Honor's light cruiser as sole protection for an entire star system, with an crippled armament mix, creates and maintains order in the system anyway, and finally fights off a Q ship that outguns her ship by a ridiculous margin.
In a later novel, Admiral Hemphill finally finds an opportunity to discuss its armament mix with Honor. Her comments boil down to 'That ship was intended solely as a testbed! What kind of idiot sent you into combat with it???'
Part of Honor's overwhelming duties at Basilisk Station is to hold customs inspections. The NPA, the local police organization, is mainly ex-Army and ex-Marines and so they have almost no experience finding smuggling compartments or the like. (Which is why its supposed to be the Navy's job to handle customs in the first place, a duty the previous Basilisk Station commander had been ignoring.) During the meeting with the head of the NPA, she calls in the Bosun.
"I'm not going to ask you to betray any secrets, Bosun, but what I'm looking for are people who—from their own experience, let us say—would be intimately familiar with the best way to hide contraband aboard a shuttle or a starship.
After the Bosun leaves, Major Isvarian, the head of the NPA customs, intrudes on the conversation:
When Klaus Hauptman is meeting with Honor and McKeon, McKeon responds to Hauptman's egotistical behavior with a several paragraph explanation on how it could easily be considered treason.
Before the final battle, Honor sees that there are two ships in a position to summon the Havenite invasion force and, knowing that she can only chase one, lays in a course by eye to disable the other by slicing past her target at a bare two kilometer distance (from a range of a hundred and fifty thousand kilometers) to burst its impeller nodes with her own wedge. And this from the girl who wouldn't have passed multi-dimensional mathematics without Michelle Henke's help!
Dame Estelle Matsuko's reaction to being told, essentially, to stop regulating trade with the natives of the planet Medusa and performing customs inspections on incoming and outgoing cargo — as doing so upset the Corrupt Corporate Executives in charge of the trading cartels — proves her Ambadassador status for the first but hardly the last time.
[Dame Estelle had] snapped the unlucky messenger's head off and sent him home with it under one arm and a detailed account of the nature and severity of recently discovered violations of Her Majesty's Medusan Protectorate's laws under the other. And, she'd told Honor with grim delight, she'd concluded her report with the observation that the discovery of those violations had been made possible solely by the "dedicated, professional, persistent, and outstandingly successful efforts, both in their own right and in association with the NPA" (that was a direct quote) of Commander Honor Harrington and the crew of HMS Fearless. Under the circumstances, Dame Estelle had added, she had no intention of striving to abate Commander Harrington's activities and every intention of aiding and abetting them in any way she could. And if Her Majesty's Government disapproved of her intentions, she would, of course, submit her resignation.
The Honor of the Queen
Nimitz shows his deadliness for the first time when he goes utterly berserk on a false security guard, and thereby provides enough warning for himself, Honor, and the real security men to keep Protector Benjamin and his family alive through a very determined assassination attempt.
Wiping out the assassination squad sent against the Protector, and then charging straight into a massively more powerful ship though she knows her ship is too crippled to do really much of anything, just because it's the only chance the planet has... with her favourite music playing over the bridge.
Scotty Tremaine gets one by stopping Honor from summarily executing a (really deserving) prisoner and thereby torpedoing her career. Given everything she does later, there's no calculating how many people Scotty indirectly saved.
The same battle features a young Havenite destroyer skipper managing to get the drop on Honor's task force, crippling one of her cruisers. A young Havenite destroyer skipper who would become far more important in later books. A young Havenite destroyer skipper who happens to be named ThomasTheisman.
While we know Manticoran reinforcements are on the way no matter what, the system is still a small and relatively unimportant one. Which means the soft, silent, unnoticed arrival of sixteen battlecruisers, and their assorted escort ships, is enough in the middle of an increasingly hopeless battle to trigger cheers in the reader—at least once it's confirmed in the next paragraph that they're Manticore, and not PRH.
The Short Victorious War
The first Manticoran Missile Massacre of the series is unleashed upon an unsuspecting squadron of Havenite Dreadnoughts that thought they had the jump on a helpless squadron of Battlecruisers.
Field of Dishonor
After her lover, Paul Tankersley is murdered, Honor kills the expert duelist who was hired to do the job while he mocks her inexperience in duels. Then she kills the guy who hired him, longtime enemy Pavel Young, with one shot in a duel, even though he broke the law to fire on (and hit) her first.
Admiral Sonja Hemphill brokering the compromise that ends Pavel Young's career as a Queen's officer for good, while still sticking to her own convictions. It was the moment she became "Horrible Hemphill" no longer.
Flag in Exile
Honor, having been put on half-pay by the Royal Manticoran Navy, has been living on Grayson for nine months at the start of the book. While plenty of Graysons are in awe of her prior defense of their world, she still has to deal with numerous protesters lining up outside of her house, a preacher calling her the "Harlot of Satan", and the loss of her lover, Paul Tankersley. Unfortunately, the Grayson Navy needs experienced captains, having very few of their own, and Honor reluctantly accepts a commission. While discussing her new command, a superdreadnought, Honor comments that it's a big step up for her, as the largest ship she had commanded before was a battlecruiser. High Admiral Matthews says that Honor doesn't quite understand... she's not becoming the Captain of a superdreadnought, she's becoming the Admiral of a superdreadnoughtsquadron.
