Heirs of Empire
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|Genre||space opera/military science fiction|
|Media type||Print (paperback)|
|Preceded by||The Armageddon Inheritance|
Heirs of Empire is a 1996 military science fiction novel by American writer David Weber. It is the third novel in the Dahak trilogy, after the de facto duology of Mutineers' Moon and The Armageddon Inheritance. Heirs of Empire is a stand-alone work that focuses on the adventures and travails of the fraternal twin children of Emperor Colin MacIntyre (who defeated the eponymous mutineers and the Achuultani incursion in The Armageddon Inheritance) and their three friends. In 2003, it was republished in the omnibus volume, Empire from the Ashes.
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The story opens approximately 20 years after The Armageddon Inheritance. The human race has largely recovered from the Siege of Earth by the Achuultani and the Bia system is being slowly re-colonized and its defenses re-activated. In short, the Empire is largely at peace, busy assimilating the technological advances of the Fourth Empire and building and manning a fleet to take the war back to the Achuultani and the master computer controlling them. The captured Achuultani have prospered; with the aid of cloning, their ranks have swollen and they have colonized a planet called Narhan, which was unsuitable to humans by reason of its heavy gravity - for this reason they have renamed themselves the Narhani. They are fervently loyal to the reborn Empire and Colin, enraged by the perversion of their race by the master computer. Brashieel's clone-child (Brashieel is now the head Narhani) Brashan, is one of Sean and Harriet MacIntyre's closest friends (Sean and Harriet being Colin and Jiltanith's two children).
The only flies in the ointment are the worrying fact that some of Anu's agents remain at large, and that a small but increasingly violent faction that considers the Narhani to be minions of the anti-christ and want to kill all Narhani; these two factions are secretly working against the Emperor.
Into this volatile situation step Sean, Harry, Brashan, Sandy (daughter of Hector MacMahan and Ninhursag), and Tamman (the son of Amanda Tsien and Tamman), who have all enlisted in Battle Fleet.
After graduation from the Academy, the four depart on a newly constructed planetoid warship, Imperial Terra, for their midshipman cruise. Unbeknownst to them, one of Anu's former minions, Lawrence Jefferson, had worked his way up to Lieutenant Governor of Earth, and has commenced his dastardly plan to become Emperor through assassinating everyone ahead of him in the line of succession. Under his instructions, Jefferson's personal band of religious terrorists, "The Sword of God", takes one of the planetoid's programmer's family hostage, and order him to sabotage Imperial Terra. The task is accomplished, and the programmer and his family are all murdered to cover it up.
The Imperial Terra departs on its maiden voyage, but partway through deliberately loses control of its core tap, as the dead programmer had instructed. However, Dahak had surreptitiously inserted a command with equal priority to the sabotage command which states that the lives of 2 certain midshipmen and their friends must be preserved. Imperial Terra reconciles these conflicting orders by first jettisoning the four aboard a well-stocked and capable (but not FTL-capable) battleship moderately near some uncharted systems and only then destroying itself and its crew of 80 thousand.
Later, Sandy, Harry, Brashan, Sean, and Tamman arrive at the nearest potentially inhabited system. They barely survive the onslaught of a quarantine system, and decide to sneak onto the life-bearing world the space-borne Imperial weaponry seem to be protecting. Amazingly, it seems that the bio-weapon that had killed the Fourth Empire had missed this world.
After landing and investigating the ruins of a high-tech enclave, the five piece together the true history of the planet the indigenous inhabitants call "Pardal".
Once, Pardal had been an out-of-the-way minor planet of the Empire. Because it was out of the way, its governor managed to shut down the mat-trans system before Pardal was infected by the bio-weapon when the first warnings went out across the hypercoms, and also to devise with her chief engineer an extremely effective quarantine system. However, even as they hunkered down behind their orbital defenses, the hypercom continued to operate "like a comlink to hell" (pg 255), broadcasting the prolonged death of the Empire, and even more devastatingly, messages from worlds like Pardal which were fooled by the bio-weapon's long incubation period into thinking they were safe. The horrified backlash by Pardal's populace centered on destroying Pardal's technological infrastructure, and erasing all scientific accomplishment and knowledge more advanced than the Dark Ages, so another such horror could never arise. The civil and military authorities concentrated on creating a global theocracy (reminiscent of the Catholic Church) dedicated to the suppression of technological advancement and to the maintenance of the quarantine system.
