TORCH OF FREEDOM — Snippet 13:
Herlander had glanced at Harriet for a moment and seen the mirror of his own intensely interested expression on her face. Then they’d both looked back at Fabre.
“The problem in this case,” the geneticist had continued, “is that all of our efforts to date have been . . . less than fully successful, shall we say. I’ll go ahead and admit that we still don’t have anything like the degree of understanding we wish we had where designed levels of intelligence are concerned, despite the degree of hubris some of my own colleagues seem to feel upon occasion. Still, we feel like we’re on the right track in this instance. Unfortunately, our results to date fall into three categories.
“The most frequent result is a child of about average intelligence for one of our alpha lines, which is to say substantially brighter than the vast majority of normals or even the bulk of our other star lines. That’s hardly a bad result, but it’s obviously not the one we’re looking for, because while the child may have an interest in mathematics, there’s no sign of the capability we’re actually trying to enhance. Or, if it’s there at all, it’s at best only partially realized.”
“Less often, but more often than we’d like, the result is a child who’s actually below the median line for our alpha lines. Many of them would be quite suitable for a gamma line, or for that matter for the general Mesan population, but they’re not remotely of the caliber were looking for.”
“And finally,” her expression had turned somber, “we get a relatively small number of results where all early testing suggests the trait we’re trying to bring out is present. It’s in there, waiting. But there’s an instability factor, as well.”
“Instability?” It had been Herlander’s turn to ask the question when Fabre paused this time, and the geneticist had nodded heavily.
“We lose them,” she’d said simply. The SimÃµes must have looked perplexed, because she’d grimaced again . . . less happily than before.
“They do fine for the first three or four T-years,” she’d said. “But then, somewhere in the fifth year, we start to lose them to something like an extreme version of the condition which used to be called autism.”
This time it had been obvious neither of the younger people sitting on the other side of her desk had a clue what she was talking about, because she’d smiled with a certain bitterness.
“I’m not surprised you didn’t recognize the term, since it’s been a while since we’ve had to worry about it, but autism was a condition which affected the ability to interact socially. It was eliminated from the Beowulf population long before we left for Mesa, and we really don’t have a great deal in even the professional literature about it, anymore, far less in our more general information bases. For that matter, we’re not at all sure what we’re looking at here is what would have been defined as autism back in the dark ages. For one thing, according to the literature we do have, autism usually began to manifest by the time a child was three, and this is occurring substantially later in the development process. Onset also seems to be much more sudden and abrupt than anything we’ve been able to find in the literature. But autism was marked by impaired social interaction and communication and by restricted and repetitive behavior, and that’s definitely what we’re seeing here.
“In this case, however, it’s not that interactive and communication skills were never acquired, it’s that they’re lost. That’s what I mean when I say it’s like a particularly extreme version of the condition. These children actually regress. They lose communication skills they already had, they lose the ability to focus on their environment or interact with it, and they retreat into a sort of shutdown condition. In the more extreme cases, they become almost totally uncommunicative and nonresponsive within a couple of T-years.”
She’d paused again, then shrugged.
“We think we’re making progress, but to be honest, there’s an element on the Board which thinks we should simply go ahead and abandon the project completely. Those of us who disagree with that position have been looking for a potential means of breaking the existing paradigm. We’ve come to the conclusion — or, at least, some of us have — that what’s really needed here is a two-pronged approach. We’ve very carefully analyzed the genetic structure of all of the children in the entire line and, as I say, we think we’ve made substantial progress in correcting the genes themselves, the blueprint for the hardware, if you will. But we’re also of the opinion that we’re probably dealing with environmental elements that affect the operating software, as well. Which is what brings you to my office today.
“All our evaluations confirm that the two of you are a well-adjusted, balanced couple. Your basic personalities complement one another well, and you’re clearly well-suited to one another and to creating a stable home environment. Both of you also have the sort of affinity for mathematics we’re trying to produce in this line, if not on the level we’re looking for. Both of you have very successfully applied that ability in your daily work, and both of you have demonstrated high levels of empathy. What we’d like to do — what we intend to do — is to place one of our clones with you to be raised by you. Our hope is that by placing this child with someone who has the same abilities, who can provide the guidance — and the understanding — someone intended to be a prodigy requires, we’ll be able to . . . ease it through whatever critical process is going off the rails when we lose them. As I say, we’ve made significant improvements at the genetic level; now we need to provide the most beneficial, supportive, and nurturing environment we can, as well.”
