Do the books have flaws? Yes. Are they basically Horatio Hornblower/ the Napoleonic Wars IN SPAAACE!!? Certainly. Is the main character an unlikable Mary Sue? I don't think so, though I can definitely see where there's a case to be made. On the off chance you've just discovered the internet, a Mary Sue is a character, usually in a fanfic, who is obviously the vehicle for the author to imagine themselves in the story. Everything goes right for the Mary Sue, everyone is really impressed with her, even when she doesn't do anything impressive, she can do everyone's job better than they can and has no character flaws whatsoever, or just token ones that never effect the story. Well, most people in the story are really impressed with Honor, she has one prominent weakness that is exactly never relevant, and if things don't always go her way she still never sees consequences for a few very questionable decisions. In counterpoint, Honor at the beginning of the series is a deeply flawed and limited character, almost unbelievably so given her age and accomplishments. She does suffer for her character flaws, particularly her temper and is at several points only barely restrained from making life-or-career-ending mistakes. She also gets better over time, it'd be fascinating if more of that character growth happened where the reader could see it. It's a narrow thing, but I'm still coming down on the not-Sue side.
So let's get down to business. The series is about a couple of wars between the Republic of Haven and the Manticore Star Kingdom. Well, just from Republic/Kingdom you should know who to root for! Well, no.
Always worry when you have a president-for-life. Doubly so if it's a hereditary position.The ticking of the conference room's antique clock was deafening as the Hereditary President of the People's Republic of Haven stared at his military cabinet.
Yeah, the villains here are the nightmare scenario every Republican thinks of when he hears the word "socialism." The majority of the population (60%) is on welfare, collect a check for breathing and do nothing with their lives. The leaders are too afraid of riot and revolt to change anything, and the only way to prop up the system is with fresh injections of cash, via military conquest."Perhaps not just now," Admiral Parnell said bleakly, "but if we get tied down elsewhere or any large-scale revolt breaks out, some of them are going to be tempted into trying a smash and grab. That's why we need more ships. And, with all due respect to Mr. Frankel," the CNO added, not sounding particularly respectful, "it isn't the Fleet budget that's breaking the bank. It's the increases in the Basic Living Stipend. We've got to tell the Dolists that any trough has a bottom and get them to stop swilling long enough to get our feet back under us. If we could just get those useless drones off our backs, even for a few years—"
"Oh, that's a wonderful idea!" Frankel snarled. "Those BLS increases are all that's keeping the mob in check! They supported the wars to support their standard of living, and if we don't—"
I'm really amazed the series doesn't get more shit, just for this.
Manticore sits at the junction of 6 (well, 7) wormholes, which drastically reduce travel times. The bulk of everyone's trade goes through Manticore."Um." Frankel plucked at his lip, then sighed. "Too bad, because there's another point. We're in bad enough shape for foreign exchange, and three-quarters of our foreign trade moves through the Manticore Junction. If they close it against us, it'll add months to transit times . . . and costs."
Recognition of another problem with fighting Manticore, and a compelling financial reason to go ahead anyway."Tell me about it," Parnell said sourly. "That damned junction also gives their navy an avenue right into the middle of the Republic through the Trevor's Star terminus."
"But if we knocked them out, then we'd hold the Junction," Dumarest murmured. "Think what thatwould do for our economy."
But enough of ominous preludes! Where is our protagonist?
Hephaestus, the RMN shipyard is 70 km across. Considering the largest ships are 2 km long, that's a lot of room for ships.The shuttle quivered gently as its tractors reached out to the seventy-kilometer bulk of Her Majesty's Space Station Hephaestus, the Royal Manticoran Navy's premiere shipyard, and Nimitz sighed his relief into Honor's short-cropped mass of feathery, dark brown hair.
Quirk of the Royal Manticoran Navy, the uniform has a black beret, but (hyper-capable) starship commanders have it in white, so they stand out in a crowd.Then she plucked the beret from under her left epaulet. It was the special beret, the white one she'd bought when they gave her Hawkwing, and she chivied Nimitz's jaw gently aside and settled it on her head.
