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19 August 2009 @ 11:43 pm
The Short Victorious Vor  
Title: The Short Victorious Vor (part 1)
Author: tel
Prompt: Miles and Honor Harrington, "how much for just the planet?"
Rating: PG-13 (R later >.>)
Disclaimer: Characters are the property of their respective creators. This is an unlicensed parody
Warnings: May bore with technical/continuity details, because it's Weber
Summary: The beginnings of a game, with a star system and more at stake.
Vorkosigan Saga timeframe: Between Brothers in Arms and Mirror Dance
Honorverse timeframe: After Honor Among Enemies, with slight canon tweaks
Wordcount: 2757 (overall 30604)
Index: I | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII | VIII

One would not think that Empire could survive
As starships Roman cavalry displace;
The politics of Space must needs derive
From Einstein's time, Planck's heat, and Riemann's Space...

--John M. Ford



Admiral Naismith growled. He was being herded.

There was no other word for it. A Cetagandan destroyer sat casually athwart the wormhole to his rear. A pair of their fast couriers played hunting dogs, a heavy cruiser the huntmaster. An elegant trap, elegantly sprung, and what little commercial shipping was in this system was steering subtly clear.

They were so fucked.

“Maybe we could send our shuttle off on a ballistic course while they’re busy blowing the Ariel, and try to talk our way aboard one of the neutral freighters?” Captain Thorne suggested.

Miles shook his head. The couriers were keeping close enough station to them that that simply wouldn’t work. “The tac comp says no.”

“The tac comp’s saying no to everything. Your call, Admiral,” Thorne said.

There was a non-trivial probability that Miles himself would survive capture by his adversaries, but the Cetagandans considered the whole Dendarii fleet pirates, and would have no compunction about shooting Thorne’s crew on principle. Miles rubbed his nose, trying not to betray his bleak thoughts. “Stall,” he said finally.

“Stall how?” Thorne asked.

“The usual way. I have some favors I can pull in.” Bel gave him a sideways look. “If we can hold out a couple weeks, the messages I sent out through the jump-relay network might reach either more of our folks or allies.” A Barrayaran convey escort would be ideal, however much it might blow his cover. Getting captured by the Cetagandans would blow his cover in a significantly more unpleasant fashion.

“Might,” Thorne said. “In a couple weeks?” Battles were dances, and the Ariel was faster than either of the Cetagandan warships, but not faster than the flanking fast couriers. It outgunned the fast couriers, but not the warships. A decisive close-range engagement could be delayed for quite some time, but not forever. “What about their reinforcements?”

“They don’t know I’m here.”

“You don’t know they don’t know you’re here.”

True enough. Miles crossed his arms in front of his chest and stared across the tactical map, before switching to the Nexus display. The system they were in had four wormholes, but only the two Cetagandan-guarded ones went anywhere interesting. He called up the bare survey reports from the other two. One led to a starless area of open space, not a place one wanted to play hide and seek in. It was too easy to lose track of a wormhole terminus hurtling through the voids between stars. Wormholes bound to a star system through five-space interactions were much safer.

The second, more distant wormhole, led to an extended binary star system with fourteen very boring planets. Some independent had spent a fortune mapping it out on a hunch, but hadn’t found any other wormholes through. It was a guaranteed dead end, but a dead end with a lot more places to hide than this planetless expanse with its swelled, blood-red sun.

“There,” he said, pointing at the terminus. “We’ve got a minefield beacon, right? Drop it before we go through, see if they want to risk a ship.” If a wormhole exit wasn’t clear of all debris, a ship transiting in was almost guaranteed to be destroyed.

“Do you want to actually mine it?” Bel asked.

“No. Unfortunately, we may need the shuttle, and we don’t have anything else big enough” Miles said. “But it may give them pause.”

Bel handed off the orders to the tactics computer. The dance would spin out for another three or four days. The fast couriers, placed so as to easily intercept them on the way to either of the two guarded wormholes, couldn’t beat them to the third wormhole without coming into range of the Ariel’s weapons. They didn’t want to do that, not without backup.

