"Well, every merchant line knows that if one of its ships is taken, whoever grabbed her will want to pull the wool over the eyes of any Navy ships they run into. But most navies have at least their own national shipping list in memory—complete with transponder codes matched to emissions signatures. So pirates also know there's at least some risk an alert plotting and com team will cross check and notice some little flaw any time they use a false transponder code." The exec shrugged. "That's why pirates tend to go on using the original code until they get a prize safely tucked away somewhere, rather than generating a fresh, false one."
"Of course it is," Glockauer said as his second-in-command paused. His comment could have sounded impatient, since Engelmann was busy saying something both of them already knew perfectly well. But he recognized that tone of voice. Binyan was onto something, and Glockauer was willing to give him time to lay out the groundwork for whatever it was.
"The thing I'm wondering, Skipper," the korvetten kapitän said, "is whether or not someone at Reichenbach figured out a way to take advantage of that tendency. Suppose they set up the beacon software to tag the transponder with a Seventeen-Alpha if the ship was taken? If they did, then they could also have rigged the rest of their software to strip the tag off when it plays the transponder code back to the bridge crew."
Why a freighter may be coming into the system, acting all casual but blaring a distress signal with their transponder, specifically a 17A- pirates have boarded. Apparently a 17 is pirates are boarding, and either is pretty rare outside of fiction. The crew rigged it and told the bridge displays to show the normal transponder squawk.
Little though Glockauer or any other Andermani officer might care to admit it, the Royal Manticoran Navy had been the true mainstay of piracy suppression in the Confederacy for over two centuries. It was only in the last hundred or so T-years that the Andermani Empire's fleet had begun to acquire the size and the numbers to pretend to exercise any meaningful, long-term police power in the area. Glockauer knew that was true, just as he understood that until the last fifty years—seventy-five, at the most—the Andermani merchant fleet had been too insignificant to justify the expense required to build up the Navy's light forces to a point which would have permitted it to make any real inroad into the bloody forays of the Confederacy's pirates and privateers.
So Andy expansion into Silesia is a relatively recent thing, you know, just the last century. Then again a hundred years ago Haven was the mecca of the Galactic North, so...
But the RMN's abrupt, stunning victory over the People's Navy had been even more complete than anyone had ever anticipated. So far as Glockauer knew, no one in Naval Intelligence had so much as suspected what sort of knockout punch the Manties had been preparing to deliver. Obviously, Intelligence had known at least a little about what Manticoran R&D had been up to. The recent and ongoing additions to the IAN's own hardware were proof enough of that, especially in light of the reports Glockauer had read of the Manties' new weapons and tactics. But he very much doubted that anyone in the Empire had realized the full magnitude of the RMN's qualitative superiority over its foe until Admiral White Haven finally pulled the trigger.
The Andy perspective on Operation Buttercup.
By rights, the RMN should by now have reverted to its prewar stance throughout the Confederacy. It hadn't, and in some ways, the situation was even worse than it had been before the war. The Manticorans hadn't built their light forces back up to their traditional levels, which meant piracy continued to flourish largely unchecked in much of the Confederacy. Worse, some of the "pirates" out here had acquired rather more capable ships. None of them were bigger than cruisers, but so far the Manties and the IAN between them had destroyed at least three of those which had . . . left the service of the People's Republic of Haven and fled to find greener pastures elsewhere. That meant that not only had the level of lawless activity increased, but so had its scope, with more planetary raids added to run-of-the-mill piracy. Intelligence's most recent estimate was that as many as a quarter million Sillies had been killed in the last year alone. A pinprick against the total population of something the size of the Confederacy, but a horrifying number when it was considered in isolation.
But if the Manties hadn't built their light forces back up, they had established a treaty relationship with the Sidemore Republic in the Marsh System. Over the past eight T-years, Sidemore had been built up into a fairly powerful fleet base, despite the Manticorans' need to concentrate most of their effort against the Peeps. The Marsh System's location, just outside the somewhat amorphous borders claimed by the Confederacy and on the flank of the Empire-to-Confederacy leg of the Manties' "Triangle Route," made it an ideal logistics base for the RMN's operations throughout southwestern Silesia.
Sidemore being the planet Honor saved from Warnecke The pirates are getting worse, but so far new fresh wave of Manticoran veterans in light cruisers to go a-hunting, and the war ended years ago. To much like a foreign adventure for the present administration, no doubt. Also, a lot of Peep ex-pat pirates, either StateSec or Navy unwilling to trust the new regime have wound up in Silesia, or even further afield.