Honor has: been called a whore for most of the book, blamed herself for an industrial accident which killed a group of schoolchildren, learned that the "accident" was sabotage, had her pinnace shot down, and saved from a point-blank assassination when Grayson's spiritual leaderthrew himself in front of her, and generally suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. She finally gets to the Council Chamber, battered, bruised, limping and exhausted, presents her evidence, and names the man who's been orchestrating all of this... who promptly claims a traditional form of justice and demands to face the Protector's Champion in trial by sword combat. And guess who that is? The Protector, seeing that she's in no shape to fight, begins to back off from his proclamation (which will undermine his authority for all time), but she cuts him off:
Honor: Your Grace, I have only one question. Do you wish this man crippled, or dead?
To clarify, the traditional form of justice is dueling with swords... and Grayson, being a Lost Colony, forgot how proper swordplay works. So instead, they studied the swordplay of ancient samurai movies, such as Seven Samurai. Honor Harrington, already known for carrying a Colt 1911 .45, is now toting a katana.
And her opponent learns the hard way that just because Honor's only been studying the sword for a few months, that doesn't mean that she hasn't been studying combat for decades.
Honor watched him with the eyes of a woman who'd trained in the martial arts for almost forty years, and the hard-learned, poised relaxation of all those years hummed softly within her. She felt her weariness, the pain of broken ribs, the ache in bruised muscles, the stiffness of her left shoulder, but then she commanded her body to ignore those things, and her body obeyed.
If that wasn't enough, as soon as she's done with that, she has to defend the system from an invasion fleet which outnumbers and outguns hers... again.
Hell, that's most of her entire career.
Adam Gerrick. "We...are...engineers!" A dome he was building for a local middle school collapsed and killed a number of children who would have attended it. He doesn't know how that's possible, but he's bloody well going to build a mathematically sound computer model and find out.
Made even better when Clinkscales finally believes he can do it. "You are engineers. I was a policeman. [...] Find me the what and how and I'll give you the who and why." — and this is believed to be the worst crime ever committed in the history of their world.
Protector Benjamin verbally rips apart the Conclave of Steadholders (An upper chamber of Grayson's Parliament), and makes them feel about 3 microns tall for the way they treated Honor.
Honor Among Enemies
Citizen Commander Caslet, Citizen Commissioner Jourdain, Shannon Foraker and the entire crew of the PNS Vaubon in Honor Among Enemies. During an operation against Manticore, they run across a Ghost Ship containing the horrific handiwork of some vaguely Reaver-esque pirates. In spite of being the "bad guys" the Peeps are generally nice people, and as such the Vaubon goes after the pirates, tracks their ship to the next star system and engages them. The Vaubonruins the pirate ship with one laser salvo. And it wasn't even a full strength salvo. It's incredibly satisfying.
Aubrey Wanderman spends the beginning of the book being bullied and getting a beating. Chief Harkness notices this, and takes some steps to help the young petty officer adjust... by bringing him along to the unarmed combat training sessions of the ship's Marines. The horrible beating that Wanderman suffers early in the book only makes his Curb-Stomp Battle of the bully near the end of the book so much sweeter.
In Enemy Hands
Honor again: she recommends a huge shift in tactical and R&D thinking in coalition with the jeune ecole, then gets captured and apparently killed before it can be implemented. When it is implemented, it turns out she was right about pretty much everything. And until she comes back about half of it gets named after her, much to her horror.
Horace Harkness betrays the Star Kingdom of Manticore by defecting to the side of his Peep captors. Only he's really planning an escape operation for his crewmates all along. When he finally springs the trap, he has singlehandedly reprogrammed every computer on board his captors' ship to do his bidding. And all he needed to get started was access to the video game library..
Harkness demonstrating, during the course of the aforementioned breakout, what happens if a pinnace activates its impeller wedges while still in its host ship's docking bays. Namely, the host ship in question blows up. And by "blows up" we mean "is reduced to metallic grit". This story is an In-UniverseCrowning Moment of Awesome as well, judging from the reactions every time this exploit is mentioned over the next couple of books.
Andrew LaFollet escorting his malnourished and weak Steadholder through a corridor under heavy enemy forces. By the time they reach the end of the corridor, the two of them are the only ones alive, and his charge is completely unharmed.
Shannon Foraker gets one when she saves Nimitz from being murdered by a State Sec thug. It was a masterpiece of quick thinking to come up with a line of reasoning that would reach a monster like Cordelia Ransom, and she knew full well she could die horribly for her defiance, but she did it anyway to save a person she respected and liked.
