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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 DrakBibliophile   » Sun Mar 28, 2010 11:08 pm

DrakBibliophile
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Mission Of Honor - Snippet 20

January, 1922, Post Diaspora

"I've got a bad feeling about this . . . ."
-- Admiral Patricia Givens, RMN
CO, Office of Naval Intelligence

Chapter Five

Captain (JG) Ginger Lewis was not filled with confidence as she headed down the passageway aboard HMSS Weyland towards Rear Admiral Tina Yeager's office. It wasn't because she felt any worry over her ability to discharge her new duties. It wasn't even because she'd started her career as enlisted, without so much as dreaming she might attain her present rank. For that matter, it wasn't even because she'd just been assigned to the Royal Manticoran Navy's primary R&D facility when all her actual experience had been acquired in various engineering departments aboard deployed starships.

No, it was because she hadn't seen a single happy face since she'd arrived aboard Weyland half an hour before. Most people, she suspected, would have felt at least a qualm or two at being the new kid, just reporting in, when something had so obviously hit the rotary air impeller.

I wonder if it's just over here in R&D or if Aubrey and Paulo are about to get the same treatment? she wondered. Then she snorted. Well, even if they are, Paulo has Aubrey to take care of him.

The thought made her smile as she remembered Aubrey Wanderman's first deployment. Which, by the strangest turn of events, had also been her first deployment. She'd been quite a few years older than him, but they'd completed their naval training school assignments together, and she'd sort of taken him under her wing. He'd needed it, too. It was hard to remember now how young he'd been or that it had all happened almost fourteen T-years years ago. Sometimes it seemed like only yesterday, and sometimes it seemed like something that had happened a thousand years ago, to someone else entirely. But she remembered how shiny and new he'd been, how disappointed he'd been at being assigned to "only" a "merchant cruiser" . . . until, at least, he'd discovered that the captain of the merchant cruiser in question was then-Captain Honor Harrington.

Her smile faded just a bit as she remembered the clique of bullies and would-be deserters who'd made Aubrey's life a living hell, at least until Captain Harrington had found out about it. And the way she'd found out about it had been when their attempt to murder a certain acting petty officer by the name of Ginger Lewis had failed and Aubrey, who'd fallen under the influence of Chief Petty Officer Horace Harkness and HMS Wayfarer's Marine detachment, had beaten their ringleader half to death with his bare hands. She was still a bit surprised she'd survived the sabotaged software of her EVA propulsion pack, and she knew she hadn't emerged from the experience unscarred. Even now, all these years later, she hated going EVA -- which, unfortunately, came the way of the engineering department even more than anyone else.

Still, there was a world -- a universe -- of difference between that once-bullied young man and Senior Chief Petty Officer Aubrey Wanderman.

And, she thought a bit enviously, neither he nor Paulo is going to have to report in to someone with the towering seniority of a flag officer. Lucky bastards.

Her woolgathering had carried her successfully down the passage to Rear Admiral Yaeger's door. Now, however, she bade a regretful farewell to its distraction and stepped through the open door.

The yeoman seated behind the desk in the outer office looked up at her, then rose respectfully.

"Yes, Ma'am?"

"Captain Lewis," Ginger replied. "I'm reporting aboard, Chief."

"Yes, Ma'am. That would be Delta Department, wouldn't it, Ma'am?"

"Yes, it would." Ginger eyed him speculatively. Any flag officer's yeoman worth her salt was going to keep up with the details of her admiral's appointments and concerns. Keeping track of the comings and goings of officers who hadn't even known themselves the day before that they were about to be assigned to Weyland was a bit more impressive than usual, however.

"I thought so, Ma'am." The yeoman's expression didn't actually change by a single millimeter, yet somehow he managed to radiate a sense of over-tried patience -- or perhaps a better word would have been exasperation. Fortunately, none of it seemed to be directed towards Ginger.

"I'm afraid the Admiral's unavailable at the moment, Ma'am," the yeoman continued. "And so is Lieutenant Weaver, her flag lieutenant. It's, ah, an unscheduled meeting with the station commander."

Ginger managed to keep her eyes from widening. An "unscheduled meeting" with Weyland's CO, was it? No wonder she'd sensed a certain tension in the air.

"I see . . . Chief Timmons," she said after a moment, reading the yeoman's nameplate. "Would it happen we have any idea when Admiral Yeager might be free?"

"Frankly, Ma'am, I'm afraid it might be quite some time." Timmons' expression remained admirably grave. "That's why I wanted to confirm that you were the officer Delta's been expecting."

"And since I am?"

"Well, Ma'am, I thought in that case you might go down to Delta and report in to Captain Jefferson. He's Delta Division's CO. I thought perhaps he might be able to start getting you squared away, and then you could report to the Admiral when she's free again."

"Do you know, Chief, I think that sounds like a perfectly wonderful idea," Ginger agreed.

* * *

"Well, that was an interesting cluster fuck, wasn't it?"

Vice Admiral Claudio Faraday, the commanding officer of HMSS Weyland, was known for a certain pithiness. He also had a well-developed sense of humor, although, Tina Yeager noted, there was no trace of it in his voice at the moment.

"Would it happen," Faraday continued, "that tucked away somewhere in your subordinate officers' files, between their voluminous correspondence, their instruction manuals, their schedules, their research notes, their ham sandwiches, and their entertainment chips, they actually possess a copy of this station's emergency evacuation plan?"

He looked back and forth between Yaeger and Rear Admiral Warren Trammell, her counterpart on the fabrication and industrial end of Weyland's operations. Trammell didn't look much happier than Yaeger felt, but neither was foolish enough to answer his question, and Faraday smiled thinly.

"I only ask, you understand," he continued almost affably, "because our recent exercise would seem to indicate that either that they don't have a copy of the plan, or else none of them can read. And I hate to think Her Majesty's Navy is entrusting its most important and secure research programs to a bunch of illiterates."

Yaeger stirred in her chair, and Faraday's eyes swooped to her.

"Sir," she said, "first, let me say I have no excuse for my department's performance. Second, I'm fully aware my people performed much more poorly than Admiral Trammell's."

"Oh, don't take all the credit, Admiral," Faraday said with another smile. "Your people may have performed more poorly than Admiral Trammell's, but given the underwhelming level of Admiral Trammell's people's performance, I very much doubt that anyone could have performed 'much more poorly' than they did."

"Sir," Captain Marcus Howell said diffidently, and all three of the flag officers looked in his direction. Aside from Yaeger's and Trammell's flag lieutenants -- whose massively junior status insulated them from the direct brunt of Admiral Faraday's monumental unhappiness -- he was the junior officer in the compartment. He was also, however, Faraday's chief of staff.

"Yes, Marcus? You have something you'd care to add?"

"Well, Sir, I only wanted to observe that this was the first emergency evacuation simulation Weyland's conducted in the last two T-years. Under the circumstances, it's probably not really all that surprising people were a little . . . rusty."
*
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   » Tue Mar 30, 2010 11:08 pm

DrakBibliophile
Admiral

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Mission Of Honor - Snippet 21


"'Rusty'," Faraday rolled the word across his tongue, then snorted harshly. "If we use the term in the sense that a hatch sealed shut by atmospheric oxidation is 'rusty,' I suppose it's appropriate." The smile he bestowed upon Howell should have lowered the temperature in his office by at least three degrees, but then he grimaced. "Still, I take your point."

He gave himself a shake, then turned his attention back to Yaeger and Trammell.

"Don't think for a moment that I'm any happier about this than I was ten seconds ago. Still, Marcus does have a point. I'm not a great believer in the theory that extenuating circumstances excuse an officer's failures where his duty is concerned, but I suppose it's a bit early to start keelhauling people, too. So perhaps we should simply begin all over again from a mutual point of agreement that everyone's performance in the simulation was . . . suboptimal."

In fact, Yaeger knew, it had been far, far worse than "suboptimal." If she were going to be honest about it -- which she really would have preferred avoiding if at all possible -- his initial, delightfully apt choice of noun had much to recommend it as a factual summation.

