Honor among Enemies (Honor Harrington Series #6)by David Weber
For Captain Honor Harrington, it's sometimes hard to know who the enemy really is. Despite political foes, professional jealousies, and the scandal that drove her into exile, she's been offered a chance to reclaim her career as an officer of the Royal Manticoran Navy. But there's a catch. She must assume command of a "squadron" of jury-rigged armed merchantmen with… See more details below
For Captain Honor Harrington, it's sometimes hard to know who the enemy really is. Despite political foes, professional jealousies, and the scandal that drove her into exile, she's been offered a chance to reclaim her career as an officer of the Royal Manticoran Navy. But there's a catch. She must assume command of a "squadron" of jury-rigged armed merchantmen with crew drawn from the dregs of her service and somehow stop the pirates who have taken advantage of the Havenite War to plunder the Star Kingdom's commerce.
That would be hard enough, but some of the "pirates" aren't exactly what they seem . . . and neither are some of her "friends." For Honor has been carefully chosen for her mission - by two implacable and powerful enemies.
The way they see it, either she stops the raiders or the raiders kill her . . . and either way, they win.
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Honor Among Enemies
By David Weber
Baen BooksISBN: 0-671-87723-2
Chapter One"Mr. Hauptman, Sir Thomas."
Sir Thomas Caparelli, First Space Lord of the Royal Manticoran Navy, rose with his very best effort at a smile of welcome as his yeoman ushered his guest into his huge office. He suspected it wasn't very convincing, but, then, Klaus Hauptman wasn't one of his favorite people.
"Sir Thomas." The dark-haired man with the dramatically white sideburns and bulldog jaw gave him a curt nod. He wasn't being especially rude; that was how he greeted almost everyone, and he held out his hand as if to soften his brusqueness. "Thank you for seeing me." He did not add "at last," but Sir Thomas heard it anyway and felt his smile become just a bit more fixed.
"Please have a seat." The burly admiral in whom one could still see the bruising soccer player who'd led the Academy to three system championships waved his guest politely into the comfortable chair facing his desk, then sat himself and nodded dismissal to the yeoman.
"Thank you," Hauptman repeated. He sat in the indicated chair-like, Caparelli thought, an emperor taking his throne-and cleared his throat. "I know you have many charges on your time, Sir Thomas, so I'll come straight to the point. And the point is that conditions in the Confederacy are becoming intolerable."
"I realize it's a bad situation, Mr. Hauptman," Caparelli began, "but the war front is-"
"Excuse me, Sir Thomas," Hauptman interrupted, "but I understand the situation at the front. Indeed, Admiral Cortez and Admiral Givens have-as I'm certain you instructed them to-explained it to me at considerable length. I realize you and the Navy are under tremendous pressure, but losses in Silesia are becoming catastrophic, and not just for the Hauptman Cartel."
Caparelli clenched his jaw and reminded himself to move carefully. Klaus Hauptman was arrogant, opinionated, and ruthless ... and the wealthiest single individual in the entire Star Kingdom of Manticore. Which was saying quite a bit. Despite its limitation to a single star system, the Star Kingdom was the third wealthiest star nation in a five-hundred-light-year sphere in absolute terms. In per capita terms, not even the Solarian League matched Manticore. A great deal of that was fortuitous, the result of the Manticore Worm Hole Junction which made the Manticore Binary System the crossroads of eighty percent of the long-haul commerce of its sector. But almost as much of its wealth stemmed from what the Star Kingdom had done with the opportunity that presented, for generations of monarchs and parliaments had reinvested the Junction's wealth with care. Outside the Solarian League, no one in the known galaxy could match the Manticoran tech base or output per man-hour, and Manticore's universities challenged those of Old Earth herself. And, Caparelli admitted, Klaus Hauptman and his father and grandfather had had a great deal to do with building the infrastructure which made that possible.
Unfortunately, Hauptman knew it, and he sometimes-often, in Caparelli's view-acted as if the Star Kingdom belonged to him as a consequence.
"Mr. Hauptman," the admiral said after a moment, "I'm very sorry about the losses you and the other cartels are suffering. But your request, however reasonable it may seem, is simply impossible to grant at this time."