Echoes of Honor
Allison Chou-Harrington gets one when she explains her Beowulfian heritage and training, hence justifying her fixing the entire genetic problem with the Grayson population.
It says something about the series as a whole when someone's announcement that they are the direct descendant of the two most famous medical families in the galaxy's history — people who quadrupled human lifespan and cured virtually every disease known to man, and that she is at least that skilled a doctor, rates a single sentence on a CMOA page.
The subvertedTo Absent Friends speech delivered by Yanakov: "Your grace, my lords and ladies, ladies and gentlemen all, I give you Steadholder Harrington ... and damnation to the Peeps!"
Admiral Hamish Alexander, Earl White Haven, riding to the severely under-picketed Basilisk's rescue by basically bending the laws of physics just as far as he possibly can. It's too little, too late to save the orbital installations, but far more importantly, he manages to hang on to the Basilisk wormhole terminus.
Ashes of Victory
Publicly executed on video, Honor reappears with a fleet of stolen warships filled with jury-rigged crews from the prison planet she just broke out of.
Of course (and quite justifiably) Horace Harkness gets credit for much of that, including the Parliamentary Medal of Valor that Honor refused to accept for her part in the jailbreak.
Later on, it's expanded even more: Harkness implies that he admitted to BuPers, the department in charge of managing personnel, that he's been hacking their systems for years in order to always be assigned to the same ship as Scotty Tremaine. Not only does BuPers not penalize him for it, they make a note to never break up Scotty and Harkness.
Chief Harkness: "...And I've sort of promised the Navy I'd swear off playing with computer systems in return for a certain, ah, lack of scrutiny where a few of my records over at BuPers are concerned."
Shannon Foraker in Ashes of Victory: Her Admiral, Lester Tourville, has just gotten a message from the State Security commander which is essentially his death sentence and that of Admiral Javier Giscard. He gets half way through his message when State Security commander's ship, and the two full squadrons of ships with it, spontaneously vaporize... because of an innocent little data packet Foraker sent over the com net as he was talking. And what does she have to say about this? "Oops."
Admiral Thomas Theisman puts an end to the tyranny of State Security with two simple sentences: "I think we've had quite enough of those sorts of trials. Goodbye, Citizen Chairman." Made even more awesome by the fact that those are the last words in the book.
For the record, yes, Thomas Theisman did just topple a regime that had killed millions of its own people, and yes, he did just restore the Republic and its Constitution, which hadn't seen the light of day in two centuries. Granted, he had help, but still. That's... wow. Just... wow.
The scene in general is depressing, but Queen Elizabeth manages one during her meeting with High Ridge to discuss the Havenite cease-fire proposal:
Elizabeth: If you ever mention my uncle to me again, I will personally push your face through the top of this table.
Fortunately for the baron, he does recognize that yes, Her Majesty is that angry at him.
Honor putting her tiny little runabout directly between Grayson One and an oncoming missile, saving the lives of Protector Benjamin, Queen Elizabeth, and everyone aboard. She may have avoided the Parliamentary Medal of Valor after Hades, but she couldn't avoid it after that little stunt.
War of Honor
The Havenites manage to pivot from near total defeat four years ago to rebuild their fleets and reverse engineer the technology that gutted them to make ships that can very nearly go toe to toe with Manticoran ships, which they had always been at a tech disadvantage to. Even though their tech is still less sophisticated, less efficient, and less powerful than Mantie technology, the Havenites still manage to figure out how to beat the Manties with careful tactical thought. Even better, after Operation Oyster Bay, that tech would go on to save the very people they reverse-engineered it from as Haven rode to Manticore's defense against the Solarian League, ending with those two navies standing side by side against the very forces that manipulated them into war in the first place. Thank you, Shannon Foraker.
At All Costs
When Pritchart's summit offer arrives, it takes the combined, unanimous voices of every one of Queen Elizabeth III's advisors to convince her that it's a good idea to accept the offer. When she finally does, however, she startles her Prime Minister by immediately making several deeply-shrewd suggestions regarding the arrangements.
Elizabeth [chuckling]: I may still have my reservations about this entire idea, Willie. But if we're going to do it anyway, we might as well accomplish as many objectives at once as we can.
Everyone on both sides who was involved in the titanic battle at the end of At All Costs, especially Honor's entry into the fight. Seriously, the Battle of Manticore was a cavalcade of CMOAs for both the RMN and the RHN. With the hindsight of Mission of Honor and A Rising Thunder, it gets better: this is quite literally the single most titanic battle ever fought in the history of humanity, and the people fighting it eventually combine military forces.
FTL communication. Podnoughts. CLAC carriers. Ghost Rider. Apollo. Mistletoe. Good Lord, the sheer list of ingenious, brilliant tech Sonja Hemphill comes up with over the course of the series could fill up its own damn CMOA page!
Admiral Stephania Grimm of Astro Control may be singlehandedly responsible for Manticore's victory by not waiting for higher orders, but declaring "Case Zulu" on her own authority as soon as she saw the hyper footprints, and then immediately clearing the Junction of all traffic, making Honor's and Theodosia Kuzak's entry into the battle possible.
