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Frequently Asked Questions

Perhaps it is because of the nature of the books that David writes, perhaps it is because David Weber's fans are unusually dedicated and inquisitive... but it seems that everyone has a question! Here are a few that David finds he gets asked most often.

If you have a question that you would like to see considered as a FAQ, please e-mail us at Responses will be posted if and when David can get to them. We'd love to hear from you! 

Series Question Posted
Honorverse What order am I supposed to read the Honor Harrington/Honorverse books? September 2010

Great Question! David originally intended the books to be read in order by publication date, but that's gotten a little complicated. Check out our handy list, contributed by Christine Acker!

Honorverse I've just finished with "A Rising Thunder," and I've got to know...what's the next Honorverse book? September 2010

Interesting question. "Fire Season," by David Weber and Jane Lindskold, which is the second of the young adult series set in the Honorverse that features Stephanie Harrington, will be released in October of 2012. David has also finished the next Honorverse book, tentatively called "Shadow of Freedom," due out in 2013. Eric Flint and David are also collaborating on another book, tentatively called, "Cauldron Boil, Cauldron Bubble" (or some other phrase from MacBeth...) which will hopefully also be released in 2013.

Honorverse In what novel is Berry Zilwicki rescued from Old Chicago?  June 2011

This was actually not in a novel. Helen Zilwicki rescues Berry and her brother Lars from Berry’s rapists in “From the Highlands,” Eric’s first Honorverse novella. When Anton Zilwick (and Victor) end up rescuing Helen (well, “retrieving” her, at least), Anton takes Berry and Lars back to Manticore with him, where he legally adopts them as his children. For all intents and purposes, Cathy Montaigne is their adoptive mother, as well, although Eric (for some reason) prefers not to marry them off. I’m fine with that, myself, but I get asked why they haven’t married fairly often, and I just say “Because Eric doesn’t want them to.”

Honorverse  What constitutes membership to the Manticoran nobility for the purposes of forbidding marriage to the Heir to the Throne?   I ask because I have this idea that Edward Saganami was the great love of Queen Adrienne's life, but they were forbidden to marry because he (just) qualified as a member ot the nobility. February 2012

For the purposes of the requirement for the heir to the throne to marry a commoner, the restriction generally means that the candidate for marriage cannot hold a peerage or be an immediate family member of someone who does, although there are some "loopholes" built into it. Simple knighthoods do not count for this purpose, since to be defined as a "peer of the realm" in Manticore, one must hold a seat in the House of Lords. Technically every baron or baroness (or higher ranking noble) holds a seat in the Lords, although not all of them ever take it, but knighthoods, in and of themselves, do not confer membership in the Lords. Anyone standing in the direct line to inherit a peerage would also be ineligible as a potential husband or wife for the heir to the throne, but the House of Lords (responsible for interpreting constitutional provisions) has determined that members of collateral lines with at least six direct heirs between them and the title would be eligible. (This is the major "loophole" I referenced above, and it was established over 200 T-years before Honor Harrington's birth.) It's been suggested that it should be legal for the heir apparent to marry even someone in direct line for a peerage if the heir to the peerage renounces the title in perpetuity for himself/herself and his or her heirs, but this interpretation of the constitutional requirements has not been argued before the Lords (since the circumstances visualized have never occurred. If it was heard by the Lords and sustained, it would, of course, constitute a second major "loophole" in the requirement. Given the fact that it would obviously violate the intent of the provision, however, most constitutional authorities in the Star Kingdom assume that it would not be sustained. On the other hand, if it has been established, at least in principle, that if the heir to the throne renounces the Crown, then the bar against marriage to a member of the aristocracy becomes moot.

Honorverse Why is there legalized dueling in the Star Kingdom? (Asked Mon May 23, 2011) December 2013

[The] real reason for the reemergence of dueling in the SKM is the sheer bloody-mindedness of the human creature in a frontier environment.