* * * * * * * * * *
And that was how Francesca had entered the SimÃµes’ life. She didn’t look a thing like either of her parents, although that was scarcely unheard of on Mesa. Herlander had sandy hair, hazel eyes, and what he thought of as reasonably attractive features, but he wasn’t especially handsome, by any means. One thing the Mesan Alignment had very carefully eschewed was the sort of “cookie cutter” physical similarity which was so much a part of the Scrags descended from the genetic “super soldiers” of Old Earth’s Final War. Physical attractiveness was part of almost any alpha or beta line, but physical diversity was also emphasized as part of a very conscious effort to avoid producing a readily identifiable appearance, and Harriet had black hair and sapphire blue eyes. She was also (in Herlander’s obviously unbiased opinion) a lot more attractive than he was.
They were very much of a height, right at one hundred and eighty centimeters, despite the dissimilarity in their coloring, but it was obvious Francesca would always be small and petite. Herlander doubted that she was ever going to be much over a hundred and fifty-five centimeters, and she had brown hair, brown eyes, and an olive complexion quite different from either of her parents.
All of which only made her an even more fascinating creature, as far as SimÃµes was concerned. He understood that fathers were genetically hardwired to dote on girl children, of course. That was the way the species was designed, and the LRPB hadn’t seen any reason to change that particular trait. Despite that, however, he was firmly convinced that any unbiased observer would have been forced to admit that his daughter was the smartest, most charming, and most beautiful little girl who had ever existed. It was self-evident. And, as he’d pointed out to Harriet on more than one occasion, the fact that they’d made no direct genetic contribution to her existence obviously meant he was a disinterested and unbiased observer.
Somehow, Harriet had not been impressed by his logic.
He knew both of them had approached the prospect of parenthood, especially under the circumstances, with more than a little trepidation. He’d expected it to be hard to risk letting himself care for the girl, knowing as much as they’d been told about the problems the Board had encountered with this particular genome. He’d discovered, however, that he’d failed to reckon with the sheer beauty of a child — his child, however she’d become that — and the complete and total trust she’d extended to her parents. The first time she’d had one of the childhood fevers not even a Mesan star line was totally immune to, and she’d stopped her fretful crying and melted absolutely limply in his arms when he’d picked her up, nestled down against him, and dropped into sleep at last, he’d become her slave, and he knew it.
They’d both been aware of the fact that they were supposed to be providing the love and nurture to help ease Francesca through the development process, as Fabre had put it. They’d been prepared to do just that; what they hadn’t been prepared for was how inevitable Francesca herself had made it all. Her fourth and fifth years had been particularly tense and trying for them as she entered what Fabre had warned them was the greatest danger period, based on previous experience. But Francesca had breezed past the critical threshold, and they’d felt themselves relaxing steadily for the last couple of years.
And yet . . . and yet as Herlander SimÃµes sat in his kitchen, wondering where his wife and daughter were, he discovered that he hadn’t relaxed completely, after all.
He was just reaching for his com when it sounded with Harriet’s attention signal. He flicked his finger to accept the call, and Harriet’s voice sounded in his ear.
There was something about her tone, he thought. Something . . . strained.
“Yes. I just got home a few minutes ago. Where are you guys?”
“We’re at the clinic, dear,” Harriet said.
“The clinic?” SimÃµes repeated quickly. “Why? What’s wrong?”
“I’m not sure anything is wrong,” she replied, but multiple mental alarms were going off in his brain now. She sounded like someone who was afraid that if she admitted some dire possibility it would come to pass.
“Then why are you at the clinic?” he asked quietly.
“They screened me just after I picked her up at school and asked me to bring her down. Apparently . . . apparently they picked up a couple of small anomalies in her last evaluation.”
SimÃµes’ heart seemed to stop beating.
“What sort of anomalies?” he demanded.
“Nothing enormously off profile. Dr. Fabre’s looked at the results herself, and she assures me that so far, at least, we’re still within parameters. We’re just . . . drifting a little bit to one side. So they wanted me to bring her in for a more complete battery of evaluations. I didn’t expect you to be home this early, and I didn’t want to worry you at work, but when I realized we were going to be late, I decided to screen you. I didn’t realize you were already at home until you answered.”