Miles stared down at the tactics plot, his thoughts dark and tangled. He caught Bel watching him with a worried wrinkle between its eyes, and attempted a reassuring smile. The hermaphrodite straightened, smiling back. They were alone in the small ship’s tactics room.

“So, if we’re all going to die anyway…,” it started, one elegantly shaped eyebrow arching up in unmistakable invitation.

Miles cleared his throat. “We’re not dead yet.”

===

The Atlas-class passenger liner RMMS Artemis cruised towards the Gregor A wormhole terminus. There were still scars where it had been raked by Havenite fire, and it was not the beautiful example of Hauptman Cartel craftsmanship it once had been. But it had served, and would serve, its purpose.

The Manticorans in New Berlin had discovered that it was faster and more efficient to repair the swift passenger liner’s hyper nodes than for its battered passengers to take commercial or other passage home. Trade magnate Klaus Hauptman had graciously offered to carry the remnants of the crew of Honor Harrington’s wrecked Q-ship HMS Wayfarer all the way to the Manticore system. A warship would have been even faster, but with Trevor’s Star not yet taken Manticore had no warships to spare. While the Andermani yards had done an excellent job on the hyper nodes, the Artemis still needed a complete refit in a Manticoran yard before it could take commercial passengers, so the gracious offer was not costing Hauptman anything in addition to what it would normally have cost him to get the ship home.

BuPers would spare no time in splitting up the much-needed Wayfarer crew to new postings and new assignments once their current leisurely cruise was at an end. Manpower was at a premium. Only their battered captain would be spared. Having ‘inherited’ Samantha, the pregnant treecat mate of her bonded companion Nimitz, Honor would be going on maternity leave on her home planet of Sphinx until the kittens were born. It wouldn’t be long now, until her seniority pushed her into a flag rank. Indeed, it was possible she’d never be merely a starship captain again.

The Manticorans were not the only passengers on this vessel. To Honor’s irritation, she’d been forced to eat her word to her prisoners from the People's Republic of Haven. She’d promised them release in Andermani space – it’d been approved, even – but the Office of Navel Intelligence had partially countermanded the ambassador’s approval. The crews had still been let go there, but the officers were to be released through Trevor’s Star. After military interrogation in the Manticore system, of course.

The Havenites – Citizen Commander Caslet, Citizen Captain Holtz, and their surviving staff - had taken this in stone-faced stride. In addition to enduring additional interrogation, they’d also be getting home much ahead of schedule, and facing the music there sooner. Defeat was looked at with suspicion in the People’s Republic, as there was a sense that the truly patriotic should find a way to win, regardless of the odds.

Honor stood on the bridge, as a spectator, not the captain. Margaret Fuchien, the vessel’s civilian captain, was as good an officer as most in the Royal Manticoran Navy and better than no small number. Honor’s treecat, pried away from his bereaved mate, perched on her shoulder, tasting the emotions of the crew. There was nothing here Honor could criticize, especially not after the efforts Fuchien and her people had gone to on her behalf. Focus and smooth professionalism were the rule. You didn’t get to be bridge crew on one of Klaus Hauptman’s luxury passenger liners if you were easily unnerved by important guests.

It would be good to be home, if Sphinx still was home. Honor was torn now between two worlds, two governments. Her obligations to her adopted world of Grayson would consume her again soon enough.

Fuchien oversaw the configuration of the Warshawski sails in preparation for their transit. As its turn came, the ship smoothly made the transition, riding the wormhole grav wave home.

===

“Admiral, you'd better get up here,” Bel’s voice crackled over the shipboard com. Rousing in a military instant, Miles threw on some undress grays. He stared at the mirror, decided to skip depilation, and arrowed down the hall to the tactics room. The jump had happened during his sleep cycle, disturbing his dreams as usual. The first Cetagandans couldn’t possibly jump through for (he glanced at a chrono) another half-hour yet.