Considering the Manticoran year from the end of the book, Honor is either a few months shy of her 42nd birthday, or she's been 43 for a while. Yeah, it'd be odd to see her dancing and whooping in public, especially in uniform.Indeed, she felt more than mildly virtuous for holding herself to a grin when what she really wanted to do was spin on her toes, fling her arms wide, and carol her delight to her no-doubt shocked fellow passengers. But she was almost twenty-four years old—over forty Terran standard years—and it would never, never have done for a commander of the Royal Manticoran Navy to be so undignified, even if she was about to assume command of her first cruiser.
Sigh. Honor has a pet, Nimitz. Nimitz is a treecat, a race of arboreal alien cats who are telepathic among themselves, and can sense the emotions of outsiders. They're intelligent tool-users, but also smart enough to flub any IQ tests they're given, and sometimes they bond to humans and become lifelong partners for the feel-good vibes.'Cats rated a point-eight-three on the sentience scale, slightly above Beowulf's gremlins or Old Earth's dolphins, and they were empaths. Even now, no one had the least idea how their empathic links worked, but separating one from its chosen companion caused it intense pain, and it had been established early on that those favored by a 'cat were measurably more stable than those without.
There's a lot of expanded material on their first contact with humans. But to be honest, I don't really care. The Treecats are one part of the Honorverse that has never interested me.
Referring to her mentor, Raoul Courvosier. Here's the prominent weakness I mentioned. It's said a lot in the early books (really. I'd forgotten how often) that Honor is bad at math. Specifically, at the math for actually navigating a starship, plotting courses and figuring out the accel/decel balance. She barely scraped by in the academy.He'd spent hours working with her in private when other instructors worried about her basic math scores and, in a very real sense, had saved her career before it had actually begun, yet this time there'd been something almost evasive about him.
She has a decent instinct and experience that lends itself well to eyeballing and back of the envelope figures, but when precision matters, not so much. This never comes up, because she can ship handle well enough for most purposes and has a dedicated officer to run the numbers for her. That's realistic, even if navigation is sort of a big part of a naval captain's life.
Hephaestus has a turbolift that does half the speed of sound. One thing I enjoy about this series is the odd off-the-cuff remarks about all the things possible to a civilization that has made gravity it's bitch.She shrugged and punched her destination into the capsule's routing panel, then set down her briefcase and resigned herself as it flashed away down the counter-grav tubeway. Despite a peak speed of well over seven hundred kilometers per hour, the capsule trip would take over fifteen minutes—assuming she was lucky enough not to hit too many stops en route.
Also, I hope they have inertial dampeners for the capsules.
First mention of prolong, a therapy that slows the aging process, doubling to tripling human life expectancy. The major downside is it has to be administered just before or shortly into puberty, so that process gets doubled too. Lots of squandered opportunity for a discussion of how much growing up has to do with biology, and how much is life experience. I mean, Honor is 40+ but she looks barely twenty, and a lot of the time she acts barely twenty.She'd done well to make commander so soon even with the Fleet's steady growth in the face of the Havenite threat, for the life-extending prolong process made for long careers. The Navy was well-supplied with senior officers, despite its expansion, and she came of yeoman stock, without the high-placed relatives or friends to nudge a naval career along.
But there's more. Prolong is ubiquitous among prosperous star nations (IIRC, at one point its mentioned that Manticore health insurance eats the cost of prolong therapy) and rare in poor areas where there's a mayfly divide between those rich enough to afford it and those who aren't. And while the last pre-prolong generation is just now turning a hundred, it's clear they're still dealing with a lot of the social issues of increased lifespan, see the glut of senior officers mentioned above. Again it's something that would be so fascinating to see and discuss, but is mostly a background element.
Also even in the future, hell especially in the future, connections matter.
So her ship, the Fearless, is not docked flush with the station but connected with this tube. The tube itself has zero-g, not covered by the station or ship gravity and takes Honor 2 minutes to cross. No math here, but I'm guessing a hundred yards?The scarlet band of a zero-gee warning slashed the access tube deck before her, and she felt Nimitz's claws sink deeper into her shoulder pad as she stepped over it. She launched herself into the graceful swim of free-fall as she passed out of Hephaestus's artificial gravity, and her pulse raced with quite unbecoming speed as she eeled down the passage. Another two minutes, she told herself. Only another two minutes.