Other than a certain desire to do it for himself, Glockauer had no objection to watching the Manticorans swat pirates. And their Marsh-based flotillas had enabled them to do a remarkable job of pacifying something like a tenth of the entire Confederacy. But they'd done it by establishing a Manticoran presence in an area in which they had persistently refused to countenance an Andermani one. If any star nation had a legitimate interest in controlling the situation in Silesia to protect its own borders and territorial integrity, that nation was the Andermani Empire . . . not the Star Kingdom of Manticore. Worse, the Manties had based an entire task force, two understrength squadrons of the wall, with battlecruiser and cruiser support, at their new Sidemore Station.
Ostensibly, those forces, which were far heavier than would have been required for any legitimate anti-piracy operations, were intended to cover Confederate space against a fresh intrusion of Peep commerce raiding squadrons. The official Manty position—to which the freelance operations of rogue ex-State Security and ex-People's Navy warships lent a certain point—was that covering against any renewal of the Peeps' commerce warfare in the Confederacy was the true (and only) reason for their treaty with Sidemore. No one in the Empire believed that for a moment, and resentment against Manticoran high-handedness had grown steadily over the last five T-years or so. Now that the Peeps had been militarily defeated, whether an actual peace treaty had been finalized or not, that excuse for the RMN's presence in Marsh was growing steadily more threadbare. Resentment over it had increased in direct proportion, and Glockauer suspected that the foreign policy considerations which had mitigated against any confrontation with Manticore were rapidly eroding.
Sidemore station, a major thorn in the Andies' side, has a lot of firepower to deter Andy expansionism, and the official excuses have long since worn thin.
"It looks like they'd stuffed their cargo holds full of missile pods," the commodore continued. "They'd obviously hoped we'd come in close enough for them to roll the pods, but when they realized we weren't going to bring the heavy ships into their range, someone figured out that just killing off the destroyers was only going to really, really piss us off. So since we'd declined to walk into their ambush and there was no way in hell those merchies could run away from us, they decided to own up and surrender while we were in a prisoner-taking mood. Unfortunately, from the preliminary reports, it sounds like their CO had other ideas, so apparently his exec shot him in the back of the head to change his mind."
Improvised pod-layers used in an attempted ambush, by forces of a StateSec warlord.
With Montague out of the way, Carson was reduced to only two star systems still under his direct control. Citizen Admiral Agnelli, Carson's theoretical ally currently controlled three more, but Agnelli and Carson had been strange bedfellows from the beginning. Both of them were ambitious, but Carson apparently retained at least some genuine loyalty to the New Order created by the Committee of Public Safety. That might have something to do with the high StateSec rank he'd attained under the previous management, and he was a thoroughly unpleasant individual, who remained addicted to brutality and terror as his preferred methods of crowd control. But for all that, there was at least some evidence he was motivated by something other than the possibility of personal gain.
No one would ever be foolish enough to believe anything of that sort where Federico Agnelli was concerned. Tourville reminded himself that he might be prejudiced by the fact that he'd known Agnelli for many years, and detested him for all of them. The reminder was strictly pro forma, however, because try as he might, he couldn't think of a single redeeming characteristic Agnelli might have possessed. The man was a marginally competent tactician, with a pronounced belief in his own infallibility. He'd climbed aboard the Committee's political bandwagon not because of any belief in what Rob Pierre and Oscar Saint-Just had promised the Mob but because it had offered him the opportunity for personal power, and he'd played the political game with a skillfulness which somehow managed to elude him in the field of naval tactics. At least two other flag officers Tourville knew of had been shot because they'd stood in Agnelli's way and he'd convinced StateSec they were "enemies of the People" to get rid of them.
Just two of the many warlords and separatists that the new Haven regime has been hard at work dismantling.
Basilisk was rebuilding now, and much more rapidly than anyone—including Reynaud—would have believed possible before the attack. Partly he supposed that was because the original infrastructure had grown only as the demand for it grew, whereas the replacement installations had been designed and constructed to meet an established and clearly understood need. And another factor, he acknowledged unhappily, was that the High Ridge Government had seen the reconstruction of Basilisk as a perfect opportunity to pour vast sums into public projects. Not only did it create jobs, not a minor consideration now that the military was downsizing and demobilized Navy personnel were glutting the job market, but it fitted perfectly with the High Ridge slogan: "Building the Peace."
Reconstruction of Basilisk, High Ridge slogan of "Building the Peace."
"The numbers are very preliminary, Mike, and we're still a huge distance from nailing down a definitive volume. Even after we do that, of course, we're going to be looking at the better part of a solid T-year, more probably two or three of them, before we get any farther than this end of the string. But unless I'm very mistaken, we've finally correlated enough sensor data to positively state that there actually is a seventh terminus to the Junction."