As Howell had just pointed out, emergency evacuation exercises had not been a priority of Rear Admiral Colombo, Faraday's immediate predecessor. For that matter, they hadn't been a high priority for the station commander before that, either. On the other hand, that CO had been a Janacek appointee, and nothing had been very high on his priority list. By contrast, Colombo possessed enormous energy and drive, which helped explain why Admiral Hemphill had just recalled him to the capital planet as her second-in-command at BuWeaps. But, Yaeger admitted, Colombo had been a tech weenie, like her. She didn't think he'd ever held starship command, and he'd been involved in the R&D side for over thirty T-years. He'd been conscientious about the administrative details of his assignment, but his real interest had been down in the labs or over in the fabrication units where prototype pieces of hardware were produced.

"Sir," she said now, "I'm serious about apologizing for my people's performance. Yes, Captain Howell has a point -- it's not something we've exercised at. But the truth is, Sir, that an awful lot of my people suffer from what I can only call tunnel vision. They're really intensely focused on their projects. Sometimes, to be honest, I'm not sure they're even aware the rest of the universe is out there at all." She shook her head. "I know at least one of my division heads -- I'd prefer not to say which -- heard the evacuation alarm and just turned it off so it wouldn't disturb his train of thought while he and two of his lead researchers were discussing the current problem. I've already, ah, counseled him on that decision, but I'm afraid it was fairly typical. Which is my fault, not theirs."

"It's your fault, Admiral, in the sense that you're ultimately responsible for the actions of all personnel under your command. That doesn't excuse their actions -- or inaction. However, judging by the overall level of performance, I'd have to relieve three-quarters of the officers aboard this station if I were going to hammer everyone who'd screwed up. So we're not going to do that."

Faraday paused, letting the silence stretch out, until Trammell took pity on his colleague and broke it.

"We're not, Sir?" he asked.

"No, Admiral," Faraday said. "Instead, we're going to fix the problem. I'm afraid it's probably symptomatic of other problems we're going to find, and -- to be fair, Admiral Yeager -- I can actually understand why a lot of the R&D people think the rest of us are playing silly games that only get in the way of the people -- them -- doing serious work. From a lot of perspectives, they've got a point, really, when you come right down to it."

Yaeger was actually a bit surprised to hear Faraday admit that. Claudio Faraday was about as far removed from Rear Admiral Thomas Colombo as it was possible for a human being to be. He had effectively zero background on the research side. In fact, he was what Admiral Hemphill had taken to calling a "shooter," not a researcher, and Yaeger felt positive he would rather have been commanding a battle squadron than babysitting the Navy's "brain trust."

But that, she was beginning to suspect, might actually be the very reason he'd been chosen for his new assignment. It was more than possible Colombo had been recalled to BuWeaps not simply because his talents were needed there, but because certain recent events had convinced someone at the Admiralty house that HMSS Weyland needed the talents of someone like Claudio Faraday equally badly.

"I fully realize I've been aboard for less than one T-week," Faraday continued. "And I realize my credentials on the R&D side are substantially weaker even than Admiral Trammell's. But there's a reason we have an emergency evacuation plan. In fact, there's an even better reason for us to have one than for Hephaestus or Vulcan to have one. The same reason, in a lot of ways, that we back all of our data up down on the planetary surface every twelve hours. There is one tiny difference between our data backups and the evac plan, however." He smiled again, a bit less thinly than before. "It would be just a bit more difficult to reconstitute the researchers than their research if both of them got blown to bits."

The silence was much more intense this time. Four months ago, Yaeger might have been inclined to dismiss Faraday's concerns. But that had been before the Battle of Manticore.

"We all know the new system-defense pods have been deployed to protect Weyland," the vice admiral went on after a moment. "For that matter, we all know the Peeps got hammered so hard it's not really likely they're going to be poking their noses back into Manticoran space anytime soon. But nobody thought it was very likely they'd do it in the first place, either. So however much it may inconvenience our personnel, I'm afraid I'm going to have to insist we get this little procedural bump smoothed out. I'd appreciate it if you'd make your people aware that I'm not exactly satisfied with their performance in this little simulation. I assure you, I'll be making that point to them myself, as well."

He smiled again. Neither Yaeger nor Trammell would ever have mistaken the expression for a sign of pleasure.

"What you are not going to tell them, however, is that I have something just a little more drastic in mind for them. Simulations are all well and good, and I'm perfectly prepared to use them as training tools. After all, that's what they're intended for. But as I'm sure you're both aware, it's always been the Navy's policy to conduct live-fire exercises, as well as simulations. Which is what we're going to do, too."

Yaeger managed to keep her dismay from showing, although she was fairly certain Faraday knew exactly what she was feeling. Still, she couldn't help a sinking sensation in the pit of her stomach as she thought about the gaping holes the chaos of an actual physical evacuation of the station was going to tear in her R&D schedules.

"I fully realize," Faraday continued as if he'd been a Sphinxian treecat reading her mind, "that an actual evacuation will have significant repercussions on the station's operations. Because I am, this isn't something I'm approaching lightly. It's not something I want to do -- it's only something we have to do. And because we not only need to test our actual performance but convince some of your 'focused' people this is something to take seriously, not just something designed to interrupt their work schedules, we're not going to tell them it's coming. We'll go ahead and run the additional simulations. I'm sure they'll expect nothing less out of their new, pissed-off, pain-in-the-ass CO, and they'll bitch and moan about it with all the creativity of really smart people. I don't care about that, as long as they keep it to themselves and don't force me to take note of it. But, hopefully, when we hit them with the actual emergency order -- when it's not a simple simulation -- they'll at least have improved enough for us to get everyone off the station without someone getting killed because he forgot to secure his damned helmet."
*
Paul Howard (Alias Drak Bibliophile)
*
Sometimes The Dragon Wins! [Polite Dragon Smile]
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Re: STICKY: Mission of Honor Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Thu Apr 01, 2010 11:08 pm

DrakBibliophile
Admiral

Posts: 2189
Joined: Sun Sep 06, 2009 3:54 pm
Location: East Central Illinois

Mission Of Honor - Snippet 22


* * *

Captain Ansten FitzGerald tipped back in his chair as Commander Amal Nagchaudhuri stepped into the briefing room with an electronic tablet tucked under his arm.

"Have a seat," the captain invited, pointing at a chair across the table from his own, and Nagchaudhuri settled into it with a grateful sigh. FitzGerald smiled and shook his own head.

"Are you anywhere near a point where you can actually sit down for a couple of hours with a beer?" he asked, and Nagchaudhuri chuckled sourly.

It had never occurred to the tall, almost albino-pale commander that he might find himself the executive officer of one of the Royal Manticoran Navy's most powerful heavy cruisers. He was a communications specialist, and posts like that usually went to officers who'd come up through the tactical track, although that tradition had been rather eroded over the past couple of decades by the Navy's insatiable appetite for experienced personnel. On the other hand, very few XOs had inherited their positions under circumstances quite like his, which had quite a bit to do with his current weariness.

"By my calculations, it won't be more than another T-year before I can take a break long enough for that, Sir," he replied. "Ginger was one hell of an engineer, but we're still finding things that managed to get broken somehow." He shrugged. "Most of what we're finding now is little crap, of course. None of it's remotely vital. I imagine that's one reason Ginger hadn't already found it and dealt with it before they transferred her out. But I'm still annotating her survey for the yard dogs. And the fact that BuPers is pilfering so enthusiastically isn't helping one damned bit."

FitzGerald nodded in understanding and sympathy. He'd held Nagchaudhuri's position until Hexapuma's return from the Talbott Quadrant. He was intimately familiar with the problems the commander was experiencing and discovering, and the XO's frustration came as no surprise -- not least because they'd all anticipated getting the ship into the yard dogs' hands so quickly.

FitzGerald's eyes darkened at that thought. Of course they'd expected that! After all, none of them were psychic, so none of them had realized the Battle of Manticore was going to come roaring out of nowhere only five days after their return. Hexapuma's damages had kept her on the sidelines, a helpless observer, and as incredibly frustrating as that had been at the time, it was probably also the only reason Fitzgerald, Nagchaudhuri, and the cruiser's entire complement were still alive. That cataclysmic encounter had wreaked havoc on a scale no one had ever truly envisioned. It had also twisted the Navy's neat, methodical schedules into pretzels . . . and the horrendous personnel losses had quite a bit to do with how Nagchaudhuri had ended up confirmed as Hexapuma's executive officer, too.

"Well," he said, shaking off the somberness memories of the battle always produced, "I've got some good news for once. Rear Admiral Truman says she's finally got a space for us in R&R."