Prolong is more effective if your parents and grandparents had it. Please tell me they did a lot of research into the process before giving it to everyone.It wasn't really fair of him to resent her. A light cruiser simply wasn't a lieutenant commander's billet, but Harrington was almost five years—over eight T-years—younger than he. Not only was she a full commander, not only did the breast of her tunic bear the embroidered gold star denoting a previous hyper-capable command, but she looked young enough to be his daughter. Well, no, not that young, perhaps, but she could have been his niece. Of course, she was third-generation prolong. He'd checked the open portion of her record closely enough to know that, and the anti-aging treatments seemed to be proving even more effective for second- and third-generation recipients.
Also, another problem with prolong is making it difficult to judge ages. Here Honor's XO, Alistair McKeon, is resenting her for taking command of his ship, and looking so young.
Armament for Fearless, a Courageous-class light cruiser, both before and after her refit. Because of the Napoleon War stuff, it's important to separate light chase (front/rear) armament from broadside weapons. Fearless' chase was and remains 2 missile launchers and a 60-cm laser. The broadside was 4 grasers (gamma lasers) 2 lasers and 7 missile tubes, remeber that's for each side. Now it's 2 lasers, 2 missiles, 14 energy torpedoes, and 1 grav lance. Explanation to follow."I'm afraid we didn't have much choice, Ma'am. We could have handled the energy torpedoes with software changes, but the grav lance is basically an engineering system. Tying it into fire control requires direct hardware links to the main tactical system."
"Grav lance?" Honor didn't raise her voice, but McKeon heard the surprise under its cool surface, and it was his turn to raise an eyebrow.
"Yes, Ma'am." He paused. "Didn't anyone mention that to you?"
"No, they didn't." Honor's lips thinned in what might charitably have been called a smile, and she folded her hands deliberately behind her. "How much broadside armament did it cost us?" she asked after a moment.
"All four graser mounts," McKeon replied, and watched her shoulders tighten slightly.
"I see. And you mentioned energy torpedoes, I believe?"
"Yes, Ma'am. The yard's replaced—is replacing, rather—all but two broadside missile tubes with them."
"All but two?" The question was sharper this time, and McKeon hid an edge of bitter amusement. No wonder she sounded upset, if they hadn't even warned her! He'd certainly been upset when he found out what was planned.
"I see," she repeated, and inhaled. "Very well, Exec, what does that leave us?"
"We still have the thirty-centimeter laser mounts, two in each broadside, plus the missile launchers. After refit, we'll have the grav lance and fourteen torpedo generators, as well, and the chase armament is unchanged: two missile tubes and the sixty-centimeter spinal laser."
.Energy torpedoes were quick-firing, destructive, very difficult for point defense to stop. . . and completely ineffectual against a target protected by a military-grade sidewall. That, obviously, was the reason for the grav lance, yet if a grav lance could (usually) burn out its target's sidewall generators, it was slow-firing and had a very short maximum effective range
Energy torpedoes are energy weapons, not missiles. Rapid-fire bursts of energy that shred ships but don't even inconvenience sidewalls (read shields, explanation soon.)
Fearless mass at 90,000 tons. Not sure if it's deliberate, but that's about the size of a contemporary aircraft carrier.She took a quick turn about her cabin. That was one nice thing about Fearless; at less than ninety thousand tons, she might be small by modern standards, but the captain's quarters were downright spacious compared to Hawkwing's.
Just wanting to stress that their missiles are big.McKeon's description of the alterations was only too accurate, though he hadn't mentioned that in addition to ripping out two-thirds of Fearless's missile tubes, the yard was gutting her magazine space, as well. Missile stowage was always a problem, particularly for smaller starships like light cruisers and destroyers, because an impeller-drive missile simply had to be big. There were limits to how many you could cram aboard, and since they'd decided to reduce Fearless's tubes, they'd seen no reason not to reduce her magazines, as well. After all, it had let them cram in four additional energy torpedo launchers.
