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STICKY: Mission of Honor Snippets

This is the place where we will be posting snippets of soon-to-be published works!
Re: STICKY: Mission of Honor Snippets
Post by Duckk   » Mon Jun 07, 2010 9:24 am

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Mission Of Honor - Snippet 50

And they damned well gave him the right flagship, too, she reflected, remembering how tears had prickled at the backs of her eyes when she first saw the name HMS Alistair McKeon listed in the Admiralty dispatch announcing CruDiv 96.1’s assignment to Tenth Fleet. She didn’t know what the ship’s original name had been supposed to be, but she understood exactly why she’d been renamed after the Battle of Manticore.

And why Tremaine had chosen her as his flagship.

“Well, I hope my reaction was up to your expectations, Ma’am,” he told her now, his smile less crooked than it had been.

“Oh, I suppose it was . . . if you really like that stunned ox look,” Michelle allowed. Then it was her turn to shake her own head. “Not, I ought to admit, that you looked any more stunned than I felt when the dispatch got here. I imagine that’s pretty much true for all of us.”

“Amen,” Rear Admiral Nathalie Manning said softly.

Manning commanded the second division of Oversteegen’s Battlecruiser Squadron 108. She had a narrow, intense face, brown eyes, and close-cropped hair, and the Admiralty wasn’t picking Nike-class divisional COs at random. In fact, aside from the shape of her face and her height, she reminded Michelle of a younger, harder-edged Honor Alexander-Harrington in a great many ways. Now Manning smiled briefly at her, but there was a hint of alum behind that smile, and Michelle arched an inquiring eyebrow.

“I was just thinking, Ma’am,” Manning said. “After the last few months, I can’t help feeling just a bit apprehensive when things suddenly start going so well.”

“I know what you mean,” Michelle acknowledged. “At the same time, let’s not get too carried away with doom and gloom. Mind you, I’d rather be a little bit overly pessimistic than too optimistic, but it’s always possible things really are about to get better, you know.”

* * *

Maybe I shouldn’t have been quite so quick to discourage Manning’s pessimism, Michelle thought thirty-seven hours later.

She was back in the same briefing room, but this time accompanied only by Oversteegen; Terekhov; Cynthia Lecter; Commander Tom Pope, Terekhov’s chief of staff; Commander Martin Culpepper, Oversteegen’s chief of staff; and their flag lieutenants. It was not only a considerably smaller gathering, but a much less cheerful one. Terekhov and Oversteegan had come aboard Artemis for supper and to discuss the most recent news from Manticore, and their after-dinner coffee and brandy had been rudely interrupted by the burst-transmitted message they’d just finished viewing.

“I really, really hate finding out how many alligators are still in that swamp we’re trying to drain,” she said, and Oversteegen chuckled harshly.

“I’ve always admired your gift with words, Milady. In this case, however, I can’t help wonderin’ if it’s not really a question of how many hexapumas there are in th’ underbrush.”

As usual, he had a point, Michelle reflected, wishing she could recapture some of the confidence she’d felt after the post-exercise debrief. Unfortunately, she couldn’t, and she shuddered internally as she considered the one-two punch which had just landed here in the Spindle System.

Personally, Michelle Henke wouldn’t have believed water was wet if the information had come from Mesa, but she was unhappily aware that quite a few Solarians failed to share her feelings in that regard. Those people probably were going to believe Mesa’s version of the Green Pines affair . . . and the linkage between the “calculated Ballroom atrocity and a known Manticoran spy” was going to resonate painfully with the people who already hated the Star Empire. That much was evident just from the Solly newsies’ strident questioning. News of the Mesan “shocked discovery” of Manticoran involvement in the attack had reached Spindle less than fourteen hours ago, and Tenth Fleet’s public information officers had already been deluged with literally scores of requests — and demands — for an interview with one Admiral Countess Gold Peak.

As if I could possibly know one damned thing they don’t know. Jesus! Is a lobotomy a requirement for a job in the Solly media?

She realized she was trying to grind her teeth together and stopped herself. Actually, she reminded herself, the newsy feeding frenzy was probably understandable, however stupid. They had to be frantic for any official Manticoran response. In fact, she hated to think what it must be like for Baroness Medusa’s and Prime Minister Alquezar’s official spokesmen right now. And she had to admit Mesa’s fabrication really did have a certain damning plausibility. Until, that was, they inserted Anton Zilwicki into the mix. Michelle had met Anton Zilwicki. More than that, she’d known him and his wife well before Helen Zilwicki’s death, back when they’d both been serving officers of the Royal Manticoran Navy. She never doubted Zilwicki possessed the ruthlessness to accept collateral civilian casualties to take out a critical target, but the man she knew would never — not in a thousand years — have set out deliberately to execute a terrorist attack and kill thousands of civilians purely to make a statement. Even if he’d become afflicted with the sort of moral gangrene which could have accepted such an act in the first place, he was far too smart for that. The man who was effectively Cathy Montaigne’s husband had to be only too well aware of how politically suicidal it would have been.

Gilded the lily just a bit too richly there, you bastards, she thought now. For anyone who knows Anton or Montaigne, at least. Which, unfortunately, is an awfully small sample of the human race compared to the people who don’t know either of them.

She grimaced, then made herself draw a deep breath and step back. There wasn’t a damned thing she or anyone else in the Talbott Quadrant could do on that front. For that matter, anything that needed to be done about it fell legitimately to Prime Minister Alquezar and Governor Medusa. What Michelle had to worry about, as the commander of Tenth Fleet, was the second thunderbolt which had come slicing out of the cloudless heavens exactly thirteen hours and twelve minutes after the dispatch boat from Manticore delivered its bad news.

“It would seem,” she said dryly, “that our worst-case estimate was too optimistic. I could have sworn the New Tuscans said Anisimovna told them Admiral Crandall only had about sixty ships-of-the-wall.”

“Well, we already knew Anisimovna wasn’t the most honest person in the universe,” Terekhov pointed out dryly.

“Granted, but if she was going to lie, I would have expected her to overstate the numbers, not understate them.”

“I think that’s what all of us would have expected, Ma’am,” Lecter said. Michelle’s chief of staff was still functioning as her staff intelligence officer, as well, and now she grimaced sourly. “I certainly didn’t expect them to have this many ships, and neither did Ambrose Chandler or anyone in Defense Minister Krietzmann’s office. And none of us expected them to already be in Meyers before Reprise even got there with Baroness Medusa’s and Prime Minister Alquezar’s note!”

Michelle nodded in glum agreement and looked back at Lieutenant Commander Denton’s strength estimate. Seventy-one superdreadnoughts, sixteen battlecruisers, twelve heavy cruisers, twenty-three light cruisers, and eighteen destroyers. A total of a hundred and forty warships, accompanied by at least twenty-nine supply and support ships. Upwards of half a billion tons of combat ships, deployed all the way forward to a podunk Frontier Security sector on the backside of nowhere. Until this very moment, she realized, even as she’d dutifully made plans to deal with the possible threat of Solarian ships-of-the-wall, she hadn’t truly believed a corporation like Manpower could possibly have the capacity to get that sort of combat power moved around like checkers on a board. Now she knew it did, and the thought sent an icy chill through her veins, because if they could pull off something like this, what couldn’t they pull off if they put their mind to it?
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Re: STICKY: Mission of Honor Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Tue Jun 08, 2010 10:54 pm

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Mission Of Honor - Snippet 51


She drew a deep breath and ran her mind over her own order of battle. Fourteen Nike-class battlecruisers, eight Saganami-C-class heavy cruisers, four Hydra-class CLACs, five Roland-class destroyers, and a handful of obsolescent starships like Denton's Reprise and Victoria Saunders' Hercules. Of course, she also had right on four hundred LACs, but they'd have to go deep into the Sollies' weapons envelope to engage. So what it really came down to was her twenty-seven hyper-capable warships -- the Hydras had no business at all in ship-to-ship combat -- against Crandall's hundred and forty. She was outnumbered by better than five-to-one in hulls, and despite the fact that Manticoran ship types were bigger and more powerful on a class-for-class basis, the tonnage differential was almost thirteen-to-one. Of course, if she counted the LACs, she had another twelve million or so tons, but even that only brought it down to around ten-to-one. And as far as anyone in Meyers knew, she had only the ships she'd taken to New Tuscany, without Oversteegen's eight Nikes.

"If the people who set this up picked Crandall for her role as carefully as they picked Byng for his, she's bound to believe she's got an overwhelming force advantage. Especially if she assumes we haven't reinforced since New Tuscany," she said out loud.

"T' my way of thinkin', it'd take an uncommonly stupid flag officer, even for a Solly, t' make that kind of assumption," Oversteegen replied.

