Our story begins roughly nine months after the last book. Since the Ominous Council of Haven Leaders was deposed, we instead intro with White Haven at the Battle of Nightingale.
8 SDs and 16 DNs, heavy with pods launch an opening salvo of 3200 missiles. Get used to it.The rest of Battle Squadron Twenty-One fired with her, and all eight superdreadnoughts simultaneously flushed the missile pods towing astern of them. BatRon Eight and BatRon Seventeen's dreadnoughts followed suit, and thirty-two hundred impeller drive missiles lanced out across five and a half million kilometers of vacuum.
White Haven nearly gets mousetrapped at Nightingale when the locals come out to meet him in an organized military fashion, don't break after the first massive broadside and nearly herd him into their comrades waiting in concealment. Hamish gets out fine of course, but this can only mean one thing."New contact! Multiple contacts—multiple capital ship impeller sources at zero-four-six zero-three-niner! Range one-eight million klicks and closing! Designate this force Bogey Two!"
White Haven's head snapped around to the main plot as the passionless computers updated it. Two dozen fresh lights glowed crimson off Queen Caitrin's starboard bow as a second force of Peep superdreadnoughts lit off their drives, and his nostrils flared in sudden understanding.
No wonder that wall had closed so steadily! White Haven extended his enemies a single moment of ungrudging respect as he recognized the trap into which that unflinching Peep formation was herding his own. Another fifteen minutes, and he would have been hopelessly boxed, committed to close action against Bogey One even as Bogey Two came boring into his flank from above, and he'd walked straight into it.
But they didn't have him boxed yet, he thought grimly. The new Peep government's purges of its officer corps had cost them dearly in experience, and it showed. Bogey Two's commander had jumped the gun, possibly out of panic at the losses Bogey One was taking, and lit off his drives too soon. A more experienced CO would have waited, whatever happened to Bogey One, until he had the Manticoran wall at point-blank, trapped between both enemy walls and with its long-range advantages negated in an energy weapon engagement.
The People's Navy is back in business, and set a deliberate trap at Nightingale. After nine months of uncoordinated local and system defense forces, resistance is stiffening. For those nine months the Manties have been driving as fast and hard as they dare for Trevor's Star and San Martin, the system on the Haven side of the Manticoran Wormhole Junction. Wormholes are the absolute last word in moving supplies and ships forward quickly and in total security, taking Trevor's Star would ensure the security of the Junction, and it makes a decent forward position to move against Haven itself. All excellent reasons for Manticore to want it, and the Peeps are as familiar with the situation as their opposite numbers.The war had just changed, he thought distantly, watching the exchange of fire grow still more furious. The Peeps were back on balance. They were initiating, no longer reacting with clumsy panic to Manticoran attacks. He'd known it was coming, that the People's Republic was simply too vast to be toppled in a rush, but he'd prayed for it to take longer. Now he knew it hadn't, and he drew a deep breath.
Most public buildings in Grayson are domed, but the Protector of Grayson has a special thing for gardening and flower arranging.Like all public buildings on Grayson, Protector's Palace lay under a controlled-environment dome, but a corner of the grounds held another, smaller dome, as well. It was a greenhouse, and High Admiral Wesley Matthews braced himself as an armsman in the House of Mayhew's maroon and gold opened its door for him. An almost visible wave of humid heat swirled out, and he sighed and unhooked his tunic collar, but that was as far as he intended to go. This time he was going to stay in proper uniform if it killed him.
Units needed on the front, and well, Grayson is just about the only Alliance world that can really look out for itself."The Manticorans will have to pull their last capital units out of Yeltsin within two months, Your Grace," the admiral said quietly.
Progression of the First Haven War, and pretty much all we're going to get for the time between books four and five."In the war's first six months," he said, "Manticore captured nineteen Havenite star systems, including two major fleet bases. Their total capital ship losses during that time were two superdreadnoughts and five dreadnoughts, against which they destroyed forty Havenite ships of the wall. They also added thirty-one capital ships to their own order of battle—twenty-six captured units, exclusive of the eleven Admiral White Haven gave us after Third Yeltsin, and five more from new construction. That put them within roughly ninety percent of the Peeps' remaining ships of the wall, and they had the advantage of the initiative, not to mention the edge the People's Navy's confusion and shattered morale gave them.