The juene ecole ("young school" in French) was a real thing that really happened. It was a movement of French naval officers throughout most of the 19th Century that thought it was stupid to try and match the British hull-for-hull, battleship to battleship. Instead, the juene ecole wanted to invest in fast commerce raiders to disrupt British trade, and vast swarms of disposable torpedo boats to defend French harbors.She gritted her teeth. There were two major schools of tactical thought in the RMN: the traditionalists, championed by Admiral Hamish Alexander, and Admiral of the Red Lady Sonja Hemphill's "jeune ecole." Alexander—and, for that matter, Honor—believed the fundamental tactical truths remained true regardless of weapon systems, that it was a matter of fitting new weapons into existing conceptual frameworks with due adjustment for the capabilities they conferred. The jeune ecole believed weapons determined tactics and that technology, properly used, rendered historical analysis irrelevant.
Here, the juene ecole are technocrats looking for the next tactic or tool to break up the unchanging nature of space combat. They've managed to brass off traditionalists by deriding the teaching of ancient battles. Of course, new technologies can invalidate old tactics and old wars can have relevance to modern conflicts. But as we'll see, both sides have developed a real "us against them" mentality and dug in their heels so the Traditionalists oppose any novel weapon on principle and the juene ecole refuse to repeat a trick that works.
Our first whiff of Manticoran politics. They have your basic British Constitutional Monarchy, but such a flowering of parties! Liberal, Conservative and Progressive are all pretty much what you expect. The New Men have an Objectivist/realpolitik philosophy that mostly involves cynically selling their bloc's votes to whoever offers the best concessions to them. The Crown Loyalists support the Crown as a check against the excesses of the nobility (bad boryars, good tsar?) and favor a strong middle class. Consdering the Centrists are the default good guys whenever politics comes up, we learn surprisingly little about them. Really, all we know is that the Centrists are the only ones with a clue about foreign policy, which at this point means accepting that war with Haven is inevitable.Honor suppressed an uncharacteristic urge to swear viciously. She didn't study politics, she didn't understand politics, and she didn't like politics, but even she grasped the Cromarty government's current dilemma. Confronted by the Liberals' and Progressives' inflexible opposition to big-ticket military budgets, and signs the so-called "New Men" were inclining towards temporary alliance with them, Duke Allen had been forced to draw the Conservative Association into his camp as a counterweight. It was unlikely the Conservatives would stay put—their xenophobic isolationism and protectionism were too fundamentally at odds with the Centrist and Crown Loyalist perception that open war with the People's Republic of Haven was inevitable—but for now they were needed, and they'd charged high for their allegiance. They'd wanted the military ministry, and Duke Allen had been forced to buy them off by naming Sir Edward Janacek First Lord of the Admiralty, the civilian head of Honor's own service under the Minister of War.
Janacek had been an admiral in his time, and one with a reputation for toughness and determination, but a more reactionary old xenophobe would be hard to find. He was one of the group who had opposed the annexation of the Basilisk terminus of the Manticore Junction on the grounds that it would "antagonize our neighbors" (translated: it would be the first step on the road to foreign adventurism), and that was bad enough. Unpolitical Honor might be, but she knew which party she supported. The Centrists realized that the Republic of Haven's expansionism must inevitably bring it into conflict with the Kingdom, and they were preparing to do something about it. The Conservatives wanted to bury their heads in the sand until it all went away, though they were at least willing to support a powerful fleet to safeguard their precious isolation.
But the point which most affected Fearless just now was that Hemphill was Janacek's second cousin and that Janacek personally disliked Admiral Alexander. More, the new First Lord feared the traditionalists' insistence that aggressive expansion like Haven's would continue until it was forcibly contained.
So the Centrists and Crown Loyalists march in lockstep for the duration of the series, because the Loyalists default to "support the Queen" and the Queen has strong Centrist beliefs. The Conservatives have been drawn into an alliance with these two, mostly by compromising on their agendas so the Centrists could keep the Liberals and Progressives from stripping the military on the eve-ish of war.