"And what, may I ask, have the Sollies done lately to make you think they haven't hand-picked the flag officers out here for stupidity?" Michelle asked tartly.

"Nothin'," he conceded disgustedly. "It just offends my sense of th' way things are supposed t' be, I suppose. I'd expect better thinkin' than that out of a plate of cottage cheese!"

"I can't say I disagree," Terekhov said, "but fair's fair. There might actually be a little logic on her side." Michelle and Oversteegen both looked at him, and he chuckled sourly. "I did say 'a little logic'," he pointed out.

"And that logic would be?" Michelle asked.

"If she assumes all of this came at us as cold as it came at her -- although assuming it did come at her cold could constitute an unwarranted supposition; she could have been involved in this thing up to her eyebrows from the very beginning -- then she probably assumes we didn't have any idea she might even be in the area. After all, when was the last time any of us can remember seeing Battle Fleet ships-of-the-wall putting time on their nodes clear out here in the Verge?"

"That's true enough, Ma'am," Lecter put in. "And, for that matter, as far as we know, Byng didn't know she was out here. There was nothing in any of the databases we captured to suggest she might be. So if she wasn't aware Anisimovna had mentioned her to the New Tuscans, she could very well believe that the first we knew about even the possibility of her presence is Reprise's scouting report."

"And she also can't have any way of knowing what's going on in the 'faxes back on Old Terra or in Manticore," Terekhov continued. "So whatever she does -- assuming she does anything -- she's going to be acting on her own, in the dark, with no hard information at all on enemy ship strengths or the diplomatic situation."

"Are you suggesting a Solly admiral's going to just sit in Meyers, waiting for orders from home, after what happened in New Tuscany?" Michelle asked skeptically.

"I'm suggesting that any reasonably prudent, rational flag officer in that situation would proceed cautiously," Terekhov replied, then bared his teeth in something which bore only a passing relationship to a smile. "Of course, what we're actually talking about is a Solly flag officer, so, no, I don't think that's what she's likely to do. Besides, we've all read their contingency plans from Byng's files."

Michelle's mouth tightened.

It wasn't as if the SLN's "contingency planning" had come as a surprise, although she suspected the League would be most unhappy if the Star Empire chose to publicize some of its juicer details. There was "Case Fabius," for example, which authorized Frontier Security commissioners to arrange Frontier Fleet "peacekeeping operations" which "accidentally" destroyed any locally owned orbital infrastructure within any protectorate star system whose local authorities proved unable to "maintain order" -- meaning they'd been unable to induce the owners in question to sell to the transstellars OFS had decided would control their economies henceforth. Or "Case Buccaneer," which actually authorized Frontier Security to use Frontier Fleet units -- suitably disguised, of course -- as "pirates," complete with vanished merchant ships whose crews were never seen again, to provoke crises in targeted Verge systems in order to justify OFS intervention "to preserve order and public safety."

All that was sufficiently interesting reading, but she knew what Terekhov was referring to. Byng's files had also confirmed something ONI had suspected for a long time. In the almost inconceivable event that some neobarb star nation, or possibly some rogue OFS sector governor, attacked the Solarian League (or chose to forcibly resist OFS aggression, although that wasn't specifically spelled out, of course), the SLN had evolved a simple, straightforward strategy. Frontier Fleet, which possessed nothing heavier than a battlecruiser, would screen the frontiers and attempt to slow down any invaders or commerce raiders, while Battle Fleet assembled an overwhelmingly powerful force and headed directly towards the home system of the troublemaker . . . which it would then proceed to reduce to wreckage and transform into yet another OFS protectorate.

"I see where you're going with that, Sir," Commander Pope said. "At the same time, not even a Solly admiral could think she'd get through the Lynx Terminus with less than eighty of the wall. For that matter, we've had a couple of squadrons based there ever since Monica, and there's been enough Solly traffic through the terminus by now that they have to know the forts are virtually all online by now."

"I wasn't actually thinking about her trying to go directly after the home system," Terekhov said.

"No, you're thinkin' she's likely t' see Spindle as th' Talbott Quadrant's 'home system,'" Oversteegen said.

"That's exactly what I'm thinking," Terekhov agreed, and Michelle nodded.

"We can always hope something resembling sanity could break out in Meyers," she said. "There's no way we can count on that, though. And I think that's especially true given how carefully the people who planned all this seem to have chosen their cat's-paws. So, starting right now, we're going to plan for the worst."

She drew a deep breath and sat back in her chair.

"Gwen," she said, looking at Lieutenant Archer, "I want you to have Bill make certain Admiral Khumalo and Baroness Medusa have both seen Commander Denton's report. I'm sure they'll want to sit down with him and Mr. O'Shaughnessy as soon as they're within a reasonable two-way FTL range of Thimble, but see to it that they have all the information we have ahead of time."

"Yes, Ma'am."

"As soon as you've done that, tell Vicki I'll want dispatch boats sent to every system in the Quadrant. Ask her to contact Captain Shoupe and start looking at the boats' availability. First priority is Captain Conner at Tillerman, then Montana. He gets a complete copy of Denton's report and data, and I'll want to put together a personal message for him before the dispatch boat pulls out."

"Yes, Ma'am." Gervais nodded, although he knew as well as she did that if Admiral Crandall had decided to respond forcefully, Jerome Conner's pair of Nikes at Tillerman had probably already found out the hard way.

Michelle knew exactly what he was thinking, and smiled tightly at him. The fact that he was right didn't change her responsibility to warn Conner as quickly as possible.

"In addition," she went on, "when Bill makes sure Admiral Khumalo and Baroness Medusa are up to speed, tell the Admiral that unless he disagrees, I propose to send Reprise direct to Manticore to inform the Admiralty both of what she discovered at Meyers and that I am presently anticipating an attack in force on Spindle."
*
Paul Howard (Alias Drak Bibliophile)
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Sometimes The Dragon Wins! [Polite Dragon Smile]
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Re: STICKY: Mission of Honor Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Thu Jun 10, 2010 11:20 pm

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Mission Of Honor - Snippet 52


An almost physical chill went through the briefing room as she said the words out loud, and she straightened her shoulders.

"Inform the Admiral that I intend to get Reprise on her way within thirty minutes of her arrival in Thimble planetary orbit." Even Terekhov looked a little startled at that, and she bared her teeth. "If Crandall thinks Reprise got a good look at her task force, and if she is inclined to launch an attack, she's going to move as quickly as she can. We have to assume she could be here literally within hours, and if she's decided to head directly for the Lynx Terminus instead, it'll take her only one more T-day to get there than it would to get here.

"We may all agree that would be a stupid thing for her to do, but that doesn't mean she won't do it. For that matter, we can't really afford to assume the ships Reprise saw are the only ones they have. What if she's got a squadron or two sitting in reserve at McIntosh? We're already looking at more than Anisimovna told the New Tuscans about, so I don't think it would be a very good idea to think small."

Terekhov and Oversteegen nodded soberly, and she turned back to Gervais.

"Go ahead and get Bill started on that, Gwen. Then come straight back here. I think it's going to be a long night."

"Yes, Ma'am," Gervais said for the third time, and headed for the door.

"In the meantime, Gentlemen," Michelle resumed, "I believe it's time the three of us started thinking as deviously as possible. If I were Crandall, and if I meant to go stomp on a bunch of neobarbs, I'd have my wall in motion within twenty-four hours, max. She may not feel that way, though. She may figure she's got enough of a firepower advantage she can afford to take a little longer, make sure she's dotted all the i's and crossed all the t's in her ops plan before she breaks orbit."

"Personally, given that the passage time is over a T-month, I'd do my operational planning en route, Ma'am," Terekhov said.

"So would I," she agreed. "And that's what I'm going to assume she's done. But even though we're going to plan for the worst, I can at least hope for the best, and the best in this case would be her taking long enough for our Invictus battle squadrons to get here before she does. Or for their Apollo pods to get here, at least. No?"

"I could certainly agree with that," Oversteegen acknowledged with a small smile.

"And when she does get here -- assuming, of course, that she's coming -- I want to accomplish four things.

"First, I want her to underestimate our actual combat power as badly as possible. I realize she's almost certainly already doing that, but let's encourage the tendency in every way we can.

"Second, I'd like to push her, to . . . keep her as much off-balance mentally as possible. In a lot of ways, the madder she is, the less likely she is to be thinking very clearly, and that's probably about the best we can hope for. She's not going to head for Spindle in strength unless she's already got blood in her eye, which means it's unlikely -- hell, the next best thing to it impossible! -- that she's planning on presenting any sort of terms or demands Baroness Medusa and Prime Minister Alquezar are remotely likely to accept. So if push is going to come to shove anyway, I'd just as soon have her making angry decisions instead of good ones."