"My God," Reynaud said quietly. He leaned back once more and shook his head. "I hope you won't take this the wrong way, Jordin, but I never really expected us to find it. It just seemed so unlikely after all these years."
"It's been a bear," Kare agreed, "and I can see at least half a dozen monographs coming out of the hunt for it—probably more. You know the original theoretical math was always highly ambiguous, and it's only been in the last fifteen or twenty T-years that we've had Warshawskies sensitive enough to collect the observational data we needed to confirm it. And we've pushed the boundaries of wormhole theory further than anyone else has done in at least a century, in the process. But it's out there, and for the first time, I'm completely confident we're going to find it."
That was the main reason Reynaud objected so strenuously to the government's involvement in RMAIA. The work itself was important, even vital, and the funding level required for the dozen or so research ships, not to mention the lab and computer time, certainly left it with a price tag very few private concerns could have afforded. But the entire thing was one huge PR opportunity as far as the current Government was concerned. That was the entire reason they'd created the agency in the first place instead of simply increasing the funding for the Astro Control's Survey Command, which had been quietly pursuing the same research for decades. The RMAIA had been launched with huge fanfare as one of the "long overdue peaceful initiatives" which had been delayed by the war against Haven, but the reality was just a little different from the shiny facade the Government worked so hard to project.
Nothing could have made the calculating reality behind the "peaceful initiative" more obvious than the blatant way the politicos scrambled to make political capital off of the work of the project's scientific staff. Official spokespeople who "forgot" to clear their copy with Kare or Reynaud were bad enough, but at least they could be thumped on for their sins. The project's political overlords, like High Ridge and Lady Descroix, were another matter entirely, and they were the ones who'd really infuriated Kare.
The Search for the Seventh Wormhole, and the political motives behid funding it.
"And the 'strike zone' is?" she asked.
"Anywhere between the knees and the shoulders, as long as the ball also crosses home plate," Honor told her with the competent air of a longtime afficionado.
"You say that like you knew the answer a year ago," Henke replied in a pretension-depressing tone.
Umm.... LaFollet set out to teach her baseball, for which she was fairly enthusiastic fourteen years ago by this point. I sure hope Honor knew the difference between a strike and a ball last year.
"Sure it is. That's why this is the only planet in the known universe where they still play it!"
"That's not true," Honor scolded primly while the cream-and-gray treecat stretched across the back of her seat raised his head to twitch his whiskers insufferably at his person's guest. "You know perfectly well that they still play baseball on Old Earth and at least five other planets."
"All right, on seven planets out of the— what? Isn't it something like seventeen hundred total inhabited worlds now?"
Seven planets, including Earth and Grayson, still plau baseball. Probably not enough to get a proper interstellar League going. More importantly, roughly 1700 human-colonized worlds in the honorverse, with potential for more in neobarb worlds that have been off the grid for a long time.
Which makes Haven, by real-estate at least, 1/17th of the human sphere.
"Updating is only a good idea if it constitutes an improvement, as well, My Lady," LaFollet pointed out. "And it's not quite fair to say we haven't made any changes. If the record books are accurate, there was a time, in at least one league back on Old Earth, when the pitcher didn't even have to bat. Or when a manager could make as many pitching changes in a single game as he wanted to. Saint Austen put an end to that nonsense, at least!"
Differences in how Graysons play ball.
"I hope you won't take this the wrong way, Andrew," she told the colonel, "but somehow the discovery that the founder of your religion was also a baseball fanatic doesn't really surprise me. It certainly explains the careful preservation of some of the . . . archaic aspects of the game, anyway."
"I wouldn't say Saint Austen was a fanatic about baseball, My Lady," LaFollet replied in a considering tone. " 'Fanatic' would probably be much too mild a term, from everything I've ever read."
Which is one reason the game is still alive and well, it's practically a religious imperative.
The huge sports facility seated at least sixty thousand in its tiers of comfortably upholstered chairs, and she hated to think how much the place must have cost. Especially on a planet like Grayson, where what would normally have been outdoor sports required stadiums with things like air filtration systems just to protect the local population from the heavy metal contents of their own atmosphere.
Not that any expense had been spared on more mundane considerations when James Candless Memorial Field was erected. The immaculately manicured playing field was a green jewel, broken only by white stripes of the traditional powdered lime and the bare, rich brown earth of the base lines. The colors of the field and the even brighter colors of the festively garbed spectators glowed brilliantly in the protective dome's filtered sunlight, and the crowd was liberally festooned with team pennants and banners exhorting the home team to victory. There was even a ventilation system carefully designed to exactly recreate the wind conditions outside the dome, and the Grayson planetary flag, with its crossed swords and open Bible, flew from the top of one of the two foul poles while the Harrington Steading flag flew from the other.