“I won’t be for long,” he told her. “If you’re going to be there for a while, the least I can do is hop in the car and come join you. And Frankie.”
“I’d like that,” she told him softly.
“Well, I’ll be there in a few minutes,” he said, equally softly. “Bye, honey.”
The axe she kept under her bed gave her away.
was the silver-framed piccie of Jeremy X ! ;-)
I am shooting a bullet here off into the dark here…but I wonder if this family will turn against mesa?
Say… the Alignment tries to eliminate the daughter as she is no longer up to snuff and so they flee?
Just a blind guess
Once again the authors are haring off into the weeds, leaving the poor readers wondering what what the bleeding blazes any of this has to do with SPACE OPERA. I have to suggest that they go back to the dictionary and re-read the definition of SPACE OPERA, as it is clear that they have forgotten. I will certainly not spend any of my hard-earned money on this tripe, nor do i wish to read any more of it.
anybody notice how close I came to being right. I stated that it was a nuture problem Monday.
@ Alistair…. Quite possible albeit I guess it will probably be a tad more complicated.
The pieces are slowly getting into place on the board tho. With Anton and Victor having their suspicions about Mesa and Manpower …. really gonna be hard to wait till november !
can we get back into how you turn a wormhole into a portable weapon?
That’s one of the most accurate depictions of how a child utterly steals your heart that I have ever read in science fiction. Wonder which of the two wrote this chapter. My guess is Flint. Got similar warm fuzzies in some of his 1632 scenes.
Curiously enough, I happen to have just been reading one of Temple Grandin’s books. That provides some context here.
@9 IIRC DW tried to adopt, don’t know that he was successful. This description suggests that he was and is sharing his experience with us.
@5 If you want space opera, you are seriously lost. Move to Boston, give MITSFS the $n000 (not clear how many thousand it is for a life membership these decades), learn German, and start reading Perry Rhodan. You will not be disappointed.
IIRC David Weber’s adopted daughters are around eight years old now.
@12 They started translating his work into English recently, AFAIK…
Obviously what’s needed to ‘stabilize’ the personality/social skills of the brilliant child is a treecat………..
We’ve had a whole lot of snippets now and a whole lot of the authors, thinly disguised as characters, conducting a seminar in Honorverse 101. I’m hoping desperately for some sign of an actual story some time soon.
You can read back in the Bar history to get a play-by-play of the entire adoption process, up through it’s success and surprise pregnancy of his wife during. 0-3 in short order. His kids were at dragoncon in Dallas earlier this year and are absolutely beautiful.
It’s an interesting plotline, but hard to figure out at this point where they’re going with it. The autism angle sounds like mathematical super-geniuses that can’t deal with the chaos of social interaction. Taking some inspiration from CJ Cherry’s Cyteen and Regenesis novels, which are pretty much the gold standard in science fiction genetics. No idea what they’re going to do with it, though.
I’d like to see things time-wise progress beyond the Battle of Manticore. For how many books have we been stuck there now?
Not this sub-series, sorry. This sub-series is about spies and sneaking arround and so on. The mainstream series is Space Opera, stick with that if you’re not keen on on Eric’s books :)
I notice this is all from the Father’s side. What of the mother?
The treecat aspect could be interesting. If she goes into a continuous fugue state, which, approximately, is what they descibe here, only an empath can reach her. If the parents are as caring as we are told, and they have the oportunity, then they will seek one out.
@16 asks about progress past the BOM
Well, we saw an incident in Storm from the Shadows, but I think you’re going to have to wait until Mission of Honor for that line to pick up. The last I heard (close to a year ago now) it’s scheduled for early 2010, probably about March. On the other hand the rest of the books mentioned then seem to be late.
@14 Perry Rhodan translations. I thought that Forry Akerman (sp?) had started that project decades ago. It’s been long enough that I’ve only got the vaguest memories.
I wonder if they’ll wind up on Grayson, with Honor’s mother.
Actually, my understanding is that some research indicates that there can be regression in some of the autism spectrum conditions.