She looked at her two subordinate flag officers, and Oversteegen cocked his head and pursed his lips thoughtfully, then nodded.

"Third," she continued after a moment, "and although I realize it's going to sound a little strange after what I just said about pushing her, I'd be just as happy to stall for as long as possible. If Baroness Medusa can get her to burn a day or two in 'negotiations' before anyone actually pulls a trigger, so much the better."

"Is that really very likely, Ma'am?" Commander Culpepper asked dubiously. "Especially if she's underestimating the odds and we've managed to piss her off on top of it?

"If I may, Ma'am?" Terekhov said. Michelle nodded, and Terekhov looked at Oversteegen's chief of staff. "What it comes down to, Marty," he said, "is how much Crandall thinks she can get for nothing. If the Baroness can convince her there's even a possibility she might surrender the system without firing a shot, she's likely to be willing to spend at least a little while talking before she starts shooting. And I'm pretty sure that with a little thought, we ought to be able to. . . irritate her significantly, let's say, while simultaneously reminding her that sooner or later she's going to have to justify her actions to her military and civilian superiors. However belligerent she may be feeling, and however angry she may be, she's got to know it'll look a lot better in the 'faxes if she can report she's 'controlled the situation' without any more fighting."

"And she's more likely t' feel that way if she does decide she's got a crushin' tactical superiority," Oversteegen added. "She's already goin' t' be assumin' exactly that, whatever we do, so there's no point tryin' t' convince her she should just turn around and go home while she's still in one piece. Which suggests th' Admiral here has a point. No matter how pissed off she is, there's probably a damned good chance we can keep her talkin' long enough t' convince her superiors -- or th' newsies, at least -- that she tried real hard t' talk us into surrenderin' like nice, timid little neobarbs before she had no choice but t' blow us all t' kingdom come."

"That's what I hope, but Marty's got a point that it could also work the other way," Michelle pointed out. "If she feels confident she can punch right through anything in front of her, that may actually make her more impatient. Especially if she was already feeling the need to inflict a little punishment as revenge for what happened to Jean Bart even before we started pushing back at her." Her expression was grim. "Don't overlook that probability. We've bloodied the SLN's nose, and we've done it very publicly. I'd say it's a lot more likely than not that what she really wants is to hammer us so hard no other neobarb navy is ever going to dare to follow our example."

"Wonderful," Lecter muttered, and Michelle surprised herself with a bark of laughter.

"Trust me, Cindy. If that is the way she's thinking, she's in for a rude awakening. I'd really prefer to stall, as I said, in the hope the Admiralty's managed to expedite our reinforcements and they come over the alpha wall in the proverbial nick of time. I'm not going to hold my breath counting on that, though, and I'm not going to delay a single minute if it looks like they mean to keep right on coming. Which brings me to the fourth thing I want to be certain we accomplish."

She paused, and silence hovered for a second or two until Oversteegen broke it.

"And that fourth thing would be what, Milady?" he asked.

"The instant any Solly warship crosses the Spindle hyper limit inbound," Michelle Henke said flatly, "the gloves come off. There won't be any preliminary surrender demands this time, and despite whatever Admiral Crandall may be thinking, we're not going to be thinking in terms of a fighting retreat, either. I think it's about time we find out just how accurate our assumptions about Battle Fleet's combat capability really are."
*
Paul Howard (Alias Drak Bibliophile)
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Sometimes The Dragon Wins! [Polite Dragon Smile]
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Re: STICKY: Mission of Honor Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Sun Jun 13, 2010 11:03 pm

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Mission Of Honor - Snippet 53


Chapter Sixteen

"I suppose the first thing to worry about is whether or not it's true," Sir Barnabas Kew said.

Kew sat with Baroness Selleck and Voitto Tuominen at the conference table behind Honor as she stood gazing out over the thundering cataract of Frontenac Falls. She stood with her hands clasped behind her, Nimitz sitting very still on her shoulder, and her brown eyes were bleak.

"It isn't," she said flatly.

Her Foreign Office advisors glanced at one another, then turned as one to look at that ramrod-straight spine, those calmly clasped hands.

"Your Grace, I'll be the first to admit that neither Manpower nor Mesa have ever been noted for truth in advertising," Tuominen said after a moment. "This seems a little audacious even for them to be manufacturing out of whole cloth, though, and --"

"It isn't true," she repeated in that same flat tone.

She turned away from the window, facing them. But for Nimitz's slightly flattened ears and slowly twitching tail, the civilians might have made the mistake of assuming she was as calm as she looked, and she smiled sardonically as she tasted their emotions, sensed the way they were settling back into their chairs. Kew, especially, seemed to be searching for the most diplomatic possible way to point out that she couldn't know that, and she looked directly at him.

"A lot of things could happen in the galaxy, Sir Barnabas," she told him. "A lot of things I never would have expected. But one thing that isn't going to happen -- that couldn't happen -- would be for Anton Zilwicki to deliberately nuke a park full of kids in some sort of demented terrorist attack. Trust me. I know the man. Nimitz knows the man." She reached up to caress the treecat's ears gently. "And that man is utterly incapable of doing something like that."

"But --" Baroness Selleck began, then stopped, and Honor snorted harshly.

"I don't doubt he was on Mesa," she said. "In fact, I have reason to believe he was. What it looks like to me -- and I'd really like to be wrong about it -- is that Mesa figured out he'd been on-planet and decided to add him to the mix when they came up with their cover story for whatever actually happened."

She decided, again, not to mention the personal message from Catherine Montaigne which had accompanied the official dispatch from Mount Royal Palace. Or, even more to the point, that she'd already known Zilwicki and Victor Cachat were bound for Mesa even before the Battle of Lovat.

The other three glanced at one another, considering what she'd just said, then looked back at her.

"You think they captured him when he was there, Your Grace?" Selleck asked quietly, and Honor shook her head.

"No," she said softly. "They didn't capture him. If they had, they'd have produced him -- or at least his body -- to substantiate their charges instead of claiming he was 'caught in his own explosions.' But I don't like the fact that no one's heard from him since Green Pines. If he got off-planet at all, he should have been home, long since. So I am afraid they may finally have managed to kill him."

Nimitz made a soft, protesting sound of pain, and she stroked his ears again. As she'd said, unlike the civilians sitting around the table, she'd known Anton Zilwicki. In fact, she'd come to know him and Cathy Montaigne very well, indeed, since their return to the Old Star Kingdom following the Manpower Affair in Old Chicago. She and George Reynolds, her staff intelligence officer, had worked closely -- if very much under the table -- with both of them, and her own credentials with the Audubon ballroom had been part of the reason Zilwicki had been so prepared to share information with her.

No wonder Cathy's so worried, she thought now, her own emotions grim. She probably wondered if he'd been involved somehow in whatever happened in Green Pines ever since the news broke. I know I did. And then, with the days and weeks dragging past, and no word from him . . . it must've been a living hell for her. Then this . . . this travesty. But she knows Anton even better than I do. He may've been there, and whatever he was up to might have led to this somehow, but she knows he never would have signed off on nuking the park, no matter what. Which is going to be pretty cold comfort if she's not only lost the man she loves but thinks she's going to see him vilified as one of the galaxy's worst "terrorists" when he's not even around to defend himself.

"Excuse me, Your Grace, but would you happen to know why he was on Mesa?" Tuominen asked.

She cocked her head at him, and he shrugged.

"I don't really expect Pritchart or most of the members of her Cabinet to be lining up to take Mesa's word for what happened," he said. "I can think of a few of her congressional 'negotiators' who'd be likely to believe anything -- officially, at least -- if they thought it would strengthen their bargaining position, though. Even without that, there's the media to worry about, and Havenite newsies aren't all that fond of the Star Empire to begin with. So if there's another side to this, something we could lay out to buttress the notion that it wasn't Zilwicki or Torch . . . "

He let his voice trail off, and Honor snorted again, even more harshly than before.

"First," she said, "how I know he was on Mesa is privileged information. Information that has operational intelligence implications, for that matter. So, no, I don't intend to whisper it into a newsies's ear. Second, I'd think that if I suddenly announced to the media that I 'just happen' to know why Captain Zilwicki was on Mesa and that I promise it wasn't to set off a nuclear device in a public park on Saturday morning, it's going to sound just a little suspicious. Like the sort of thing someone trying desperately to discredit the truth might come up with on am especially stupid day. And, third, Voitto, I don't think anyone willing to believe something like this coming from a source like Mesa in the first place is going to change her mind whatever anyone says. Or not, at least, without irrefutable physical proof that Mesa lied."

"I can see that," Tuominen acknowledged with a grimace. "Sorry, Your Grace. I guess I'm just looking for a straw to grasp."