The SKM has always been very "2nd Amendment" friendly, largely as a result of the fairly conservative North American DNA in the original colonists, who were fleeing a Solar System in which they felt the Nanny State had become tyranical. Another consequence of their origins was that they had something of a fetish about self-reliance, standing on your own two feet, and other cliches to that effect. And they were settling on planets much of whose surfaces were then (and in HH's day still are) hazardous for the unarmed/unprotected. (Don't forget that as late as HH's time, people who go wandering in the bush on Sphinx take along some hefty firepower, and even the planet of Manticore has less than 2 billion citizens, quite a few of whom (like the majority) are concentrated in a relatively small number of urban enclaves.) In the earlier days of the SK -- post Plague but way pre-Honor -- the practice of well-armed citizens settling disputes on their own (and before the cops could respond, given some really long response envelopes) -- reemerged. It was not officially sanctioned when it did, but juries tended to refuse to convict if they could be convinced that the dearly departed "needed killing."

In time, the precedent was pretty well established that a homicide was "justifiable" as long as it was "a fair shootin'" and both sides had participated voluntarily while taking precautions to protect innocent bystanders. In other words, "If you two lunatics really want to shoot at each other, more power to you. The gene pool will be improved whichever of you we manage to remove from it!" Once it became an acceptable practice, laws were passed (beginning on Sphinx, I blush to disclose) codifying it in the interests of conrolling and minimizing it.

Honor thinks it's a Really Bad Idea (despite the fact that she's resorted to it twice herself), but not because she thinks you shouldn't be allowed to settle disputes with a certain degree of . . . finality if both parties agree. Her objection is that the shaming aspect of it has turned it into something that drives/forces/convinces otherwise putatively sane (and honorable, decent, etc.) people who otherwise would know better than to do such a stupid thing (like Paul Tankersley) into situations that get them killed by the scum of the earth. She has no objection in theory to settling things on the dueling grounds (and was willing to use the "shaming" aspect of it herself to get to Pavel Young), but is actually doing all she can currently to support the growing reform movement to abolish the practice in the SEM.

I should, perhaps, point out that she would have been entirely willing to shoot Pavel without aid of the code duello if the code hadn't been there to be used. Lord knows I love the girl, but I certainly wouldn't wamt to get on the bad side of her with blood in the water. Moderation under those circumstances is not precisely her strong suit.

Oh, and who says you can't settle disputes on Montana with a shootin' iron, Pardner?

Honorverse How is impeller wedge power related to sidewall strength? (Asked Tue May 24, 2011) December 2013

The strength of the wedge does affect the effectiveness of the sidewall, but it isn't the decisive factor in sidewall strength. It's the sidewall generators which determine that.

A sidewall is basically a "plate" of focused gravitic energy, and the bigger (and stronger) its generator, the stronger and tougher the sidewall plate is going to be. The logical implication of this is that larger ships with more tonnage for generators and a larger energy budget can produce stronger sidewalls, and that's the real reason ships-of-the-wall, for example, have sidewalls so much tougher than a battlecruiser's or a destroyer's. It's also the reason the Nike-class battlecruisers have stronger sidewalls than the Agamemnons; the BC(L)'s designers devoted the tonnage and the power to generate them because toughness and survivability were higher priorities in the Nike's concept design stage.

Now, where the basic size and power of the ship's impeller wedge come in is in the "stitching" — the interface where the sidewall and the wedge come together. The sidewall is strongest at the center, with the strength (the gravitic "depth," if you will) of the "plate" dropping off proportionately as one approaches its boundaries. That means the upper and lower edges of the sidewall are the "sweet spot" where the attacker really wants his energy weapon shot to hit, and the stronger or "deeper" the impeller wedge is, the more its "shadow" protects that "seam" from incoming fire. The sidewall actually reaches up into the impeller wedge (where the two of them are tuned to interface and interlock), much as the impeller wedge reaches across the alpha wall to siphon in additional power to maintain the wedge once it's up. The effect in this case is much less noticeable in terms of power supply, but the interface also "bends" or slightly deforms the surface of the impeller wedge, pulling it "downward" to the edge of the sidewall plate, which is where the defensive "shadow" originates, and the stronger the impeller band, the stronger (tougher) that shadow becomes. In combination these factors significantly reinforce the strength of the sidewall edges where they are inherently weaker, which means that the same sidewall generator will produce a more effective sidewall when it has a stronger or "deeper" impeller wedge with which to interface. It's not that the sidewall itself is actually stronger, but rather that it is able to use its strength in a more inherently efficient fashion. This is only a factor for hits that would come in through that reinforced area, and the reinforcement itself is a small enough factor in the sidewall's overall power that this is not a significant element in the difference of sidewall strength between, say, a Nike and an Agamemnon. It would, however, be a very significant element in the difference between the strength of an SD's sidewall and that of a CA.