Mission of Honor
Queen Elizabeth and President Pritchart, when they not only sign a peace treaty but a military alliance against the Solarian League. With hundreds of Havenite Superdreadnoughts ready to defend Manticore from an imminent Solarian attack. All you can think of is: Mesa and the SLN are so incredibly FUCKED.
Hell. Considering the ship numbers thrown in At All Costs about the Haven Navy, and considering that Haven kept its production capabilities, considering the Andermani numbers and production capabilities and whatever the Graysons and Manticorans managed to save, it's pretty safe to assume that, even with the disastrous losses in the end of At All Costs, the SLN navy, "the biggest, baddest navy in human space", is pretty much outgunned, out-teched, and probably outnumbered.
Re: outnumbered, to quote Commodore Terekhov from a later novel:
Terekhov: For example, on the basis of what you’ve just said, I don’t suppose you’ve heard about what happened to Vice Admiral Dubroskaya at Saltash, when five of our destroyers destroyed all four of her battlecruisers. Or about the fact that the Star Empire is now allied to the Republic of Haven. Or that between us, we now have somewhere around five hundred ships of the wall, any two of which could have controlled every missile we fired at Crandall in Spindle. Let’s do some math here, Brigadier. If two of our ships can kill seventy of yours, and we’ve got five hundred of them, that means we can kill every superdreadnought in Battle Fleet, including the Reserve, about three times each.
Also, according to Honor, because of the events of Mission of Honor, the Mesan Alignment has enraged every single treecat in the universe, to the point where the entire species is dedicated to wiping them out. That alone is a death sentence.
People who are on the same side now, resulting in the Alignment being SO VERY FUCKING SCREWED:
Eloise Pritchart and Elizabeth Winton.
Honor Harrington, Hamish Alexander, Thomas Theisman, and Lester Tourville.
Sonja Hemphill and Shannon Foraker.
Queen Elizabeth's speech to her fellow Manticorans, in which she outlines all the primary events between At All Costs and Mission of Honor, ending with the Yawata Strike and how it took them completely by surprise. She goes into detail about how badly they've been wounded, and how the Solarian League is getting ready to try and pound them. Then she proceeds to assure them they will not succeed in doing so, that Manticore will stand tall, and will show the League that they are not to be trifled with.
It's basically a free fusion of the Allies leaders' speeches as their nations joined the World War II. Somewhat subverted in that the Allies dwarfed Axis in terms of industrial and military might (and it still took them six years and fifty-odd millions dead to win), but even the Grand Alliance is tiny compared to the League.
Oyster Bay itself was one for the villains. As Albrecht Detweiler pointed out, the operation was launched with ships that weren't really meant for actual operations, required them to sneak into two of the best-defended systems in the galaxy, and they pulled it off perfectly.
Eloise Pritchart turns up in Manticoran space, almost immediately after their home system has been catastrophically attacked, screens Queen Elizabeth in the middle of the night, and within three days has not only cleared up every single diplomatic misunderstanding between the two star nations going back nearly fifty years, but been genuine enough, truthful enough, and convincing enough to end up signing a military alliance against the Mesan Alignment and the Solarian League. It's Refuge in Audacity the likes of which has rarely, if ever, been seen in the Honorverse up until this point, but she did it anyway because she was sick and tired of fighting people she respected, liked, and didn't want to hurt any more. And she was able to see past the fact that the very same star nation she is allying with was responsible for killing the love of her life, however unintended and however much they regret it. Just... the whole damn book is one triumph after another for the Republic's President.
A Rising Thunder
The result of the aforementioned meeting between Elizabeth and Pritchart, and how over the next few weeks the result of Honor Harrington commanding the newly formed Grand Fleet, with Lester Tourville commanding its subdivision Second Fleet, Thomas Theisman sharing her command deck, and the combined forces of Haven, Grayson, and Manticore allied in force results in the single greatest complete Curb-Stomp Battle in human history. Also a rather tragic one as it should have ended without a shot being fired.
Bonus points because the stomp-ees were utterly convinced that it would be a Curb-Stomp Battle alright, but with them wearing the boots ... until the trap was closed on them.
A small Manticoran task force encounters a much heavier Solarian battlegroup and intentionally causes their first wave of missiles to miss. With the warning that the next round will be "Firing for effect" unless the Sollies get the hell out of Dodge. The Sollies get the hell out of Dodge.
But we will not hide. We will not be children. If you will fight for all this world, for all of us, then we will fight for you.
Towards the end of the book, the League Senate holds a vote on whether or not they should censure the League world of Beowulf for conspiring with the Manticorans. The League's senate is horribly corrupt, and the vote is essentially a kangaroo court... and a full quarter of them still vote in favor of Beowulf. The Mandarins fully understand the implications of that. And then the Beowulfian delegation announces their intent to withdraw from the Solarian League.