To all disappointed by recent snippets: Consider that new charactors on the Mesan side have to be introduced somewhere. Consider that these charactors are in a position to impact the story. The scientist couple could potentially help Manticore-Haven, and the security guy could potentially be a major opponent to Cachet and Zilwicki.
@18 Toni’s Table in Baens Bar says Mission of Honor is set for July 2010. But there will be an eARC.
So wait a sec, are you guys speculating that Mesa’s attempts at super intelligence are producing empaths/telepaths?
@17 That assumes the child can sense what the treecat is sending. We know that ‘cats can sense what humans emote, we don’t know that all humans can sense what ‘cats emote. It does seem likely that this is true and the primary distinction is one of sensitivity, where some humans need a much stronger projection to sense ‘cat’s emotions. If the child can’t sense the ‘cat, pulling her out of that fugue state is tougher but still more likely than without empathic therapy.
If diabolic duo send the story that way, things will get interesting indeed. All sorts of prejudice on either side gets questioned. We shall see.
We know from earlier book(s) that Detweiler has tried and failed to get hold of a tree cat for experimentation. He recognized the empathic/telepathic component of Honor’s and Nimitz’s relationship. And we know that Sphinx is about to get zapped. But tying all that to Francesca is bit of a stretch without more info.
The Honorverse is not and never was and I hope will never be merely Space Opera. At this point in time, to read Space Opera would require inventing a time machine, going back 40 to 60 years and latching on to Astounding, Thrilling Wonder and all those pulps. Evil Aliens, Distressed Damsels, Heroic Heroes. Fun, childish, ultimately boring.
We know from one of the short stories that Mesa is interested in replicating the Treecats’ abilities. It would be interesting if they just accidentally stumbled upon it, like the Cetagandans in the Vorkosiverse.
Well, considering the fact that Anton and Cachat will go wandering around Mesa, it’s obvious this couple will meet and involve with them for a time. From that to treecat its’ a matter of time and opportunity.
The security guy’s role is also obvious to me.
Still, the ultimate role of war is to transform your enemies, so I think the angle that author(s) are trying to introduce here is a way to attack/transform the Mesan belief system. For all the years there seems to be no way to crack that armor of superiority of that belief system. Maybe, the time is now.
If you want to read the back issues of Astounding, Thrilling Wodner Stories, Air Wonder Stories, Planet Stories, Amazing… then you simply need to move to Boston, join the MIT Science Fiction Society as a life member, and sit down and read.
P.S. if anyone on the list has a back set of Kapitan Mors, Pirate of the Stratosphere*, there is an interest in procuring a set for MITSFS.
actually auf Deutsch — look for the dreadnaught-armored zeppelin.
@26 Robert, as described in Herlander’s musing Francesca is at risk of spiraling down into a trap within her mind. Empathis appear to be the ideal solution to this problem. Treecats are the only telepathic/empathic entities in the honorvers, that they may be involved is no great leap. What results from this invlovement, if it occurs, will keep this story out of the astro operetic realm for sure and certain.
For all you impatient others yearning for this story to progress beyond the Battle of Manticore-A. This is a different series all together. Stop trying to tie it to the original series. Characters need to be introduced and the essential plot elements need to be laid out and, unfortunately, assumptions held in the prior series need to be adjusted. Three books to do that may seem like overkill now, but I suspect any fewer would entail infodump after infodump being included in this new series. I am happy that we can get it over with early and read brisk prose in the next books as a result (as I both hope and expect will be the case).
@Peter, yeah, yeah, yeah…but it gets annoying when things happen faster in real life than they do in the story. And the BoMA is such an apocalyptic moment that we want to see what comes out the other side.
@30 Hi Peter. You must admit that we will see a scene or three from War of Honor in this book (assassinations, attempted assassinations, clandestine meeting between the two superspies and Honor, and ??) and I will be surprised if we don’t run into Asinomova in this book, too. I admit that I was surprised when Victor & Anton showed up on Honor’s airlock and wondered how’d they do that, why’d Weber do that? Now we will find out. It looks like this book will cover the period from the end of Crown of Slaves to sometime during War of Honor and Shadow of Saganami. But for me having to keep track of events in a main and a parallel series (two parallel series, if the Shadow of Saganami/Storm from the Shadows represents another parallel series) is difficult because my hard thinking days are past.
Do we have the Honor series, the Torch series and the Talbott series, with the latter two being the Next Generation? Just asking.