Honorverse Does the Solarian League as presently constituted a government? It seems more like a free trade pact with mutual defense clauses thrown in. (Asked Mon Aug 08, 2011) January 2014

Okay, I think there's some confusion over whether or not the Solarian League is actually a "government." It is. It's a government which was established for specific purposes, those having to do primarily with the regulation and protection of interstellar trade and the suppression of threats to that trade, plus the creation of a central military sufficiently powerful to depress any temptations towards warlordism on the parts of individual system governments once the Warshawski sail made interstellar war practical once more, but it is a government, and it always has been one.

If you think about it, that protection against threats is actually the primary motivator for the formation of almost any government. The Solarian Constitution was deliberately structured in a way to limit the power of the central government, but that government was clearly visualized as a government from the get-go, or else there wouldn't have been a legislative body in which every full member system held veto power. The difficulty wasn't that the League was denied the power to legislate and create laws in the sense of any other government; the difficulty was that since the League was effectively unable to pass meaningful legislation because of that veto power, the government turned to its regulatory authority to "do an end run" around the legislature . . . and then proceeded to continue doing the same thing literally for centuries. At the time of the discovery of the Manticoran Wormhole Junction, the League in already been in existence for centuries, however, and the SKM could see pretty clearly what that implied even before it became an uber economic power in its own right courtesy of the Junction. It didn't much care for what it was seeing, either.

For the League's full member systems, political relations with the central government are probably closer to the relations of states in the United States to the federal government prior to the American Civil War — you know, when we actually paid attention to something called the Tenth Amendment? [G] The central government has extraordinarily limited authority to intervene in the local laws and practices of full member systems of the League unless those laws and/or practices are in conflict with the Constitution and the government's constitutional authority. As a consequence, a citizen of a typical core star system has very little interaction with the League government and a great deal of interaction with his local system government. He doesn't care what's going on in Washington, DC, he cares about what's going on in Sacramento or Albany.

From the outside looking in, however, the policies and practices of the government in Old Chicago are clearly evident, and the Star Kingdom (as of the discovery of the Junction) had been a Verge system. I realize that's a bit different perspective from my earlier comments about why the Haven Sector is significantly different from other Verge sectors, but I plead the fact that we're talking about a process of centuries here. When I said that the Star Kingdom and the Republic of Haven hadn't been Verge systems because of their proximity in terms of travel time to the Old League, that's been the case for the last two or three centuries prior to the Havenite wars, but it shouldn't be construed as meaning that it's been the case for the entire history of the League. It's been the case during the formative time period of the Haven Sector's divergence from the Verge norm, and I should have been more careful and precise in how I formulated and expressed my thoughts in that regard when the topic first came up. But at the time that the Manticoran Wormhole Junction was initially discovered, the Star Kingdom had already "enjoyed" three or four hundred years of watching the League in action and seeing the gradual emergence of the Office of Frontier Security from a Verge perspective. In fact, by that time the policies which later led to the rot within the League bureaucracy and the Protectorates was already fairly visible to anyone on the outside who actually looked at the situation. As such, the SKM — which at that time faced no local external threat — saw absolutely no reason to join a government for which it had already developed a distinct distaste.

By the time the People's Republic did emerge as a political and military threat, the contemporary Star Kingdom — particularly as the greatest "maritime" power in the explored galaxy — had directly experienced all too much of the reality of the "noble" Solarian League's policies. As a consequence, it would be difficult to exaggerate the negativity of the late nineteenth century Manty-in-the-street's distaste for the League. The notion of a voluntary association with the League would have been — at best — a bitterly divisive political issue within King Roger's Star Kingdom, and the threatened loss of system revenues once the League government started collecting the "user fees" on the Wormhole Junction (which it would have been entitled to do, technically at least, under the League's constitution) would have been seized upon by opponents to any such association during the domestic political debate over it.