"I don't blame you." Honor turned back to the window, looking down on the boat-dotted estuary, wishing she were down there in one of her sloops herself. "And I don't doubt this is going to complicate our job here in Nouveau Paris, as well. To be honest, though, I'm a lot more worried about its potential impact on Solly public opinion and what it may encourage Kolokoltsov and those other idiots in Old Chicago to do."

Tuominen nodded unhappily behind her and wondered if one reason he himself was focusing so intensely on the situation here in the Republic of Haven was expressly to avoid thinking about how Old Chicago might have reacted to the same news. It was ironic that Manticore had received the reportage of the Mesan allegations about Green Pines before anyone on Old Earth had. By now, though, the sensational charges were racing outward to all the interstellar community of man, and God only knew how that was likely to impact on the Solarian public's view of the Star Empire. The one thing Tuominen was prepared to bet on was that it wasn't going to help.

"I agree that the way the League reacts to this is ultimately likely to be a lot more significant as far as the Star Empire's concerned, Your Grace," Selleck said. "Unfortunately, there's not anything we can do about that. So I think Barnabas and Voitto are right to be considering anything we might be able to do to mitigate the impact here, in the Republic."

She shrugged.

"Voitto's right about people like Younger and McGwire. I've been quietly developing some additional information sources since we got here, and the more I find out about Younger, the more revolting he turns out to be. I'm still not sure exactly how the internal dynamics of the New Conservatives lay out, but I'm coming to the conclusion he's a much more important player than we'd assumed before we left Manticore. If there's anyone on Pritchart's side of the table who's likely to try to use something like this, it's Younger."

"But how can he use it, Carissa?" Kew asked. "I realize the media's going to have a field day, whatever we do. And God knows there's enough 'anti-Manty' sentiment here in the Republic already for these allegations to generate even more public unhappiness with the fact that their government's negotiating with us at all. But having said all of that, it's the only game in town. The bottom line is that Pritchart and her people have to be even more determined than we are to keep us from blowing up their capital star system!"
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Re: STICKY: Mission of Honor Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Tue Jun 15, 2010 10:34 pm

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Mission Of Honor - Snippet 54


"Really?" Honor turned her head, looking over her shoulder at him. "In that case, why don't we already have an agreement?" she asked reasonably. "Carissa's exactly right about Younger, and I wouldn't be too sure McGwire doesn't fall into the same category. But everything about Younger's mind glow" -- she reached up to Nimitz again, suggesting (not entirely accurately) where her certainty about the Havenite's emotions came from -- "suggests that he really doesn't care what happens to the rest of the universe, as long as he gets what he wants. Or, to put it another way, he's absolutely convinced he's going to be able to make things come out the way he wants them to, and he's prepared to do whatever it takes to accomplish that." She grimaced. "His and McGwire's obstructionism isn't just about getting the best terms they possibly can for the Republic. They're looking to cut their own domestic deals, improve their own positions here in Nouveau Paris, and Younger would blow up the negotiations in a heartbeat if he believed it would further his own political ambitions."

"I'm less afraid of his managing to completely sabotage the talks, Your Grace," Selleck said, "than I am about his stretching them out. Or trying to, at any rate. From what I've seen of him, I think he's calculating that the worse things get between us and the Sollies, the more likely we are to accept his terms in order to get some kind of a treaty so we can deal with the League without worrying about having the Republic on our back."

"That would be . . . fatally stupid of him," Kew said.

"I don't think he really believes the Queen -- I mean, the Empress -- is willing to pull the trigger on the entire Republic if we don't get a formal treaty in time, Barnabas," Tuominen said heavily.

"And even if he does believe we'll do that in the end, he doesn't think it's going to happen tomorrow," Honor agreed. "As far as he's concerned, he's still playing for time and the time's still there to be played for. And let's face it -- to some extent, he's right. Her Majesty's not going to turn the Navy loose on Haven's infrastructure any sooner than she thinks she absolutely has to. If she were going to do that, she wouldn't have sent us to negotiate in the first place."

And I think I just won't mention how hard it was to bring her to that position, Honor added mentally.

"The problem is that no matter how much time he thinks he has, we don't have an unlimited supply of it, and this is only going to make that worse. So what I'm really worried about is that he's going to miscalculate with . . . unhappy consequences for everyone involved."

"I agree." Selleck nodded firmly. "The question is how we keep him from doing that."

"I don't know we can do anything directly with him," Honor replied. "On the other hand, President Pritchart's obviously had a lot of experience dealing with him domestically. So I think the logical move is for me to have a private little conversation with her to make her aware of our concerns."

* * *

"Good afternoon, Admiral Alexander-Harrington."

Eloise Pritchart stood, reaching across her desk to shake Honor's hand as Angela Rousseau escorted her into the presidential office.

"Good afternoon, Madam President," Honor replied, and suppressed a smile as Sheila Thiessen nodded a bit brusquely to Spencer Hawke. After two a half weeks, the two bodyguards and paranoiacs-in-chief had achieved a firm mutual respect. In fact, they were actually beginning to like one another -- a little, at least -- although neither of them would have been willing to admit it to a living soul.

"Thank you for making time for me so promptly," she continued out loud as she settled into what had become her customary chair here in Pritchart's office. Nimitz flowed down into her lap and curled up there, grass-green eyes watching the president alertly, and Pritchart smiled.

"Right off the top of my head, Admiral, I can't think of anyone who has a higher priority where 'making time' is concerned," she said dryly.

"I suppose not," Honor acknowledged with a faint, answering smile.

"Now that you're here, can I offer you some refreshment?" the president inquired. "Mr. Belardinelli has some more of those chocolate chip cookies you like so much hidden away in his desk drawer, you know."

She smiled conspiratorially, and Honored chuckled. But she also shook her head, smile fading, and Pritchart let her chair come fully back upright.

"Well, in that case," the president said, "I believe you said you had something confidential you needed to discuss?"

"That's true, Madam President." Honor glanced at Thiessen, then back at the Pritchart. "I'm going to assume Ms. Thiessen is as deeply in your confidence as Captain Hawke is in mine."

Her tone made the statement a polite question, and Pritchart nodded.

"I thought so," Honor said. "On the other hand, you might want to switch off the recorders for this conversation." She smiled again, thinly. "I'm sure your office has to be at least as thoroughly wired for sound as Queen Elizabeth's. Normally, that wouldn't bother me, but what I'm here to discuss has intelligence operational implications. Implications for your operations, not Manticore's."

Pritchart's eyebrows arched. Then she glanced at Thiessen. Her senior bodyguard looked less than enthralled by Honor's request, but she made no overt objection.

"Leave your personal recorder on, Sheila," the president directed. "If it turns out we need to make this part of the official record after the fact, we can download it from yours." She looked back at Honor. "Would that be satisfactory, Admiral?"

"Perfectly satisfactory from my perspective, Madam President." Honor shrugged. "I doubt very much that anything I'm about to tell you is going to have repercussions for the Star Empire's intel operations."

"I have to admit you've managed to pique my interest," Pritchart said as Thiessen quietly shut down all of the other pickups in her office.

"And I suppose I should admit that piquing your interest was at least partly what I was after," Honor acknowledged.

"So now that you've done it, what was it you wanted to say?"

The president's mind glow was tinged with rather more wariness than was evident in her expression or her tone, Honor noted.

"I wanted to address the allegations coming out of Mesa about the Green Pines atrocity," Honor said, and tasted Pritchart's surprise. Obviously, the president hadn't expected her to go there.

"Specifically," Honor continued, "the charges that Captain Zilwicki was on Mesa as a ballroom operative specifically to set up the explosions as an act of terrorism. Or, at least, as an act of what they call 'asymmetrical warfare' against someone he and the Kingdom of Torch believed were planning a genocidal attack on Congo. I realize there's a certain surface persuasiveness to their version of what happened, especially given the Captain's long term relationship with Catherine Montaigne, his daughter's status as Queen of torch, and the fact that he's made very little secret of his sympathy for the Ballroom. Despite that, I'm absolutely confident that Mesa's version of what happened is a complete fabrication."

She paused, and Pritchart frowned.

"I'm no more likely than the next woman to believe anything Mesa says, Admiral," the president said. "Nonetheless, I'm a little at a loss as to how this has operational implications for our intelligence."

"In that case, Madam President, I think you should probably sit down with Director Trajan and ask him where Special Officer Cachat is right now."

Despite decades of political and clandestine experience, Pritchart stiffened visibly, and Honor tasted the spike of surprise tinged with apprehension (and what tasted for all the world like a hint of exasperation) which went through the president.

"Special Officer . . . Cachat, did you say?" From Pritchart's tone, it was clear she was simply playing the game as the rules required, rather than that she actually expected Honor to be diverted.