"In the last three months, however, the RMN's captured only two systems and lost nineteen capital ships doing it—including the ten they lost at Nightingale, where they didn't take the system. The Peeps are still taking heavier losses, but remember that they have all those battleships. They may be too small for proper ships of the wall, but they provide a rear area coverage the Manties can't match without diverting dreadnoughts or superdreadnoughts, which frees a higher percentage of the Peeps' ships of the wall for front-line use. Put simply, the Peeps still have more ships to lose than Manticore does, and the war is slowing down, Your Grace. Peep resistance is stiffening, and the Manties are transferring more and more of their own strength to the front in an effort to hang onto their momentum."
tl;dr- Manticore is up 22 systems, including 2 fleet bases, and 26 captured wallers. They built 5 more capital ships since the war started, but have lost 26, mostly in the last couple of months. They've more-or-less leveled their tonnage disadvantage against Haven, discounting battleships. Since Haven can assign arbitrarily large numbers of BBs to system defense or patrols though, ALL Peep wallers can go directly to the front line. Do not pass go, do not collect a BLS stipend.
One "reform" of Rob Pierre's was to fold all the many spy and secret police groups running around Haven (seriously, 3 secret police are too many) into one body, State Security, or StateSec. Statesec also provides the commissars to stand on starship bridges with a hand on their holstered gun. All in all, everyone is highly motivated to prove their loyalty, competence and energy to the new regime."I knew things were slowing down, but I hadn't realized how drastically. What's changed, Wesley?"
"That's hard to say, Your Grace, but I've been in correspondence with Admiral Caparelli, and Admiral Givens at the Manties' ONI confirms that this Committee of Public Safety that's running the PRH has consolidated all previous security organs under one new, monster umbrella. You'd have to look back to Old Earth's Totalitarian Age for a parallel to how ruthlessly they've purged their officer corps, and there are rumors they're sending out 'political officers' to watchdog their fleet commanders. Their purges cost them virtually all their senior—and experienced—flag officers, and the officers they haven't killed off are competing out of their class against the RMN, but the ones who survive are learning . . . and they know what'll happen if they fail the new regime. Add in some sort of political commissars to remind them of that, and you get a navy with a powerful will to fight. They're far clumsier than the Manties, but their navy's still bigger, and once some of their new admirals start lasting long enough to gain the experience their predecessors had—"
I'm assuming the rebellions mentioned last book are crushed or got 'liberated' by Manticore.
Oh, and future history includes an Age of Totalitarianism, which I'm thinking means the 20th Century.
High Admiral Matthew's take on how the war is going to go, which he stresses is just his opinion."First, there'll be a period of stalemate, with both sides skirmishing for advantage but with neither daring to withdraw too many ships of the wall from the main combat area. Second, the Alliance will get its industry fully cranked up. The Manties are already there. They had eighteen of the wall under construction in the Star Kingdom itself from prewar programs; those units are now proceeding on a crash priority basis to commission over the next six months, and their new war program will start delivering additional units within ten months. Our own yards will complete our first home-built SD about the same time, and the Manty yards in Grendelsbane and Talbot will do the same. Once we hit our stride, we'll be turning out four or five of the wall a month.
"On the Peeps' side, they've already effectively lost their advantage in ships of the wall, and the Manties have taken out a half dozen of their major forward service bases. That means simply repairing battle damage will put a greater strain on their building yards and, in turn, slow construction rates. Despite its size, their industrial plant's less efficient than the Alliance's, and I don't think they can outbuild us. On the other hand, we can't outbuild them, either, certainly not by a decisive margin, and they still have the battleships I already mentioned. Which means, three, that this is going to be a long, long war unless one side or the other completely screws up.
"In the long run, the decisive factor will probably be the relative strengths of our political systems. At the moment, Pierre and his Committee have instituted what amounts to a reign of terror. Whether or not they can sustain that, or find something more stable to replace it, is the critical question in my own view, because this war isn't about territory anymore. It's become a war for survival; someone—either the Kingdom of Manticore and its allies, including us, or the People's Republic of Haven—is going down this time, Your Grace. For good."
Also, an expert's look at the industrial output of both sides. Manticore had 18 capital ships in production when things went down, they've delivered five and are due to turn out the remaining 13 six months after this chat, 15 months after the war started. Granted that's an emergency ram-through, and their next ships, the ones laid after the war started, will be out in another 10. It's taking 19 months since the war began to finish the first capital hulls at the new yards at Grayson, Talbot and Grandelsbane. Grayson believes they'll eventually hit 4 or 5 wallers a month, implying a lot of berths. I believe Talbot and Grendelsbane can reach similar output and Mantiocre should be far ahead. All in all, even Roger probably never dreamed of the fleet sizes we're going to see by the end of this thing. comparatively, Haven is inefficient enough to only about match that, despite their greater size and resources, neither side is going to be decisively outbuilding the other, and the whole thing will hit more or less a stalemate, WWI in space unless one side comes up with a technical edge or falls to internal forces. Or both.