I think that this book raises questions, like wormholes and more, that will not all be answered in this book. I will need prolong myself to live to end of the Honorverse saga, if it does end.
@32 Robert, I think that laclongquan @28 has put his finger on one of the primary threads of the plot for whatever this series will be called. Just as Haven was transformed, so will Mesa be transformed. There are a few such threads. My aging mind finds that organizing a DW series along these threads helps me keep track of all the various complexities without having to recall all of the details. Lazy of me, I know, but I can’t keep track otherwise.
I also find that keeping track this way also makes me more sensitive to the various suprises DW plants. Although I missed the significance of Lady North Hollow looking at her tounge in the mirror in War of Honor. I am still mentally kicking myself for being so dense.
A mesan with a treecat is really… not in my imagination but having said that, the reasion Treecats hate “mesan”s in general is the fact that most of them, no scratch that, all of them (that the cats have seen) are selfish evil a**holes. On the other hand, genetically enhanced people (genies or mesans whatever), more precisely people with genetically enhanced and (this part is really important) stable intelligience (so no scarags or other extreme cases) are brighter and tastier for cats.
A kid that is locked in her own world and not tainted with general Mesan attitutes would be a good candidate for a cat bond. At least this is my guess on this issue
Peter (33): As you mentioned Haven, just imagine what would happen if Catchat gets hold of evidence pointing to the Mesan meddling in Haven politics that created the Legislaturalist regime… In such an extreme case I see the prices of salt increasing to strathosphere galaxy wide; as Eloise Pritchart will order every havenite freighter to be press ganged to carry salt to Mesa, coat it with 4-5 cm of salt and burn it with thermonuclear fire to ensure that every Mesan bacteria is dead :D
Nomad, what text evidence is there that Tree Cats hate Mesans? I don’t remember any Tree Cat meeting a Mesan?
By the way, the little girl doesn’t last a year and an argument could be made that her death was mercyful.
@34 Nomad, take a bit of time and reflect on the body of DW’s work. You will find many things but no truly one dimensional villians. Even the Bugs were at worst amoral as opposed to immoral. Why then do you think he will toss that fundemental priciple aside in this story?
BTW Drak, was that a snerk or were you suggesting a possible outcome?
@Drak, I recall one of the short stories was about an attempt by someone from Manpower to kidnap a treecat to basically reverse engineer it. That did not go over well in the treecat community.
@36 Drak, remember that Mesa/Detweiler had tried to get their hands on a tree cat for study, but was unable to. We take that to mean that the cats avoided them when they came looking because the cats just did not care for those folks. If you don’t remember that I will try to get the reference–I think in War of Honor. And there was the attempted assassination of Princess Elisabeth on Sphinx way back when, that was thwarted by the cats.
You are saying that Francesca is euthanized sometime in the next few chapters or less? We will have to see what the point of this is if we have been introduced to some characters about to face a tragedy. And no fair peeking ahead!
@39 Robert, that was Princess Adrienne. We also found out that Mesa killed her Mom when a “freak accident” caused a malfunction of the inertial compensator of the ship she was on. IIRC, text actually suggested that Mesan did get a sample but captured treecats simply wasted away and died. Sort of like what happens to the treecat partner when a bonded pair loses the human half.
However, I do not recall a story about any attempt to capture a treecat. There may have been a secondary plan to capture Princess Adrienne’s ‘cat in addition to killing her, but I really don’t recall that story’s details all that well.
Peter Z, that was a ‘snerk’ because I’m getting tired of the ‘magic tree cat will save her’ idea.
As for the attempts to kidnap Tree Cats, we were told in the Princess Adrienne story about a corporation actually owned by Manpower that attempted to have the Manticore government capture Tree Cats for study to ‘prove their intelligence’ I’d say that’s a matter that anybody who tries catching Tree Cats would have a hard time not “Tree Cats hate Mesans”.
Minor nit, there is no text evidence that Mesa was involved in the attempt on Princess Adrienne’s life or in the death of her mother. The text evidence is that the attempts were by Manticore Nobles wanting to ‘cripple’ the King.
The annoying thing about this “Mesa was behind these attempts” idea is that prior to Mesa becoming the chief Bad Guys, people were thinking Haven was behind those attempts.