"She does?" Nagchaudhuri straightened, expression brightening. Rear Admiral Margaret Truman, a first cousin of the rather more famous Admiral Alice Truman, was the commanding officer of Her Majesty's Space Station Hephaestus, and HMSS Hephaestus happened to be home to the Repair and Refit command to which Hexapuma's repair had been assigned.

"She does indeed. Captain Fonzarelli will have docking instructions for us by tomorrow morning, and the tugs will be ready for us at oh-nine-hundred."

"That's going to piss Aikawa off," Nagchaudhuri observed with a grin, and FitzGerald laughed.

"I imagine he'll get over it eventually. Besides, he was due for a little leave."

Ensign Aikawa Kagiyama had been one of Hexapuma's midshipmen on her previous deployment. In fact, he was the only one still aboard her. Or, rather, assigned to her, since he wasn't onboard at the moment.

"I guess we can always ask Hephaestus to delay our repairs a little longer. Long enough for him to get back from Weyland for the big moment, I mean," Nagchaudhuri suggested.

"The hell we can!" Fitzgerald snorted. "Not that I don't appreciate the way he looked after me after Monica, or anything. I'm sure he'll be disappointed, but if we delay this any longer just so he can be here for it, his loyal crewmates would probably stuff him out an open air lock!"

"Yeah, but he's fairly popular. They might let them have a helmet, first," Nagchaudhuri replied with an even broader grin.

"And they might not, too." Fitzgerald shook his head. "No, we'll just let this be his little surprise when he gets back."

"I hope he's enjoying himself," Nagchaudhuri said more seriously. "He's a good kid. He works hard, and he really came through at Monica."

"They were all good kids," FitzGerald agreed. "And I'll admit, I worry about him a little. It's not natural for the XO to have to order an ensign to take leave. Especially not someone with his record from the Island!"

"He has been well behaved since we got back from Monica," Nagchaudhuri acknowledged. "You don't think he's sick, do you?"

"No, I think it's just losing all his accomplices." Fitzgerald shrugged. "With Helen off as the Skipper's new flag lieutenant, and with Paulo assigned to Weyland with Ginger, he's sort of at loose ends when it comes to getting into trouble. For which we can all be grateful."

"That depends. Are we going to get a fresh complement of snotties for him to provide with a suitably horrible example?"

"I doubt it." Fitzgerald shrugged again. "Given the fact that we're going to be sitting in a repair dock for the next several months, I imagine they'll be looking for something a bit more active for snotty cruises. Besides, even if we get a fresh batch, he's an ensign now. I think he'd actually feel constrained to set them a good example."

"Somehow I find it difficult to wrap my mind around the concept of Aikawa being a good example for anyone -- intentionally, I mean. At least without having Helen around to threaten him if he doesn't!"

"Oh, come now!" Fitzgerald waved a chiding finger at the XO. "You know perfectly well that Helen never threatened him. Well, not too often, anyway."

"Only because she didn't have to make it explicit," Nagchaudhuri countered. "One raised eyebrow, and he knew what was coming."
*
Paul Howard (Alias Drak Bibliophile)
*
Sometimes The Dragon Wins! [Polite Dragon Smile]
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Re: STICKY: Mission of Honor Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Sun Apr 04, 2010 11:12 pm

DrakBibliophile
Admiral

Posts: 2189
Joined: Sun Sep 06, 2009 3:54 pm
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Mission Of Honor - Snippet 23

Chapter Six

President Eloise Pritchart raked stray strands of platinum-colored hair impatiently from her forehead as she strode into the sub-basement command center. In contrast to her usual understated elegance, she wore a belted robe over her nightgown, and her face was bare of any cosmetics.

The head of her personal security team, Sheila Thiessen, followed close behind her. Unlike the President, Thiessen had been on duty when the alert was sounded. Well, not precisely on duty, since her official shift had ended five hours earlier, but she'd still been on-site, wading through her unending paperwork, and she was her well-groomed, fully clothed, always poised normal self.

Despite which, she thought, the hastily-dressed President still managed to make her look drab. In fact, the President always made everyone around her seem somehow smaller than life, especially at moments of crisis. It wasn't anything Pritchart tried to do; it was simply what genetics, experience, and her own inherent presence did for her. Even here, even now, awakened from what had passed for a sound sleep in the months since the twin hammer blows of Javier Giscard's death and the massive casualties the Republic of Haven had suffered in the Battle of Monica, despite the ghosts and sorrow which haunted those striking topaz eyes, that sense of unbreakable resolve and determination was like a cloak laid across her shoulders.

Or maybe that's just my imagination, Thiessen told herself. Maybe I just need for her to be unbreakable. Especially now.

Pritchart crossed quickly to the comfortable chair before her personal command and communication console. She nodded to the only two members of her cabinet who'd so far been able to join her -- Tony Nesbitt, the Secretary of Commerce, and Attorney General Denis LePic -- then settled into her own seat as it adjusted to her body's contours.

Nesbitt and LePic both looked tense, worried. They'd been working late -- the only reason they'd been able to make it to the command center this quickly -- and both had that aura of end-of-a-really-long-day fatigue, but that didn't explain their tight shoulders and facial muscles, the worry in their eyes. Nor were they alone in their tension. The command center's uniformed personnel and the scattering of civilian intelligence analysts and aides threaded through their ranks were visibly anxious as they concentrated on their duties. There was something in the air -- something just short of outright fear -- and Thiessen's bodyguard hackles tried to rise in response.

Not that the anxiety level about her came as any sort of surprise. The entire Republic of Haven had been waiting with gnawing apprehension for almost half a T-year for exactly this moment.

Pritchart didn't greet her cabinet colleagues by name, only gave them that quick nod and smiled at them, yet her mere presence seemed to evoke some subtle easing of their tension. Thiessen could actually see them relaxing, see that same relaxation reaching out to the people around them, as the President took her place without haste then settled back, shoulders squared, and turned those topaz eyes to the uniformed man looking down from the huge smart wall display at one end of the large, cool room.

"So, Thomas," she said, sounding impossibly composed. "What's this all about?"

Admiral Thomas Theisman, Secretary of War and Chief of Naval Operations for the Republic of Haven, looked back at her from his own command center under the rebuilt Octagon, a few kilometers away. Given the late hour, Thiessen suspected that Theisman had been in bed until a very short time ago himself. If that was the case, however, no one would have guessed it from his faultless appearance and impeccable uniform.

"Sorry to disturb you, Madam President," he said. "And, to be honest, I don't have any idea what it's all about."

Pritchart raised one eyebrow.

"I was under the impression we'd just issued a system-wide Red Alert," she said, her tone noticeably more astringent than the one in which she normally addressed Theisman. "I'm assuming, Admiral, that you had a reason for that?"

"Yes, Madam President, I did." Theisman's expression was peculiar, Thiessen thought. "Approximately" -- the Secretary of War glanced to one side -- "thirty-one minutes ago, a force of unidentified starships made their alpha translations ten light-minutes outside the system hyper limit. That puts them roughly twenty-two light-minutes from the planet. The gravitic arrays detected them when they reentered normal-space, and our original estimate, based on their hyper footprints, was that we were looking at forty-eight ships-of-the-wall and/or CLACs, escorted by a dozen or so battlecruisers, a half dozen CLACs, and fifteen or twenty destroyers. They appear to have brought along at least a dozen large freighters, as well -- most likely ammunition ships."

Thiessen felt the blood congeal in her veins. Those had to be Manty ships, and if they were, they had to be armed with the new missile systems which had broken the back of the Republic's attack on the Manticore Binary System. The missiles which gave the Royal Manticoran Navy such an advantage in long-range accuracy that they could engage even the Haven System's massive defenses with effective impunity. And which were undoubtedly loaded aboard those ammunition ships in enormous numbers.

Well, we've wondered where they were ever since the Battle of Manticore, she thought grimly. Now we know.

From the com display, Theisman looked levelly into Pritchart's eyes.

"Under the circumstances, there didn't seem much doubt about who they belonged to or why they were here," he said, "but it's taken us a while to confirm our tentative IDs at this range. And it turns out our initial assessments weren't quite correct."

"I beg your pardon?" Pritchart said when he paused.

"Oh, we were right in at least one respect, Madam President -- it is the Manties' Eighth Fleet, and Admiral Harrington is in command. But there's an additional ship, one we hadn't counted on. It's not a warship at all. In fact, it appears to be a private yacht, and it's squawking the transponder code of the GS Paul Tankersley."