Thomas Theisman verbally smacks Honor right out of her self-pity party after she's forced to destroy most of SLN Admiral Filareta's 400-odd-strong fleet of superdreadnoughts because the Mesans nanoprogrammed one of the officers to fire even against overwhelming odds when Filareta had been ready to surrender. He reminds her forcefully that her responsibility is to the people under her own command, and that if she hadn't fired back, she'd have been justifiably removed from command and possibly dishonorably discharged, no matter how high the casualties were on the other side. In that moment, no one understands Honor better — not even her own husband! — and it is starkly apparent just how much she and Theisman have in common, and why they are such a formidable team.
Theisman: Oh, stop it! No, you could not have ‘just taken the fire’! And if you had done something that stupid, you’d deserve to be broken for it!
Theisman: Don’t you 'but' me! You didn’t know — you couldn’t know — if they’d come up with some kind of fire control fix we’d never heard of before. You had no right, not one shred of a moral justification, to risk the lives of personnel under your command just because somebody on the other side had done something suicidal! Your responsibility is to your people, not theirs! It’s your job to neutralize an enemy before he kills them, and you’d damned well better do it if you’re going to be worthy of the uniform you wear! That’s your responsibility, Admiral Harrington, and you lived up to it! You reacted to the threat you knew about, the one you saw, and I was right there on that flag bridge with you. It took those missiles three minutes to reach us, and you had a Hermes buoy sitting right off his flagship’s bow. There was plenty of time for him to get on the com and tell you the launch was a mistake, if he hadn’t meant to launch it! Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t believe he did that, now did he? Not only that, but thirteen-second lag or not, the rest of his damned fleet was firing full broadsides at you on its heels! I understand that realizing you gave the order to kill that many people has to make you sick to your stomach. It makes me want to puke, and I didn’t have to give it. But the only ones responsible for what happened to Filareta and the people under his command are whoever arranged to get him sent here and — assuming there’s any basis to all this speculation in the first place — whoever got to his tac officer. Not you; not me — them!
The Shadow of Saganami
The Battle of Monica for Aivars Terekhov and his entire ad-hoc squadron. For one thing, he shouldn't have been able to win. For another, the whole squadron's tactical net was in the hands of Abigail Hearns, a junior-grade lieutenant, and Helen Zilwicki, a midshipwoman. Everybody involved — who survives — gets serious notice from the Navy, and every ship in the squadron is placed on the List of Honor.
Augustus Khumalo's response to Terekhov's dispatch. He's spent the entire book being ridiculed by the main characters. Nobody — not Terekhov, not Helen Zilwicki, not Abigail Hearns, not Estelle Matsuko, nobody — thinks he has the guts or the imagination to deal with a real battle situation; he'd been sent to Talbott because it was supposed to be entirely unimportant, and in fact had been wondering when the Admiralty was going to yank him. Nevertheless, when the flag went up at Monica, he backed Terekhov to the hilt — despite having been explicitly set up so he could disavow Terekhov's actions if necessary, and despite knowing that if it all went wrong he would be yanked from his post without ceremony. In that moment, he proved that doing the right thing was far more important to him than saving his career, and in a beautiful bit of irony, it was that decision which in the end did save his career.
[HMS] Hercules certainly looked impressive as [the squadron's] flagship. Unless, of course, one knew all of the old ship's manifold weaknesses as well as [Victoria] Saunders did. But she's still a damned superdreadnought, Khumalo's flag captain told herself. And we're still the Queen's Navy. And I will be damned if Augustus Khumalo hasn't actually remembered that. She shook her head, bemused and, to her own astonishment, proud of her Admiral....
Storm from the Shadows
Augustus Khumalo's response to President Tyler of Monica's request that he disavow and incarcerate Captain Aivars Terekhov for the Battle of Monica. It's the polite military version of "... and the horse you rode in on." Given that Khumalo had, prior to Monica, been known far more for his political connections than his competency as a commander, it stuns everyone — including, to an extent, Khumalo himself. Terekhov can barely hold back the Jaw Drop.
Khumalo: Obviously, I am deeply distressed by the loss of life, both Monican and Manticoran. The destruction of so many ships, and so much damage to the public property of the Union, are also deeply distressing to me. And I must inform you that Captain Terekhov, by his own admission to me in his formal reports, acknowledges that his actions were completely unauthorized by any higher authority. [...] Unfortunately, Mr. President, while all of that is true, I am also of the opinion that what my Queen would even more strongly desire is for you and your government to explain to her why you have been directly assisting efforts to recruit, support, encourage, and arm terrorist organizations engaged in active campaigns of assassination, murder, and destruction against the citizens of other sovereign star nations who have requested membership in the Star Kingdom of Manticore.