The Jamie Candless (she does like naming things after him) Memorial Field for Harrington Steading.
"Not so mature and responsible that you didn't name your team after a certain furry, six-footed celery-thief and his friends," Henke shot back, reaching out to rub the treecat on Honor's shoulder between his ears.
"Nimitz and Samantha had nothing to do with my choice," Honor replied. "Mind you, they approved of it, but I actually picked it as the lesser of two evils." She grimaced. "It was that, or the 'Harrington Salamanders.' "
Henke looked up sharply, then spluttered a half-smothered laugh.
"I wish I were. As a matter of fact, the Commissioner of Baseball had already assigned the Salamanders name when the Owners' Committee and the Rules Committee agreed to expand the league. I had an awful time changing their minds."
"I think it would've been a marvelous name," Henke told her with an impish grin.
"I'm sure you do," Honor said repressively. "I, on the other hand, don't. Leaving aside the entire question of modesty, can you imagine how High Ridge and his crowd would have reacted? It would have been tailor-made for their op-ed pieces!"
I'd have honestly expected that to be one of the things that happened while she was dead, but then she'd have never gotten them to change the name. And yes, High Ridge would love to have such an obvious sign of Honor's megalomania in her little fief.
Indeed, the visibility of Duchess Harrington as one of the Crown's staunchest supporters in the Lords (and as one of the inner circle of "kitchen advisers" the Queen turned to for advice instead of the members of her official government) was one reason the pro-Government media had spent so much time trying to discredit Honor in any way it could. The subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) vilification which had come her way had been downright ugly at times. But however that might be, she admitted, Honor had not only spent more time working with Elizabeth but also possessed certain advantages others lacked when it came to evaluating people and their emotion.
Honor's status as the Queen's biggest backer in the House of Lords and a known member of her inner circle of political advisers. Implied efforts of the media to discredit her specifically because of her new prominence in politics.
"Even assuming that there were no ideological fissures within the High Ridge Government, there aren't enough Conservatives, Liberals, and Progressives in the Lords to sustain High Ridge's majority without the support of at least some of the Independents," Honor pointed out. "High Ridge has managed to bring Wallace's New Men on board, as well, of course, but even that's not enough to change the dynamics of the major parties significantly. And however much she might have frightened or angered High Ridge and his cronies, she never said anything threatening to the Independents who've decided to support him, now did she?"
There are a substantial number of Independents in the Lords, including many who back High Ridge for the time being. Again mention of the New Men, the smallest party consisting of the nouveau rich nobles banding under a banner of realpolitik to sell their votes for a chance at real wealth and power.
Honor, who, unlike Henke, had a very good notion of how the Countess of the Tor had come into possession of the damning documentation, agreed. For a moment, she considered explaining her suspicions about Captain Zilwicki and his role in the mysterious intelligence windfall to her friend, then decided against it. They weren't really something Mike needed to know . . . just as she didn't need to know some of the other things Andrew LaFollet had discovered about Anton Zilwicki. Like exactly what it was that the half-pay captain's new private security firm was doing with some of the information which the Countess had not turned over to the authorities.
So Zilwicki got, not canned, but beached on half-pay after the Manpower Incident. And has started a private security company, presumably with close ties to the Ballroom.
"Unfortunately," she went on instead, "the individuals who were specifically named were all relatively small fish. Socially prominent in some cases, perhaps, and politically important enough to be highly visible in others, but not close enough to the seats of power to be really crippling. The fact that so many of them had connections to the Conservatives and—especially!—to certain members of the Liberal Party, as well, was certainly embarrassing. For that matter, the Ministry of Justice has put a couple of dozen of them away for a long, long time. But there were just enough of them in the other parties or among the Independents—even two among the Centrists, I'm sorry to say—for the apologists to argue that 'everyone did it' and keep any one party from being singled out for blame. And the fact that there were no direct links to the party leaders let the Government defuse the worst possible repercussions by shouting louder than anyone else for the prosecution of the individuals who were named. Like Hendricks, when they recalled him from Old Terra and sent out a new ambassador."
For a bit there, it looked like the Manpower Incident would down the High Ridge government early, but there were enough people from all parties involved to keep any one group from taking the fall, or looking totally clean. So High Ridge gets to sacrifice a few expendables, including Admiral Young who turns out to be a fourth cousin of Pavel and Stefan's.