"A yacht?" Pritchart repeated in the careful tone someone used when she wasn't entirely certain she wasn't talking to a lunatic.

"Yes, Ma'am. A yacht. A Grayson-registry yacht owned by Steadholder Harrington. According to the message she's transmitted to us from one Captain George Hardy, the Tankersley's skipper, Admiral Harrington is personally aboard her, not her fleet flagship. And, Madam President, Captain Hardy has requested permission for his ship to transport the Admiral to Nouveau Paris with a personal message to you from Queen Elizabeth."

Eloise Pritchart's eyes widened, and Thiessen sucked in a deep breath of astonishment. She wasn't alone in that reaction, either.

"Admiral Harrington is coming here, to Nouveau Paris. Is that what you're saying, Tom?" Pritchart asked after a moment.

"Admiral Harrington is coming to Nouveau Paris aboard an unarmed private yacht without first demanding any assurances of safety from us, Ma'am," Theisman replied. Then his lips twitched in what might have been a smile under other circumstances. "Although," he continued, "I have to say having the rest of Eighth Fleet parked out there is probably intended as a pretty pointed suggestion that it would be a good idea if we didn't let anything . . . untoward happen to her."

"No. No, I can see that," Pritchart said slowly, and now her eyes were narrow as she frowned in intense speculation. She sat that way for several moments, then looked at LePic and Nesbitt.

"Well," she said with a mirthless smile, "this is unexpected."

"'Unexpected'?" Nesbitt barked a laugh. "It's a hell of a lot more than that as far as I'm concerned, Madam President! If you'll pardon my language."

"I have to agree with Tony," LePic said when Pritchart quirked an eyebrow in his direction. "After the Battle of Manticore, after everything else that's happened . . . ."

His voice trailed off, and he shook his head, his expression bemused.

"Have we replied to Admiral Harrington's request yet, Tom?" Pritchart asked, returning her attention to Theisman.

"Not yet. We only received her message about five minutes ago."

"I see."

Pritchart sat for perhaps another ten seconds, her lips pursed, then inhaled deeply.

"Under the circumstances," she said then with a faint smile, "I'd really prefer not to be recording messages sitting here in my bathrobe. So, Tom, I think we'll just let you handle this stage of things, since you look so bright-eyed and spiffy. No doubt we'll need to get Leslie involved later, but for right now, let's leave it a matter between uniformed military personnel."
*
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   » Tue Apr 06, 2010 11:08 pm

DrakBibliophile
Admiral

Posts: 2189
Joined: Sun Sep 06, 2009 3:54 pm
Location: East Central Illinois

Mission Of Honor - Snippet 24


"Yes Ma'am. And what would you like me to tell her?"

"Inform her that the Republic of Haven is not only willing to allow her vessel to enter planetary orbit, but that I personally guarantee the safety of her ship, herself, and anyone aboard the -- Tankersley, was it? -- for the duration of her visit with us."

"Yes, Ma'am. And should I discuss those superdreadnoughts of hers?"

"Let's not be tacky, Admiral." The president's smile grew briefly broader. Then it vanished. "After all, from Admiral Chin's report there's not much we could do about them even if we wanted to, is there? Under the circumstances, if she's prepared to refrain from flourishing them under our noses, I think we ought to be courteous enough to let her do just that."

"Yes, Ma'am. Understood."

"Good. And while you're doing that, it's time I went and got into shape to present a properly presidential appearance. And I suppose" -- she smiled at Nesbitt and LePic -- "it might not hurt to drag the rest of the Cabinet out of bed, either. If we have to be up, they might as well have to be, too!"

* * *

Admiral Lady Dame Honor Alexander-Harrington kept her face calm and her eyes tranquil as she sat gazing out the viewport of the Havenite shuttle. Only those who knew her very well would have recognized her own anxiety in the slow, metronome-steady twitching of the very end of the tail of the cream and gray treecat draped across her lap.

Captain Spencer Hawke, of the Harrington Steadholder's Guard, Colonel Andrew LaFollet's handpicked successor to command her personal security team, was one of those few people. He knew exactly what that twitching tail indicated, and he found himself in profound agreement with Nimitz. If Hawke had been allowed to do this his way, the Steadholder wouldn't have come within three or four light-minutes of this planet. Failing that, her entire fleet would have been in orbit around it, and she would have been headed to its surface in an armored skinsuit aboard a Royal Manticoran Navy assault shuttle, accompanied not just by her three personal armsmen, but by a full company of battle armored Royal Manticoran Navy Marines.

Preferably as the Manticoran Alliance's military representative for the signing ceremony as she accepted the unconditional surrender of an abjectly defeated Havenite government amid the smoking ruins of the city of Nouveau Paris.

Unfortunately -- or perhaps fortunately -- he also knew the Steadholder better than to suggest any such modest modification of her own plans. The Steadholder wasn't one of those people who vented volcanic rage when she was displeased, but it would have taken a hardier soul than Hawke's to willingly confront the ice which could core those almond-shaped brown eyes and the calm, reasonable scalpel of that soprano voice as she dissected whatever minor faux pas had drawn one to her attention.

Nonsense! He told himself. I'd risk it in a minute if I thought it was really critical. He snorted. Yeah, sure I would! He shook his head. No wonder Colonel LaFollet was going gray.

He glanced at Corporal Joshua Atkins and Sergeant Clifford McGraw, the other members of the Steadholder's personal detachment. Oddly enough, neither of them looked particularly calm, either.

There are times, he reflected, when I actually find myself envying one of those armsmen with a cowardly, stay-at-home steadholder to look after. It's got to be easier on the adrenaline levels.

* * *

Honor needed no physical clues to recognize the tension of her armsmen. Their emotions flooded into her through her empathic sense, and even if they hadn't, she knew all three of them well enough to know what they had to be thinking at this moment. For that matter, she couldn't find it in her to be as irritated with them this time as she'd been upon occasion, either. The fact that what was happening was her own idea didn't make her feel any less nervous about it, herself.

Oh, stop that, she told herself, caressing Nimitz's ears with her flesh and blood right hand. Of course you're nervous! But unless you wanted to come in shooting after all, what choice did you have? And at least Pritchart seems to be saying all the right things -- or Thomas Theisman's saying them for her, anyway -- so far.

That was a good sign. It had to be a good sign. And so she sat still in the comfortable seat, pretending she was unaware of the mesmerized gaze the Havenite flight engineer had turned upon her as he came face to face with the woman even the Havenite newsies called "the Salamander," and hoped she'd been right about Pritchart and her administration.

* * *

Eloise Pritchart stood on the shuttle landing pad on the roof of what had once again become Péricard Tower following Thomas Theisman's restoration of the Republic.

The massive, hundred and fifty year-old tower had borne several other names during People's Republic of Haven's lifetime, including The People's Tower. Or, for that matter, the bitterly ironic one of "The Tower of Justice" . . . when it had housed the savagely repressive State Security which had supported the rule of Rob Pierre and Oscar Saint-Just. No one truly knew how many people had vanished forever into State Sec's basement interrogation rooms and holding cells. There'd been more than enough, however, and the grisly charges of torture and secret executions which the prosecutors had actually been able to prove had been sufficient to win a hundred and thirty-seven death sentences.

A hundred and thirty-seven death sentences Eloise Pritchart had personally signed, one by one, without a single regret.

Pierre himself had preferred other quarters and moved his personal living space to an entirely different location shortly after the Leveller Uprising. And, given the tower's past associations, a large part of Eloise Pritchart had found herself in rare agreement with the "Citizen Chairman." Yet in the end, and despite some fairly acute personal reservations -- not to mention anxiety over possible public misperceptions -- she'd decided to return the presidential residence to its traditional pre-Legislaturalist home on the upper floors of Péricard Tower.

Some of her advisers had urged against it, but she'd trusted her instincts more than their timidity. And, by and large, the citizens of the restored Republic had read her message correctly and remembered that Péricard Tower had been named for Michèle Péricard, the first President of the Republic of Haven. The woman whose personal vision and drive had led directly to the founding of the Republic. The woman whose guiding hand had written the constitution Eloise Pritchart, Thomas Theisman, and their allies had dedicated their lives to restoring.