After the report comes to Manticore about Byng murdering Chatterjee's destroyers, Queen Elizabeth III and her top advisers are discussing what might happen if they end up at war with the Solarian League — which everyone, for the entire series, has known to be the galaxy's most powerful political unit, with a population and economy that dwarfs every other entity seen in the story. Except that right after Hamish finishes explaining how Manticore will be steamrollered into oblivion the moment the Solarian League navy R&D catches up to Manticore (which, given its larger talent pool, it can), Honor names the solution to their quandary: destroy the Solarian League. And then she lays out a workable plan to do exactly that.
Not a man or woman at that table would have questioned Duchess Harrington's military insight, or tactical or strategic ability ... in the purely military arena. Yet most of them still tended to think of her as a fleet commander. Manticore's best fleet commander, perhaps, but still a fleet commander. As they'd listened to her, they'd come to realize how silly that was — and how foolish they'd been not to recognize their own silliness much earlier. In their defense, most of the insight she'd previously shown in the field of political strategy and analysis had focused on domestic concerns, or on the internal workings of the Manticoran Alliance. It hadn't occurred to them that she might have already focused that formidable ability on the Solarian League as the Star Empire's next great challenge, and that had been remarkably blind of them.
Relatively early in the novel, Solarian Admiral Josef Byng makes the mistake of slaughtering three Manticoran destroyers in a panic; the fourth and last member of the division survived only because it was hiding out-system to do recon. Later in the book, a cranky Michelle Henke and company vaporize Byng, and his flagship into subatomic particles in retaliation. It is incredibly satisfying.
Shadow of Freedom
Lieutenant Abigail Hearns needs to rescue captives from a space station held by Solarian Gendarmerie thugs. She has exactly one actual marine at her disposal, the rest of her team are regular crewmen. The enemy outnumbers her and is fighting on their home ground, and even if she manages to push them back they'll have the option of threatening to shoot the hostages. She proceeds to utterly wipe the floor with them, getting the captives out with zero casualties while blowing through a series of Gendarme squads forted up behind blast doors.
It gets better. All of the curb stomping was the diversion. The station's staff (not Solarians) gave Hearns detailed engineers' schematics of the station, allowing her to send another team to take the brig by surprise from the rear.
Commodore Aivars Terekhov gets one by shutting up a particularly vicious Gendarmerie officer with an orbital strike.
"Why is it," Terekhov asked conversationally, "that people like you always think you're more ruthless than people like me?"
Cauldron of Ghosts
The siege of the seccy districts is basically one solid CMOA from start to finish for the defenders, but a few incidents deserve special mention:
A number of criminals discovering that they do have some principles and are willing to die to defend their fellow seccies against what looks very much like planned genocide.
General Thandi Palane proving that she really is a Four-Star Badass by commanding the defense of Neue Rostock ... and holding out with a ragtag band of gangsters and volunteers against well-equipped military forces for almost a month.
A Mauve Shirt criminal taking out a squad of goons intent on slaughtering fleeing civilians ... using nothing but discarded camping equipment and some ingenuity.
After several chapters of the heroes pointing out that Hancock is not nearly as prepared to fight off an invasion as Neue Rostock is, the "Mistie" troops storm the building and secure the first floor ... only to have most of the second floor dropped on them with demolition charges.
Hancock has been destroyed, and Neue Rostock is on the verge of being overrun after weeks of bloody room to room combat. Several of the protagonists are dead, most of the rest badly wounded, and Thandi, Victor, and Dusek are preparing to take out as many of the Peacies as possible in a last defiant attack. General Drescher, on the verge of her final assault, calls Thandi and asks for a ceasefire so she can withdraw her troops from Neue Rostock. The brick tossed in the air at the end of Shadow of Freedom has finally hit the ground as Admiral Mike Henke, Countess Gold Peak, has arrived in the Mesa system, entirely unaware that she was bringing The Cavalry.
Crown Of Slaves
A seventeen year old former street urchin slaps a Super Soldier in the face ... for moping.
Berry: Nobody calls you a monster to my face, not even you! Is that understood?
Havenite secret agent Victor Cachat:
In his first appearance he single-handedly obliterates a squad of Havenite State Security troops and genetically-engineered terrorists when deciding he doesn't like the current Havenite government any more. Not only does he get away with it, he cons his superiors so well as to what happened that he gets promoted, even after telling the head of the Havenite State Security that he executed his immediate superior for his involvement in the fiasco.
In his second appearance he single-handedly arranges for an entire sector's StateSec forces to be rendered impotent, undermines the local authorities, and gets the loyalty of the regular Navy forces (who don't trust him) so that when a coup takes place on Haven, the entire sector is delivered to the new government lock, stock, and barrel with minimal casualties (only StateSec personnel too stupid to recognize he's simply too awesome for them to comprehend).
In his third appearance in the novel Crown of Slaves he manipulates one of Manticore's oldest allies to void their treaty and cease hostilities with Haven, and then is in large part responsible for a successful attack that frees a slave-planet resulting in the creation of a new nation, and despite being an enemy agent, does it with the cooperation of the Manticoran navy. Victor Cachat, Badass, ladies and gentlemen.