"Mike," she said patiently, "this is basic Political History 101. What's the one thing the Crown has been trying to take away from the Lords ever since there's been a Star Kingdom?"
"The power of the purse," Henke replied.
"Very good," Honor said. "But the Founders, who were otherwise a fairly decent lot, were virtually unanimous in their determination to see to it that they and their descendants hung onto the real political power in the Star Kingdom. That's why the Constitution specifically requires that the Prime Minister come from the House of Lords and specifies that any finance bill must be introduced in the Lords. I happen to think there's something to be said for placing substantial political power in the hands of a legislative chamber which can be . . . insulated from the political and ideological hysteria du jour, but the Founders set up too much of a good thing. The fact that they never have to stand for election means that too many of the peers—present company excluded, of course—have . . . questionable contact with reality, let's say. Worse, it's even easier for someone who inherits her title to become an empire builder within the Parliament. Trust me," she added dryly. "I've seen how that works on two different planets now, and with a considerably better vantage point than I ever wanted."
"But for generations, the Crown has wanted to see a better balance between the powers of the Commons and the Lords, and the best way to accomplish that would be to give the Commons control of the purse as a counterweight to leaving the premiership permanently lodged in the Lords. Except that the Crown has never been able to assemble the required majority in the Lords to amend the Constitution to transfer that power to the lower house."
"Of course not," Henke snorted with the rich contempt for aristocratic defense of privilege possible only for one born to that same aristocracy. "What? You really think that anyone who has as good a thing going for them as the peers do is going to vote to give half of her power to someone else?"
A history of the Crown's efforts to get the Lords to let the Commons determine the budget. Which may be a major Centrist point, since fear of just that happening is a lot of what's keeping High Ridge's coalition together.
As a good rule of thumb for exposition though, you should never have characters tell each other things they should both now. Michelle Henke is a born noble, fifth or sixth in line for the crown, and like Honor is pushing seventy T-years old now. If she doesn't understand the Manticoran political system by now, there's simply no hope for her. However many years she's been chasing pirates, the basic history should all be there.
It's all a matter of numbers, Mike, and the San Martino peers could very well shift the balance in the Lords to a point that makes it possible for the Queen to pull it off at last. But the joker in the deck is the combination of the Constitution's limit on the creation of new peerages and the terms of the Act of Annexation which admitted Trevor's Star to the Star Kingdom. The Constitution limits increases in the total membership of the House of Lords to no more than ten percent between any two general elections, and the Act of Annexation specifies that none of the new peers from San Martin will be confirmed or seated until after the next general election.
"So what the Government and its supporters in the Lords are trying to do is to postpone that election as long as possible. At the moment, there's not much question that the San Martinos are very solidly behind the Queen and the Centrists. After all, it was our Navy, under Elizabeth and the Cromarty Government, which kicked the Peeps out of the Trevor's Star System and liberated them, and it was Cromarty and your father, as Foreign Secretary, who negotiated the actual terms of their admission to the Star Kingdom. Not only that, but San Martin had no hereditary aristocracy before its annexation, so it's not likely that the San Martinos are going to have the same . . . devoted attachment to the status quo in Parliament. Gratitude to the people they see as responsible for their liberation, coupled with that lack of aristocratic tradition, means the new peers would be likely—almost certain, in fact—to support a motion by Lord Alexander, as the leader of the Centrist Party, to transfer that power of the purse to the House of Commons.
"But until they're actually seated, they can't support anything. And what High Ridge and his cronies are up to right now is building a sufficiently strong majority among the members of the existing peerage to resist any such action. According to the latest figures I've seen, the number of current peers opposed to the required constitutional amendment gives them at least a fifteen-percent edge, but that number could erode. And even if it doesn't, two general elections will put enough San Martinos into the Lords to overcome it, assuming their support for the amendment is solid.
The reason Elizabeth can't stuff the Lords full of tractable nobles, she can only the group by 10% between general elections, which are called by the Government and not something that happens automatically every couple of years. Also, the Commons need to confirm her nobles by majority vote. The new San Martino peers and MPs will not be able to vote until after that election, so High Ridge is in no hurry to call it and install a bunch of new blood to upset the applecart.
Ultimately, she felt certain, it had been her relationship with Giscard, with its resonances to his own relationship with LePic, which had made her acceptable to him. He'd known and trusted Giscard; by extension, he'd felt able to trust her because he knew Giscard did. But the thing which had truly astounded her was that when he offered her both the political and the military powers of the head of state, he'd meant it.