The well worn thoughts ran through her brain, flowing beneath the surface with a soothing familiarity, as she watched the Navy shuttle slide in to a touchdown. It was escorted by three more shuttles -- assault shuttles, heavily laden with external ordnance -- which went into a watchful counter-grav hover overhead, and even more atmospheric sting ships orbited alertly, closing all air space within fifteen kilometers of the tower to any civilian traffic as the passenger shuttle settled towards the pad with the crisp, professional assurance only to be expected from Thomas Theisman's personal pilot. Lieutenant (JG) Andre Beaupré hadn't been selected as the chief of naval operations' full-time chauffeur at random, so he'd been the logical choice when Theisman decided he needed the very best pilot he could lay hands on to look after their unexpected visitor.

And so Thomas damned well should have, given the fact that almost everybody thinks we already tried to assassinate her aboard her own flagship! Pritchart told herself tartly. And even though we know we didn't do it, no one else does. Worse, there have to be enough lunatics in a city the size of Nouveau Paris for someone to make an unofficial effort to kill the woman who's systematically kicked our Navy's ass for as long as anyone can remember. No wonder Thomas opted for such overt security! God knows the last thing we could afford would be for something to happen to Harrington -- Alexander-Harrington, I mean. No one in the entire galaxy would ever believe it was really an accident.

Her mouth twitched sourly with the memory of another accident no one in the galaxy would ever believe had been genuine. The complications left by that particular mishap had a lot to do with why it was so vital to handle this visit with such exquisite care.

And maybe -- just maybe -- actually bring an end to all this butchery, after all, she thought almost prayerfully.
*
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Re: STICKY: Mission of Honor Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Thu Apr 08, 2010 11:08 pm

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Admiral

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Mission Of Honor - Snippet 25


The shuttle touched down in a smooth whine of power, and Pritchart suppressed an urge to scurry forward as the boarding ladder extended itself to the airlock hatch. Instead, she made herself stand very still, hands clasped behind her.

"You're not the only one feeling nervous, you know," a voice said very quietly in her right ear, and she glanced sideways at Thomas Theisman. The admiral's brown eyes gleamed with the reflected glitter of the shuttle's running lights, and his lips quirked in a brief smile.

"And what makes you think I'm feeling nervous?" she asked tartly, her voice equally quiet, almost lost in the cool, gusty darkness.

"The fact that I am, for one thing. And the fact that you've got your hands folded together behind you, for another." He snorted softly. "You only do that when you can't figure out what else to do with them, and that only happens when you're nervous as hell about something."

"Oh, thank you, Tom," she said witheringly. "Now you've found a fresh way to make me feel awkward and bumptious! Just what I needed at a moment like this!"

"Well, if being pissed off at me helps divert you from worrying, then I've fulfilled one of your uniformed minions' proper functions, haven't I?"

His teeth gleamed in another brief smile, and Pritchart suppressed a burning desire to kick him in the right kneecap. Instead, she contented herself with a mental note to take care of that later, then gave him a topaz glare that promised retribution had merely been deferred and turned back to the shuttle.

Theisman's diversion, she discovered, had come at precisely the right moment. Which, a corner of her mind reflected, had most certainly not been a simple coincidence. Maybe she'd rescind that broken kneecap after all. Their little side conversation had kept her distracted while the hatch opened and a very tall, broad shouldered woman in the uniform of a Manticoran admiral stepped through it. At a hundred and seventy-five centimeters, Pritchart was accustomed to being taller than the majority of the women she met, but Alexander-Harrington had to be a good seven or eight centimeters taller even than Sheila Thiessen, and Thiessen was five centimeters taller than the president she guarded.

The admiral paused for a moment, head raised as if she were scenting the breezy coolness of the early autumn night, and her right hand reached up to stroke the treecat riding her shoulder. Pritchart was no expert on treecats -- as far as she knew, there were no Havenite experts on the telempathic arboreals --but she'd read everything she could get her hands on about them. Even if she hadn't, she thought, she would have recognized the protectiveness in the way the 'cat's tail wrapped around the front of his person's throat.

And if she'd happened to miss Nimitz's attitude, no one could ever have missed the wary watchfulness of the trio of green-uniformed men following at Alexander-Harrington's heels. Pritchart had read about them, too, and she could feel Sheila Thiessen's disapproving tension at her back as her own bodyguard glared at their holstered pulsers.

Thiessen had pitched three kinds of fits when she found out President Pritchart proposed to allow armed retainers of an admiral in the service of a star nation with which the Republic of Haven happened to be at war into her presence. In fact, she'd flatly refused to allow it -- refused so adamantly Pritchart had more than half-feared she and the rest of her detachment would place their own head of state under protective arrest to prevent it. In the end, it had taken a direct order from the Attorney General and Kevin Usher, the Director of the Federal Investigation Agency, to overcome her resistance.

Pritchart understood Thiessen's reluctance. On the other hand, Alexander-Harrington had to be just as aware of how disastrous it would be for something to happen to Pritchart as Pritchart was of how disastrous it would be to allow something to happen to her.

What was it Thomas told me they used to call that back on Old Earth? 'Mutually assured destruction,' wasn't it? Well, however stupid it may've sounded -- hell, however stupid it may actually have been! -- at least it worked well enough for us to last until we managed to get off the planet. Besides, Harrington's got a pulser built into her left hand, for God's sake! Is Sheila planning to make her check her prosthesis at the door? Leave it in the umbrella stand?

She snorted softly, amused by her own thoughts, and Alexander-Harrington's head turned in her direction, almost as if the Manticoran had sensed that amusement from clear across the landing pad. For the first time, their eyes met directly in the floodlit night, and Pritchart inhaled deeply. She wondered if she would have had the courage to come all alone to the capital planet of a star nation whose fleet she'd shattered in combat barely six T-months in the past. Especially when she had very good reason to feel confident the star nation in question had done its level best to assassinate her a T-year before she'd added that particular log to the fire of its reasons to . . . dislike her. Pritchart liked to think she would have found the nerve, under the right circumstances, yet she knew she could never really know the answer to that question.

But whether she would have had the courage or not, Alexander-Harrington obviously did, and at a time when the Star Kingdom's military advantage over the Republic was so devastating there was absolutely no need for her to do anything of the sort. Pritchart's amusement faded into something very different, and she stepped forward, extending her hand, as Alexander-Harrington led her trio of bodyguards down the boarding stairs.

"This is an unexpected meeting, Admiral Alexander-Harrington."

"I'm sure it is, Madam President." Alexander-Harrington's accent was crisp, her soprano surprisingly sweet for a woman of her size and formidable reputation, and Pritchart had the distinct impression that the hand gripping hers was being very careful about the way it did so.

Of course it is, she thought. It wouldn't do for her to absentmindedly crush a few bones at a moment like this!

"I understand you have a message for me," the president continued out loud. "Given the dramatic fashion in which you've come to deliver it, I'm prepared to assume it's an important one."

"Dramatic, Madam President?"

Despite herself, Pritchart's eyebrows rose as she heard Alexander-Harrington's unmistakable amusement. It wasn't the most diplomatic possible reaction to the admiral's innocent tone, but under the circumstances, Pritchart couldn't reprimand herself for it too seriously. After all, the Manticorans were just as capable of calculating the local time of day here in Nouveau Paris as her own staffers would have been of calculating the local time in the City of Landing.

"Let's just say, then, Admiral, that your timing's gotten my attention," she said dryly after a moment. "As, I feel certain, it was supposed to."

"To be honest, I suppose it was, Madam President." There might actually have been a hint of apology in Alexander-Harrington's voice, although Pritchart wasn't prepared to bet anything particularly valuable on that possibility. "And you're right, of course. It is important."

"Well, in that case, Admiral, why don't you -- and your armsmen, of course -- accompany me to my office so you can tell me just what it is."
*
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Re: STICKY: Mission of Honor Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Sun Apr 11, 2010 11:09 pm

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Mission Of Honor - Snippet 26

Chapter Seven

"So, would you prefer we address you as 'Admiral Alexander-Harrington,' 'Admiral Harrington,' 'Duchess Harrington,' or 'Steadholder Harrington'?" Pritchart asked with a slight smile as she, Honor, Nimitz, and a passel of bodyguards -- most of whom seemed to be watching each other with unbounded distrust -- rode the lift car from the landing pad down towards the president's official office. There'd been too little room, even in a car that size, for any of the other Havenite officials to accompany them, since neither Honor's armsmen nor Sheila Thiessen's Presidential Security agents had been remotely willing to give up their places to mere cabinet secretaries.