The smothering blanket of depression that had hovered over him lifted slightly as he wandered into the tactics room. Bel had this look on its face that it only got when something really neat was going on.

“They falsified the survey!” it grinned.

“Who did what now?” Miles asked, not quite awake.

“Take a look at this. A freighter’s sensors wouldn’t pick it up, but take a look.”

It took a couple hard looks at both the sensor images and the survey figures for Miles to figure out what Bel was talking about. The planet sizes matched. Anyone who wasn’t looking to land might overlook that… two? Two of the supposedly extremely boring worlds orbiting this half of the binary were clearly life-supporting by the spectra.

“Pirate base, you think?” he asked. Not necessarily a bad thing. He’d be willing to temporarily hook up with a batch of pirates if they could help him get the Cetagandan Navy off his back.

Bel shrugged.

“We’ve led the Cetas right to this, though,” Miles added a bit more soberly. “It’s close enough that they might just grab it. Two terraformable worlds is a major prize.”

“Three,” Bel said.

“Three?”

“One of the ones around the other sun looks suspicious to me.”

“Huh,” Miles said. “Are we picking up anything?”

“I might have got some radio from one of the worlds, but it’s hard to say. I also spotted an ephemeral flash from way out-system, but it might have been a glitch.”

“Well, let’s try to find some friends,” Miles said. “We’ll surely need them.”

===

The Junction forts had gone missing.

That had been Honor’s first blank impression, hours back. It had been wrong, though. It was actually the Star Kingdom that had gone missing.

Manticore A and B still orbited each other in a distant, majestic dance. The worlds of Manticore, Sphinx, and Gryphon still circled their parent stars. But no impeller signatures graced their plot, no communications were in evidence, and the far planets seemed entirely unscarred by either civilization or war. Nothing.

Their first thought was that their systems had failed, but it soon became clear that something much stranger had occurred. Streams of normal commercial traffic had been strung out in front of and behind them before the transit, but all those ships were missing too. It was an empty, lonely visage.

It took them a little while to find the small, impellerless space platform lurking in their wake. When hailed, it apologized profusely and said it was still working on the science.

===

It wasn’t pirates. It was worse. It was physicists.

Depressingly, they were unarmed.

===

The Manticore Wormhole Junction was light-hours from Manticore A, an easy cruise for the sleek liner. After an urgent discussion with the engineering crew, it was decided that until the possibility of an undetected imperfection in the Warshawski sails could be eliminated, attempting to re-transit was inadvisable. Even assuming this Junction had the same approaches as the one that was supposed to be here also was not without its hazards. The Artemis was a passenger liner, not a survey vessel. They also, as Hauptman noted, would be coming in outside the usual transit patterns, possibly leading to an accident. When such cosmic energies and forces were involved, accidents were not to be courted.

The engineers checked the engines, the techs checked the controls, and grudgingly Captain Harrington permitted Hauptman to draft Citizen Lieutenant Commander Shannon Foraker from the Haven POWs to figure out if anything had gone wrong with the computers. There was something about Foraker that made Honor uneasy, most likely the sense she got from Nimitz that the Peep tac officer was far too bright for her own good.

One could hardly draft Foraker without admitting to the POWs (and the small contingent of non-military non-crew aboard) that something had gone terribly wrong. However, they’d have realized that soon in any case. The prisoners were tense. Haven had secret prison camps, it was said, where it disappeared men and women, and surely they suspected treachery here. Honor suspected, however, that some of them might find a Manticoran POW camp secretly preferable to going home.

So they wandered slowly sunward over the course of a day or so, not daring to take a shortcut in hyper. Hauptman, Honor, and their entourages had been invited to visit the main settlement in this system by its mysterious inhabitants.

Honor had considered just seizing the craft near this Junction and forcing its inhabitants to divulge its secrets, but currently they had an excess of Marines and a shortage of assault craft. Klaus Hauptman, of all people, had pointed out that starting a war with a culture that had the power to disrupt the Wormhole Junction was perhaps not the wisest idea. But Hauptman and his daughter were who they were, and clearly they were already thinking of trade possibilities, and more. The distorted grav waves showed that a wormhole junction was still present. Where did the termini lead from here? Was there an empty Beowulf to discover, an empty Trevor’s Star?