If the Manticoran Navy had growing pains with the build-up, the Grayson Navy has exploded. 80+% wiped out two or three years ago, then growing to over a hundred times it's original size. Experienced personnel are vanishingly rare, hells they had less than two surviving flag officers, and the fact that they're even considering giving LAC skippers battlecruisers should say a lot. Manticore has helped some, lending out experienced people and technical advisors over the years, but their own needs are showing now. Honor, on the other hand, has more experience with command and modern hardware than most of the Navy, and more battle experience than virtually anyone in the Alliance (though, 9 months into the war that's probably less true.)"And that, Your Grace," Matthews said quietly, "is why we need Lady Harrington. Virtually our entire cadre of senior officers was wiped out in the Masadan War, and we're promoting men who've never skippered anything heavier than a light attack craft to command destroyers and cruisers—even battlecruisers. My own experience is limited enough by Manticoran standards, and when the Manties pull out, I'll be the most experienced officer we've got . . . except for Lady Harrington."
But let's check in on Honor and her various wacky hijinks.
Honor's Grayson armsmen first considered swimming something between suicidal and a criminal waste of clean water. She seems to have splurged on an Olympic-sized pool, which probably didn't help. Still, they all went through lifeguard training and most have learned to enjoy themselves along the way. Now, if they could only find swim-wear that wasn't offensive, or really, if anyone could design feminine swimwear that wasn't offensive.The major had been horrified when he learned his Steadholder intended to deliberately immerse herself in over three meters of water. Swimming was a lost art on Grayson; LaFollet hadn't known a single person who'd ever acquired it, and he'd been unable to imagine why any sane individual would want to. Grayson's high concentration of heavy metals meant even its "fresh" water was dangerously contaminated. In all his thirty-three T-years before entering Lady Harrington's service, Andrew LaFollet had never drunk or even bathed in water which hadn't been distilled and purified, and the notion of putting thousands of liters of precious water into a hole in the ground and then jumping into it was . . . well, "bizarre" was the kindest word which had sprung to mind when Lady Harrington ordered her "swimming pool."
His own concepts of propriety had been—"expanded" was the best word for it—as her armsman, but he was still a Grayson. He'd tackled the task of learning to swim and completed a life-saving course out of grim devotion to duty and, to his own surprise, found he enjoyed it. Most of her security detail did, though Jamie Candless still harbored pronounced reservations. They'd even taken to spending many of their own off-duty hours in the Steadholder's pool, but Lady Harrington's swimsuit was an armed assault on Grayson mores. LaFollet's standards had become progressively less "proper" over the past year—which he was prepared to admit, intellectually, was probably a good thing—yet he was guiltily aware of the ingrained criteria of his rearing whenever he watched his Steadholder swim.
He knew she'd made concessions. Her one-piece suit was positively dowdy by Manticoran standards, but the corner of his mind where the most basic elements of socialization lived insisted she might as well be naked.
I do like how Weber is thinking about how the Graysons would view things like swimming though, it really helps to flesh them out.
And on at least a couple of occasions Honor dragged the armsmen home to Sphinx to indulge in some of her other hobbies, hang-gliding, mountain climbing and sailing, all relatively unknown on Grayson. Well, I could seem them rock-climbing or sailing a ship from necessity, but between dust and frothing wave that's probably a bit too much risk for casual fun. One really wonders where a career military officer from a middle-class background found time for all these hobbies.Swimming was bad enough, but at least she did that on a nice, flat piece of Harrington House's protectively domed grounds—which made it infinitely preferable to her other pursuits. Hang-gliding was a planetary passion on her home world, and LaFollet cringed every time he thought of it. He knew she'd been an expert glider before he learned to walk, yet her refusal to so much as consider taking along an emergency counter-grav unit was less than reassuring to the man charged with keeping her alive.
