wilson, his com officer.

"Not one, Sir," Wilson confirmed.

"And they have to know we're here…and that we sure as hell aren't merchies," Lieutenant Commander Auerbach added. "So I have to wonder why they haven't said a word to us."

"Well, at least it makes a pleasant change from the usual Solarian bluster, don't you think?" Jacob Zavala's tone was whimsical; his expression was not.

"What it suggests to me is that there's a reason we're not hearing the usual Solarian bluster, Sir," Auerbach replied. The chief of staff liked and respected Zavala, and they usually got along well, but George Auerbach had never been noted for his spontaneity or sparkling sense of humor.

"Fair's fair, George," Zavala pointed out in a more serious tone. "We haven't talked to them yet, either."

Zavala's truncated squadron had been inbound for eighty-five minutes. His destroyers' velocity relative to the system primary was up to 29,400 KPS, and they were barely three minutes from their turnover for a zero/zero intercept with the planet of Cinnamon, still over 88,000,000 kilometers ahead of them. They were also well inside the twelve-light-hour limit where they were supposed to have announced their identities. There was a little leeway in that requirement, especially for ships emerging from hyper -- as most ships did -- well inside it, but they were still supposed to get around to it in a "timely fashion," and he supposed it could be argued that he hadn't done that.

Pity about that.

"I know we haven't talked to them yet, Sir," Commander Rochelle Goulard said from the com display which tied Zavala and his staff into HMS Kay's command deck. "On the other hand, I can't see them trying to hide from our sensors if they didn't have something nasty in mind."

"I can think of at least a couple of legitimate -- from their perspective, at least -- reasons for 'hiding,' Roxy," Zavala told his flag captain. "For one thing, they might've come up with a Frontier Fleet officer bright enough to seal his own shoes. They may not have details on Spindle here in Saltash yet, but it's been five T-months since Byng got himself blown away in New Tuscany. There's been time enough for them to've heard all about that encounter, and if they've paid some attention to the reports of our weapons' range from New Tuscany, they may just want to make sure we're inside their range basket before they make their presence known. Especially if they buy into the notion that we're the ones who're actually picking this fight, which is exactly how the Sollies spun New Tuscany."

"Agreed, Sir," Lieutenant Commander Gabrowski said. "But there are some other possibilities here, too." Zavala looked at her, and the ops officer shrugged. "We've wondered all along why a system governor might do something as daft as seizing Manticoran merchantmen. What if they were intended from the beginning as bait and these battlecruisers are the trap?"

"I think that's an entirely plausible scenario," Zavala acknowledged. "Mind you, I'm not going to rush in assuming it's what's happening, but I'm damned well not going to assume it isn't, either!"

"That's a relief, Sir," Gabrowski said earnestly. "Given how gullible and easily taken in you usually are, I mean."

Unlike Auerbach, Gabrowski did have a sense of humor, and Zavala grinned at her, then rubbed the tip of his nose thoughtfully.

The Sollies had undoubtedly figured out who -- and what -- his command was by now. Or they'd at least figured out his ships had to be Manticoran, at any rate, even if they didn't realize something as large as a Roland-class destroyer wasn't a light cruiser. On the other hand, it was unlikely anyone in Saltash had detected the highly stealthy Ghost Rider recon platforms fanning out in front of his squadron. Which probably meant that -- so far, at least -- he knew about their battlecruisers and they didn't know that he knew about them.

The problem was what he did with that information.

I know what I'd like to do with it, he thought grimly. Unfortunately, Admiral Gold Peak made it abundantly clear I'm not supposed to do that if I have a choice. So I guess just blowing them out of space without warning would be just a bit of an overreaction. Of course, if they decide to be unreasonable about this…

"I suppose we'd better go ahead and talk to them, Abhijat," he said.

"Yes, Sir," Lieutenant Wilson replied, trying hard not to crack a smile at the resignation in his superior's tone. "I'll see about getting hold of someone."

* * *

System Governor Damián Dueñas' com buzzed discreetly and he tapped the virtual key to accept the connection.

"I have a com request from a Captain Jacob Zavala, Governor," Maxence Kodou, his executive assistant announced, from the holographic display when it materialized above his desk.

"Really?" Dueñas tipped back his chair and frowned. "Took the bastard long enough to get on the com, didn't it?"