There hadn't been any strings, no reservations, no secretly retained authority. The one thing Thomas Theisman would never be was a puppet master. There'd been one, and only one, condition, and that had been that Eloise Pritchart prove to him that she was as committed as he was to the restoration of the old Constitution. Not the Constitution of the People's Republic of Haven, which had created the office of Hereditary President and legally enshrined the dynastic power of the Legislaturalists, but the Constitution of the old Republic. The Republic whose citizens had been expected to be more than mere drones and to vote. The one whose presidents and legislators had served at the will of an electorate which held them responsible for their actions.
Pritchart had felt almost awed when she realized she was in the presence of a true romantic. A man who actually believed in the rule of law, the sanctity of solemn oaths, and the inviolability of personal responsibility.
She wondered if he'd always been so divorced from reality, or if he'd become that way as his own defense mechanism as he watched the star nation of his birth go insane about him. It didn't really matter. What mattered was that he was truly and absolutely committed to the very principles for which the Aprilist Movement had come into existence . . . and that she was almost as hopelessly romantic, in that respect, at least, as he was.
And so, just over eighteen T-months from Oscar Saint-Just's death, Eloise Pritchart, after organizing the transition government and bringing the old Constitution back from the ash heap of history, had become the first elected president of the Republic of Haven in almost two centuries, with Thomas Theisman as her Secretary of War.
How Prichart became interim, than elected, President after Saint-Just was shot.
Not everyone had been prepared to accept Theisman's overthrow of the Committee of Public Safety gracefully. In fact, initially, he'd controlled only the capital system and its fleet. Capital Fleet was the Navy's largest, of course, and two-thirds of the other core systems of the People's Republic had declared for him—or, rather, for Pritchart's interim government—within the first three T-months. The majority of the rest of the People's Navy had also supported him, as well. But a large minority of the Navy had been under the control of other citizen admirals or, even worse, StateSec system commanders, who'd refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of the new government.
Fortunately, she'd never really been concerned (unlike some people) that Theisman might not succeed in his pacification efforts in the end . . . as long as the Manties stayed out of it. The fact that most of his adversaries distrusted one another even more than they distrusted him had given him a powerful advantage, but not even their merry-go-round of mutual betrayal would have been enough to permit the interim government to survive in the face of an active Manticoran resumption of the offensive.
The various breakaways, rebels and warlords. Reminds me sort of the Star Wars EU with the feuding Imperial Remnant.
"Yes, thank God. I expect Javier's next report within another couple of days, and I'll be very surprised if it doesn't tell us that Mikasinovich is ready to call it quits."
"Really?" Pritchart brightened visibly. Citizen General Silas Mikasinovich was the last major StateSec holdout. He'd managed to hammer himself together a six-star vest-pocket empire which had proved a surprisingly tough nut to crack.
"Really," Theisman confirmed, then raised one hand in a brief throwing-away gesture. "I'm afraid you're going to have to amnesty him like the others, and I wish you weren't. But unless I'm badly mistaken, he's enough of a realist to recognize that his only real chance now is to cut the best deal with you that he can."
"I'll give him a lot better deal than he deserves," Pritchart said grimly. "But the bottom line is going to be that he surrenders every one of his capital ships, then gets the hell out of the Republic and stays out."
Amnesty and exile for the warlords who surrender peacefully.
So far, as nearly as Theisman and his staff could tell, not a single Havenite ship above the size of a battlecruiser had managed to simply disappear. He knew damned well that at least some lighter units had elected to set up independent operations as pirates or small-scale warlords safely beyond his own reach, but at least he'd managed to prevent any ships of the wall from doing the same thing, and he intended to keep it that way.
No wallers unaccounted for, they think. A lot of StateSec ships were off the books, but they were also called out in force near the end, right? Missing cruisers and BCs turned pirate will be a problem, but no capital ships.
Arnold Giancola had been a low mid-level Treasury bureaucrat under Hereditary President Harris. Like hundreds of thousands of other bureaucrats, he'd continued in his precoup position—in his case, administering disbursement of the Basic Living Stipend right here in Nouveau Paris—under the Committee. None of them had been given much choice about that, aside from the very senior Legislaturalist administrators, who'd all been purged by the new management, because someone had to continue to run the day-to-day machinery of the state, and Rob Pierre and Oscar Saint-Just had innumerable ways to make sure they did. But to be completely fair (which Pritchart found difficult in her Secretary of State's case), Giancola had done his job better than most, and with what certainly appeared to have been a genuine concern for the Dolists under his jurisdiction.
