Mission Of Honor – Snippet 16

Chapter Four

“Have you got a copy of that memo from Admiral Cheng?” Captain Daud ibn Mamoun al-Fanudahi asked, poking his head into Captain Irene Teague’s office.

“Which memo?” Teague rolled her eyes in an expression she wouldn’t have let any other Battle Fleet officer see. In fact, she wouldn’t have let al-Fanudahi see it as recently as a month or so ago. Displaying contempt — or, at the very least, disrespect — for a flag officer was always risky, but even more so when the officer doing the displaying was from Frontier Fleet and the object of the display was from Battle Fleet. And especially when the flag officer in question was the Frontier Fleet officer in question’s CO.

Unfortunately, Irene Teague had concluded that al-Fanudahi had been right all along in his belief the “preposterous reports” of the Royal Manticoran Navy’s “super weapons” weren’t quite so preposterous after all. A point which, in her opinion, had been abundantly proved by what had happened to Josef Byng at New Tuscany. And a point which apparently continued to elude Cheng Hai-shwun, the commanding officer of the Office of Operational Analysis, to which she and al-Fanudahi happened to be assigned.

“The one about that briefing next week,” al-Fanudahi said. “The one for Kingsford and Thimár.”


Teague frowned, trying to remember which of her voluminous correspondence folders she’d stuffed that particular memo into. Half the crap she filed hadn’t even been opened, much less read. No one could possibly keep track of all of the memos, letters, conference reports, requests, and just plain garbage floating around the Navy Building and its annexes. Not that the originators of all that verbiage felt any compulsion to acknowledge that point. The real reason for most of it was simply to cover their own posteriors, after all, and the excuse that there simply weren’t enough hours in the day to read all of it cut no ice when they produced their file copy and waved it under one’s nose.

She tapped a command, checking an index. Then shrugged, tapped another, and snorted.

“Yeah. Here it is.” She looked up. “You need a copy?”

“Bang one over to my terminal,” al-Fanudahi replied with a slightly sheepish grin. “I don’t have a clue where I filed my copy. But what I really needed was to see if Polydorou or one of his reps is supposed to be there.”

“Just a sec.” Teague skimmed the memo, then shrugged. “No mention of it, if they are.”

“I didn’t remember one.” Al-Fanudahi grimaced. “Not exactly a good sign, wouldn’t you say?”

“Probably not,” Teague agreed, after a moment. “On the other hand, maybe it is a good thing. At least this way if they listen to you at all, he’ll have less warning to start covering his arse before someone starts asking him some pointed questions.”

“And just how likely do you really think that is?”

“Not very,” she admitted.

If Cheng had so far failed to grasp the nature of the sausage machine into which the SLN was about to poke its fingers, Admiral Martinos Polydorou, the commanding officer of Systems Development was in active denial. The SysDev CO had been one of the masterminds behind the “Fleet 2000” initiative, and he was even more convinced of the inevitability of Solarian technological superiority than the majority of his fellow officers.

In theory, it was SysDev’s responsibility to continually push the parameters, to search constantly for improved technologies and applications. Of course, in theory, it was also OpAn’s responsibility to analyze and interpret operational data which might identify potential threats. Given that al-Fanudahi’s career had been stalled for decades mostly because he’d tried to do exactly that, it probably wasn’t surprising Polydorou’s subordinates were unlikely to disagree with him. After all, Teague was one of the very few OpAn analysts who’d come to share al-Fanudahi’s concerns . . . and he’d specifically instructed her to keep her mouth shut about that minor fact.

“There might be a better chance of getting some of those questions asked if you’d let me sign off on your report, Daud,” she pointed out now.

“Not enough better to risk burning your credibility right alongside mine.” He shook his head. “No. It’s not time for you to come out into the open yet, Irene.”