Fortunately, hang-gliding was as out of the question on Grayson as skinny dipping. Over the course of their thousand-year history, Graysons had developed higher tolerances for heavy metals than most humans. Lady Harrington hadn't, and—praise God fasting!—her career as a naval officer had given her a healthy respect for environmental hazards. Which, unfortunately, wasn't much help on her rare visits to her parents. LaFollet and Corporal Mattingly had spent an absolutely horrifying afternoon following her fragile glider around Sphinx's craggy-peaked Copper Wall Mountains and far out over the Tannerman Ocean in a tractor-equipped air car, and thoughts of what an ill-intentioned person with a pulse rifle might have done to such a sitting target were not calculated to help a bodyguard sleep soundly.
Her passion for mountain climbing was even worse, in a way. He was willing to accept her assurances that other people did "real" rock climbing, but scrambling up and down steep slopes and along the brinks of towering precipices with her—and on a 1.35-gravity world, at that—was quite enough of an adventure. Then there was the ten-meter sloop she kept in her parents' enormous boathouse. Even counter-grav life jackets had seemed dreadfully frail props to people who hadn't had the least idea how to swim as she sent it skimming over the waves and they clung white-knuckled to stays or cleats.
Of course, she wasn't just doing this to give her bodyguards heart attacks, she was out to prove to herself and them that hauling an armed entourage everywhere was not going to stop her from doing the things she loves.
The book will mention a few times how plants brought to Grayson by the original settlers adapted to the heavy metals and are no longer safe for off-worlders, besides looking and tasting different. Which is to be expected, it's been thousands of years and seeds from Old Earth have been scattered to a wide variety of environments."You spoil us, Mac," she said, and MacGuiness shook his head fondly. He poured rich, dark beer into her stein, and she selected a cheese wedge and nibbled it appreciatively. She still had to approach Grayson foods with care—the Diaspora's two millennia had taken Terran vegetables to very different environments, and subtle variations between nominally identical species could have unfortunate consequences—but the local cheeses were delicious.
It seems reactionary protesters have lined up outside Honor's house. As a Steadholder, she can absolutely have security wade out there and crack some heads, as a middle-class daughter of a constitutional monarchy, she believes in freedom to assemble and orders LaFollet to do nothing as long as they break no laws."Andrew, we've been over this. I know it bothers you, but we can't go around arresting people for exercising their right of assembly."
"No, My Lady," LaFollet replied with deferential obstinacy, resisting the temptation to point out that some steadholders could—and would—do just that. "But we certainly can exclude anyone we think is a security risk."
One of those oddly humanizing moments honor gets sometimes, like her repeated nightmares of all the people she's lost on her various death-rides. Honor is obscurely comforted that not all Graysons love her.She supposed she couldn't blame the dissenters, though it was sometimes hard to remember that. Their attacks could hurt—badly—yet a part of her actually welcomed them. Not because she liked being vilified, but because her desperate, back-to-the-wall defense of Grayson against the fanatics of Masada gave her a stature with the majority of Graysons which she still found an uncomfortable fit. The honors with which they'd heaped her, including her steadholdership, sometimes left her feeling uneasily as if she were playing a part, and the proof that not all Graysons saw her as some sort of holo-drama heroine could be almost reassuring.
It was unpleasant, to put it mildly, to be called "the Handmaiden of Satan," but at least the street preachers' ranting cut through the deference others showed her. She remembered reading that one of Old Earth's empires—she couldn't recall whether it had been the Roman or the French—had placed a slave in the chariot of a victorious general as he paraded triumphantly through the streets. While the crowds screamed his praises, it was the slave's function to remind him, again and again, that he was only mortal. At the time she'd read it, she'd thought it a quaint custom; now she'd come to appreciate its fundamental wisdom, for she suspected it would be seductively easy to accept the endless cheers at face value. After all, who didn't want to be a hero?