"Yes, Madam President. Special Officer Cachat. You know -- the Havenite agent who's probably more responsible than anyone else for the fact of Torch's independence in the first place? The fellow who's been hobnobbing with Captain Zilwicki, Queen Berry, and Ruth Winton for the last couple of years? The one who's your agent in charge for the Erewhon sector? That Special Officer Cachat."

Pritchart winced ever so slightly, then sighed.

"I suppose I should be getting used to having you trot out things like that, Admiral," she said resignedly. "On the other hand, aside from the evidence that you know far more about our intelligence community than I really wish you did, I still don't see exactly how this ties in with Green Pines."
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Re: STICKY: Mission of Honor Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Thu Jun 17, 2010 10:30 pm

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Mission Of Honor - Snippet 55


"Actually, it's fairly simple," Honor replied. "According to Mesa, Captain Zilwicki went to Green Pines as a Ballroom operative for the specific purpose of using nuclear explosives against civilian targets. I'm sure your own analysts can tell you that Anton Zilwicki was probably the last person in the galaxy who would have signed off on that sort of operation, no matter what justification he thought he had. In addition, however, you should be aware that before Captain Zilwicki departed for Mesa -- and, yes, he was on-planet -- he stopped by my flagship at Trevor's Star to discuss the Webster assassination and the attack on Torch with me. At which time" -- her eyes bored suddenly into Pritchart's across the president's desk -- "he was accompanied by Special Officer Cachat."

"What?"

This time astonishment startled the question out of Pritchart, and Sheila Thiessen stiffened in shock behind the president. Both women stared at Honor for several seconds before Pritchart shook herself.

"Let me get this straight," she said in an odd, half-exasperated, half-resigned tone, raising her right hand, index finger extended. "You're telling me the intelligence officer in charge of all of my spying operations in the Erewhon sector entered a closed Manticoran star system and actually went aboard a Manticoran admiral's flagship?"

"Yes." Honor smiled. "I had the impression Special Officer Cachat's methods are just a bit . . . unorthodox, perhaps."

"A bit?" Pritchart snorted and rolled her eyes. "Since you've had the dubious pleasure of meeting him, Admiral, I might as well admit I'm usually undecided between pinning a medal on him and shooting him. And I see I am going to have to have a little discussion with Director Trajan about his current whereabouts. Although, to be fair to the Director, I doubt very much that Cachat bothered to inform him about his agenda before he went haring off to Trevor's Star. Not, mind you, that anyone's disapproval of his travel plans would have slowed him down for a minute."

"I see you have met him personally," Honor observed dryly.

"Oh, yes, Admiral. Oh, yes! I have indeed had that . . . pleasure."

"I'm glad, since that probably means you're going to be readier to believe what I'm about to tell you."

"Where Victor Cachat is concerned? Please, Admiral! I'm prepared to believe just about anything when he's involved!"

"Well," Honor said, suppressing an urge to chuckle, "as I say, he and Captain Zilwicki came to visit me back in April. In fact, they came for the specific purpose of assuring me that they -- both of them -- were certain the Republic was not involved in the attack on Queen Berry and Princess Ruth."

Her tone had become far more serious, and Pritchart's nostrils flared.

"Given the flavor of Special Officer Cachat's mind glow," Honor continued, stroking Nimitz, "I had no choice but to accept that he genuinely believed that. In fact, I have to admit I was deeply impressed by his personal courage in coming to tell me so." She looked into Pritchart's eyes again. "He was fully prepared to suicide, Madam President. Indeed, he expected to suicide after delivering his message to me, because he was pretty sure I wasn't going to allow him off my flagship afterward."

"But you did," Pritchart said softly, and it wasn't a question.

"Yes, I did," Honor acknowledged, and gave her head a little toss. "To be honest, it never occurred to me not to. He . . . deserved better. And, even more importantly, perhaps, I not only believed he was telling me the truth, I agreed with his analysis of what had probably happened."

Thiessen's eyes narrowed, but Pritchart only cocked her head.

"And that analysis was --?"

"That, barring the possibility of some sort of unauthorized rogue operation, the Republic had had nothing to do with the Torch attack," Honor said flatly. "And, by extension, that Admiral Webster's assassination almost certainly hadn't been sanctioned by your Administration, either. Which, in my opinion, made Manpower the most likely culprit."

"Then why didn't you --" Pritchart began with an obviously involuntary flash of anger.

"I did." Honor's voice was even flatter. "I discussed my meeting, and my conclusions, with -- Well, let's say at the highest level of the Government. Unfortunately, by then events were already in motion. And, frankly, all I could really tell anyone was that Special Officer Cachat believed the Republic hadn't been involved. I think you'll agree that despite my own belief that he was right, that scarcely constituted proof."

Prichard settled back, gazing at Honor for several seconds, then drew a deep breath.

"No," she acknowledged. "No, I don't suppose it did. But, oh, Admiral, how I wish someone had listened to you!"

"I do, too, Madam President," Honor said softly. Brown eyes met platinum, both dark with sorrow for all the men and women who had died after that meeting.

"I do, too," Honor repeated, more briskly, after a moment. "But the real reason I've brought this up at this point is that Captain Zilwicki and Special Officer Cachat did believe Manpower -- and possibly even the Mesan system government -- were directly implicated in the attacks. In addition, our own intelligence agencies have been steadily turning up evidence that there's more going on where Manpower and Mesa are concerned than anyone's previously assumed. Captain Zilwicki and Special Officer Cachat intended to find out what that something 'more' was, and according to what I believe to be an unimpeachable source -- Catherine Montaigne, in point of fact -- the two of them, jointly, were headed for Mesa."

"Together?" Pritchart, Honor noted, didn't sound particularly incredulous.

"Together." Honor nodded. "Which means that while Captain Zilwicki was on Mesa, a point of which the Mesans obviously became aware, he was definitely not there on a Ballroom terrorist operation. Given the various . . . peculiarities where Torch is concerned, I think it's very likely the Ballroom was involved in getting them onto Mesa in the first place. And it's entirely possible that what happened in Green Pines was actually a Ballroom operation, or the result of one. The last thing Captain Zilwicki or Special Officer Cachat would have wanted would have been to compromise their own mission by becoming involved in a major terrorist strike, however, so any involvement they may have had must have been peripheral. Accidental, really."

"I can see that." Pritchart nodded slowly, and Honor reminded herself that, unlike most heads of state, the president had once been a senior commander in a clandestine resistance movement. That undoubtedly helped when it came to grasping the underlying logic of covert operations.

"I don't know for certain why Mesa's made no mention of Special Officer Cachat," Honor said. "It may be they aren't aware he was even present. More probably, the Star Empire's who they really want to damage with this at the moment. Explaining that intelligence operatives of two star nations who've been at war with one another for over twenty years just decided on a whim to join forces with the Ballroom would probably be a bit much even for the Sollies public's credulity. The best-case possibility, of course, would be that they weren't aware of his presence and that he actually managed, somehow, to escape."

"And Captain Zilwicki?" Prichard asked gently.

"And I very much doubt Captain Zilwicki did." Honor made no effort to hide her pain at that thought. "They wouldn't have handed this to the media -- especially not with the assertion that he was killed in one of 'his own' explosions -- unless they knew he was dead."

"I'm deeply and sincerely sorry to hear that," Pritchart said, and Honor tasted the truth of her statement in her mind glow.

"The important point, Madam President," Honor said, "is that I think you can see from what I've just told you that everything Mesa's claiming is a fabrication. There are probably nuggets of truth buried in it, but I doubt we'll ever know what they actually were. From my perspective, the immediate and critical point is to keep this from sidetracking our negotiations. I don't doubt it presents opportunities for self-interested parties to go fishing in troubled waters," she carefully did not mention any specific names, "but it would be very unfortunate if someone managed to derail these talks. In particular, if Mesa's allegations play into the situation between the Star Empire and the Solarian League in a way that heightens tensions still farther or even leads to additional military action, Queen Elizabeth's flexibility where a negotiated settlement is concerned is likely to be compromised."

She saw the understanding in Pritchart's eyes, tasted it in the president's mind glow, but she knew it had to be said out loud, as well.

"It may well be that at least part of Mesa's objective is to do just that, Madam President. Manpower certainly has as much reason to hate the Republic as it does to hate the Star Empire. I could readily believe that someone in Mendel saw this as an opportunity to force the Star Empire's hand where military operations against the Republic are concerned as well as a means to provoke an open war between us and the League. And I think" -- she gazed into Pritchart's eyes again -- "that it would be a tragedy if they succeeded."
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Re: STICKY: Mission of Honor Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Sun Jun 20, 2010 10:09 pm

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Mission Of Honor - Snippet 56

Chapter Seventeen

"I have to agree with Duchess Harrington," Thomas Theisman said as the imagery from Sheila Thiessen's personal recorder came to an end. He tipped back in his chair, eyes pensive. "It would be a tragedy."