"With all due respect, Sir Thomas, the Navy had better make it possible." Hauptman's flat tone was just short of insulting, but he stopped himself, then drew a deep breath. "Excuse me," he said in the voice of one clearly unaccustomed to apologizing. "That was rude and confrontational. Nonetheless, there's also a kernel of truth in it. The war effort depends upon the strength of our economy. The shipping duties, transfer fees, and inventory taxes my colleagues and I pay are already three times what they were at the start of the war, and-" Caparelli opened his mouth, but Hauptman held up a hand. "Please. I'm not complaining about duties and taxes. We're at war with the second largest empire in known space, and someone has to pay the freight. My colleagues and I realize that. But you must realize that if losses continue climbing, we'll have no choice but to cut back or even entirely eliminate our shipping to Silesia. I leave it to you to estimate what that will mean for the Star Kingdom's revenues and war effort."
Caparelli's eyes narrowed, and Hauptman shook his head.
"That's not a threat; it's simply a fact of life. Insurance rates have already reached an all-time high, and they're still climbing; if they rise another twenty percent, we'll lose money on cargos which reach their destinations. And in addition to our financial losses, there's also the loss of life involved. Our people-my people, people who've worked for me for decades-are being killed, Sir Thomas."
Caparelli sat back with an unwilling sense of agreement, for Hauptman was right. The Confederacy's weak central government had always made it a risky place, but its worlds were huge markets for the Star Kingdom's industrial products, machinery, and civilian technology transfers, not to mention an important source of raw materials. And however much Caparelli might personally dislike Hauptman, the magnate had every right to demand the Navy's help. It was, after all, one of the Navy's primary missions to protect Manticoran commerce and citizens, and prior to the present war, the Royal Manticoran Navy had done just that in Silesia.
Unfortunately, it had required a major fleet presence. Not of battle squadrons-using ships of the wall against pirates would have been like swatting flies with a sledgehammer-but of light combatants. And the critical needs of the RMN's war against the People's Republic of Haven had drawn those lighter units off. They were desperately needed to screen the heavy squadrons and for the countless patrols and scouting and convoy escorts the Fleet required for its very survival. There were never enough cruisers and destroyers to go around, and the overriding need for capital ships diverted yard space from building them in the necessary numbers.
The admiral sighed and rubbed his forehead. He wasn't the RMN's most brilliant flag officer. He knew his strengths-courage, integrity, and enough bullheaded stubbornness for any three people-but he also admitted his weaknesses. Officers like the Earl of White Haven or Lady Sonja Hemphill always made him uncomfortable, for he knew as well as they that they were his intellectual superiors. And White Haven, Caparelli admitted, had the infuriating gall to be not only a better strategist, but a better tactician, as well. Nonetheless, it was Sir Thomas Caparelli who'd been named First Space Lord just in time for the war to explode in his face. That made it his job to win the thing, and he was determined to do just that. Yet it was also his job to protect Manticoran civilians in the course of their legitimate commercial activities, and he was desperately conscious of how thin his Navy was stretched.
"I understand your concerns," he said finally, "and I can't disagree with anything you've said. The problem is that we're stretched right to the very limit. I can't-not won't, but literally cannot-withdraw additional warships from the front to reinforce our convoy escorts in Silesia."
"Well we have to do something." Hauptman spoke quietly, and Caparelli sensed the arrogant magnate's very real effort to match his own reasonable tone. "The convoy system helps during transits between sectors, of course. We haven't lost a single ship that was under escort, and, believe me, my colleagues and I all appreciate that. But the raiders realize as well as we do that they can't attack the convoys. They also know simple astrographics require us to route over two-thirds of our vessels independently after they reach their destination sectors ... and that the available escorts simply can't cover us when we do."
Caparelli nodded somberly. No one was losing any ships in the convoys covering transit between Silesia's nodal sector administration centers, but the pirates more than made up for that by snapping up merchantmen after they had to leave the convoys to proceed to the individual worlds of the Confederacy.
"I'm not certain how much more we can do, Sir," the admiral said after a long, silent moment. "Admiral White Haven's returning to Manticore sometime next week. I'll confer with him then, see if there's any way we can reorganize and pry a few more escorts loose, but, frankly, until we can somehow take Trevor's Star, I'm not optimistic. In the meantime, I'll put my staff to work on an immediate study of anything-and I do mean anything, Mr. Hauptman-we can do to ease the situation. I assure you that this matter has the second highest priority, after Trevor's Star itself. I'll do everything possible to reduce your losses. You have my personal word on that."
Hauptman sat back in his chair, studying the admiral's face, then grunted. The sound was weary, irate, and just a little desperate, but he nodded grudgingly.
"I can ask no more than that, Sir Thomas," he said heavily. "I won't insult you by trying to insist on miracles, but the situation is very, very grave. I'm not certain we have another month ... but I am certain we have no more than four, five at the most, before the cartels will be forced to suspend operations in Silesia."