Oh, it seems that LaFollet and the armsmen (to say nothing of Mac) know all about Nimitz's ability to share his sense of empathy with Honor, having figure it out on their own. They aren't positive why she's so dedicated to keeping it a secret (because it keeps people from blasting Sphinx from orbit?) but they're just as happy to have the trump card.Her small smile thanked him, and he smiled back, grateful once again that Nimitz wasn't a telepath. After all, what the Steadholder didn't know wouldn't upset her, and Colonel Hill's intelligence net had identified the agitators most likely to inveigh against her for the "lechery" of her unmarried affair with Paul Tankersley. They were the truly dangerous ones, he thought, for the sanctity of marriage—and the sinfulness of unmarried sex—were part of Grayson's religious bedrock. Most (though certainly not all) Graysons reserved their contempt for the man when such things occurred, for female births outnumbered male on Grayson by three to one, and Grayson was a hard world, where survival and religion alike had evolved an iron code of responsibility. A man who engaged in casual dalliance violated his overriding obligation to provide for and protect a woman who gave him her love and might bear his children. But it wasn't entirely one-sided, and even the Graysons who most respected the Steadholder were often uncomfortable over her relationship with Tankersley. The majority of them seemed to accept the self-evident fact that Manticorans had different standards and that, by those standards, neither she nor Tankersley had done wrong, but LaFollet suspected most of them did their best not to think about it at all. And he more than suspected that the handful of fanatics who hated her for simply being what she was knew it, too. Sooner or later one of them would use it against her where she could hear it, and the major knew how cruelly that would wound her. Not just politically, but inside, where the loss of the man she loved had cut so deep into her soul.
Honor's 'living in sin' with Tankersley is a fairly major point against her with most Graysons, and so the lever her critics and political opponents love to reach for.
It's still a vast manor, befitting a global savior.Harrington House was entirely too large, luxurious, and expensive for her own taste, but she hadn't been consulted when it was built. The Graysons had intended it as a gift to the woman who'd saved their planet, which meant she couldn't complain, and she'd come to a slightly guilty acceptance of its magnificence. Besides, as Howard Clinkscales was fond of pointing out, it hadn't been built solely for her. Indeed, most of its imposing space was given up to the administrative facilities of Harrington Steading, and she had to admit that there seemed to be precious little room to spare.
Honor's thoughts on the differences between politicians and soldiers. A bit that I admit stuck with me the first time I read it, and which I feel is still valid.She'd never really considered it before she was pitchforked into the steadholdership, but once she'd come face-to-face with her role as one of Grayson's autocratic Keys she'd recognized the true reason she'd always disliked politics. She'd been trained all her life to seek decision, to identify objectives and do whatever it took to attain them, knowing that any hesitation would only cost more lives in the end. The politician's constant need to rethink positions and seek compromise was foreign to her, and she suspected it would be to most military officers. Politicos were trained to think in those terms, to cultivate less-than-perfect consensuses and accept partial victories, and it was more than mere pragmatism. It also precluded despotism, but people who fought wars preferred direct, decisive solutions to problems, and a Queen's officer dared settle only for victory. Gray issues made warriors uncomfortable, and half-victories usually meant they'd let people die for too little, which undoubtedly explained their taste for autocratic systems under which people did what they were told to do without argument.
And, she thought wryly, it also explained why military people, however noble their motives, made such a botch of things when they seized political power in a society with nonautocratic traditions. They didn't know how to make the machine work properly, which meant, all too often, that they wound up smashing it in pure frustration.
After Honor forbids her armsmen from breaking up the protest outside, they find enough concerned citizens to start a counter-protest and run off the imported protesters all on their own. The end result is this happens for four days straight and Honor finally bans the protests because they lead to riots."There are some . . . people with signs at the East Gate," he said.
"Are there, Sir?" Mattingly said slowly.
"Indeed there are. Of course, the Steadholder says we can't touch them, so . . ." LaFollet let his voice trail off, and he could almost see the corporal nod in comprehension of what he hadn't said.
"I understand, Sir. I'll warn all the boys to leave them alone before I go off duty."
"Good idea, Simon. We wouldn't want them involved if anything untoward were to happen. Ah, by the way, perhaps you should let me know where to find you if I need you before you're due to report back."
"Of course, Sir. I thought I'd go see how the Sky Domes' construction crews are coming. They're finishing up this week, and you know how much I love watching them work. Besides, they're all devoted to the Steadholder, so I try to sort of keep them up to date on how things are going for her."
Honor's refusal to surround herself with the army of servants steadholder tradition required irritated some members of the Harrington House staff, who felt it reduced their own consequence. That view left Honor unmoved, yet she'd capitulated—unwillingly—to the demand that she retain at least one female servant. None of her household dared comment on the fact that MacGuiness was a man, which automatically made him totally unacceptable as a woman's personal attendant, but it had offered her public critics ready-made ammunition. Besides, Mac was fully occupied as her majordomo, and he'd been no more familiar with Grayson notions of style than she when they arrived.
She'd expected it to be hard to find a maid she could stand, but then Andrew LaFollet had somewhat diffidently suggested his sister Miranda. The fact that she was the major's sister automatically recommended her to Honor, and if Miranda wasn't the woman to storm the bastions of male supremacy, she was a sturdy-minded, independent sort.