"Especially if she's telling the truth," Leslie Montreau agreed. "Of course, that's one of the major rubs, isn't it? Is she telling the truth?" The secretary of state shrugged. "It all hangs together, and I'm inclined to think she is, but you have to admit, Tom. It would be very convenient from her perspective if we bought into this notion that Mesa's version of Green Pines is a completely fabricated effort at disinformation."

"You're right," Pritchart acknowledged, and looked at Denis LePic. The attorney general had been sitting there with a peculiar expression while the imagery replayed, and now she crooked an eyebrow at him.

"Why is it, Denis," she asked shrewdly, "that you don't seem any more astonished than you do to hear Duchess Harrington's version of one of your senior intelligence officer's perambulations about the galaxy?"

"Because I'm not," LePic admitted in tones of profound resignation.

"Wait a minute." Theisman looked at the attorney general -- who also ran the Republic's civilian intelligence services -- in obvious surprise. "You're telling me you really didn't even know where Cachat was? I mean, he really did take himself off to a Manty flagship in the middle of a war without even mentioning the possibility he might do something like that? Forgive me, but isn't he the man in charge of all FIS operations in Erewhon and Congo?"

"Yes," LePic sighed. "And, no, he didn't mention anything sort to me. Of course, I didn't know we didn't know where he was until this afternoon. Not until Eloise asked me to verify Duchess Harrington's story, at any rate. For all I know -- or all I can prove, anyway -- he might've been ambushed and devoured by space hamsters!" The attorney general's expression was that of a man whose patience had been profoundly tried. "And I'm fairly confident no one in Wilhelm's shop's been covering up for him, either. No one knew where he'd gone -- not even Kevin."

Montreau had joined the secretary of war in looking at LePic in disbelief. Pritchart, on the other hand, only sat back in her chair with the air of a woman confronting the inevitable.

"And how long has this state of affairs obtained?" Theisman asked politely. "I mean, in the Navy, we like to have our station commanders and our task force commanders report in occasionally. Just so we've got some notion of what they're up to, you understand."

"Very funny," LePic said sourly. Then he looked at Pritchart. "You know Kevin's been rubbing off on Cachat from the very beginning. By now, I don't know which of them is the bigger loose warhead! If it weren't for the fact the two of them keep producing miracles, I'd fire both of them, if only to get rid of the anxiety quotient."

"I often felt that way about Kevin when we were in the Resistance," Pritchart admitted. "But, as you say, both our pet lunatics have that annoying habit of coming through in the crunch. On the other hand, I believe you were about to tell Tom how long Cachat's been incommunicado?"

"Actually, I was trying to avoid telling him," LePic admitted, and smiled even more sourly. "The truth is that it tracks entirely too well with what Alexander-Harrington's had to say. Our last report from him is over six T-months old."

"What?" Montrose sat abruptly upright. "One of your station chiefs has been missing for six months, and you don't have a clue where he's gone?"

"I know it sounds ridiculous," LePic said more than a little defensively. "In fact, I asked Wilhelm very much that same question this afternoon. He says he hadn't mentioned it to me because he couldn't have told me anything very much, since he didn't know very much. I'm inclined to believe that's the truth, mostly. Actually, though, I think a lot of the reason he kept his mouth shut was that he was hoping Cachat would turn back up again before anyone asked where he was." The attorney general shrugged. "In a lot of ways, I can't fault Wilhelm's thinking. After all, he's the FIS's director. Cachat reports to him, not me, and as a general rule, I don't even try to keep up with Wilhelm's operations unless they develop specific, important intelligence that's brought to my attention. And as Wilhelm pointed out, it's not as if this were the first time Cachat's just dropped off the radar, and he's always produced results when it's happened in the past."

"But if someone else has gotten their hands on him, Denis, isn't he in a position to do enormous damage?" Theisman asked very seriously.

"Yes and no," LePic replied. "First of all, I think -- as Duchess Harrington's description of her conversation with him indicates -- it would be extraordinarily difficult for someone to take him alive to start with. And, second, I doubt anyone would get anything out of Victor Cachat under duress even if they did manage to capture him. I don't know if you've ever met the man, Tom, but, believe me, he's about as scary as they come. Think of Kevin Usher with less of a sense of humor, just as much principle a lot closer to the surface, and even more focus."

Theisman obviously found that description more than a little disturbing, and this time LePic's smile held a glimmer of amusement.

"On the other hand, no one's going to rely on even Cachat's ability to resist rigorous interrogation forever. His assistant station chief in Erewhon is Special Officer Sharon Justice. She's acting as special-officer-in-charge until Cachat gets back, and Wilhelm tells me that on Cachat's specific instructions, one of her first acts as SOIC was to change all communication protocols. Somebody might be able to get the identities of at least some of his sources out of him -- I doubt it, frankly, but anything is possible -- but I don't think anyone's likely to be able to compromise his entire network with Justice in charge."

"Justice. She was one of the StateSec officers involved in that business at La Martine, wasn't she?" Pritchart said thoughtfully.

"She was," LePic agreed.

"Which means she's going to feel a powerful sense of personal loyalty to Cachat," Pritchart pointed out.

"She does." LePic nodded. "On the other hand, everything Cachat's accomplished out there's been done on the basis of personal relationships." The attorney general shrugged. "I won't pretend I don't wish the man could operate at least a little more by The Book, but no one can argue with his results. Or the fact that he's probably got more penetration -- at secondhand, perhaps, but still penetration -- into the Manties than anyone else we've got, given his relationship with Ruth Winton and Anton Zilwicki. Not to mention the fact that he's damned near personally responsible for the existence of Torch."

"I know. That's why I took him away from Kevin and gave him to Wilhelm," Pritchart said. "On the other hand, it does sound like what little we do know corroborates Duchess Harrington's version of events."

"I think so," LePic agreed with the air of a man who didn't really want to admit any such thing. "At any rate, Cachat's last report did say he'd concluded that since we weren't involved in the attempt on Queen Berry, it had to have been someone else, and that the someone else in question had motives which were obviously inimical to the Republic. He'd reached that conclusion, I might add, even before we'd learned here in Nouveau Paris that the attempt had been made. By the time his report reached Wilhelm, he'd already pulled the plug, handed over to Justice, and disappeared."
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Re: STICKY: Mission of Honor Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Tue Jun 22, 2010 10:41 pm

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Mission Of Honor - Snippet 57


"As in disappeared aboard a Manticoran flagship at Trevor's Star with a suicide device in his pocket just in case, you mean? That sort of 'disappeared'?"

"Yes, Madam President," LePic said a bit more formally than was his wont.

Pritchart gazed at him for several seconds, swinging her chair gently from side to side. Then she snorted.

"My, my, my," she murmured with a crooked smile. "Only Victor Cachat. Now that Kevin's out of the field, anyway."

"You're telling us," Montreau said, speaking with the careful precision of someone determined to make certain they really had heard correctly, "that one of FIS's station chiefs really went, with a known Manticoran intelligence operative, to a star system the Manties have declared a closed military reservation, for a personal conversation with the commanding officer of their Eighth Fleet before the Battle of Lovat? And then went off on a completely unauthorized operation to Mesa? Which apparently ran right into the middle of whatever really happened at Green Pines?"

LePic only nodded, and Montreau sat back in her chair with an expression of utter disbelief.

"Actually, it makes sense, you know," Theisman said thoughtfully after a moment.

"Makes sense?" Montreau repeated incredulously.

"From what I know of Cachat -- although I hasten to admit it's all second or third hand, since I've never met him personally -- he spends a lot of time operating by intuition. In fact, any way you look at it, a huge part of those successes Denis was just talking about have resulted from a combination of that institution with the personal contacts and relationships he's established And you've met Alexander-Harrington now, Leslie. If you were going to reach out to a highly placed member of an enemy star nation's political and military establishment because you were convinced someone was trying to sabotage peace talks between us and them, could you think of a better person to risk contacting?"

Montreau started to reply, then stopped, visibly thought for a moment or two, and shook her head, almost against her will.

"I'm willing to bet that was pretty much Cachat's analysis," LePic agreed with a nod. "And, if it was, it obviously worked, given Duchess Harrington's evident attitude towards the negotiations. Not only that, but it set up the situation in which she brought us her version of what really happened on Mesa."

His three listeners looked at one another with suddenly thoughtful expressions.

"You know, Denis," Theisman said in a gentler tone, "if he's been out of contact this long, the most likely reason is that he and Zilwicki were both killed on Mesa."