"It does get a bit complicated at times to be so many different people at once," Honor acknowledged Pritchart's question with an answering smile which was a bit more crooked than the president's. And not just because of the artificial nerves at the corner of her mouth. "Which would you be most comfortable with, Madam President?"

"Well, I have to admit we in the Republic have developed a certain aversion to aristocracies, whether they're acknowledged, like the one in your own Star Kingdom, or simply de facto, like the Legislaturalists here at home. So there'd be at least some . . . mixed emotions, let's say, in using one of your titles of nobility. At the same time, however, we're well aware of your record, for a lot of reasons."

For a moment, Pritchart's topaz-colored eyes -- which, Honor had discovered, were much more spectacular and expressive in person than they'd appeared in any of the imagery she'd seen -- darkened and her mouth tightened. Honor tasted the bleak stab of grief and regret behind that darkness, and her own mouth tightened ever so slightly. When she'd discussed the Republic's leadership with Lester Tourville, he'd confirmed that Eighth Fleet had killed Javier Giscard, Pritchart's longtime lover, at the Battle of Lovat.

That, in effect, Honor Alexander-Harrington had killed him.

Her eyes met the president's, and she didn't need her empathic sense to realize both of them saw the knowledge in the other's gaze. Yet there were other things wrapped up in that knowledge, as well. Yes, she'd killed Javier Giscard, and she regretted that, but he'd been only one of thousands of Havenites who'd died in combat against Honor or ships under her command over the past two decades, and there'd been nothing personal in his death. That was a distinction both she and Pritchart understood, because both of them -- unlike the vast majority of Honor's fellow naval officers -- had taken lives with their own hands. Had killed enemies at close range, when they'd been able to see those enemies eyes and when it most definitely was personal. Both of them understood that difference, and the silence hovering between them carried that mutual awareness with it, as well as the undertow of pain and loss no understanding could ever dispel.

Then Pritchart cleared her throat.

"As I say, we're aware of your record. Given the fact that you come from good yeoman stock and earned all of those decadent titles the hard way, we're prepared to use them as a gesture of respect."

"I see."

Honor gazed at the platinum-haired woman. Pritchart was an even more impressive presence face-to-face than she'd anticipated, even after Michelle Henke's reports of her own conversations with the president. The woman carried herself with the assurance of someone who knew exactly who she was, and her emotions -- what the treecats called her "mind glow" -- were those of someone who'd learned that lesson the hard way, paid an enormous price for what her beliefs demanded. Yet despite the humor in her voice, it was clear she truly did cherish some apprehension about her question, and Honor wondered why.

She used Mike's title as Countess Gold Peak . . . but only after she'd decided to send Mike home as her envoy. Did she do that as a courtesy, or to specifically emphasize Mike's proximity to the throne? An emphasis she wanted enough to use a title she personally despised?

Or is the problem someone else in her Cabinet whose reaction she's concerned about? Or could it be she's already looking forward to the press releases? To how they're going to address me for public consumption?

"Under the circumstances," Honor said after a moment, "if you'd be more comfortable with plain old 'Admiral Alexander-Harrington,' I'm sure I could put up with that."

"Thank you." Pritchart gave her another smile, this one somewhat broader. "To be perfectly honest, I suspect some of my more aggressively egalitarian Cabinet members might be genuinely uncomfortable using one of your other titles."

She's fishing with that one, Honor decided. Most people wouldn't have suspected anything of the sort, given Pritchart's obvious assurance, but Honor had certain unfair advantages. She wants an indication of whether I want to speak to her in private or whether whatever Beth sent me to say is intended for her entire Cabinet.

"If it would make them feel uncomfortable, then of course we can dispense with it," she assured the president, and suppressed an urge to chuckle as she tasted Pritchart's carefully concealed spike of frustration when her probe was effortlessly -- and apparently unknowingly -- deflected.

"That's very gracious -- and understanding -- of you," the Havenite head of state said out loud as the lift slid to a halt and the doors opened. She waved one hand in graceful invitation, and she and Honor started down a tastefully furnished hallway, trailed by two satellite-like clumps of bodyguards. Honor could feel the president turning something over in her mind as they walked. Pritchart didn't seem the sort to dither over decisions, and before they'd gone more than a few meters, she glanced at the tall, black-haired woman who was obviously the senior member of her own security team.

"Sheila, please inform the Secretary of State and the other members of the Cabinet that I believe it will be best if Admiral Alexander-Harrington and I take the opportunity for a little private conversation before we invite anyone else in." Her nostrils flared, and Honor tasted the amusement threaded through her undeniable anxiety and the fragile undertone of hope. "Given the Admiral's dramatic midnight arrival, I'm sure whatever she has to say will be important enough for all of us to discuss eventually, but tell them I want to get my own toes wet first."

"Of course, Madam President," the bodyguard said, and began speaking very quietly into her personal com.

"I trust that arrangement will be satisfactory to you, Admiral?" Pritchart continued, glancing up at Honor.

"Certainly," Honor replied with imperturbable courtesy, but the twinkle of amusement in her own eyes obviously gave her away, and the president snorted again -- more loudly -- and shook her head.

Whatever she'd been about to say (assuming she'd intended to say anything) stayed unspoken, however, as they reached the end of the hall and a powered door slid open. Pritchart gave another of those graceful waves, and Honor stepped obediently through the door first.

The office was smaller than she'd anticipated. Despite its obviously expensive and luxurious furnishings, despite the old-fashioned paintings on the walls and the freestanding sculpture in one corner, it had an undeniably intimate air. And it was obviously a working office, not just someplace to receive and impress foreign envoys, as the well-used workstation at the antique wooden desk made evident.

Given its limited size, it would have been uncomfortably crowded if Pritchart had invited her entire cabinet in. In fact, Honor doubted she could have squeezed that many people into the available space, although the president's decision against inviting even her secretary of state had come as something of a surprise.

"Please, have a seat, Admiral," Pritchart invited, indicating the comfortable armchairs arranged around a largish coffee-table before a huge crystoplast window -- one entire wall of the office, actually -- that gave a magnificent view of downtown Nouveau Paris.
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Re: STICKY: Mission of Honor Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Tue Apr 13, 2010 11:07 pm

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Admiral

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Mission Of Honor - Snippet 27


Honor accepted the invitation, choosing a chair which let her look out at that dramatic vista. She settled into it, lifting Nimitz down from her shoulder to her lap, and despite the tension of the moment and the millions of deaths which had brought her here, she felt an ungrudging admiration for what the people of this planet had accomplished. She knew all about the crumbling infrastructure and ramshackle lack of maintenance this city had suffered under the Legislaturalists. And she knew about the riots which had erupted in its canyon-like streets following the Pierre coup. She knew about the airstrikes Esther McQueen -- "Admiral Cluster Bomb" -- had called in to suppress the Levelers, and about the hidden nuclear warhead Oscar Saint-Just had detonated under the old Octagon to defeat McQueen's own coup attempt. This city had seen literally millions of its citizens die over the last two T-decades -- suffered more civilian fatalities than the number of military personnel who'd died aboard all of the Havenite ships destroyed in the Battle of Manticore combined -- yet it had survived. Not simply survived, but risen with restored, phoenix-like beauty from the debris of neglect and the wreckage of combat.

Now, as she gazed out at the gleaming fireflies of air cars zipping busily past even at this hour -- at those stupendous towers, at the lit windows, the fairy-dusting of air traffic warning lights -- she saw the resurgence of the entire Republic of Haven. Recognized the stupendous changes that resurgence had made in virtually every aspect of the lives of the men, women, and children of the Republic. And much of that resurgence, that rebirth of hope and pride and purpose, was the work of the platinum-haired woman settling into a facing armchair while their bodyguards, in turn, settled into wary watchfulness around them.

Yes, a lot of it was her work, Honor reminded herself, one hand stroking Nimitz's fluffy pelt while the reassuring buzz of his almost subsonic purr vibrated into her. But she's also the one who declared war this time around. The one who launched Thunderbolt as a "sneak attack." And the one who sent Tourville and Chin off to attack the home system. Admire her all you want, Honor, but never forget this is a dangerous, dangerous woman. And don't let your own hopes lead you into any overly optimistic assumptions about her or what she truly wants, either.

"May I offer you refreshment, Admiral?"

"No, thank you, Madam President. I'm fine."

"If you're certain," Pritchart said with a slight twinkle. Honor arched one eyebrow, and the president chuckled. "We've amassed rather a complete dossier on you, Admiral. The Meyerdahl first wave, I believe?"