"I understand," Caparelli repeated, rising to extend his hand. "I'll do what I can-and as quickly as I can-and I promise I'll personally brief you on the situation as soon as I've had a chance to confer with Admiral White Haven. With your permission, I'll have my yeoman set up another meeting with you for that purpose. Perhaps we can think of something at that time. Until then, please stay in touch. You and your colleagues may actually have a better feel for the situation than we do at the Admiralty, and any input you can offer my analysts and planning people will be greatly appreciated."
"Very well," Hauptman sighed, standing in turn, and gripped the admiral's hand, then surprised Caparelli with a wry smile. "I realize I'm not the easiest man in the universe to get along with, Sir Thomas. I'm trying very hard not to be the proverbial bull in the china shop, and I genuinely appreciate both the difficulties you face and the efforts you're making on our behalf. I only hope that there's an answer somewhere."
"So do I, Mr. Hauptman," Caparelli said quietly, escorting his guest to the door. "So do I."
Admiral of the Green Hamish Alexander, Thirteenth Earl of White Haven, wondered if he looked as weary as he felt. The earl was ninety T-years old, though in a pre-prolong society he would have been taken for no more than a very well preserved forty, and even that would have been only because of the white stranded through his black hair. But there were new lines around his ice-blue eyes, and he was only too well aware of his own fatigue.
He watched space's ebon black give way to deep indigo beyond the view port as his pinnace dropped towards the city of Landing and felt that weariness aching in his bones. The Star Kingdom-or, at least, the realistic part of it-had dreaded the inevitable war with the People's Republic for over fifty T-years, and the Navy (and Hamish Alexander) had spent those years preparing for it. Now that war was almost three years old ... and proving just as brutal as he'd feared.
It wasn't that the Peeps were that good; it was just that they were so damned big. Despite the internal wounds the People's Republic had inflicted upon itself since Hereditary President Harris's assassination, despite its ramshackle economy and the pogroms which had cost the People's Navy its most experienced officers, despite even the indolence of the Republic's Dolists, it remained a juggernaut. Had its industrial plant been even half as efficient as the Star Kingdom's, the situation would have been hopeless. As it was, a combination of skill, determination, and more luck than any competent strategist would dare count on had allowed the RMN to hold its own so far.
But holding its own wasn't enough.
White Haven sighed and massaged his aching eyes. He hated leaving the front, but at least he'd been able to leave Admiral Theodosia Kuzak in command. He could count on Theodosia to hold things together in his absence. White Haven snorted at the thought. Hell, maybe she could actually take Trevor's Star. God knew he hadn't had much success in that department!
He lowered his hand from his eyes and gazed back out the view port while he took himself to task for that last thought. The truth was that he'd had a very "good" war to date. In the first year of operations, his Sixth Fleet had cut deep into the Republic, inflicting what would have been fatal losses for any smaller navy along the way. He and his fellow admirals had actually managed to equalize the daunting odds they'd faced at the start of the war, and taken no less than twenty-four star systems. But the second and third years had been different. The Peeps were back on balance, and Rob Pierre's Committee of Public Safety had initiated a reign of terror guaranteed to stiffen the spine of any Peep admiral. And if the destruction of the Legislaturalist dynasties which had ruled the old People's Republic had cost the PN its most experienced admirals, it had also destroyed the patronage system which had kept other officers from rising to the seniority their capabilities deserved. Now that the Legislaturalists were out of the way, some of those new admirals were proving very tough customers. Like Admiral Esther McQueen, the senior Peep officer at Trevor's Star.
White Haven grimaced at the view port. According to ONI, the people's commissioners the Committee of Public Safety had appointed to keep the People's Navy in line were the ones who really called the shots. If that was so, if political commissars truly were degrading the performance of officers like McQueen, White Haven could only be grateful. He'd begun getting a feel for the woman over the last few months, and he suspected he was a better strategist than she. But his edge, if in fact he had one, was far thinner than he would have liked, and she had ice water in her veins. She understood the strengths and weaknesses of her forces, knew her technology was more primitive and her officer corps less experienced, but she also knew sufficient numbers and an unflinching refusal to be bullied into mistakes could offset that. When one added the way Manticore's need to take Trevor's Star simplified the strategic equation for her, she was giving as good as she got. Losses had been very nearly even since she took over, and Manticore simply couldn't afford that. Not in a war that looked like it might well last for decades. And not, White Haven admitted, when every month increased the threat that the Republic would begin to figure out how to redress its technological and industrial disadvantages.
Excerpted from Honor Among Enemies by David Weber Excerpted by permission.
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