Timeframe: 2352 CE (250 PD)
A team from the Earth Union Customs Patrol armed cutter Venerated Gaia is attempting to board the seized liner Fragrant Blossom on the outskirts of the Sol System's asteroid belt. Determining that conventional entry would likely result in the death of any hostages, the team uses an intentionally obscure access panel in the core ejection tube. Finding the crew and passengers massacred, they quickly overwhelm the five hijackers aboard. Lieutenant Lee Strong then orders both ships to continue to the asteroid 216 Kleopatra, where the pirates were heading. Once there, the Venerated Gaia is engaged by an unidentified hostile, and manages to destroy it with a salvo of missiles, without suffering any damage herself. The entire incident is extremely peculiar when compared to the other hijackings that have occured in space even considering that any hijacking is a peculiar event.
After the battle, Lieutenant Strong, who is relatively new to his post, has a private meeting with his senior noncoms, who explain that they suspect one of the other new crewmembers, Brian Lewis, to be a government spy. They confide into him after learning that he comes from a long line of "troublemakers" and is not a typical Union officer. The Venerated Gaia is instructed to retransmit their after action report to a position near Hygeia. The Upsiders tell Lee of rumors that there is a secret branch of the Customs Patrol, reporting directly to certain Green politicians, which maintain supply caches or bases near the more important asteroid bases, such as Hygeia, which is especially important as it is the furthest out.
After sending his report to Regional Coordinator Stephan Mann, who is not listed in any organizational chart of the Customs Patrol, the Lieutenant is told by his executive officer, Bernardo de los Reyes, that the Fragrant Blossom was likely ambushed to keep something or someone aboard from reaching its original destination, the Jupiter moon Callisto, where the Union's interstellar colony ships are built. He is also told about the Spacers, a loosely organized group which has vague plans to obtain independence from the Union. Following the letter of, but completely ignoring the intent of, the orders from Coordinator Mann, Strong orders his cutter to proceed to Callisto with the Fragrant Blossom in tow.
While approaching the facility, the Lieutenant contacts Administrator Perlenmann and informs him about what has happened to the Blossom and its passengers. He later goes down to Callisto via shuttle and meets with the Administrator, who informs him about recent terrorist activities on the base. After some investigating, he suspects the leaders of the "Outbounder" movement (those who wish to leave the Sol System for other worlds) and detains them at one of their secret meetings. It turns out, however, that they were not the saboteurs.
The local Upsider leader Parsons is told that one of the workers injured in the terrorist attack died from an infection, and that the chief engineer is suspected to be the saboteur. In the following discussion, he drops a detail of information that proves he sabotaged the equipment in order to cause a conflict on Callisto in order to show the commonality of interest between the Spacer movement and the Earth Union government. The Administrator offers to commute his sentence if he will start organizing an open forum for exchange and cooperation among the different factions on Callisto in return. Parsons agrees to do so.
Lieutenant Strong now learns that Perlenmann has secretly built libraries of forbidden literature into the computer systems of the colony ships, thus ensuring that the Outbounders will have access to humanity's ancient cultural heritage. The captain of the Fragrant Blossom was also part of his organization, and carried information about a government plot to crack down on the off-planet opposition. The Greens then had him and his crew and passengers killed.
Perlenmann also explains that his organization has gotten hold of a secret "backdoor" code for the financial tracking and exchange software used by the major markets on Earth. This backdoor can be used to trigger a collapse of the planet's state-controlled economy, which Perlenmann and his co-conspirators hope will lead to the fall of the Green/Neo Luddite regime, and an end to the current stagnation of society as a whole. And they want Lieutenant Strong to distribute the finished code to Earth and the inner colonies.
- An excerpt from a Havenite book on the subject written over a thousand years later explains that the Earth's economy did in fact collapse less than two years later, causing the Economic Winter of 252 PD, the fall of the Earth Union, and eventually centuries of unparalleled economic, technological, and intellectual growth and expansion.
"By The Book" takes place before any other story in the Honorverse so far (except for historical references to the days before the Diaspora, of course).
Ephraim Bousquet | Briggs | Arkady Bulganin | Roderigo Burns | Eduardo Cabral | Jack Carroll | Bernardo de los Reyes | Jan Finder | Hesse | Genevieve Iseult | Kerkonnen | Kotsukov | Brian Lewis | Stephan Mann | Milton | Grigori Panachuk | Marta Panachuk | Parsons | Perlenmann | Rousseau | Lee Strong | Sun Tzu | Xi
216 Kleopatra | Amherst | Brazil | Callisto | Earth | EU | Geneva | Haven | Hygeia | Italy | L-4 habitat ring | L-5 | Luna | Mars | Moscow | Munich | New World Collective | Nouveau Paris | Rio de Janeiro | Russia | Tacoma | Vancouver
Third Interurban Security Force | 18th Security and Protection Group | The Art of War | asthma | Behavioral Standards Committee | Cambridge University | Coast Guard | colony ship | core-ejection tube | court-martial | Customs Patrol | cutter | Earth Union Legal Code 1770B2 | Earth's Final War | Economic Winter of 252 PD | English language | From Darkness Back to the Stars: The Collapse of the Neo Luddites | Federalist Papers | Green Awakening | Greens | gyrojet zip gun | Loonie | Magiser Ludi | missiles | Neo-Luddites | nuclear drive | Outbound Operations Administration | Pélissard et Fils | Portuguese language | The Social Contract | Spacer | Steering Committee | VASIMIR drive | Veronezh Declaration of 850 PD