Wait, I'm confused. Does that mean you go Rear Admiral (red) to Rear Admiral (green) to Vice Admiral (red) or that senior and skilled Admirals are promoted to the elite Manticore Division?And, finally, Hemphill was one of the most senior admirals of the red. Each of the RMN's flag ranks was divided into two divisions on the basis of seniority: the junior half of each rank were admirals of the red, or Gryphon Division, while the senior half were admirals of the green, or Manticore Division. Simple longevity would eventually move any flag officer from one division to the other, but they could also be promoted over the heads of their fellows, and with her cousin as First Lord, Lady Sonja was poised to move up to the green—especially if she could justify her tactical theories. All of which, added together, had given Horrible Hemphill the clout to butcher Honor's helpless ship.
Well that's a lot of exposition. Basically a ship generates two sheets or planes of hypergravity, above and below that move the ship in unspecified manner. This system could theoretically go up to lightspeed, and instantly, but is restrained in practicality by the need for particle shielding and inertial dampening to keep the crew alive. So a ship's max speed is 0.8 c while acceleration varies depending on ship mass but is never higher than 600 gs (5.88 km/s squared.) Which is very impressive, but will still take a while to build up to max, about 14 hours by my envelope math.The problem was that, on paper, the whole thing made sense. Gravity sidewalls were the first and primary line of defense for every warship. The impeller drive created a pair of stressed gravity bands above and below a ship—a wedge, open at both ends, though the forward edge was far deeper than the after one—capable in theory of instant acceleration to light speed. Of course, that kind of acceleration would turn any crew to gory goo; even with modern inertial compensators, the best acceleration any warship could pull under impeller was well under six hundred gravities, but it had been a tremendous step forward. And not simply in terms of propulsion; even today no known weapon could penetrate the main drive bands of a military-grade impeller wedge, which meant simply powering its impellers protected a ship against any fire from above or below.
But that had left the sides of the impeller wedge, for they, too, were open—until someone invented the gravity sidewall and extended protection to its flanks. The bow and stern aspects still couldn't be closed, even by a sidewall, and the most powerful sidewall ever generated was far weaker than a drive band. Sidewalls could be penetrated, particularly by missiles fitted with penetration aids, but it took a powerful energy weapon at very short range (relatively speaking) to pierce them with any effect, and that limited beams to a range of no more than four hundred thousand kilometers.
Now, the top and bottom areas are effectively invulnerable to anything but a similarly powerful impeller wedge (in which case, mutual destruction) but the ship's port and starboard sides are protected by sidewalls, shields that aren't invulnerable but are still pretty tough. You can't shield the front and back though, or you'll interfere with the drive and lose the ability to alter course or speed. So the ideal is that sweet Age of Sail crossing the T, where your broadside full of weapons fires on his unshielded front or rear and only his chase armaments can touch you.
Also 400,000 km for beam weapons, and that only because they won't penetrate sidewalls from further off.
That's not true, strictly speaking, as a lot has been done with point defense and missile technology. However, at this point in the series missiles are still considered the things you lob at an opponent to annoy him while you try and get in range for your real weapons.It also meant that deep-space battles had a nasty tendency to end in tactical draws, however important they might be strategically. When one fleet realized it was in trouble, it simply turned its ships up on their sides, presenting only the impenetrable aspects of its individual units' impeller wedges, while it endeavored to break off the action. The only counter was a resolute pursuit, but that, in turn, exposed the unguarded frontal arcs of the pursuers' wedges, inviting raking fire straight down their throats as they attempted to close. Cruiser actions were more often fought to the finish, but engagements between capital ships all too often had the formalism of some intricate dance in which both sides knew all the steps.
The situation had remained unaltered for over six standard centuries, aside from changes in engagement range as beam weapons improved or defensive designers came up with a new wrinkle to make missile penetration more difficult, and Hemphill and her technophiliacs found that intolerable. They believed the grav lance could break the "static situation," and they were determined to prove it.