There had to be some way of turning this to Manticore’s strategic advantage, Honor thought, and it likely started with annexing this odd mirror system. But the first priority was getting back, and to get back they had to learn how they’d got here.

Time passed. The Artemis swung into orbit over a familiar yet unfamiliar planet. There were ships here, a handful of them – two small intrasystem craft no larger than a large LAC. One was transmitting some form of non-standard identification code, while the other, smaller one was running silent and was extremely difficult to spot. They moved seamlessly through space. Clearly they had some form of inertial compensators, for the grav sensors were picking up something this close, but the Artemis didn’t pick up the bold signatures of impeller wedges even when they were moving. The speed of the pseudo-LACs was glacial, their maneuverability equally so.

She was on the bridge when the larger vessel hailed them.

“Unidentified vessel, this is ghem-Captain Elern of the Cetagandan Imperial cruiser Cyrene,” a male voice said. The video signal was shortly deciphered by the Artemis’s computers, revealing a brown-skinned, serious-looking man in a black uniform and lurid facepaint. “Please state your intentions in this system.”

Calm words, for a man whose ship was outmassed so vastly. But maybe they’d spotted the Artemis for a civilian craft. Artemis’s armament wasn’t civilian, though, and Honor suspected (‘cruiser’ or not) she could easily take this ‘Cyrene’.

Hauptman leaned forward, taking the call. “Cyrene, this is the RMMS Artemis,” he said. “Klaus Hauptman, owner. We are currently here by invitation of the planet’s inhabitants, but please be aware that the Star Kingdom of Manticore has a pre-existing territorial claim to this system.”

“No such claim is recognized among the interstellar powers,” the… Cetagandan? countered. “Neither, I believe, is any government of that name.”

Hauptman’s eyebrows rose. He glanced sideways at Honor. They were lost. But they’d known that by the empty system where their homeworlds were supposed to be,.

“We look forward to peaceful interaction between our two nations,” Hauptman offered. Honor was suddenly uneasily aware that the magnate seemed to have appointed himself ambassador. Not necessarily a good thing. Perhaps she should have insisted on taking the call.

“We have also now received an invitation,” the Cetagandan said. “I look forward to making your acquaintance, Hauptman of the Artemis. Perhaps our governments’ interests may coincide, now or in the future.”

“If I may ask, ghem-Captain,” Hauptman asked courteously, “what is your business in the system?”

“Ah,” Elern said. “As it happens, we are pirate-hunting.”


II
 
 
 
every city has its secret...: squeerabidfangurl on August 20th, 2009 07:13 am (UTC)
YAY! I have SO been wanting a cross-over like this to happen. The only thing to make it more awesome would be Honor/Miles, and that's mostly because Honor could not *possibly* be more Miles's type. (Whether Miles is Honor's remains to be seen)

*does happy dance*
Azure Jane Lunaticazurelunatic on August 20th, 2009 07:51 am (UTC)
Oh my! :D
Kathryn A: SFkerravonsen on August 20th, 2009 08:14 am (UTC)
Intriguing...
philomythaphilomytha on August 20th, 2009 12:37 pm (UTC)
I have only a vague impression of the Honorverse (tried to read various of the books, tend to end up throwing them at the wall around page sixty), but this is fun anyway. I liked Bel propositioning Miles, and the pirates/physicists business. Plus an interesting three-cornered interstellar 'situation'. Why do I have a feeling Miles will end up on top holding all the marbles...?

Also, I love the poem you start with. Extremely apt.
Telteldreaming on August 20th, 2009 02:09 pm (UTC)
What the casual reader might miss here is that the prompt is a reference to the late John M. Ford's influential early Classic Trek novel, 'How Much For Just The Planet?'. He'd earlier written another Star Trek book, the first (though overwritten later) to seriously go in to the history and culture of the Klingons. For his second book, they were not -expecting- him to write a musical comedy. But he was a poet as much as an author, and he did anyway...