During the Cold War, there was a vocal European opinion group which held that there was actually very little to choose between the Soviet Union and the United States. I suspect that if the members of that group had been forced to choose between becoming citizens of the Soviet Union or of the United States — that is, they'd literally had no choice but to do one or the other — a majority of them would have decided that the USA was a better (or at least, less bad) choice than the USSR. Do you really think, though, that, say France, would have opted to submerge itself in the government of the United States of America, rather than investing in its own military, if confronted by an aggressive and expansionist Germany? France might have sought a military alliance with the US against Germany (seems to me we actually did that a time or two), but it wouldn't have surrendered its sovereignty to the United States, and rightfully so. The political relationship Washington and Paris has been rocky enough from time to time, but the degree of antipathy between them even at their worst pales in comparison to the antipathy between the Star Kingdom of Manticore and the Solarian League as a whole. That's why I made the point about the difference between the Manties' attitude towards Beowulfans and Sollies.

As for the difference between internal and external trade tariffs, there really isn't one as far as the League is concerned. The League is a great believer in "free trade," and "tariffs" in the sense in which they exist in our own experience aren't really part of the League's system. They aren't designed to protect the League's economy from imports, since the League is much more concerned with exports from the most productive (in absolute terms, at least) economy in the galaxy. They are, rather, transactional fees which go into the central government's coffers. As such, Manticoran exporters really wouldn't save anything by virtue of membership in the League, but the Manticoran merchant marine would have found itself paying substantial fees (it would never do to call them "taxes," of course!) which the League automatically levies on its own merchant vessels. (That, by the way, is another reason for the size and power of the Manticoran merchant marine; the additional, government-imposed overhead on Solarian registry vessels is a primary driver in Solly shippers' preference for leasing Manticoran ships rather than owning their own.)

The probable immediate economic cost to Manticore in dollars and cents probably would have been lower than the cost of King Roger's build up, although it should be borne in mind that the increase under King Roger was far less costly than even the prewar budgets under Elizabeth. That is, it was a peacetime budgetary increase, probably something like the Reagan Administration's defense spending increases with a moderate dose of steroids, nothing like defense spending under Eisenhower or Kennedy and not remotely like defense spending under FDR. The long-term, systemic expenses to the Star Kingdom would have been far greater than anything it saved in the short term, however. (Note that we're speaking here about the cost of the military buildup, not about the cost of an actual war that League membership might have averted. I throw that in because I'm sure one of you would be simply delighted to mention it if I didn't at least take cognizance of it in passing. [G]) When you combine that long-term systemic cost with the Manticoran sense of "national identity" and deep-seated distaste for the Solarian League, the chance that any Manticoran government would ever have asked for League membership — even as a full member system — would have to be virtually nonexistent. That might have changed in the face of a truly desperate military situation when something like Churchill's 1940 proposal of joint citizenship for the citizens of Great Britain and France might have offered salvation in the face of actual Havenite conquest, but it would have been a complete nonstarter in the face of any prospect less dismal than that.

Or that's the way it seems to me, at any rate, but what do I know? ;-)

Honorverse How does missile telemetry and guidance work? (Asked Thu Aug 18, 2011) January 2014

Missile-to-missile communication is a bear for impeller drive missiles under power. Their own impeller wedges --- and those of their fellow missiles --- cut enormous holes in transmission paths, making it very difficult for missiles anywhere except in very close proximity to one another (and very closely coordinating their maneuvers) to "talk to each other" on the sort of basis which would let them keep track of that kind of detailed positional information. One reason the Apollo control muscles follow behind the missiles they are controlling it so that they can maintain a line of sight to the missiles under their command by remaining in their "impeller shadow," which simultaneously protects them from enemy interception and allows them to communicate with their flocks through the kilts of the attack missiles' wedges.

I may not have made it sufficiently clear, but the telemetry link between an outgoing missile (especially an outgoing SDM) and the ship that launched it is not a continuous, unbroken two-way stream of data. The ship and the missile both know what the missile's maneuvers are going to be. If one of those maneuvers turns the missile's transceiver away from its mothership, both it and the ship know when the ship will be able to re-acquire signal. That "window" on the dedicated channel for that missile is completely predictable and, just as importantly, that window is independent of the window for any other missile in that salvo or any other salvo fired by that ship. What that means is that the other missiles in the flight, broadside, salvo,or avalanche don't have to worry about communicating with each other; they only have to worry about communicating with the mothership, which puts the data from all the distributed sensor nodes represented by its missiles together into a single, cohesive model of the target. Because it knows precisely where each of its missiles are, it can then steer them into the best attack positions without the missiles themselves needing to know a single thing about any other missile in the attack wave. In other words, in an ideal attack situation, even when the missiles "steady down" on their final attack runs, they wouldn't have to share information with each other because that information has been shared for them. And because the launching ship's conversation with each missile is "private," there was no point in the attack missiles' combined flight profile when they had to maneuver into attitudes which would allow them to communicate with one another, depriving their target of any opportunity to analyze their flight paths in order to improve counter missile and point defense solutions.