The concept, and flaw, behind Fearless' new armament. The grav lance doesn't always work, the range is impractically short, a quarter the range her ship dies at, at least when attacking a capital ship as Hemphill clearly wants for her dramatic proof of concept. Oh, this will be for the Annual Fleet Wargames, in case I didn't make that clear.Yet the jeune ecole wasn't right. The grav lance was new and might, indeed, someday have the potential Hemphill claimed for it, but it certainly didn't have it yet. With only a very little luck, a direct hit could set up a harmonic fit to burn out any sidewall generator, but it was a cumbersome, slow-firing, mass-intensive weapon, and its maximum range under optimum circumstances was barely a hundred thousand kilometers.
And that, she thought gloomily, was the critical flaw. To employ the lance, a ship had to close to point-blank range against enemies who would start trying to kill it with missiles at upward of a million kilometers and chime in with energy weapons at four times the lance's own range. It might even make sense aboard a capital ship with the mass to spare for it, but only an idiot (or Horrible Hemphill) would think it made sense aboard a light cruiser! Fearless simply didn't have the defenses to survive hostile fire as she closed, and thanks to the grav lance, she no longer even had the offensive weapons to reply effectively! Oh, certainly, if she got into grav lance range, and if the lance did its job, the massive energy torpedo batteries Hemphill had crammed in could tear even a superdreadnought apart. But only if the lance did its job, since energy torpedoes were as effective as so many soft-boiled eggs against an intact sidewall.
Also, missiles (with their own impeller drives) have a standing range of a million klicks. Meaning, launch from a stationary position, if a ship is moving the missile's initial velocity will be higher and it will go a lot further.
Honor tries to make the idea work, and goes right back to thinking how hopeless it is. Our heroine!Her mind begin to pick and pry at the problem. It was probable, she decided, that she could get away with it at least once, assuming the Aggressors hadn't cracked Hemphill's security. After all, the idea was so crazy no sane person would expect it!
Suppose she arranged to join one of the screening squadrons? That was a logical enough position for a light cruiser, and the big boys would tend to ignore Fearless to concentrate on the opposing capital ships. That might let her slip into lance range and get off her shot. It would be little better than a suicide run, but that wouldn't bother Hemphill's cronies. They'd consider trading a light cruiser (and its crew) for an enemy dreadnought or superdreadnought more than equitable, which was one reason Honor hated their so-called tactical doctrine.
Yet even if she got away with it once and somehow managed to survive, she'd never get away with it twice—not once the Aggressors knew Fearless was out there and what she was armed with. They'd simply burn down every light cruiser they saw, for Hemphill had placed her sledgehammer in too thin an eggshell to survive capital ship fire.
First mention of "lying doggo" when a ship hides by shutting down it's drives. Honorverse ships get around mainly with gravity sensors, which are realtime and range over much of a system. A ship's wedge stands out really well. Without the drive to lock onto, they're stuck with radar and lidar, at far shorter ranges. Of course, if they saw you kill the drives, they have a pretty good idea where you are, and killing the wedge is also how ships surrender. The main problem with lying doggo as a defensive tactic is the chance of being caught horribly out of place, and unable to play catch up.There were only so many options for a commander faced by a normal-space action inside the hyper limit of a star. It was relatively simple to hide even a capital ship (at longer ranges, anyway) by simply shutting down her impellers and dropping off the enemy's passive scanners, but the impeller drive wasn't magic. Even at the five hundred-plus gravities a destroyer or light cruiser could manage, it took time to generate respectable vector changes, so hiding by cutting power was of strictly limited utility. After all, it did no good to hide if the enemy went charging away from you at fifty or sixty percent of light-speed, and you couldn't hide if you accelerated in pursuit.
All of which meant an admiral simply couldn't conceal her maneuvers from an opponent without risking loss of contact. And since hiding was normally pointless, that left only two real options: meet the enemy in a head-on, brute power clash, or try misdirection by showing him something that wasn't quite what he thought it was. Given Admiral Hemphill's material-oriented prejudices, it had taken all of Honor's persuasiveness to build any misdirection at all into the battle plan, for Lady Sonja believed in massing overwhelming firepower and simply smashing away until something gave, which at least had the virtue of simplicity.
Also, Sonja Hemphill is a bigger hammer fort of admiral. Don't you need a lick of imagination to be a real technocrat or try and shake up the tactical doctrine?