"Fair enough," Honor acknowledged the reference to her genetically enhanced musculature and the demands of the metabolism which supported it. "And I genuinely appreciate the offer, but my steward fed me before he let me off the ship."

"Ah! That would be the formidable Mr. MacGuiness?"

"I see Officer Cachat and Director Usher -- oh, I'm sorry, that would be Director Trajan, wouldn't it? -- really have compiled a thorough file on me, Madam President," Honor observed politely.

"Touché," Pritchart said, leaning back in her chair. But then her brief moment of amusement faded, and her face grew serious.

"If you won't allow me to offer you refreshments, however, Admiral, would you care to tell me precisely what it is the Queen of Manticore sent you to accomplish?"

"Of course, Madam President."

Honor settled back in her own chair, her flesh and blood hand still moving, ever so gently, on Nimitz's silken coat, and her own expression mirrored Pritchart's seriousness.

"My Queen has sent me as her personal envoy," she said. "I have a formal, recorded message for you from her, as well, but essentially it's simply to inform you that I'm authorized to speak for her as her messenger and her plenipotentiary."

Pritchart never twitched a muscle, but Honor tasted the sudden flare of combined hope and consternation which exploded through the president as she reacted to that last word. Obviously, even now, Pritchart hadn't anticipated that Honor was not simply Elizabeth III's envoy and messenger but her direct, personal representative, empowered to actually negotiate with the Republic of Haven.

The possibility of negotiations explained the president's hope, Honor realized. Just as the disastrous military situation her star nation faced and the possibility that Elizabeth's idea of "negotiating" might consist of a demand for unconditional surrender explained the consternation.

"Her Majesty -- and I -- fully realize there are enormous areas of disagreement and distrust between the Star Empire and the Republic," Honor continued in that same, measured tone. "I don't propose to get into them tonight. Frankly, I don't see any way we'd be remotely likely to settle of those disputes without long, difficult conversations. Despite that, I believe most of our prewar differences could probably be disposed of by compromises between reasonable people, assuming the issue of our disputed diplomatic correspondence can be resolved.

"As I say, I have no intention or desire to stray into that territory this evening, however. Instead, I want to address something that will very probably pose much more severe difficulties for any serious talks between our two star nations. And that, Madam President, is the number of people who have died since the Republic of Haven resumed hostilities without warning or notification."

She paused, watching Pritchart's expression and tasting the president's emotions. The Havenite hadn't much cared for her last sentence, but that was all right with Honor. Honor Alexander-Harrington had never seen herself as a diplomat, never imagined she might end up chosen for such a mission, yet there was no point trying to dance around this particular issue. And she'd offered Pritchart at least an olive leaf, if not a branch, with the phrase "resumed hostilities."

As Pritchart had pointed out to her Congress when she requested a formal declaration of war, no formal peace had ever been concluded between the then-Star Kingdom of Manticore and the Republic of Haven. And while Honor wasn't prepared to say so, she knew as well as Pritchart that the lack of a peace treaty had been far more the fault of the High Ridge Government than of the Pritchart Administration. She wasn't prepared to agree that High Ridge's cynical political maneuvering and sheer stupidity justified Pritchart's decision, but it had certainly contributed to it. And despite the surprise nature of Thomas Theisman's Operation Thunderbolt, it had been launched against a target with which the Republic was still legally at war.

Just as long as she doesn't decide we're willing to let her off the hook for actually pulling the trigger, Honor reflected coldly. We'll meet her part way, acknowledge there were serious mistakes -- blunders -- from our side, as well, and that we were still technically at war. But she's going to have to acknowledge the Republic's "war guilt," and not just for this war, if this is going to go anywhere, and she'd better understand that from the beginning.

"Her Majesty fully realizes the Republic's total casualties have been much higher than the Star Empire's since fighting resumed," she continued after a handful of seconds. "At the same time, the Republic's total population is also much larger than the Star Empire's, which means our fatalities, as a percentage of our population, have been many times as great as yours. And even laying aside the purely human cost, the economic and property damages have been staggering for both sides, while the tonnage of warships which have been destroyed may well equal that of every other declared war in human history.

"This struggle between our star nations began eighteen T-years ago -- twenty-two T-years, if you count from the People's Republic's attack on the Basilisk Terminus of the Wormhole Junction. And despite the position in which we find ourselves today, even the most rabid Havenite patriot must be aware by now that, despite all of 'Public Information's' propaganda to the contrary, the original conflict between us began as a direct consequence of the People's Republic's aggression, not the Star Empire's.
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Re: STICKY: Mission of Honor Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Thu Apr 15, 2010 11:06 pm

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Mission Of Honor - Snippet 28


"But because we saw that aggression coming, our military buildup to resist it began forty T-years before even the attack on Basilisk, so for all intents and purposes, our nations have been at war -- or preparing for war -- for over sixty T-years. Which means we've been actively fighting one another -- or preparing to fight one another -- since I was roughly four T-years old. In a very real sense, my Star Empire's been at war, hot or cold, against Havenite aggression, in one form or another, for my entire life, Madame President, and I'm scarcely alone in having that 'life experience' or the attitudes that come with it. After that long, after that much mutual hostility and active bloodletting, either side can easily find any number of justifications for distrusting or hating the other.

"But there are two significant differences between this point in the struggle between Manticore and Haven and almost any other point, Madam President. The first of those differences is that we're no longer dealing with the People's Republic. Your new government has claimed your primary purpose is the complete restoration of the old Republic of Haven, and I accept that claim's validity. But you've also chosen, unfortunately -- for whatever combination of reasons -- to resume the war between Haven and Manticore, which leads many -- indeed, most -- Manticorans to doubt there's any true difference between you and the Legislaturalists or the Committee of Public Safety.

"I hope and believe they're wrong. That this Havenite regime does care how many of its citizens are killed fighting its wars. That it does want to safeguard the enormous progress it's made recovering from generations of misrule and domestic political brutality. And that it does feel some sense of responsibility to see as few as possible of its people, military or civilian, killed rather than simply feeding them into the furnace of political ambition and spinal-reflex aggression.

"Which brings us to the second significant difference. To be blunt, and as I have no doubt you and Admiral Theisman realize just as well as Queen Elizabeth does, the Star Empire's present military advantage is even more overwhelming than it was at the time of the Admiral's coup against Saint-Just. We can, if we choose to do so, drive this war through to a decisive, unambiguous military victory. We can destroy your fleets from beyond any range at which they can effectively counterattack. We can destroy the infrastructure of your star systems, one by one, and for all of the undoubted courage and determination of your naval personnel, they can't stop us. They can only die trying -- which I, for one, have no doubt they would do with the utmost gallantry."

She looked directly into Eloise Pritchart's tawny eyes, watching their expressionless depths even as she tasted the combination of fear, frustration, and desperation concealed behind them.

"There are those in the Star Empire who would prefer, in no small part because of that history I just mentioned, to do exactly that," she said flatly. "And I'd be lying to you if I didn't admit Her Majesty is strongly inclined in that direction herself. If, as I assume you have, you've had access to Internal Security's and State Security's secret files, I'm sure you understand why Queen Elizabeth personally hates Haven and distrusts all Havenites with every fiber of her being. I suspect just about anyone would feel that way about a star nation which murdered her father, murdered her uncle, her cousin, and her prime minister, and attempted to murder her."

Pritchart said nothing, only nodded slightly in acknowledgment of Honor's point, but Honor tasted a confusing whirlpool of emotion within the president. Obviously, Pritchart had learned about the assassinations -- including King Roger's -- before Honor told her, and, equally obviously, she wasn't surprised someone with Elizabeth's fiery disposition would find it impossible to forget such offenses. Yet there was a strand of personal regret, as well. An understanding that someone as wounded as Elizabeth had every right to her fury, and a sense of sorrow that so much pain had been inflicted.

"Immediately following the Battle of Manticore," Honor resumed, "our own losses were severe enough to preclude our launching any fresh offensives. I'm sure your own analysts reached that conclusion, as well. Now, however, our new construction and our repair of damaged units have reached a point at which we can detach sufficient vessels to launch decisive attacks on your star systems without exposing our own system to attack. And, to be brutally frank, the situation in the Talbott Quadrant is nowhere near as close to resolved as we'd believed it was."

