Mission Of Honor – Snippet 23
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.”
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.”
Say hello to gunboat (missile pod?) diplomacy. Depending on transit times and length of negotiation it is possible that like Halsey and the Big E, Eight Fleet is gonna be fortunately ‘elsewhere’ if/when Oyster Bay goes off.
I’m guessing that the “half dozen CLACs” are supposed to be “half dozen CAs” since CLACs were mentioned earlier.
Boy Honor has a giant pair. :)
I guess the SLN wouldn’t release the USS Missouri from their Fleet for Honor to use.
8th Fleet is only 6 or 7 years late.
That is a typo when the battle of monica is mentioned right? or did i miss something?
One thing I’ve always liked about Honor is her sense of subtlety–or lack thereof.
@1. She personally needs to be elseware during oyster bay, as we know she personally is not killed off, so this is probabilly the device to allow that.
Question. I don’t remember whether the GS Paul Tankersley has the acceleration to keep up with the fleet during the trip (not that it really matters, as they could have put it in the hold of a freighter (I assume the freighters are mil-spec)(a little undignified, but…))
@3, yeah, that’s obviously supposed to be “Battle Of Manticore”.
@5 Or 8th fleet could hold down it’s acceleration to match the Tankersley’s normal acceleration rate (if I remember correctly, it was bought used, so it wouldn’t have a Grayson type compensator). I’m assuming that as a yacht, it can reach the hyper bands that are normally used by military vessels, passenger liners and dispatch boats. Honor probably would have been on her flagship during the voyage from Manticore to Haven and would have transferred to the Tankersley shortly before crossing the alpha wall in the Haven system.
@3 & @6 That is what happens when you have an eARC–it is the A in eARC that gives one a hint.
Honor has come to say “let’s make peace, or else.” And since Pritchart knows who it was that messed around with the diplomatic communiques, she’ll come clean, they’ll sign a treaty and Honor can go after the SL and then the MA when the two superspies finally show up someplace useful.
@2 “Boy Honor has a giant pair.”
She isn’t facing, single-handed, a hired assassin duelist, an expert swordsman, a horde of assassins trying to kill a friendly head of state, etc., etc. She has 8th Fleet with her. The Tankersly gambit is a message saying I can come in peace and we can deal…or else. But, yeah, she does have ’em.
“…Tankersley was a fast ship. The Star Falcons were a civilian version of what had been a military/diplomatic courier vessel used to transport dispatches or relatively small groups of passengers when speed was of the essence. ”
I don’t think keeping up with the Fleet will be any problem, especially since they weren’t in any sort of super hurry.
When Honor faced a hired duelist, expert swordsman, horde of assassins, and most of that etc. she was not in a defenseless position. Having 8th Fleet behind her won’t save her when her atoms have been scattered about the solar system.
And how would that help the Heavenites.
I never said it would help the Havenites, but then again Honor is the most skilled Admiral on the other side. Plus you never know what someone pissed because she killed their brother/sister/lover/parent/etc might do.
While 8th Fleet is a nasty powerful force, were the Havenites to have a Fleet in Hyper outside the System, and pull off the drop out of hyper onto the enemy force maneuver on top of it. Those nifty super long range missiles aren’t that big of an advantage, when you are already in range of the enemies missiles.
Apollo isn’t a magical win every battle weapon, if Haven had time they would come up with a defense or tactics to counter them.
A prediction here that karma will rule. The Salamander will negotiate a fair peace with honor (no pun intended) treaty between Haven and Manticore under the conditions known to both at the time, without treating Haven harshly. Afterwards when OB has devastated Manticore’s production facilities, Haven will do the right thing and honor (no pun) the agreement even though the balance will have shifted yet again. Together they will sort out the initial Solarian attacks , then the Mesans need to duck big time.
Apollo is mostly useful against ships that are inside the hyper limit where they can’t duck back into hyper when they see a wave of missiles coming at them. The system defense version has four stages. Use the first two to get the missile moving and wait on the third until you can use it for course corrections. Then the fourth is available to drill in. However, 8th fleet is carrying the other version, with only three stages.
Apollo doesn’t have anything magical for the final attack run. Better laser rods are about it. What they do have is the FTL com (64 x lightspeed) and a local missile control AI, one of which gives them enormous controlled range, and the other of which gives them vastly superior control at the end of their run, where the jamming is thickest. What’s probably worst is the ‘hailstorm of missiles’ tactic. Throw enough missiles at something, and some are bound to get through.
Hmm, Honor aboard her yacht. Somehow part of me just wants her empty all the tubes. Full broadsides.
Sorry, they are still the “peeps”. and the empress would have rewarded me richy.lol.
Honor has an awesome force with her, but surely, in light of recent events, she has left a substantial force back in the home system – enough to somewhat blunt the efects of the Mesan marauders. Am I correct in assuming that the Haven visit and the Oyster Bay blast are to happen almost simultaneously?
Minor snerk. There is a new Home Fleet for the Manticore Star System.
As for blunting Oyster Bay, Tum, te, tum, te, tum . . . . [Wink]
Maybe not as much as you think. One the Battle Of Manticore blew out something like what, 70%, 80%, or more of the ENTIRE RHN? Simply put the RMN thinks it can uncover simply because the RHN has so little back to punch with, even if they managed to figure out Dutchess Harrington took the 8th Fleet out for her little jaunt to Haven.
Two, a previous snippet mentioned that System Defense variants of Apollo were being deployed at both Manticore and Grayson. The calculus is probably that any known immediate threat (ATM only the RHN) has insufficient combat power to stand up to Manticorian ‘fixed’ defenses. The Meseans are impressed at the coverage of the Manticore binary system, against a conventional foe they’d have plenty of time to pick them up, and off, with Apollo pods in place. The Sollies are a potential on the horizon, but given the intertia in both the government and navy I’m guessing Manticore is confident they can get their current construction off the slips and worked up before the SLN can get itself shaken out for an attack.