You can see out from a wedge's ceiling or floor, but not in. Military ships have two wedges, one inside the other specifically for redundancy and to prevent anyone actually managing to peek.D'Orville's ships were charging ahead at almost a hundred and seventy thousand kilometers per second—just under .57 c—and the starfield in the forward screens was noticeably blue-shifted. But King Roger raced along between the inclined "roof" and "floor" of her impeller wedge, and the effect of a meter-deep band in which local gravity went from zero to over ninety-seven thousand MPS2 grabbed photons like a lake of glue and bent the strongest energy weapon like flimsy wire. Stars seen through a stress band like that red-shifted radically and displaced their images by a considerable margin in direct vision displays, though knowing exactly how powerful the gravity field was made it fairly simple for the computers to compensate and put them back where they belonged.
But what was possible for the generating warship was impossible for its foes. Civilian impeller drives generated a single stress band in each aspect; military impeller drives generated a double band and filled the space between them with a sidewall, for good measure. Hostile sensors might be able to analyze the outermost band, but they couldn't get accurate readings on the inner ones, and that was why no one could target something on their far side.
One thing that's always confused me about this series is how much larger the wedge is than the hsip generating it. Sometimes they say a ship can get lost inside the wedge, other times it seems implied to be much smaller.
"He's intelligent, Captain, but not experienced. Pattern indicates two-dimensional thinking."D'Orville glanced into the huge main tactical tank, double-checking Lewis's report in pure reflex. His capital ships had spread into the traditional "wall of battle," stacked both longitudinally and vertically into a formation one-ship wide and as tight as their impeller wedges permitted. It wasn't a very maneuverable arrangement, but it allowed the maximum possible broadside fire; and since they could no more shoot out through their impeller bands than an enemy could shoot in through them, it was the only practical way to accomplish that.
Rather impressive the amount of imagination and effort Weber put into developing these novel ideas for drives, just so he could cram in 18th/19th Century anachronisms into starship combat.
75 ton missiles, about the weight of a main battle tank or a really large tractor trailer truck. Also, justification for live-fire exercises.The first missiles went out as the range dropped. Not a lot of them—the chances of a hit at this distance were slight, and not even capital ships could pack in an inexhaustible supply of them—but enough to keep the other side honest.
And enough to give any good Liberal or Progressive a serious case of the hives, Honor thought, watching them go. Each of those projectiles massed just under seventy-five tons and cost upward of a million Manticoran dollars, even without warheads or penaids. No one would be fool enough to use weapons that could actually get through and damage their targets, but the Fleet had steadfastly refused every political pressure to abandon live-fire exercises. Computer simulations were invaluable, and every officer and rating of whatever branch spent long, often grueling hours in the simulators, but actual firings were the only way to be sure the hardware really worked. And, expensive or not, live-fire exercises taught the missile crews things no simulation could.
I wasn't kidding about them bringing up the math thing a lot. Reading this I was so sure it was going to be crucial to the climax of the book, but nothing came of it.Despite aptitude tests which regularly said she ought to be an outstanding number-cruncher, her Academy performance scores had steadfastly refused to live up to that potential. In point of fact, she'd nearly flunked out of multi-dimensional math in her third form, and while she'd graduated in the top ten percent overall, she'd also held the embarrassing distinction of standing two-hundred-thirty-seventh (out of a class of two hundred and forty-one) in Mathematics.
Her math scores hadn't done much for her own self confidence at the time—and they'd driven her instructors to distraction. The profs had known she could handle the math. The aptitude tests said so, her tac simulator scores had blown the roof off the curve—which wasn't exactly the mark of a mathematical moron—and her maneuvering scores had been just as high. Her kinesthetic sense was acute, she could solve multi-unit three-dimensional vector intercepts in her head (as long as she didn't think about what she was doing), and none of that ability had shown up in her applied mathematics grades. The only person it never seemed to have bothered was Admiral Courvosier—only he'd been Captain Courvosier, then—and he'd ridden her mercilessly until she came to believe in herself, whatever the grades said. Give her a real-time, real-world maneuver to worry about and she was fine, but even today she was a poor astrogator—and she could worry herself into panic attacks just thinking about math tests.