If the early Weber books are wallbangers to you, I'd advise -not- slogging through. There are some moments, but what he really loves is the superdreadnaughts, and not so much the characterization....
philomythaphilomytha on August 20th, 2009 02:26 pm (UTC)
I think one of the ones I threw at the wall was the most recent Honor book, found in the library. Chapters that consisted of nothing but political monologue. *Boring* political monologue. The frustrating thing was that bits were sufficiently good that I would keep reading, get bogged down in a morass of faux French Revolution stuff and start to lose the will to live. I did quite like the Havenites, and I was pleased to see some here, but I'm not at all sure which are OCs and which are Weber's characters.

John M Ford, on the other hand, sounds like someone I should look up.
fawatsonfawatson on August 20th, 2009 09:06 pm (UTC)
I like the Honor Harrington books but I too find much of the (all too obvious theft from the Fench Revolution) politicisation in the later novels tedious.

Either avoid them altogether, or, read only the first few novels (On Basilisk Station is the first), skimming over the excessive technical bits (which also got longer in the later novels!).

Edited at 2009-08-20 09:06 pm (UTC)
ello76ello76 on August 21st, 2009 11:38 pm (UTC)
As someone once said, when Weber is on his game, you just can't wait to turn the page. Then you get to the info-dump sections, where you also just can't wait to turn the page, but the thought occurs in a little different tone of voice.

I actually prefer the War God series, possibly because the opportunity to describe superdreadnaughts is somewhat limited.

I liked this bit. It sets up a really interesting situation and I'm looking forward to seeing where it goes.
fawatsonfawatson on August 22nd, 2009 07:18 am (UTC)
Definitely want to see where it goes! This was one really incredibly enjoyable story! Very true to Miles.

Not tried the War Gods series - if it avoids info dumps, then it appeals. I entirely agree with your 'page turning' comment.
the_blue_fenixthe_blue_fenix on August 20th, 2009 12:57 pm (UTC)
Heck, you had me at the title.

This is beautifully done and very much in character for everyone. Looking forward eagerly to further chapters.

To other readers: betting pool on whether Samantha bonds to Miles or Forraker?
Telteldreaming on August 20th, 2009 02:14 pm (UTC)
Anybody But Hamish? There's another potential axis of interaction that might be more interesting to bet on...

It's slightly cheating to have Shannon Foraker, Klaus Hauptman, and Samantha all still on the same ship this far out, but the opportunity was too good to pass up...
the_blue_fenixthe_blue_fenix on August 20th, 2009 02:24 pm (UTC)
I've always been Anybody But Hamish, though I admit the last volume more or less made it work.

I was always holding out for Ramirez Jr. On the grounds that maybe it would be fun for her to be NOT the towering incredibly strong etc. etc. person in a relationship for once but the dainty and delicate one. Everybody likes some time off from being a superhero.

Marcus L. Rowlandffutures on August 20th, 2009 02:47 pm (UTC)
I am very annoyed I didn't think of that title! Like the story so far, looking forward to more.
Telteldreaming on August 20th, 2009 06:56 pm (UTC)
Actually suggested by an acquaintance. So terrible I had to use it, though.
shimotsuki: vorkosiganshimotsuki on August 20th, 2009 06:22 pm (UTC)
Don't know the Honorverse at all, but am intrigued anyway!

(I have, on the other hand, read the Ford ST novels, heh.)

As someone who fears (writing) action plots, I'm enjoying reading yours, which is smooth and intriguing and easily visualizable. I'll be looking forward to the next part.
fawatsonfawatson on August 20th, 2009 09:07 pm (UTC)
It seems a bit 'unfinished' - a sequel is in the offing, I presume? I wait it eagerly.

Edited at 2009-08-20 09:08 pm (UTC)
(Anonymous) on August 21st, 2009 06:18 am (UTC)
Love the potential of this cross, looking forward to more short Vor!

Magda