At the risk of sounding like I'm trying to dilute his awesome levels of Badass, he's really only able to get away with prying Erewhon from the Manticoran alliance thanks mostly to the gross stupidity of the High Ridge government on Manticore. Cachat even admits that himself. Which is why there's no personal hard feelings between him and Zilwicki, despite both of them being deeply devoted to their nations.
And he definitely hikes it up in the sequel, Torch of Freedom, where he takes on the whole world of Mesa to find information necessary to stop the war. Well, he wasn't alone, and it was mostly just an undercover infiltration, but he's just awesome in that TOO.
In fact, Victor Cachat is so awesome that everyone who associates with him has Crowning Moments of Awesome even before they knew him.
His Manticoran opposite, Anton Zilwicki, in the aforementioned first appearance of Victor, goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge when someone has the audacity to kidnap his daughter. Not only does so, but ends up married to a hot aristocrat who is somewhat awesome on her own. She's a self-described liberal, which previously in the Honorverse meant she'd either be duplicitous, incompetent, stupid, or all three at once.
Cathy is the effective leader of the opposition as well as being wild enough to have gotten thrown out of the House of Lords. After a few years of living away from Manticore, spending time on Earth and associating with crazy escaped slaves, she gets rid of her nobility and runs for a seat in the House of Commons, and pretty much takes over the Opposition while the various political bad guys are being taken apart.
Zilwicki had previously been best known for being a widower, after his first wife threw her small escort force into the teeth of a much larger enemy fleet to protect the civilian ships they were protecting. (Tearjerker and CMOA in one. We see nothing at all of the battle, just Anton holding his terrified daughter in his arms and whispering, "It's okay, honey. Mommy's gonna make it safe.")
Zilwicki's daughter, Helen, at the ripe old age of 14, escaped on her own when kidnapped, casually killing three sewer scumbags who get after her with her bare hands in the process.
And while escaping, rescues two sewer urchins named Berry and Lars. Lars hasn't done much yet, but have we mentioned that due to Berry's associating with people of such awesomeness, she's now Queen Berry of the Kingdom of Torch?
Well, it's safer to say that Crown of Slaves is a nonstop CMOA from the first to the last line. For frigging everybody. It's hard to point to someone who is not a certified badass in the novel. Except some Mesans.
Oh, and Queen Berry of Torch's best friend and confidant (and a new intelligence chief)? Princess Ruth Winton. While so far her awesomeness has been due to her associating with the others on this list, she does come by it naturally. Her mother, Judith, organized an escape of a group of women from the planet Masada after stealing a spaceship, which doesn't sound like much until you know that Masada is a planet of religious nutcases who don't allow their women to even learn how to read. Judith, captured as a child, had spent years keeping this ability a secret. And when she pulls it off, while very pregnant, ends up impressing a young Michael Winton, Crown Prince of Manticore, and brother of Queen Elizabeth III.
Then there's Captain Michael Oversteegen, RMN, whose first appearance in the short story "The Service of the Sword" was so undeniably awesome that as of Crown of Slaves it verges on Remember When You Blew Up a Sun? territory. In Crown of Slaves itself, he gets more awesome. Including a truly magnificent Shut Up, Hannibal! speech to his cousin, who happens to be the Ambassador to Erewhon. The phrase "brains of a carrot" is used. It's a verbal double broadside that, if rendered in actual missiles, would make Honor Harrington and Sonja Hemphill proud.
And all of these people are the mortal enemies of Manpower Inc and the planet Mesa. And when you include Mesa's interference to continue the Manticore-Haven War the Official We Are So Going To Stomp Mesa List will include Manticore's queen, who takes such things very personally; Harrington herself; Thomas Theisman, who Honor is afraid of on the battlefield; Eloise Pritchart and the rest of the Haven government who survived in the dictatorship, pulled off their coup, and restored a democracy. You'd think that if they had any Genre Savvy at all, Mesa would realize they were utterly doomed.
They do. And try as they might to do anything that could delay the inevitable, they've got only mixed results. Sure, they've got some tactical advantage, but just so happened to completely piss off several most frightening persons in their whole universe. The results are expected to be... impressive.
How impressive? At the end of Mission of Honor, as described below, half the people on the above list (Cachat, Zilwicki, Kevin Usher, Pritchart, Theisman, Queen Elizabeth, and Honor herself) are in the same room. And on the same side. Which is precisely the scenario that the Alignment spent capital like water to prevent — with the added bonus that It's Personal for the Manticorans' best naval commander, who's pretty much primed for a Roaring Rampage of Revenge like the galaxy's never seen, backed up by a force that might be the entire Eighth Fleet, or might be the entire Royal Manticoran Navy plus a good chunk of the Grayson Space Navy, and might also include a lot of Havenite heavy metal, helpfully commanded by a few Havenite military geniuses — including one Lester Tourville, who has beaten Honor in combat. And all that heavy metal is going to be fitted with whatever new toys the combined genius of Shannon Foraker and Sonja Hemphill can come up with. Once they figure out where to point it all, odds are the Alignment's going to get disintegrated. Or worse.
