A Rising Thunder – Snippet 23


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


“That’s exactly what we’re proposing, Sir.”