Now, the problem with this ideal attack model has always been the lightspeed limit on the telemetry link, and I've never meant to imply that the missiles themselves never go into information-sharing mode independent of the firing ship. That, in fact, is precisely what happens when the firing ship cuts its telemetry links because the range is so great that transmission delay is imposing penalties which outweigh its advantages. When that happens, the missiles go on to a "canned" attack profile and continue their individual attack paths completely independent of one another. The launching ship knows exactly what that profile is, however, which means that it also knows where every “independently targeted” missile is going to be at the instant that they enter that "final run" stage of the attack. With that information, it arranges for them to so position themselves as to give them the best shot at communicating before the attack. What they're actually doing in that very fleeting time window, however, isn't trying to find the target. They already know what their target zone is; what they're doing is checking to see who's been killed on the way in and redistributing firing assignments amongst the survivors in order to cover their target zone as effectively as possible. The shipboard control which has gotten them to that point actually has a far better picture of where their target can be then they could determine in the very brief time window they have, so they aren't so much attempting to aim as they are to cover the target they've already been aimed at with the greatest density of fire the surviving laser heads will permit.

There's an inevitable loss in accuracy because the telemetry link which was feeding them their target's location has been lost. In addition, however, one of the tools of missile defense is to analyze the flight profiles of incoming salvos in order to spot that "handshaking" moment when the attack missiles "talk to each other" before firing. One of the reasons point defense gets more effective in the innermost zone is that there's a higher percentage chance of predicting the positions of missiles in the moment that they hold that last data exchange if the defenders have had more time to analyze their flight profiles and the missiles have waited to a closer range to roll into one another's transmission paths. Analysis of relative wedge positions can provide the defenders with a pretty darned good, constantly evolving solution for how the missiles in question have to position themselves in order to get good transmission paths.

Remember that the first time Giscard ever saw MDMs at Lovat, the "clumping" of the incoming fire puzzled him. Standard missile doctrine spreads the attack missiles as broadly as possible, maneuvering them independently towards their targets in order to make them as difficult as possible to lock up and to make prediction of possible transmission paths equally difficult. Tethering the Mark 23s to the Apollo missiles actually makes their positions easier to plot and to predict, which ought to make them even more vulnerable to interception, which is one reason the unusual flight profile puzzled Giscard. The problem for the defender is that because the ship controlling the Mark 23s is looking at its tactical model built on the input from every single attack missile, it's in a far better position to "thread the needle" on its way in and to utilize the penetration aid platforms seeded into the salvo much more effectively than ever before. Moreover, the ships themselves are in a datasharing network, which means that the combat environment model of the ship directing/controlling any given salvo of Apollo-controlled missiles has the advantage of shared input from every single ship in its formation. What that means is that, at least in theory, a single SD(P) controlling its own missile salvo has the tactical input from every single one of the (probably) thousands of missiles which its wall has fired. And, finally, Apollo has the advantage of real-time telemetry, allowing it to use all of that data effectively, out to an effective range no one else can possibly match.

The sensor capability of any given missile is very, very limited compared to the EW environment, the complexity of the maneuvering environment, and the extremely short time in which the sensors are going to have a look at the target ship as opposed to the target ship's wedge. The sensor capability of ten or twelve thousand missiles, shared in real time, is quite another kettle of fish, and it is the ability to combine and manage that much data which really accounts for Apollo's devastating accuracy. The probability of a hit by any given Apollo laser head is enormously higher than for any other missile out there. In fact, even now, the Manties are still in the process of coming to terms with just how much that probability has been increased.