Considering that Alignment has its own plans upon plans, but does not know of the recent developments on the heroes' side, the whole thing just started sliding into the Gambit Pileup territory really fast. Unless someone on either side is really good at Xanatos Speed Chess (yes, we're all looking at you, Vic) the situation may easily become a perfect illustration to the FUBARnote NSFW:Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition acronym.
The Alignment gets in Storm From Shadows, Nearly everything in the last 200 years has been manipulated by Mesa in the Haven Sector. The first Haven revolution was planned by them just to keep the entire sector occupied under an unstable Haven. What's further awesome is the fact they have spent their time building new technology besides genetic modification. Including 2 engine types, one a much faster FTL that causes everyone to not believe they could react and plot so fast, the other a slower real space drive that doesn't use gravametrics. The book ends with the cliff hanger of a massive sneak attack on the shipyards and possibly homeworld of Manticore.
Ms Midshipwoman Harrington: takes over command of her ship while not even technically an officer yet because everyone else is dead, unconscious, or out of communication, and stern rakesnote the bow and stern of the warships are relatively unprotected. "rake": cross your (well protected, weapon heavy) broadside across their bow or stern, firing in sequence to that every weapon hits their vulnerable area. the attacking ship from ridiculously short range, destroying it.
The Promised Land: Judith Newland leads an escape of Masadan women and children by stealing a spaceship.
The Service of the Sword: Captain Michael Oversteegen systematically rips to shreds a particularly obnoxious fellow snotty of one Abigail Hearns, and in doing so reveals himself to be the complete and total opposite of the Upper-Class Twit he appears. And then he really starts to get awesome.
The climactic battle of the short story has Hearns and her landing party in a fighting retreat being pursued by a band of Space Pirates. This sequence shows several times the dangers of trying to Zerg Rush a defensive position when the defenders are equipped with body armor and automatic weapons, even when using superior numbers. Meanwhile, four Heavy Cruisers have arrived, forcing Oversteegen to withdraw, chased by three of the cruisers while the fourth stays in orbit. Several hours later, the pirate cruiser that stayed behind is surprised and destroyed with a single salvo by a really pissed off Oversteegen, who has just returned from defeating the other Space Piratesin a 3:1 match.
Call To Arms, by Timothy Zahn, has a small flotilla of Manticoran warships (a new light cruiser, a destroyer, and two corvettes) going up against a mercenary fleet of two battlecruisers, two cruisers, and several destroyers. The Manticorans are able to guess from analyzing the Mercenary ships' maneuvering that one of the cruisers has a malfunctioning point defense system, and focus their fire on it... only to redirect their missiles at the last minute to avoid hitting the vulnerable cruiser, taking advantage of it's weak defenses to slip past it and land a cheap shot on one of the battlecruisers, knocking out half of it's forward armament.
Towards the end of the battle, the Manticoran force has been scattered, and the flagship, HMS Casey, is crippled and drifting into the middle of the enemy formation. By using some of their practice missiles as a defensive screen, they are able to buy the fraction of a second they need to lay in a broadside on the other battlecruiser, leading to a stunningly one-sided victory for the Casey. The other Mercenary ships are too spooked by what just happened to engage, and Casey drifts past the rest of their formation without being attacked. It is only after that the narration reveals that this is not the famous historical battle between the RMN and an invading mercenary fleet that gets mentioned from time to time, but merely an early skirmish leading up to it.
Beauty And The Beast: Lieutenant Karl Alfred Harrington is attending medical school on Beowulf, and has become infatuated with a female student named Allison Chou (unbeknownst to him, she is similarly infatuated with him). When she is kidnapped by a group of Manpower Inc thugs who want to blackmail her brother, Alfred tracks them down to their hideout and, using the skills he picked up in the Marines, single-handedly launches a rescue. It turns out that ass-kicking runs in the family, and that Honor Harrington is most definitely her father's little girl.
The Hard Way Home, a major avalanche hits a ski resort, burying hundreds of people including a group of schoolkids on a field trip. A young Susan Hibson (in the main line of books, a Marine officer who spends much of her screen time hip deep in the action) begins digging her way out, having no idea how deep she even is or which way to dig to get out. Meanwhile, Lieutenant Commander Honor Harrington is coordinating rescue efforts, but they are having trouble finding the survivors under the heavy snow, even with shipboard sensors. Nimitz picks up on the girl's mindglow and immediatly starts tunneling to meet her. Thanks to the girl's determination, the other kids in her ski lift are found and rescued.
Hibson's actions so impress the Commandant of the Manticoran Marine Corps that when he learns that she wanted to join the Corps when she grew up, he personally reserved a slot for her at the RMMC academy several years before she could legally apply. We later discover that Hibson was awarded the Monarch's Cross for Bravery the second highest award for bravery behind the Parliamentary Medal of Valor but is only awarded non-combat situations.