His competence had drawn favorable attention from his new superiors, and after four or five T-years, he'd been transferred to the Department of State, which was always in search of capable administrators. He'd done equally well there, rising steadily in seniority, only to be shifted back to Treasury when Rob Pierre nominated Avram Turner to drive through his enormous economic reform package. Giancola's new position had brought him back to his old Nouveau Paris neighborhood, where he'd prospered despite the pain and economic dislocation involved in the Turner Reforms. He was, after all, an effective administrator who possessed an undeniable talent for attracting the loyalty of his subordinates, and he'd done his level best to minimize the reforms' traumas for the citizens for whom he was responsible. As a result, he'd emerged from the Committee's downfall with a base of genuine popular support—quite a large one, actually—on the Republic's capital (and most populous) planet.
He'd capitalized on that support shrewdly. His brother Jason was a senator; his cousin Gerard Younger was a representative; and Arnold himself had played a prominent role in reorganizing the capital following Theisman's overthrow of Saint-Just. He'd obviously had ambitions of his own at the time, but he'd been smart enough, whatever his other failings, to realize Theisman would have squashed him like a bug if he'd acted on them. So instead, he'd settled for building a powerful political machine in Nouveau Paris—still the most important single city in the Republic, although the Mob's heady days of power were a thing of the past. That had not only assured him his slot at the Convention but also allowed him to directly influence the election of a surprising number of representatives and no less than eight senators (including himself), which was not an inconsequential Congressional power base.
It had also made him Pritchart's most significant opposition when she ran for the presidency in the first election under the restored Constitution. Had it come down to a straight contest between the two of them, his candidacy would have been not only significant but a serious challenge, and she knew it. Fortunately, she'd enjoyed two enormous advantages he simply could not overcome: her status as the provisional head of government who'd actually kept her promise and held general elections when she'd said she would, and the endorsement of Thomas Theisman. There had been seven candidates on the ballot, and Pritchart had taken seventy-three percent of the popular vote. Arnold Giancola had taken nineteen percent, and the other five candidates between them had split the remaining eight percent.
The election hadn't even been close, but Giancola had clearly emerged as the second most consequential figure of the restored Republic's youthful political establishment. That was precisely why Pritchart had chosen him for what was technically the number one position in her cabinet. In actual fact, Theisman's combination of the offices of Secretary of War and Chief of Naval Operations made him the de facto second-ranking member of the administration, but Giancola was definitely the third. And under the Constitution, it was he who would lead the three-month caretaker administration and supervise the special election to replace Pritchart if something happened to her.
Anold Giancola, who ran against Prichart for the historical position of the first democratically elected President of the Haven Republic in centuries. He lost but is now Secretary of State/Vice President, at least in that he will take over if Prichart dies.
The Constitution had also just coincidentally required him to resign from the Senate to accept a cabinet-level post, and she'd calculated that he would be less dangerous in the cabinet where she could keep an eye on him and demand his loyalty than he would directly controlling a senate seat. But he'd foiled that part of her plans by securing his brother's election in his place in the special election his resignation had set up. Nor had her plans to co-opt him to support her policies proved an unadulterated success. As far as she could tell, he'd simply recognized that he had to work through a different set of rules and priorities in pursuit of his original ambition and policies, and he was building a steadily growing faction in Congress. The fact that he was also busy building support within the Cabinet for at least some of his policies had the potential to turn into a major nightmare, yet she couldn't demand his resignation. It was probably clear to everyone that he was maneuvering to put himself into position to challenge any reelection bid of her own when her term ended in another four T-years, but his alliances in Congress would provoke a bigger fight than ridding herself of him would be worth.
Their various battles and maneuvers against each other.
There were very few things Rob Pierre and Oscar Saint-Just had done with which Thomas Theisman found himself in complete agreement. Operation Bolthole was one of them, although Theisman was scarcely happy about the circumstances which had made Bolthole necessary.
The thing that most amazed him about Bolthole was that Pierre and Saint-Just had managed to pull it off in near total secrecy. Theisman himself hadn't heard so much as a whisper about it until he'd taken over as commander of Capital Fleet, and virtually no officer outside the project itself below the rank of vice admiral—and damned few senior to that—knew about it even now. Which was a state of affairs Theisman intended to preserve as long as possible.
Bolthole, the secret, formerly StateSec, shipyards. Also the R&D facility where Shannon Foraker has been tasked with duplicating for finding solutions for all the new weapons unleashed during Buttercup. That way they can build podnoughts and CLACs in secret as she and her teams work out the bugs.