Honorverse What exactly can a treecat pick up from a human, and how useful would it be in a court of law? (Asked Tue Sep 13, 2011) January 2014

Treecats are capable of detecting and parsing human emotions with a high degree of accuracy. They can, thus, detect emotional spikes connected with anxiety. They can also detect/read what you might call "sideband" transmissions. This is spelled out in somewhat greater detail in A Beautiful Friendship (that would be the novel version coming out in October), when Climbs Quickly is thinking about the message content which is subsumed in the emotional/empathic portion of the mind-glow. It's much more difficult to strain exact meanings out of those "sideband" transmissions without considerable practice with the individual mind-glow in question. That is, a mated pair of treecats would be able to read a great deal of actual meaning and communication out of their mates' mind-glows, and a treecat who has adopted a human can pick up a great deal of information/communication from the emotional side of the human's mind-glow. This isn't the same as telepathy, which is a coherent, deliberate communication — what you might call a "formed" communication. That doesn't mean that information isn't transferred, however.

There are, in the human mind-glow, discernible "triggers," for want of a better word — information tags from a treecat's perspective which indicate that someone is deliberately telling an untruth. One reason that they can detect this as well as they can is that it is a trigger/information tag completely lacking in treecat mind-glows, because treecats don't lie. So, yes, when Honor calls Nimitz a "furry lie detector," she is being exactly accurate: Nimitz can tell whenever someone sets out to deliberately tell an untruth or mislead. Now, the limitation here is exactly the same as would be provided by any other lie detector that was capable of differentiating between a knowingly true and knowingly false statement; you may know the statement is knowingly false, but that doesn't tell you how it is false. That is, knowing that someone isn't telling you the truth doesn't automatically tell you what the truth is. Obviously, if you ask enough questions and are able to tell whether any given answer is true or false, you can eventually narrow the options of the person you're questioning to a point at which the truth is revealed.

If your alibi in a murder case is that you were cheating on your spouse somewhere else at the time the victim was murdered and you're asked whether or not you committed the crime and you say "No," a treecat would know that your statement was not deliberately and knowingly false. He might also know that you were upset, that you were embarrassed about where the questioning might lead if it continued, etc., but he wouldn't know why you were upset unless specific additional questions were asked. (Well, that's not entirely accurate; a treecat probably would pick up at least a little information from those "sideband" transmissions. Whether or not he would be able to put that information together to realize what you had been up to and why you were embarrassed about it would be highly problematical, however. He might be able to get as far as your embarrassment/shame focusing on your spouse [or, perhaps, on the public consequences of being found to be an adulterer, assuming you were more concerned about that than about any hurt/paint it might cause your spouse, you louse!], but he wouldn't be able to tell what, specifically, you'd done to be embarrassed or humiliated by.)

This is something that treecats can't help knowing. They aren't especially interested or judgmental about it, but they can't help knowing. A lot of the things that bother human beings seem pretty silly to treecats, since they're telempathic, after all, and none of them can help knowing this sort of thing about any of them. Human beings who simply can't stand the thought that this little alien creature here knows what they're feeling (whether the little alien creature really cares what they're feeling or not) are going to be extremely uncomfortable around treecats under any circumstances. But if treecats are going to be accorded the same rights as any other sentient being, then they're going to have to be allowed in society. That's just the way it is. And if they're not allowed in society because of their empathic abilities, then they won't be being accorded the same rights as any other sentient being. That's just the way it is, too. In other words, humanity is either going to have to learn how to cope or the people who simply can't stand that are going to have to isolate themselves from treecats.

In the meantime, however, the issue of using treecats as lie detectors is essentially a nonissue. In the pursuit of security clearances for government officials and — especially — members of the military, being asked in front of a lie detector whether or not you are an agent of an enemy power is not inappropriate. It might become inappropriate if only certain members were singled out to be questioned, although even then it would depend on what the basis for singling out was. If, however, it is an across-the-board policy — in effect, every member of the Navy, for example, is going to be asked exactly the same question and no fishing expeditions are going to be permitted — then it does not constitute an unfair invasion of anyone's privacy, since the treecat isn't going to be able to tell a human interrogator (even if the treecat wants to) anything more than the fact that you are/are not lying. That's it, pretty much.