Honor gets a personal maid to help her look after her appearance, LaFollet's sister Miranda.
Upper-class Grayson women reminded Honor irresistibly of Old Earth peacocks. They were gorgeous, colorful, lively . . . and too baroque for her tastes. Their jewels were ornate, their loose-fitting vests rich with brocade and embroidery, their gowns a billow of body-shrouding skirts and pleats and lace. Honor's were none of those things, and not by happenstance. Such styles would have made someone her height look as huge as a house, she thought, and she hadn't needed Miranda's painfully tactful expression to tell her she lacked the native Grayson's ability to manage such costumes gracefully. She was working on it, but those skills were harder to acquire than they appeared, especially for someone who'd spent a lifetime in uniform, so she'd reminded herself that a good tactician overcame disadvantages by maximizing her advantages. If she couldn't cope with local fashion, then it was time to trade ruthlessly on her steadholder's status to set fashion, instead, and Miranda had dived into the project with enthusiasm.
Yes, Harrington Steading consists mostly of the city of Harrington and surrounding lands. And it's a proper sprawling city and not one or two megascrapers.Harrington City would have been only a large town on Manticore, but it seemed much bigger, for Grayson architecture reflected the limits of Grayson's pre-Alliance tech base, with none of the mighty towers of most counter-grav civilizations. Its buildings were low-growing and close to the ground—thirty stories was considered a monster—and that meant the same amount of housing spread out over a far wider stretch of ground.
Honor still found that a bit odd as her ground car purred down Courvosier Avenue and she gazed out at her capital. She'd gotten over her discomfort (not without a struggle) at learning any steading's capital always bore the steading's name, but watching the buildings pass reminded her yet again of the vast differences between Graysons and Manticorans. It would have been far more efficient to use the newly acquired technologies to build proper towers—one tower would have held Harrington City's total population with ease, and it would have been easy to seal it against the hostile environment, as well—but Grayson didn't do things that way.
Honor's subjects were a baffling mix of obstinate tradition and inventiveness. They'd used the new technology with impressive innovation to build this entire city from the ground up in barely three T-years, which had to be a record for a project of such size, but they'd built it the way they thought it should be, and she'd been wise enough not to argue the point. After all, it was to be their home. They had a right to make it one they were comfortable in, and as she gazed down broad cross streets and green swathes threaded through the city grid, she had to admit it felt right. Different from any city she'd ever before known, but curiously and completely right.
Harrington is the first city on Grayson to be completely domed. Between the difficulties of farming on the ground and the expense of farming in space, 70% of Grayson GDP goes into agriculture to feed their 2 billion residents. There's also a mention of draconian population control, I had thought the Graysons were more about R-strategy, haven enough kids and maybe some will live. Well, at least in the early days, they do have a thousand year history and all. Confirmation of 3 T-years since the second book, curious.They'd had to, for it was physically impossible to completely decontaminate planetary farmland and keep it that way.
Or it had been, she reminded herself, glancing up at the towering crystoplast dome that covered the entire city and several thousand hectares of as yet empty ground. People on Grayson lived more like the denizens of an orbital habitat than a normal planetary population, and their homes were sealed enclaves of filtered air and distilled water, but Harrington City was different. For the first time, Grayson architects had been able to design a city as a living, breathing unity—one whose people could walk its streets without emergency breath masks—and the same technology would soon be extended to the agricultural sector, as well.
Food production had always been a major limiting factor on Grayson's population. Not even its natives could survive for long on vegetables grown in unreclaimed soil, and keeping farmland decontaminated was a nightmare task, so over two-thirds of their food was grown in space. The orbital farms were far more productive, on a volume-for-volume basis, than any dirt-side farm, but building them had been hideously expensive, especially with pre-Alliance technology. Historically, simply feeding its people had soaked up something like seventy percent of Yeltsin's gross system product, but that was about to change. Sky Domes' projections indicated that food could be produced in domed farms—essentially nothing more than vast, self-contained greenhouses—for little more than two-thirds of the orbital habitats' ongoing production costs and with far smaller startup investments.
The consequences, both economically and for the population the system could support, would be stupendous. Sky Domes wasn't merely going to make Grayson cities nicer; it was going to eliminate factors which had forced Grayson to practice draconian population control throughout its history, and only the influx of Manticoran technology and Honor's own financial backing had made it possible.