Peter Z: There isn’t any canon/MMW story describing Treecat vs Mesan agent scene, but from the stories we know that cats can see the inner “color” (for the lack of better term by me) of ones mind if not the exact thoughts themselves (Honor’s talk about treecats liking all children. It was on grayson I think…) Your usual Mesan operative or researcher (basically anyone who calls mesan operations/morals/views as his true home) will be really irritating (lack of better term by me) to a cat,
No, PZ, the plan was to assassinate Adrienne only… in part because she didn’t have the treecat beforehand for them to add it to the plans.
I’m pretty sure there is no direct textev for ALL treecats hating ALL Mesans, but I’d have very little doubt they are quite well aware of Honor’s opinions of Mesa and I doubt they have any reason to disagree with her…
Ahem, Drak, what pray tell did you consider that “unobtrusive” individual who used NANITES to “clean up” the threat to the duke? It may not have been their idea, of course, but I’d definitely say Mesa was at least involved… as hirelings if nothing else.
Robert, we know that Nanites aren’t a “Mesa-Only” tech. Remember the use on Manticore to make Princess Ruth into Berry and vis versa.
As for Nanites as an assassin’s weapon, I doubt that Mesa is the only source for such a weapon. There is no text evidence for the idea that Mesans are the only Evil Folks in the Honorverse.
In a weird way, the whole Mesa behind everything (that “we” see in the stories)fits. Their grand plan is to “infect” the solarian system, create conditions for it to drown in its by-products then seize control of it. They have been destabilising (or trying to destablize) everyone who might come into Beowulfs or other sectors’ help when it hits the fan.
The whole downfall of Republic of Haven into tyranny bit was encouraged to remove Beowulf’s support. No one was expecting a single star system (even one with this good economy) to stand up to a multi system giant. No one was expecting the madmen /cavemen from Grayson to change the research into this much cutting edge. Who could have believed this many generations of corrupt Nobles to fail?
Mesa (like the rest of the League) was not really intrested in barbarian tribes other than keeping them at each others throats. Their main concern was always the League. When you tink of a 600 year grand plan (longer than manticore’s existance), its scope is not really that big or far fetched.
@42 That’s my point, Nomad. What noxious inner “color/flavor” does Herlander have? As far as we know he is a loving father and husband. If he is as capable of intense love as anyone else, how different is he than the rest of humanity? He isn’t.
Its the ideals Mesans have that need to be fought. Defeat/transform the ideals and the people will cease to be a problem. As we have seen on Safehold, even people with conviction and ideals can be mistaken. Heck, good people who are faithful to good ideals make mistakes every day and cause great harm. So, for every powerhungry mesan who stops at nothing to achieve power, there may be an earnest mesan (full of integrity, caring, love and honesty) faithful to the Grand Plan because believes it is good.
This second mesan may be attractive as hell to a treecat and still be humanity’s (and treecat’s) deadly enemy.
Herlander himself? I don’t know the character (much) but he is a person who lives in a system that is ruled by amoral principles. Kind of people that (if you are into pc games, founded rupture in bioshock) follow And Ryan’s footsteps. We don’t know if this loving father can also send people, sorry slaves to gasrooms without a pang of trouble.
His entire outlook to life, his automatic assumtion that he is a better version human than other humans, his basic… not greed but assumption that his kind should be/is “master”.
He is probably not a bad human being (his mind color/flavor is not bad that is) (throwing aside the Nazi bit I mentioned earlier) but he is “shaped” wrong. (I feel/think)
*is it me or is talking about these concepts force the limits of one’s creativity/imagination?
@48 From the prior post, Leonard Detweiler believed that by genetically altering humanity, he could make humanity better at making the choices all of us have to make. The assumption was that the moral component of humanity was uneffected by his tinkering, only the tools to make those moral choices.
From this premiss Mesans may have expanded into an ubermensch/untermensch philosophy, we really don’t know how pervasive such an expansion is. We don’t know that Mesan society is amoral, only that they don’t believe all humanity is equal. That some humans are endowed by their (human) creators with less rights than are endowed to others. I truly despise saying this but unless one is religious, one must admit there is some logic (albeit flawed and warped) to this type of reasoning.
As a caveate a religious person would not see life as comming from human activity and so would discard that logic out of hand.