If you are a civilian, under the Manticoran Constitution, you would have the right to refuse to answer. The treecat might be able to tell that you were upset, but it couldn't tell the interrogator why you were upset. The consequence of your refusing to answer would be the loss of your security clearance, which would probably cost you your job (assuming that your job was sufficiently sensitive that you were required to have a security clearance in the first place) and it might well lead to an investigation which could turn up all sorts of things you'd rather weren't turned up. But that would be because the fact that you chose not to answer the question generated suspicion, not because of anything the treecat was able to tell them.

Although this particular issue [the use, specifically, of treecats as an investigating tool] has not been addressed yet in Manticoran criminal law, the issue of coerced testimony and involuntary use of lie detectors has been addressed. You cannot be compelled to testify against yourself and a jury cannot legally consider whether or not you refused to take a lie detector test. It is possible that criminal law may be modified if treecats become part of the recognized police force or of the practice of jurisprudence in the Star Empire. For example, it might become permissible for a treecat police officer to testify "He lied when he said he was at home playing solitaire the night of the murder," which would obviously be a serious blow. However, the treecat could not then testify "And the reason he lied was that he was actually off committing the murder." If the suspect was then asked "We know you weren't really home playing solitaire that night. Did you or didn't you commit the murder?" and simply refused to answer, the treecat couldn't testify that he had lied when he didn't answer. If the suspect did answer and said "No, I didn't," the treecat would be able to testify as to whether or not that statement was truthful. Presumably, if a suspect did refuse to answer in front of a jury, the judge would give the jury the equivalent of the charge given in the United States and someone pleads the Fifth Amendment and say "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, refusal to answer is a protected constitutional privilege and cannot legally be construed as indicating guilt. Guilt must still be demonstrated on the basis of the evidence."

It's an interesting question and one I've been kicking around in the back of my brain for a while as a logical implication of treecats' abilities. As far as a security investigation vetting personnel for possible membership in an interstellar conspiracy to destroy the Star Empire which has already resulted in millions of casualties in a sneak attack, however, I don't think that requiring those personnel to answer the question "Are you an agent of the Mesan Alignment?" or even "Are you an agent of any power or organization dedicated to the overthrow or destruction of the Star Empire of Manticore?" would be over the line. There may be quite a bit of legitimate difference of opinion over deciding the appropriate consequences of a refusal to answer the question, but asking the question itself and protecting the security of the civilian government and the military against infiltration by someone willing to kill millions or even billions of human beings is certainly not inappropriate.

It may strike some people as an unwarrantable intrusion, but once again, the only thing it's going to tell the interrogator is whether or not you answered the question truthfully to the best of your knowledge. Unless we're going to posit that it's perfectly all right to be a mass murderer, or an agent of mass murderers, as long as we can game the system successfully, then it doesn't strike me that this degree of ability to determine the truthfulness of your reply is in the invasion of your constitutional or personal rights. And it certainly would not be something deserving of the term "Gestapo."

Now, I can certainly think of circumstances under which this ability to differentiate between truthful and inaccurate statements could become a horrible force for the suppression of freedom of thought, expression, and action. A great deal would depend on what your society chose to criminalize. "Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of a society dedicated to the democratic reform of the Solarian League?" "Do you now, or have you ever, opposed the genocidal policies of Our Glorious Leader?" The problem with most of the models which could lead to that suppression of freedom of thought, expression, and action is that treecats would refuse to help enforce them. The very nature of treecats' communication and understanding of one another would make such societies anathema to them, and treecats are very direct personalities. It might be possible to find some way to compel them to cooperate with interrogators in such a society, but it would be very, very, very difficult, and the coercion involved would almost certainly turn around and bite the coercer on the posterior.

Honorverse What do the various planets/regions of the Honorverse sound like to you? (Asked Tue Sep 20, 2011) January 2014

In general:

Planet Sphinx = Midwestern American;

Planet Manticore = British (specifically, English with upper and lower class distinctions, but with a pronounced, rather dreadful 19th century sort of Anglo-Irish drawl for certain segments of the uppermost upper crust [i.e., Oversteegan & Co.]);

Planet Gryphon = Highland Scots;

Haven System (particularly Nouveau Paris) = French;

Planet Grayson = Welsh, that sort of soft, musical edge;

Solarian League (particularly Old Earth) = various "big city" American accents.

This is how my ear "hears" them when I think about it, although to be honest, I usually don't worry about pronunciation as much as I do about word choice when I'm writing.