Again something of Grayson's history (good job, studying Honor!) and something of their character and what generally happens to people living in places where the entire world is literally trying to kill them.Honor's interest in military history meant she knew only too well how often the intolerance of religious bigotry had exacted its price in blood and atrocity, how seldom a single faith had enjoyed universal acceptance without becoming an instrument of repression. And she knew how fanatical the original Church of Humanity had been when it shook the dust of Old Earth from its sandals to found its own perfect society on this beautiful, deadly planet. Yet somehow the Church had avoided repression here. There had been times, in its past, when that was not true. She knew that, too, for she'd applied herself to the study of Grayson history with even more intensity than she had to that of Manticore. She had to, for she must learn to know and understand the people accident had called her to rule. So, yes, she knew of the periods when the Church had ossified, when doctrine had hardened into dogma. But those periods seldom lasted, which was all the more surprising in such a deeply traditional people as those of Grayson.
Perhaps it was because the Church had learned from the horrors of Grayson's Civil War, when over half the planet's total population had perished. Surely that terrible lesson had cut deep, yet she thought it was only half the answer—and that the very world on which they lived was the other half.
Grayson was its own people's worst enemy, the invisible threat perpetually waiting to destroy the unwary. That wasn't unique to Yeltsin's Star, of course. Any orbital habitat offered its inhabitants countless ways to do themselves in, and many another planet was equally, if less insidiously, dangerous. But most people in such environments either became slaves to the traditions they knew spelled survival or else developed an almost automatic, instinctive rejection of tradition in eternal search for better ways to survive. What made the Graysons different was that, somehow, they'd done both. They did cling to the traditions they'd tested and found good, yet they were simultaneously willing to consider the new in ways even Manticorans were not, for the Manticore System's three inhabited worlds were friendly to Man.
Looks a damn fine return on that particular investment. Though last book she was just going to invest $7.5 million Manticoran, or 10 million austins. She seems to have invested more, and the exchange rate is reasonably consistent."As of this morning, Sky Domes has received definite construction commitments worth over two hundred million austins, with more to follow."
The dome itself seemed to quiver with the volume of the shout that awoke. The entire Sky Domes project had been a risky venture for a fledgling steading, and only Honor's off-world wealth had made it possible. She'd used her prize money and the income from its investment to bankroll the company to the tune of twelve million Manticoran dollars—over sixteen million austins—and Sky Domes had built Harrington City's dome at cost, expressly as a demonstration project, but the gamble had paid off. Sky Domes, Ltd., had a lock on the new dome technology, which meant income and investment and jobs for all of Harrington Steading's people.
Meet Brother Marchant and Steadholder Burdette. If you haven't figured it out by now, they'll be the villains of this piece. In this case, Marchant has crashed the 'finished the city-dome' party to denounce Honor. Of course, attacking Honor non-fatally is a pretty bad move, and all he really achieved was to give her her moxie back."Repent, I say!" the black-clad man thundered. "Down on your knees, Honor Harrington, and beg the forgiveness of the God you so grossly offend by your damnable transgressions against His will!"
His contemptuous words burned like acid, and something happened inside her. Something she'd thought lost forever snapped back into place like the resocketing of a dislocated limb . . . or the click of a missile tube loading hatch. Her chocolate-dark eyes hardened, and Nimitz reared high on her shoulder. He hissed an echo of her sudden rage, flattening his ears and baring his fangs, and she felt Julius Hanks stiffen beside her as the happy crowd noise faltered and people looked back. One or two Harringtons started angrily towards the speaker, only to stop as they saw his clerical collar, and she sensed Andrew LaFollet reaching for his com. She reached out and intercepted his wrist without even looking.
"Let me deal with him, My Lady," Hanks whispered. She glanced at the old man, and his eyes burned with anger. "That's Brother Marchant," Hanks explained. "He's an ignorant, opinionated, intolerant, closed-minded bigot, and he has no business here. His congregation is up in Burdette Steading. In fact, he's Lord Burdette's personal chaplain."
"Ah." Honor nodded. She understood Hanks' anger now, and she clamped down an iron control as her own stirred. So that was how all those demonstrators had gotten here, she thought coldly.
William Fitzclarence, Lord Burdette, was probably the most prejudiced of all Grayson's steadholders. Some of the others might be in two minds about accepting a woman steadholder; Burdette wasn't. Only Protector Benjamin's personal warning had kept his mouth shut during her formal investment, and he ignored her with icy contempt whenever he couldn't completely avoid her. There was no way Marchant had come here without his patron's permission, which suggested Burdette and those of like mind had decided to openly support the opposition and probably explained the source of the funds which had brought so many outside protesters to Harrington.