"I do know," LePic admitted. "On the other hand, this is Victor Cachat we're talking about. And he and Zilwicki are both -- or at least were both -- very competent operators. They almost certainly built firebreaks into and between their covers, whatever they were, on Mesa, not to mention multiple escape strategies. So it really is possible Zilwicki could have gone down without Mesa's ever realizing Cachat was there. And if the two of them were deep enough under, especially somewhere as far away as the Mesa System, three or four months -- or even longer -- isn't all that long a lag in communications. Not from a covert viewpoint, at least. I don't know about Manticore or the Ballroom, but we don't have any established conduits between here and Mesa, so his communications would have been circuitous at the very least, and probably a lot less than secure. And don't forget -- it's been less than four months since Green Pines. If he did avoid capture, he might have been forced to lie low on the planet for quite a while before he could work out a way to get back out again. And if that's the case, he damned well wouldn't have trusted any conduit he could jury-rig to get reports back to us just so we wouldn't worry about him! For all I know, he's on his way home right this minute!"

Theisman looked doubtful, and Montreau looked downright skeptical. Pritchart, on the other hand, had considerably more hands-on experience in the worlds of espionage and covert operations than either of them did. Besides, she thought, LePic had a point. It was Victor Cachat they were talking about, and that young man had demonstrated a remarkable talent for survival even under the most unpromising circumstances.

"All right," she said, leaning forward and folding her forearms on her desk, "I'm with you, Denis, in wishing we knew something about what happened to Cachat. There's nothing we can do about that, though, and I think we're pretty much in agreement that what we do know from our end effectively confirms what Duchess Harrington's told us?"

She looked around at her advisers' faces, and, one by one, they nodded.

"In that case," the president continued, "I think it behooves us to pay close attention to her warning about Elizabeth's patience and the . . . how did she put it? The 'flexibility' of Manticore's options. I don't know that I buy into the notion that this was deliberately aimed at Manticore and Haven alike, that Mesa wants Manticore to trash the Republic before the League trashes Manticore. I think it's at least remotely possible, though. More to the point, it doesn't matter if that's what they're trying to do if that's what they end up doing, anyway. So I think it's up to us to make sure our own problem children at the negotiating table don't decide to try to take advantage of this."

"And exactly how do you propose to do that, Madam President?" Theisman asked skeptically.

"Actually," Pritchart said with a chilling smile, "I don't plan to say a word to them about it."

"No?" There was no disguising the anxiety in Denis LePic's voice . . . nor any indication that the attorney general had tried very hard to disguise it.

"It's called 'plausible deniability,' Denis," she replied with that same shark-like smile. "I'd love to simply march all of them in at pulser point to sign on the dotted line, but I'm afraid if I tried that, Younger, at least, would call my bluff. So I can't just shut him up every time he starts throwing up those roadblocks of his. That's part of the political process, unfortunately, and we don't need to be setting any iron-fist precedents for repressing political opponents. Despite that, however, I think I can bring myself to compromise my sense of political moral responsibility far enough to keep him from using this roadblock, at least."

"How?" This time the question came from Theisman.

"By using our lunatic who hasn't gone missing." Pritchart chuckled coldly. "Everyone knows Kevin Usher is a total loose cannon. I'm pretty sure that if he called Younger and McGwire, let's say, in for confidential in-depth briefings and was very careful to speak to both of them off the record, with no embarrassing recordings, and no inconvenient witnesses to misconstrue anything he might say, he could convince them it would be . . . unwise to use these unfortunate and obviously groundless allegations out of Mesa for partisan political advantage."

"Threaten them with, ah, direct action, you mean?" Unlike LePic, Theisman seemed to have no particular qualms with the notion, and Pritchart's smile turned almost seraphic.

"Oh, no, Tom!" She shook her head and clucked her tongue reprovingly. "Kevin never threatens. He only predicts probable outcomes from time to time." The humor disappeared from her smile as the shark surfaced once more. "He doesn't do it all that often, but when he does," the president of the Republic of Haven finished, "he's never wrong."
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Re: STICKY: Mission of Honor Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Thu Jun 24, 2010 11:04 pm

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Mission Of Honor - Snippet 58


February, 1922, Post Diaspora

"The Solarian League can't accept something like this -- not out of some frigging little pissant navy out beyond the Verge -- not matter what kind of provocation they may think they have! If we let them get away with this, God only knows who's going to try something stupid next!"

-- Fleet Admiral Sandra Crandall, SLN


Chapter Eighteen


"Well, this is a fine kettle of fish. Excuse me -- another fine kettle of fish."

Elizabeth Winton's tone was almost whimsical; her expression was anything but. Her brown eyes were dark, radiating anger, determination, and not a little bit of fear, and the treecat stretched across her lap, instead of the back of her chair this time, was very, very still.

"It's not exactly a complete surprise," Hamish Alexander-Harrington, the Earl of White Haven, pointed out.

"No," the queen agreed, "although the confirmation that this Anisimovna understated the number of superdreadnoughts rattling around the Verge probably comes under that heading."

"I doubt anyone's likely to disagree with that, Your Majesty," Sir Anthony Langtry said dryly.

"And I doubt anyone in this room thinks discovering they're really out there's going to make things any better," William Alexander, Baron Grantville, pointed out.

"That depends entirely on what sort of officer's in command of them," Admiral Sir Thomas Caparelli, the First Space Lord of the Royal Manticoran Navy, told the prime minister. "If this Crandall has the brains of a fruit fly, she'll stay where she is and try to keep things from spinning any further out of control until she knows exactly what happened at New Tuscany and she's had time to seek guidance from home."

"And just what leads you to assume any Solarian flag officer sent to the Madras Sector is going to have two brain cells to rub together, Sir Thomas?" Elizabeth asked acidly. "I'm willing to concede that there might be one or two Frontier Fleet commodores who were already in the area who could seal their own shoes without printed instructions. But if the officer in command of those ships was sent out under the same master plan that sent Byng, she's either a complete and total idiot who needs help wiping drool off her chin -- and God knows the Solarian League's got enough of them to go around! -- or else she's in Manpower's pocket. In the first case, she's going to react as if Mike's fleet is a nail and she's a hammer out of blind, unthinking spinal reflex. In the second case, she's going to react as if Mike's fleet is a nail and she's a hammer because that's what Manpower's paying her to do. From the perspective of the nail, I don't think it makes a lot of difference."

White Haven winced mentally at the queen's succinct, biting analysis. Less because of the tone in which it was delivered than because of its accuracy. Of course, there was one little problem with her analogy.

"In this case, though," he pointed out aloud, "the hammer doesn't have a clue what it's about to let itself in for. Or, at least, if it does, it's going to be a lot less eager to start banging away."

"How realistic is it to hope this Crandall realizes how big her disadvantage really is?" Grantville asked.

"If I knew the answer to that one, Willie, we wouldn't need all of Pat Givens' boys and girls over at ONI," his brother replied. "Anyone who looks at what Mike did at New Tuscany with an open, unprejudiced mind is going to realize just how outclassed he and his ships were. Unfortunately, if she moved out immediately after Reprise spotted her at in Meyers, she won't have had time to hear anything about Second New Tuscany. And even if she waited long enough to hear from the dispatch boat that got away from Mike, she'd have to be able to make the leap from what happened to a single battlecruiser to what could happen to an entire fleet of superdreadnoughts. As Her Majesty has just pointed out, it's not unlikely anyone Manpower's recruited for this command is going to be all that interested in looking at the data. And even if she is, I suspect she's still too likely to figure her superdreadnoughts are a hell of a lot tougher than any battlecruiser ever built."

"And that they're enough tougher she doesn't have to worry about any slick little tricks mere battlecruisers might try against them?" Grantville finished the thought for him with a question.

"Pretty much," Caparelli agreed. "More than that, she may hope we haven't been able to reinforce. In that case, she's going to want to move quickly, before we do send in additional units."

"Do you agree with Mike's assessment about their probable targeting priorities, Sir Thomas?" Elizabeth asked, her fingers caressing Ariel's ears.

"Judging from we've seen of their contingency planning from the databases she captured at New Tuscany, I'd say yes, Your Majesty." The first space lord grimaced. "If it weren't for the wormhole, I'd be positive they were going to jump straight at Spindle. Given the importance of the Lynx Terminus, though, it's pretty much a coin toss. I don't see them splitting up and going after individual star systems in the Quadrant until after they've nailed Tenth Fleet. Not assuming Crandall knows what happened at New Tuscany, at any rate. But the idea of seizing the terminus, holding it to keep us from reinforcing while simultaneously forcing Admiral Gold Peak to come to them if she wants to reopen her line of communications, would have to appeal to a Solly strategist."

"I wish it would," White Haven muttered, and Caparelli barked a laugh of harsh agreement.