She paused again, tasting Pritchart's reaction to that revelation. The Havenite president would have been more than human if she hadn't experienced a surge of hope that Manticore's possible preoccupation elsewhere would work in Haven's favor. Yet there was also an even sharper strand of wariness, and Honor suppressed a desire to smile sardonically. She and her political advisers had discussed whether or not she should raise that particular point with Pritchart. Now, tasting the other woman's mind glow, she knew she'd been right; Pritchart was too smart not to see the possible downside for Haven, as well.

Still, I might as well make certain we're both on the same page.

"We continue to hope for a diplomatic resolution in and around Talbott," she said, "but I won't pretend we're confident of achieving one. Failure to do so will obviously have potentially serious repercussions for the Star Empire, of course. I'm sure you and your advisers are as well aware of that as anyone in Manticore. But you need to be aware of this, as well."

She held Pritchart's gaze with her own.

"The threat of a direct conflict with the Solarian League is one we simply cannot ignore. Obviously, it's also one of the reasons we're seeking to compose our disagreements with the Republic. Any star nation would be insane to want to fight the Solarian League under any circumstances, but only one which was stupid, as well as insane, would want to fight the League and anyone else simultaneously. At the same time, I'm sure your own analysts have come to some of the same conclusions we have where the Solarians' war-fighting technology is concerned. In case they haven't, I can tell you that what's happened so far has confirmed to us that the SLN is considerably inferior technologically at this time to either the Star Empire or the Republic. Obviously, something the size of the Solarian League has plenty of potential to overcome tech disadvantages, but our best estimate is that even if they were ready to begin putting new weapons systems into production tomorrow, we'd still be looking at a period of at least three to five years of crushing superiority over anything they could throw at us.

"The reason I'm telling you this is that you need to understand that while we don't want to fight the League, we're a long way from regarding a war against the Sollies as tantamount to a sentence of death. But we're not prepared to fight the Solarians at the same time someone whose technology is as close to equal to ours as yours is comes at us from behind. So as we see it, we have two options where the Republic is concerned.

"One, and in many ways the less risky of them from our perspective, would be to use that technological superiority I spoke about a few minutes ago to destroy your infrastructure in order to compel your unconditional surrender. In fact, one month ago, I was instructed to do just that, beginning with this very star system."

It was very, very quiet in Eloise Pritchart's office. The emotions of the president's bodyguards were a background of taut anxiety and anger restrained by discipline, yet Honor scarcely noticed that. Her attention -- and Nimitz's -- were focused unwaveringly upon Pritchart.
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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: Mission of Honor Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Sun Apr 18, 2010 11:10 pm

DrakBibliophile
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Mission Of Honor - Snippet 29


"But those instructions were modified, Madam President," she said softly. "Not rescinded, but . . . modified. Her Majesty's been convinced to at least consider the possibility that the Republic of Haven truly isn't the People's Republic any longer. That it was not, in fact, responsible for the assassination of Admiral Webster on Old Earth, or for the attempted assassination of Queen Berry on Torch. To be honest, she remains far from convinced of either of those possibilities, but at least she recognizes them as possibilities. And even if it turns out the Republic was responsible, she's prepared to acknowledge that killing still more millions of your citizens and military personnel, destroying still more trillions of dollars worth of orbital infrastructure, may be a disproportionate response to the Republic's guilt.

"In short, Madam President, the Queen is tired of killing people. So she's authorized me to deliver this message to you: the Star Empire of Manticore is prepared to negotiate a mutually acceptable end to the state of war between it and the Republic of Haven."

The president didn't even twitch a muscle. Her self control was enormous, Honor thought. Which it had no doubt had to be for her and Javier Giscard to survive under the eternally suspicious, paranoid eye of a megalomaniac like Oscar Saint-Just for so many years. She might have been carved from stone, yet her sudden burst of incredulous joy, leashed by discipline and wariness, was like a silent explosion to Honor's empathic sense. However eager she might be for an end to the fighting, this woman was no fool. She knew how difficult "negotiations" might prove, and she was as aware as Honor herself of how many bloody years of hostility, anger, and hatred lay between the Star Empire and her own star nation.

"No one in Manticore expects that to be an easy task, even assuming that, in fact, the Republic wasn't responsible for the assassinations which led Her Majesty to reject the summit you had proposed. Nonetheless, Her Majesty is prepared to make a best-effort, good faith attempt to do just that, and I've been authorized to begin that negotiating process for her and for the Star Empire.

"At the same time, however, Her Majesty has instructed me to tell you she is not prepared to stretch these negotiations out indefinitely. Given what I just told you about the situation in Talbott, I'm sure you understand why, and I fully realize that you here in Nouveau Paris feel -- with what I recognize as good reason -- that it wasn't the Republic of Haven which failed to negotiate in good faith following the overthrow of the Saint-Just regime. Her Majesty was opposed to the stance of the High Ridge Government at the time, but the peculiarities of our constitutional system prevented her from simply removing him and replacing him with someone more responsive to the duties and responsibilities of his office. And, frankly, no one in Manticore had any reason to believe his intransigence, arrogance, and ambition would contribute to an active resumption of the war between Haven and the Star Empire. She, like virtually all Manticorans, regarded the situation primarily as a domestic political struggle -- one which might have diplomatic implications, but certainly not as one likely to spin out of control into an active resumption of the war. Under those circumstances, she was unprepared to provoke a constitutional crisis to remove him rather than waiting until that same ambition and arrogance led to his inevitable eventual fall from office. I have no doubt that, as President, you've experienced similar difficulties of your own."

Despite all her own self-discipline and focus, Honor nearly blinked at the sudden white-hot explosion of mingled fury, frustration, and something which tasted remarkably like . . . guilt? . . . that roared up inside Eloise Pritchart with her final sentence. It was, in some ways, an even stronger emotional spike than the president had shown when she realized Elizabeth was willing to negotiate after all, and it puzzled Honor almost as much as it surprised her. Most of all, because it didn't seem to be directed at Manticore or High Ridge. It seemed to be aimed somewhere else entirely, and a corner of Honor's mind whirred with speculation as it considered the hours of political briefings which had preceded her departure for the Haven System . . . and occupied much of the voyage, for that matter.

But she couldn't allow herself to be distracted, and so she continued, her voice as level as before.

"Her Majesty deeply regrets her inability to call High Ridge to heel, and she's prepared to acknowledge the Star Empire's fault in that respect. Nonetheless, she and the current Grantville Government are firmly resolved to move forward with a prompt resolution of this conflict. If it can be resolved over the negotiating table, the Star Empire of Manticore is prepared to be as reasonable as circumstances permit in order to achieve that end. As an indication of that, I've been instructed to tell you that the only two points which the Star Empire will insist must be publicly and acceptably addressed in any peace settlement are the question of precisely who falsified the diplomatic correspondence between our two star nations and why, and a public acknowledgment of who actually resumed hostilities. The question of reparations must also be placed on the table, although the final resolution of that question may be open to a later round of negotiations. It is not, however, the Star Empire's intention to insist upon cripplingly punitive terms, and Her Majesty hopes it will prove possible to completely regularize relations -- commercial, scientific, and educational, as well as diplomatic -- between our star nations as part of the same negotiating process. Manticore desires not simply an end to the killing, Madam President, but a beginning to a peaceful, mutually advantageous relationship with Haven based upon mutual respect, mutual interests, and -- ultimately, at least -- mutual friendship.

"If, however, it proves impossible to negotiate an end to hostilities in what Her Majesty considers a reasonable period of time, the offer to negotiate will be withdrawn."

Honor met Pritchart's gaze squarely, and her voice was unflinching.

"No one in the galaxy would regret that outcome more than I would, Madam President. It's my duty, however, to inform you that if it happens, the Star Empire will resume active operations. And if that happens, the Royal Manticoran Navy will destroy your star nation's Navy and its orbital industry, one star system at a time, until your administration, or its successor, unconditionally surrenders.

"Speaking for myself, as an individual, and not for my Star Empire or my Queen, I implore you to accept Her Majesty's proposal. I've killed too many of your people over the last twenty T-years, and your people have killed too many of mine."

She felt Javier Giscard's death between them, just as she felt Alistair McKeon's and Raoul Courvoissier's and Jamie Candless' and so many others, and she finished very, very softly.

"Don't make me kill any more, Madam President. Please."
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Paul Howard (Alias Drak Bibliophile)
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Sometimes The Dragon Wins! [Polite Dragon Smile]
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