It's always fun to quote scripture at the fire-and-brimstone zealots. Anyway, they keep the quotation game up for a while, and Honor seems to be winning, because he shifts to attacking her relationship with Tankersley and while she defends her love and intention to eventually marry with tear-filled eyes he suggest her lover was smote for his sins and she will likewise bring ruin to all she touches, and that's all it takes a trigger a riot as the god-fearing residents of Harrington city try to beat a man of the cloth to death. Honor gets her armsmen to rescue to him, and both sides consider the thing a sort of no-score win."You had something you wished to say, Sir?" she invited, and the clergyman flushed as she goaded him with her very courtesy.
"You are a stranger to God, Honor Harrington!" he proclaimed, waving his book once more, and Honor felt LaFollet bristle afresh at his repeated use of her first name. As his omission of her title, it was a calculated insult from a man who'd never even been introduced to her, but she simply reached up to soothe Nimitz once more and waited. "You are infidel and heretic, by your own admission before the Conclave of Steadholders when you refused to embrace the Faith, and one not of Father Church is no fit protector for God's people!"
"Forgive me, Sir," Honor said quietly, "but it seemed to me more fitting to state openly, before God and the Conclave, that I had not been raised in the Church of Humanity. Should I have pretended otherwise?"
"You should never have profaned by seeking worldly power!" Marchant shouted. "Woe be unto Grayson that a heretic and woman should claim the steadholder's key as God's steward! For a thousand years, this world has been God's—now those who have forgotten His law profane it by turning to foreign ways and leading His people into the wars of infidel powers, and it was you, Honor Harrington, who brought these things to us! You corrupt the Faith by your very presence, by the unclean example and ideas you carry like pestilence! 'Beware those who would seduce you, my brothers. Heed not those who would defile the temple of your soul with promises of material things and worldly power, but hold fast to the way of God and be free!' "
Honor heard Hanks inhale between clenched teeth as Marchant quoted from The Book of the New Way. It was the second most sacred of all Grayson texts, and she felt the Reverend's fury as Marchant twisted it to his purpose. But Honor had spent hours poring over The New Way herself in an effort to understand her people, and now she blessed the sharpness of her own memory.
"Perhaps you should finish your citation, Sir," she said to Marchant, and her prosthetic eye showed her the shock on his face. "I believe," she continued calmly and clearly, "that Saint Austin ended that passage with 'Shut not your minds to the new because the chains of the past bind you tight, for it is those who cling most desperately to the old who will turn you from the New Way and lead you once more into the paths of the unclean.' "
"Blasphemy!" Marchant shrieked. "How dare you set your tongue to the words of the Book, heretic?!"
"Why should I not?" Honor returned in a tone of deadly reason. "Saint Austin wrote not simply for those who had already accepted the Church, but for those he sought to bring to it. You call me heretic, but surely a heretic is one who claims to accept your Faith and then twists it to his own liking. I make no such claim, for I was reared in another faith, but should that prevent me from reading and respecting the teachings of yours?"
"What do you know of the Faith?!" Marchant spat. "You parrot the words, but their meaning is not in you! The very key about your neck proclaims it, for woman was never meant to rule. 'Gather your sons to build the world God ordains, and guard your wives and daughters well. Protect them and teach them, that they may know God's will through you.' Through you!" Marchant repeated, glaring furiously at her. "God Himself tells us Woman is to be governed by Man, as a father governs his children, not to violate His law by setting herself against His will! You and your accursed Star Kingdom infect us all with your poisons! You lead our young men into godless war and our young women into the sins of pride and debauchery, turning wife against husband and daughter against father!"
"I think not, Sir." Honor allowed an edge of ice into her own voice as she met the clergyman's glare and chose another passage from The New Way. " 'Fathers, do not close your minds to the words of your children, for they are less fixed in the old ways. Nor should there be strife between a man and his wives. Love them and heed their council. We are all the Sons and Daughters of God, Who created us Man and Woman that we might comfort and aid one another, and a day will come when Man will need Woman's strength as well as his own.' "
Now, if Mattews had asked Honor that morning to join the Grayson Space Navy, I don't know she would have been ready. But facing an enemy gave her back her focus, so congrats Burdette and Marchant, thanks to you Honor's back in black (well, blue. Which is a new color for her.)