Whether the ‘Battle of Spindle’ ever really happened or not.”
Gilmore nodded, but his expression was unhappy, which pleased the rear admiral no end, since it indicated the presence of a functioning brain. Plenty of Frontier Fleet officers were just as wedded to the notion of Solarian invincibility as any Battle Fleet pain in the ass, but Pyun hadn’t chosen his staff from among them. No one could ever reasonably call Steven Gilmore an alarmist, yet he was at least willing to admit the Manties might actually have learned a little something—or even developed a few new weapons systems—in the course of surviving a twenty-T-year war against the far larger People’s Republic of Haven.
Of course, neither he nor Pyun had been anywhere near the Talbott Sector when that incomparable military genius Josef Byng managed to get his flagship blown away at New Tuscany. Nor had they been in the vicinity when Sandra Crandall set out to avenge her fellow genius, so there was no way they could have any firsthand impression of the weapons Manticore might have used. Unlike Gilmore, however, Pyun had enjoyed the dubious pleasure of actually meeting Crandall, and based on that, the Manties’ version of what she’d done at Spindle carried a pronounced ring of truth. Which suggested the rest of their version of the Battle of Spindle was also at least reasonably accurate. Pyun might be willing to play devil’s advocate with Gilmore, but he shared his ops officer’s disinclination to simply dismiss the “preposterous” ranges which had been reported by at least some Solarian observers even before whatever happened to Crandall. Thirty million kilometers still sounded like too much to be true, but…
Pyun considered his orders once again. They were as clear as they were nondiscretionary, yet he hadn’t earned flag rank in the Solarian Navy without discovering how much easier it was for people who were going to be far, far away at the critical moment to issue such unflinching directives.
Maybe it is, but he’s still the Commissioner, and you’re still a Frontier Fleet officer assigned to his sector .
“Copy Captain Ivanov’s message to Captain Zyndram, Ephram. Inform the Captain that I see no reason to alter our intentions at this time.”
He folded his hands behind himself and stood gazing into the master display once more.
* * *
“I don’t suppose the Admiral actually replied to this, Vincent?” Captain Nereu Zyndram, CO of SLNS Belle Poule , asked.
“No, Sir,” Lieutenant Vincent Würtz replied. The com officer started to say something else, but then he closed his mouth, and Zyndram smiled thinly.
Würtz was young, the flag captain thought. In fact, he was younger than he thought he was, prey to both the confidence and the trepidation of his youth. There was no way, in young Würtz’ worldview, that any neobarb Navy could possibly stand up to the SLN. As far as the lieutenant was concerned, the Manty accounts of the Battle of Spindle could only be disinformation. No other possibility was admissible. Yet despite that, another part of the youngster was secretly afraid the Manty claims might contain at least a particle of truth, after all. And like the vast majority of Belle Poule ’s company, Würtz had never seen actual combat. The possibility that he might see it very soon now had to be gnawing away inside him.
Fair enough , Zyndram thought. You have seen combat, Nereu. And you’ve been around long enough to have a better feel than young Vincent for when someone’s shooting you a line of shit, too. Which is why you’re feeling a little nervous just this moment, yourself .
Nereu Zyndram had felt profound reservations about this operation from the moment Rear Admiral Pyun shared their orders with him. Those reservations hadn’t grown any smaller since, either. On the other hand, he’d known Pyun for a lot of years. There wasn’t much chance the admiral was going to start ignoring orders just