The high-tech enclave the old records were retrieved from was permitted to exist to serve as a source of demons and to provide the fledging church an easy enemy.
Harriet had been sent back to the shuttle to bring it to the valley so they could airlift the enclave's computer out, but along the way she was shot down by some locals. They were about to burn her alive for associating with the "Valley of the Damned" when Sean and the rest, frightened them and destroyed a portion of the village (without killing anyone) and rescuing her.
The local priest becomes convinced that the intruders were actually angels, as Pardalian angels are female, beautiful, wound-able, speak in the language of the Empire (the priestly language on Pardal), killed no one (an odd restraint, were they "damned demons"), wore imperial military uniforms, and were immune to Father Stomald's various religious attacks and banishments. He begins preaching to the populace, converting a fair proportion.
The Church reacts quickly and violently, sending a portion of the very well equipped "Temple Guard" to burn the heretics.
Stomald's forces are outnumbered and outgunned (the Church possesses a monopoly on heavy artillery) and surely doomed. The five castaways discuss matters, and decide that their guilt in instigating this little rebellion, kickstarting the modernization of Pardal, and also gaining access they need to the quarantine system's main computer could all be accomplished by supporting the rebellion with their leadership and knowledge of how to revolutionize Pardalian warfare. The initial Guard expedition is repulsed and scattered by a miracle accomplished through Imperial technology (see Clarke's Third Law). This victory attracts even more recruits to their cause, such as a good proportion of the now-unarmed Guard force they defeated.
The quasi-country the revolt began in, the Princedom of Malagor, has long been known for its independent spirit and its rifles; it had long chafed under the Church's studied oppression of it and its artisans. With the new rifles (on Pardal, smoothbore guns and piked made up most of an army. Rifles took far too long to load despite their greater accuracy and range, because balls had to be rammed down the barrel; with the "angels"' introduction of the Minié ball, this issue became moot) the army is considerably superior to conventional Pardalian armies. Other technology, such as bayonet rings, modern meteorology, satellite cartography, and canister shot, further increase the rebels advantage .
The Battle of Yortown, in which the massed Guard reinforcements charged a fortified Angel's army position, quite effectively demonstrated this through the slaughter of the aggressors. Sean's lack of boldness in the counter-stroke followup allowed the surviving Guard commander, named Ortak, to retreat to Erastor, a well-fortified position placed like a choke-point between Malagor and the Temple. Unfortunately, Sean's many advantages are largely nullified in a siege, so he conceives a strike to Ortak's rear, seizing Ortak's semaphore communication lines to perform a man in the middle attack and gain time. Sean managed to bring enough men around Ortak's impassable swamp-secured flank to launch a pincer attack on Ortak's rear and front. With Ortak's forces shattered, the Angels' Army moves out into the open country of Aris, where they can bypass fortifications and crush any army foolish enough to engage.
They march clear to the Temple, but are stymied by its elaborate fortifications. Sean's army is ideal for defeating other armies, but not for fighting a siege. The Council offers to meet with Sean to discuss a truce, offering as surety one of its own members and allowing Sean to bring a large contingent in with him. Sean walks straight into their trap, and begins fighting his way to the actual Template/computer complex with his men, while Sandy and the others task the main army with breaking in to relieve Sean. Brashan circles the conflict 100 kilometers away in the Imperial equivalent of a fighter jet, unable to do anything while the quarantine system's defense guns are operational.
Fierce fighting gets Sean within range of the computers; as crown prince and heir to the Imperial throne, he has all sorts of overrides and security codes. He shuts down the defenses, and Brashan defeats the Temple forces, ending the war.
The next time they are heard from is a few years later, when Dahak receives a message via their newly constructed hypercom. The Emperor and Empress are overjoyed to hear from the two whom they had long thought dead (thought it sincerely enough that they had had two more children). They had not rested in the meantime, defusing Jefferson's plan to kill all the people in the succession via a massive gravitonic bomb planted in a Narhani statue (intending to use his perversion of their gift as a way to blame them), and foiling his attempt on Jiltanith and Horus's life, at the cost of Horus.