"Right this minute," he went on after a second or so, "the Manties are completely confident that no one poses a significant threat to their naval superiority. Their new missile pods, their new superdreadnoughts, and—especially—their new LACs give them a degree of tactical superiority which would make it suicide for any conventional navy to engage them. Janacek may be an idiot, and he may have brought in other idiots to help him run the Manty Admiralty, but it's obvious that they recognize their technical advantages. That's the only possible explanation for their build-down in conventional hulls. They're actually reducing their fleet to very nearly its prewar size, Eloise. They'd never do that if they weren't so confident of their tech edge that they figured they could hack extremely heavy numerical odds if they had to.
"But look at what that means. Their entire current strategic stance is built on that edge in technology, and their First Lord of Admiralty is stupid. He's going to be upset enough if he suddenly discovers Pierre and Saint-Just managed to build a shipyard complex even bigger than the one here in the Haven System without anyone in the Star Kingdom so much as suspecting it. But if he figures out what we've had Foraker and her people doing out there for the last couple of T-years, he's not going to be upset—he's going to panic."
"Panic?" Pritchart shook her head. "Tom, this is your area of expertise, not mine. But isn't 'panic' just a little strong? Let's be honest. You and I both know the Manties kicked our butt up one side and down the other. If Saint-Just hadn't managed to snooker them into 'truce talks,' White Haven would have smashed straight through Twelfth Fleet, punched out Capital Fleet, and dictated terms right here on Haven. I was there with Javier and Lester. I know there was nothing we could have done to stop him."
"Of course there wasn't . . . then," Theisman agreed. "But that's my very point. We know that, and they know that. Worse, they're depending on it. Which means they have to be certain they maintain that technological edge, especially in light of the reduction in their total tonnage. So if they realize Foraker is busy building us an entire new navy specifically designed to offset their advantages, they're also going to realize they've created a situation which effectively allows us to begin even with them in the new types. Since their entire defensive stance requires them to retain their advantage in those types, one solution would be for them to hit us before we have enough of the new designs available to defend ourselves."
I agree with Theisman here, actually. If you simply announce that you've duplicated the tech there will be one of two reactions: panic which could start the shooting war all over again, or disbelief which profits you nothing. Of course, Janacek estimated way back then that Haven could duplicate these things given four or five years. He also suggested that would be plenty of time to conclude negotiations or decide Haven wasn't dealing in good faith and get Eighth Fleet back to rolling over Lovat before haven itself. Pity it's the Manties that are dealing in bad faith and stretching out the talks.
"But that would violate the terms of our truce," Pritchart pointed out.
"Which is just that—a truce," Theisman emphasized. "The war isn't over. Not officially, anyway, which is exactly what Giancola keeps pointing out. Hell, the Manties keep pointing it out! I'm sure you saw the same analysis I did on their Prime Minister's most recent speech. They're still 'viewing with alarm' where we're concerned, if only to justify the tax structure they're retaining. So there's no formal treaty to dissuade them from resuming the war any time they choose. And if we openly acknowledge that we're building an entire new fleet capable of standing up to them in combat, the temptation to nip the threat in the bud would have to be intense. Worst of all, Edward Janacek is stupid and arrogant enough to recommend to High Ridge that they do just that."
Haven is still out there, a paper tiger to justify the taxes and duties that will go to PR and dream-projects and not into anything militarily useful.
"Agreed. And that's precisely the domestic problem that most concerns me. Most of our senators and the members of the Cabinet are still a bit more diffident than I'd really like them to be in a lot of ways. For one thing, if more of them would grow spines and build up other power bases I could use to balance Giancola, it would help a lot when it comes to reining him in. They won't do it any time soon, though, and in the meantime there's still entirely too much of the reflex acceptance of restrictions on information simply because the government says it's 'necessary.' That's the only way we got the budget to keep Bolthole running through without debate in the first place. But if Giancola keeps on pushing more and more strongly for us to take a harder line in the negotiations with the Manties, then sooner or later he's going to start bolstering his arguments by dropping some of the details his brother has obviously fed him. Which is going to bring the Department of State into direct conflict with the Department of War."
For the moment, the elected officials are still being careful not to piss off the bosses or call attention to themselves, and they're willing to accept secrets, too much so for Prichart's comfort.
"As I said, I'm not prepared—or even tempted—to overrule you in this particular area. I just wish the Manties would stop providing Arnold with fresh grist for his mill. And truth to tell, I think they're up to something, myself. There has to be a reason they keep refusing even to seriously discuss the return of the occupied star systems, and if they're not planning to hang onto them permanently, then what the hell are they doing?"
A major bone not adequately dealt with in the talks, what happens to all the systems Manticore liberated? Some were eager for the change, others sullen, do we hold a vote? Go back to pre-War territories sans San Martino? Is Manticore keeping them?