Unfortunantly unless the RMN gets lucky, or the Meseans screw up, they are about to get hit by a very unconventional foe.
We don’t know how many ships did NOT cross the alpha wall, do we? There could be another 40 wallers waiting for the Havenites to try to mousetrap 8th Fleet.
@15 Per the ToC at webscriptions, this is happening in January 1922 PD, and we have determined, because we have enough fingers and toes, that OB will occur in Feb. (or perhaps March). But we don’t know how long Honor is going to stay at Haven. She did bring a trio of civilian Foreign Office people with her, so if things go well she may leave and be in time for OB. But that is not where my money is. My bet is that as an attack, OB is horrific and at the same time a strategic failure. After all, Honor has to put an end to the Detweiler plan (and the SL) once and for good. There may be large SEM forces around, but not in the Manticore system – they are certainly in Talbott and maybe at Trevor’s Star.
“My bet is that as an attack, OB is horrific and at the same time a strategic failure.”
Of course. After all, it is a thinly disguised version of Pearl Harbor.
@19 When I wrote horrific, I meant in terms of loss of life especially. Not just “stuff” which can be replaced. I do not know what the population of the Manticore system is or how many SKM personnel were killed in the Havenite wars, but OB will be the worst yet because of the surprise and stealthy nature of the attack and the plan to “accidentally” hit the planetary populations. The loss of life at Pearl Harbor was almost all military and amounted to about .0026 percent of the US population, about 3 to 4 thousand men of the then 130M US citizens. The actual war was lots worse. Oyster Bay will be different, despite its Mesan code name, by orders of magnitude. What it really has in common with Pearl harbor is that it will be the beginning of a total, in this case, galaxy-wide, war of survival.
Gosh, this book is beginning to affect me and I am only on the equivalent of Chapter 6. It may be the most emotional of DWs books yet.
I don’t know if Oyster Bay is set up to attack starships. It sounds like they seeded missile control pods (perhaps with AI systems similar to Apallo missiles) programmed to strike specific targets, namely ship yards and the three orbital stations. The ships could move any time between the launch and final run of the missiles, or be even completely out of range (say in the Haven system perhaps). The could still try it if any are in range to be hit, but that would reduce the numbers of missiles headed to the yards.
As for Honor getting back in time for Oyster Bay, she would be cutting it awfully close, even for an early March date. My bet is major damage to complete destruction of the yards and stations, the deaths of many of the workers (notice the discussion of drills in previous snippets), and orbital industry is severely damaged). Manticore’s major research staff survives, planetary industry survives (wondering if they build missiles in orbit or on the ground), and a missile will miss its target and ram a planet (betting on Sphinx for that one).
Help me out. I was reminded when someone mentioned our two secret agents.
Why “Audubon Ballroom” as a name for our favorate terrorist organization. I do get the “Shall we dance?” bit.
But what is the “Audubon” reference?
tum te tum tum?
lol, someone read the ARC
Very minor snerk, considering it was stated either at the end of AAC that 8th Fleet was stuck as Home Fleet, until replacement ships were completed and worked up.
“Yet that also meant Eighth Fleet couldn’t possibly uncover Manticore. And so, Eighth Fleet had been formally redesignated (for now, at least) as the Star Kingdom’s Home Fleet, and Honor Alexander-Harrington, as its commander, found herself Fleet Admiral Alexander-Harrington, despite her relative lack of seniority. It was only an acting rank, of course; it went with Home Fleet, and as soon as they could find someone else to give the job to, she would revert to her permanent, four-star Manticoran rank. But they wouldn’t be finding anyone else until they also managed to find another fleet with Apollo. And until they did that, sheâ€”like her shipsâ€”was as anchored to the capital system as if each of them had been welded to Hephaestus or Vulcan.” From AAC.
So that really can’t be considered a snerk.
@ 18 robert,
Trevor’s star is where they are working up the newly built ships. Even the OB commander has commented that there were fewer ships in the slips than he expected. There is also Henke’s Fleet in Talbott, and Sarnow’s Fleet in Silesia, and 8th Fleet. I would also guess that there are small units, stationed at varied allied systems, probably not the equivalent of a fleet though.
@24 3rdbase–We have already discussed in a prior snippet what forces Henke has available. It isn’t a lot numerically, but in lethal terms it is pretty awesome. Trevor’s Star is where I would have guessed that they’d be working up a new “Home Fleet” so that is good.
@22 Tootall, you are not a New Yorker is my guess. Wiki says it better than I could, but both the name and the “let’s dance” go together:
“The Audubon Ballroom was a theatre and ballroom located on Broadway at 165th Street in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Upper Manhattan, north of Harlem in New York. It is best-known as the site of Malcolm X’s assassination on February 21, 1965.”
“During its history, the Audubon Ballroom was used as a vaudeville house, a movie theater, and a meeting hall. In the 1930s, Congregation Emes Wozedek, a synagogue whose members were predominantly Jewish immigrants from Germany, began to use the Audubon Ballroom to conduct its religious services. In 1950, the congregants purchased the building, and they continued to hold services there until 1983.”
Weber is saying a lot naming the group after the place, given the history of the place.
evil, so evil. New Home Fleet ? haa
Am I the only one who is nervous about the yacht being captained by a guy named Hardy??
Shades of Trafalgar!
Maggie, I missed that connection to Trafalgar.
On the other hand, the Battle of Manticore *was* to be Honor’s Trafalgar but David Weber decided to let her live.