"Hamish is right about that, Your Majesty," he said. "We've got all but one of the forts fully online now. And we've got Apollo system-defense birds deployed in depth to cover them. In fact, we were planning on recalling Jessup Blaine from Lynx to refit his pod-layers with Keyhole-Two and Apollo."

"So you and Hamish are both confident the Lynx Terminus could hold off seventy-one superdreadnoughts if it had to?"

"Your Majesty, at the risk of sounding immodest, the only real question would be how long it took us to blow all seventy-one of them out of space. Those forts were designed to hold that terminus without any outside support against the attack of two hundred and fifty of our own pre-Apollo podnoughts. Now that they have Apollo, their defensive capability's been multiplied many times. We still aren't sure by exactly how much, but it's got to be at least a factor of four."

"Then Admiral Blaine could --" Elizabeth began.

"Admiral Blaine already has, Your Majesty," Caparelli interrupted. "I sent his new orders before I started over to the Palace. If he hasn't already departed for Spindle, he'll be underway within the hour. And even though he doesn't have Apollo, his command would still eat those Solly superdreadnoughts for lunch. And there's one other bit of good news to go with that one -- Admiral Gold Peak's Apollo ammunition ships are almost forty-eight hours ahead of the last schedule update she's received."

Elizabeth relaxed visibly, but Ariel raised his head and glanced at White Haven a moment before the earl cleared his throat. The quiet sound drew the queen's attention, too, and an eyebrow rose.

"What Tom just said is completely accurate, Your Majesty," he said, "and I unreservedly support both his analysis and his instructions to Admiral Blaine. The problem is that it's unlikely Blaine could arrive at Spindle before the Sollies do, assuming they come straight from Meyers. So, if they do decide to move against Mike, she's going to have to take them on with what she has, and even if the Apollo pods get there in time, she doesn't have Keyhole-Two or pod-layers."

"And if they hit Mike without Blaine and before the ammunition ships get there, what are her chances?" Elizabeth asked quietly.
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Re: STICKY: Mission of Honor Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Sun Jun 27, 2010 11:03 pm

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Two more snippets after this one.

Mission Of Honor - Snippet 59


"From what I've seen of the tech readouts from their battlecruisers' databases," Caparelli replied for the earl after a moment, "and assuming the count on Crandall's SDs is accurate and Admiral Gold Peak fights as smart as she's always fought before, I'd say her chances range from about even to fairly good. There's no way she could survive in energy range of that many superdreadnoughts -- I don't care what class they are -- but I very seriously doubt that any Solarian superdreadnought's going to survive to close to energy range. Their missile armaments are light, even by our pre-pod standards, and from our examination of the battlecruisers' counter-missiles and those 'Halo' decoy platforms of theirs, they still don't have a clue what the new missile threat environment really is. For that matter, assuming the stats we've pulled out of the computers are really accurate -- which, to be honest, in some instances I find a little difficult to believe -- at least two thirds of their reserve fleet's still equipped with autocannon point defense, not lasers."

"You're joking," Langtry said, his expression eloquent of disbelief.

"No, I'm not." Caparelli shook his head for added emphasis. "As I say, it's hard to believe, but that's what the data says. In fact, it looks to Pat's analysts as if they've only just recently really started to become aware of the increased missile threat. From the reports we've had from Second Congo, at least someone in the League's been experimenting with extended-range shipkillers, but whatever Mesa may've told Luft and his lunatics, there's no evidence the one doing the experimenting is the SLN. They're upgrading their current-generation anti-ship missiles, but only marginally, and according to our captured data from Byng, the improvements are to seekers and EW capabilities, not range.

"Defensively, there's some information in the data about something called 'Aegis,' which is supposed to be a major advance in missile defense. As nearly as we can tell, though, what it really amounts to is ripping out a couple of broadside energy mounts, replacing them with additional counter missile fire control and telemetry links, and then using main missile tubes to launch additional canisters of counter-missiles. It's going to thicken their counter-missile fire, but only at the expense of taking several shipkiller missiles out of an already light broadside. And to make things worse from their perspective, their counter-missiles themselves aren't as good as ours; the fire control software we've been looking at was several generations out of date, by our standards, at the start of the last war with Haven; and even on the ships where they've converted the autocannon to laser clusters, they don't appear to have increased the number of point defense stations appreciably."

He shook his head again, his eyes bleak with satisfaction.

"I don't doubt that they've increased their anti-missile capability from what it used to be, Tony," he said. "And it's going to take more missiles to kill their ships than it would have before they did it. But the end result's going to be the same, and if Admiral Gold Peak doesn't have Apollo, she's got at least four missile colliers stuffed full of Mark 23 flatpacks, her shipboard magazines are full of Mark 16s, mostly with the new laserheads, and every one of her Nikes has Keyhole One. Trust me. If this Solly admiral's stupid enough to ram her head into Spindle, Admiral Gold Peak will give her the mother of all migraines. She may not be able to keep Crandall from taking control of the planet's orbitals if she's willing to suck up the losses involved, but she'll be damned lucky if she has ten percent of her ships left when Tenth Fleet runs out of ammo."

"Which will only make this mess even messier from a diplomatic standpoint," Langtry pointed out. "Especially with this new story O'Hanrahan broke."

"Oh, thank you, Tony!" Grantville snorted. "I could have gone all week without thinking about that one!"

"It was a master stroke, wasn't it?" Elizabeth said sourly. "If there's one newsy in the entire Solarian League no one could ever accuse of being in Manpower's pocket, it's Audrey O'Hanrahan. In fact, the way she was beating up on Frontier Security, Manpower, and Technodyne over Monica only gives this new 'scoop' of hers even more impact."

"I still don't understand how they did it." White Haven shook his head. "It's obvious from her past accomplishments that she's got contacts that should have spotted any forged data, no matter how well it was done. So how did they manage to fool her this time around?"

"Well, Pat's own analysts have all confirmed that the data she's using in her reports carries what appear to be genuine New Tuscan Navy security and ID codes," Caparelli said. "It may've been doctored -- in fact, we know what parts of it were, and we're trying to figure out how to demonstrate that fact -- but it certainly looks like the official record of what happened. And to be fair to O'Hanrahan, she's never claimed that she's been able to confirm the accuracy of the data on the chips -- only that all of her 'informed sources' agree it came directly from the New Tuscans and that it's been certified by the New Tuscan Navy . . . unlike the data we've supplied."

"Which only makes it worse, in a lot of ways," Langtry observed. "She's not the one beating the drums, just the one who handed them the drumsticks. In fact, in the last 'faxes I've seen from Old Terra, she's actually protesting -- pretty vehemently -- that other newsies and talking heads are reading a lot more into her story than she ever meant for them to."

"So she's got good intentions. Great!" White Haven said dourly. "If I recall correctly, Pandora wasn't all that successful at stuffing things back into the box, either."

"Fair enough," Langtry agreed. "On the other hand, I detect Malachai Abruzzi's hand in all this, as well."

"But there's no way this is going to stand up in the end," Elizabeth protested. "Too many people in New Tuscany know what really happened. Not to mention the fact that we've already got the New Tuscan Navy's sensor records for the period involved, complete with all the same security and ID codes -- and time chops -- and the real records don't begin to match the ones someone handed her."

"With all due respect, your Majesty," Langtry said, "we have exactly the same kind of evidence and substantiation where our prewar diplomatic correspondence with Haven is concerned. In fact, I have to wonder if our little disagreement with the Peeps isn't what suggested this particular ploy to Manpower. Or to Mesa, for that matter." The foreign secretary grimaced. "It's almost like some kind of' perfect storm,' isn't it? First Mesa drops Green Pines on us, and then O'Hanrahan, of all people, gives us the follow-up punch with this cock-and-bull story from New Tuscany."

"I think it was deliberately orchestrated," White Haven said grimly. "Both stories came out of -- or at least through Mesa -- after all. I'll lay you any odds you like that the whole business about dispatches from New Tuscany's a complete fabrication. Somebody in Mesa planned this very carefully, and I'll also bet you they deliberately set O'Hanrahan up to front for them exactly because she's always been so careful to be as accurate as possible. And the fact that she was one of the few Solly newsies questioning their version of Green Pines and demanding hard evidence to back up their claims only makes her even more damaging on this story, since no one in the galaxy could possibly accuse her of carrying water for Mesa in the past." The earl shook his head. "Playing her this way was probably a little risky from their perspective, but look at how it's paid off for them.

"And even if the truth is staring them right in the eye, people like Abruzzi and Quartermain and Kolokoltsov are capable of projecting perfect candor while they look the other way," Grantville added. "They'll swear the version that suits their purposes is the truth, despite any evidence to the contrary, and figure that when the smoke clears and it turns out they were wrong, they'll get away with it by saying 'oops'. After all, it was an honest mistake, wasn't it?"
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