Shadow Of Freedom – Snippet 27

And not a single Apollo-capable unit in sight, she thought glumly. Not one. Not that I can really argue with the Admiralty’s decisions after what happened to the home system.

None of the followup dispatches had made any effort to hide the terrifying severity of the blow Manticore’s industrial capability had suffered. The sheer scale of the Yawata Strike’s loss of life had been horrifying, but to make it even worse, it had been concentrated in the sectors of the Star Empire’s labor force most essential to supporting the Navy. Effectively, every Manticoran shipyard was simply gone. Even the production lines which had supplied the fleet with missiles had been destroyed. The ships Manticore had, and the missiles which had already been manufactured, were all the Star Empire was going to have for a long, long time, and the defense of the home system, its population, and what remained of its industrial base (not to mention the wormhole junction which was absolutely essential to Manticore’s strategic survival) had to take priority over almost any other consideration. Especially since Solarian strategic doctrine was uncompromisingly oriented around seeking a knockout blow by crushing the capital system of any star nation foolish enough to cross swords with the League.

Under those circumstances, the two squadrons of Keyhole-Two-equipped pod-laying superdreadnoughts Michelle had been promised had been recalled to the home system almost before they’d arrived in Spindle. Only ships with the Keyhole-Two control platforms could fully utilize the FTL telemetry links of the Mark 23-E multidrive missiles which were the heart of the Apollo system, and all of them — and all of the Navy’s existing store of Mark 23Es — were desperately needed to defend the Manticore Binary System.

In partial exchange, she’d gotten twenty Keyhole-One SD(P)s, and in terms of combat power, that was a pretty impressive consolation prize. No, they couldn’t use Apollo, but they could handle more missiles than any Solarian superdreadnought could even dream of firing, their own missile defenses were incomparably better than anything the other side might have, and while they weren’t equipped with the Mark 23-E control missiles, the standard Mark 23s in their magazines enormously out-ranged any Solarian weapon. Accuracy at extreme ranges was going to be much poorer than it would have been using Apollo, yet the missile storm they could bring down on any opponent would be devastating. And, fortunately, six T-months had passed between Haven’s Operation Beatrice and the Yawata Strike. The tempo of combat had dropped virtually to nothing during that time period, as well, which meant there’d been no real ammunition expenditures to cut into those six months worth of wartime-rate missile production. And that meant the Royal Manticoran Navy had a lot of those standard Mark 23s already produced and distributed to the fleet.

It wasn’t that Michelle entertained any doubts about what would happen to any Solarian admiral unwise enough to confront her combat power in space. The problem was that she had so much space to protect. She couldn’t possibly be everywhere she needed to be in sufficient strength to prevent an audacious Solarian flag officer from avoiding her combat power and carrying out devastating (there was that word again) raids on the infrastructure of the systems she was responsible for defending.

Then there was the interesting question of just what sort of reinforcements the Sollies might have en route to the Quadrant. And, for that matter, the even more interesting question (assuming her own suspicions about who’d been pulling the puppet strings behind the current catastrophe was correct) of what Manpower and Mesa might have up their collective sleeve.

And, finally, there was the body blow to the priority she’d been originally promised on the new Mark 16-equipped units.

News of the “Zunker Incident” had reached Spindle aboard a Navy dispatch boat only this morning, and Michelle found herself almost equally impressed by Captain Ivanov’s tactics and by the unwonted discretion shown by the Solarian flag officer involved. The confrontation had also confirmed — or reconfirmed, perhaps — the tactical superiority the Mark 16 conferred upon the RMN’s lighter units. Unfortunately, Michelle was certain there’d been other “Zunker Incidents” in the three weeks since the original, and every one of them would only increase Admiralty House’s demands for additional Mark 16-capable vessels. Especially given the decision to go ahead and implement Lacoön Two.

She could hardly fault the Admiralty for that priority, but Lacoön Two obviously required a lot of relatively fast, relatively well-armed hyper-capable platforms. Which, when she came down to it, was pretty much an exact description of the Nikes, Saganami-Cs and Rolands. Which, in turn, explained why the light combatants she’d expected to see were now going elsewhere at high rates of speed.

It’s an imperfect universe, Mike, she told herself tartly. Deal with it.

She snorted again, then squared her shoulders, hauled her hands out of her pockets, turned and marched back to her workstation. She picked up the cup of coffee Chris Billingsley had left for her and settled into her work chair. She and Augustus Khumalo were scheduled to meet tomorrow with Governor Medusa, Prime Minister Joachim Alquezar, Minister of War Henri Krietzmann, and the other senior members of Alquezar’s war cabinet to discuss her new deployment plan. Under the circumstances, she thought as she started punching up the appropriate files, it probably behooved her to have a deployment plan to discuss.

* * *

“So that’s about the size of it, on the housing side, at least.” Henri Krietzmann looked around the Governor’s House conference room in the planetary and quadrant capital of Thimble and shrugged. “It’s only been seven weeks since O’Cleary’s surrender, so despite Admiral Bordelon’s protests, we’re actually doing pretty damned well, I think. Especially considering the fact that we’re not the ones who went and invaded their star system!”

“Surely you don’t expect Bordelon to admit that, do you, Henri?” Baroness Medusa observed tartly.