Honor pulls it off, a flawless kill of Home Fleet's flagship, by lying doggo and luring it in with Hemphill's deployments."Sir! We've got a new bogey, bearing—"
Captain Lewis's frantic warning was far too late, and the range was far too short to do anything about it. Admiral D'Orville had barely begun to turn towards him when a crimson light glared on King Roger's main status board, and damage alarms screamed as the vastly understrength grav lance smashed into the superdreadnought's port sidewall. It was far too weak to inflict actual generator damage, but the computers noted it and obediently flashed their failure warning—just as an incredible salvo of equally understrength energy torpedoes exploded against the theoretically nonexistent sidewall.
The admiral jerked upright in his command chair while the visual display flickered and glared with the energy torpedoes' fury. Then the display went blank, and his strangled, incredulous curse echoed across the hushed flag bridge as every weapon and propulsive system shut down.
Fifty years of self-discipline allowed Admiral D'Orville to stop cursing as the computers permitted his command chair's tactical display to come back up. His com systems were still locked, preventing him from doing anything about it, but at least he could see what was happening. Not that it made him feel any better. The light cruiser that had "killed" his flagship with a single broadside held its course, speeding with ever-mounting velocity on a direct reciprocal of his own fleet's vector. Its course took it through the optimum firing arc of his entire wall, but its impeller bands laughed at his capital ships' best efforts, and not even his light units had a hope in hell of catching it. They could never dump enough velocity to overhaul, and he could almost hear its captain's jubilant rasberry as he sped towards safety.
The crossing the T thing I mentioned earlier. Home Fleet falls to pieces without it's commander, who will probably be doing some epic chewing out of whoever was supposed to assume command if the flagship bit it."You were right, George," he told Lewis, fighting hard to keep his voice normal. "Sonja was up to something."
"Yes, Sir," Lewis said quietly. He rose from his own command chair to stand at D'Orville's shoulder and watch the only operational tactical display on the bridge. "And there's the rest of it," he sighed, and D'Orville winced as his chief of staff gestured at Hemphill's main body.
The Defender wall of battle was changing its vector. It went from partial to maximum deceleration, and even as it did the entire formation shifted. Its new course cut sharply in towards the Aggressor task force's, and the range raced downward as Sonja's formation slowed. The separation was still too great for her to achieve the classic ideal and cross his "T," firing her full broadsides straight into his teeth while only his leading units' bow weapons could reply, but the obviously pre-planned maneuver, coupled with the command confusion created by King Roger's "destruction," was enough to let her leading units curl in around his own. The Defenders' broadsides were suddenly ripping down his wall's throat, and if the angle remained acute, it was still sufficient to send missiles racing in through the wide-open frontal arcs of his impeller wedges. Point defense was stopping a lot of them, but not enough, and bright, vicious battle damage codes appeared beside the light dots of his lead units as long-range beam fire ripped at those delicious, unprotected targets, as well.
Wait, Sonja Hemphill pulled out her secret weapon in the first of 15 games? Then tried it in every subsequent game, having no other trump card whatsoever? She must have some truly astonishing family connections to be made an admiral with no understanding of tactics, strategy, or politics.Things had gone far better than she'd dared hope in the major Fleet problem of the recent maneuvers, but, as if to compensate, the subsequent problems had worked out even more disastrously than she'd feared. As expected, D'Orville and his squadron commanders had realized exactly what Fearless had done to them, and their humiliating showing had inspired them to make certain it never happened again. More than that, it had given them a personal grudge against Fearless (whatever Admiral D'Orville might have had to say about his personal admiration for their maneuver), especially after Hemphill's detached dreadnoughts turned up and battered the surviving Aggressors into ignominious retreat with forty-two percent losses.
D'Orville's captains had been waiting for Honor in the follow-up exercises. Indeed, she suspected some of them had been more concerned with nailing Fearless than winning the exercise! In a total of fourteen "engagements," the light cruiser had been "destroyed" thirteen times, and she'd only succeeded in taking someone with her (aside from King Roger, of course) twice.