“But, Daud –”

“No,” he interrupted her with another headshake. “There’s not really anything new in Sigbee’s dispatches. Aside from the confirmation their missiles have a range from rest of at least twenty-nine million kilometers, at any rate, and that’d already been confirmed at Monica, if anyone’d been interested in looking at the reports.” He shrugged. “Someone’s got to keep telling them about it, but they’re not going to believe it, no matter what we say, until one of our units gets hammered in a way that’s impossible even for someone like Cheng or Polydorou to deny. Everybody’s got too much of the ‘not invented here’ syndrome. And they don’t want to hear from anyone who disagrees with them.”

“But it’s only a matter of time before they find out you’ve been right all along,” she argued.

“Maybe. And when that happens, do you think they’re going to like having been proved wrong? What usually happens to someone like me –someone who’s insisted on telling them the sky is falling — is that if it turns out he was right, his superiors are even more strongly motivated to punish him. The last thing they want is to ask the advice of someone who’s told them they were idiots after the universe demonstrates they really were idiots. That’s why it’s important you stay clear of this. When the crap finally hits the fan, you’ll be the one who had access to all of my notes and my reports, who’s in the best position to be their ‘expert witness’ on that basis, but who hasn’t been pissing them off for as long as they can remember.”

“It’s not right,” she protested quietly.

“So?” Teague had seen lemons less tart than al-Fanudahi’s smile. “You were under the impression someone ever guaranteed life was fair?”

“No, but . . . .”

Her voice trailed off, and she gave her head an unwilling little toss of understanding. Not agreement, really, but of acceptance.

“Well, now that that’s settled,” al-Fanudahi said more briskly, “I was wondering if you’d had any more thoughts on that question of mine about the difference between their missile pods and tube-launched missiles?”

“About the additional drive system, you mean?”

“Yeah. Or even about the additional drive systems, plural.”

“Daud, I’m on your side here, remember, and I’m willing to grant you that they might be able to squeeze one more drive into a missile body they could shoehorn into a pod, but even I don’t see how they could’ve put in three of the damned things!”

“Don’t forget our esteemed colleagues are still arguing they couldn’t fit in even two of them,” al-Fanudahi retorted, eye a-gleam with combined mischief, provocation, and genuine concern. “If they’re wrong about that, then why couldn’t you be wrong about drive system number three?”

“Because,” she replied with awful patience, “there are physical limits not even Manties can get around. Besides –”

Daud ibn Mamoun al-Fanudahi leaned his shoulders against the wall of her cubicle and smiled as he prepared to stretch the parameters of her mind once again.

* * *

Aldona Anisimovna walked briskly down the sumptuously decorated hallway. It wasn’t the first time she’d made this walk, but this time she was unaccompanied by the agitated butterflies which had polkaed around her midsection before. And not just because Kyrillos Taliadoros, her personal enhanced bodyguard, walked quietly behind her. His presence was one sign of how monumentally her universe had changed in the last six T-months, yet it was hardly the only one.

Then again, everyone else’s universe is about to change, too, isn’t it? she thought as they neared their destination. And they don’t even know it.

On the other hand, neither had she on that day six T-months ago when she and Isabel Bardasano walked into Albrecht Detweiler’s office and Anisimovna, for the first time in her life, learned the real truth.

They reached the door at the end of the hall, and it slid open at their approach. Another man, who looked like a cousin of Taliadoros’ (because, after all, he was one), considered them gravely for a moment, then stepped aside with a gracious little half-bow.

Anisimovna nodded back, but the true focus of her attention was the man sitting behind the large office’s desk. He was tall, with strong features, and the two younger men sitting at the opposite ends of his desk looked a great deal like him. Not surprisingly.

“Aldona!” Albrecht Detweiler smiled at her, standing behind the desk and holding out his hand. “I trust you had a pleasant voyage home?”

“Yes, thank you, Albrecht.” She shook his hand. “Captain Maddox took excellent care of us, and Bolide is a perfectly wonderful yacht. And” — she rolled her eyes drolly at him — “so speedy.”