"Well, he's coming up on Dubroskaya's projected turnover point," Lieutenant Governor Tiilikainen observed from where she stood gazing out over the lights and air car traffic of the city of Kernuish. She turned to face the governor. "If his intention was to let us sweat, we've had time to start doing that nicely now, so he probably figures it's time he got around to talking to us." She made a face. "From what we've seen out of him so far, I don't imagine he intends to be particularly accommodating about it, either."

"I almost hope you're right, Cicely," Dueñas half-growled. "In fact, I'm looking forward to it. I don't imagine he's going to be very happy when he finds out we're a lot readier for his visit than he expected us to be! I just want to get him farther in-system before he figures out what we've got waiting for him."

Tiilikainen nodded, but Dueñas felt another stir of resentment as she turned back to the window. He couldn't fault her willingness to dig in and make the plan work, despite her lack of enthusiasm, but she'd been the lieutenant governor here in Saltash for over ten T-years, and she seemed far less…engaged than Dueñas would have preferred. Or as engaged as someone with a proper sense of ambition should have been, for that matter. Not too surprising, really, he supposed. The lieutenant governorship of a single backwater star system like Saltash wasn't exactly the sort of plum assignment for which a really up and coming OFS bureaucrat would choose to compete. Even a full governorship out here was little more than a stepping stone to something better and more profitable, but Tiilikainen seemed prepared to settle for her current slot. Damián Dueñas, on the other hand, was not. And the system governor who finally managed to bloody the Manties' nose would be bound for bigger and better things.

Hell, if this works out half as well as I expect it to, I'll even take her along with me! he thought. Then he looked back at Kodou.

"Go ahead and put him through to my desk, Maxence," he said.

"Of course, Sir." Kodou nodded courteously and disappeared from the hologram. A moment later, he was replaced by the image of a small, dark featured officer with incongruously blue eyes in an obviously military skinsuit.

"Captain Zavala, I presume?" Dueñas said with a cool smile, then sat back to wait the ten-plus minutes while the light-speed message zipped to the distant Manticoran's ship and his response came back again.

"Indeed," the man in his display said, barely nine seconds later. "And you, I assume, are System Governor Dueñas?"

Dueñas twitched. He couldn't help that any more than he could help the involuntary widening of his eyes. He turned his head, shooting a sharp glance at Tiilikainen. The lieutenant governor was outside his own com's pickup's field of view, but she'd turned quickly back from the window, her expression as astonished as Dueñas felt.

"Under the circumstances," Zavala went on from the display, "I thought it would probably be a good idea to minimize transmission lags for this conversation, Governor. I am speaking to Governor Dueñas, I trust?"

"Yes. I mean, I'm System Governor Dueñas. What can I do for you, Captain?"

Dueñas' voice sounded less firm than he might have wished, almost hesitant, in the face of the Manticorans' demonstration that they did have the faster than light communications capability the human race had sought for the last thousand T-years or so, and he willed his face back into impassivity.

"I'm here to inquire into certain reports we've received, Governor," the Manticoran officer responded with that same disconcerting quickness, but then he paused.

"What sort of reports would that be, Captain?" Dueñas asked, then swore silently at himself for allowing Zavala to suck him into filling the silence the other man had deliberately left.

"According to information which has reached Admiral Gold Peak," Zavala replied courteously enough, "the Manticoran merchant vessel Carolyn has been unlawfully detained here in Saltash." He showed his teeth in a brief flash of white. "I'm certain it's all simply a misunderstanding, but Lady Gold Peak sent me out to get to the bottom of things."

"I see." Dueñas folded his hands together on his desk blotter and regarded Zavala's holographic image levelly. He was starting to come back on balance mentally, although the confirmation of the Manties' FTL communications ability had been unpleasant. Mostly because it suggested some of the other wild rumors might have some substance in fact, as well.

"Well, Captain Zavala," he said after a moment, "I'm afraid it's not all 'simply a misunderstanding.' I have, indeed, denied Carolyn departure clearance and placed her crew in medical quarantine. I'm afraid that's also true of the Manticoran vessel Argonaut, in fact."
*
Paul Howard (Alias Drak Bibliophile)
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Sometimes The Dragon Wins! [Polite Dragon Smile]
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