passed into enemy hands

In Enemy Hands

For the movie of the same name, please see "In Enemy Hands".

In Enemy Hands is a military science fiction novel, the seventh in the Honor Harrington series by David Weber, and was first published in 1996. Like most novels in the series, its text is available in the Baen Free Library.

Plot summary

As the story begins, Honor has just been promoted to Commodore for her actions in Honor Among Enemies, a rank so high that she will never personally command a military starship again. The promotion came through as she returned to her steading on Grayson, after having spent the previous few months advising and working with the "Weapons Development Board"; in the previous book, the WDB had assigned some early examples of the new generation of Manticoran naval technology to Honor, and wanted feedback as to the performance in actual combat.

Honor did not return alone, however, as her treecat Nimitz had mated with Samantha, who had born treekittens. Nimitz's clan also dispatched eight adult treecats to help raise the kittens and establish a treecat colony on Grayson. During a party in the Harrington Steading, Honor and Admiral Hamish Alexander discuss the WDB's radical suggestions: as authored by Harrington, the final recommendations were to radically revise the fleet, by beginning the construction of a new class of superdreadnaughts with hollow cores, appropriate for releasing large numbers of missile pods -- self-contained missile launchers which permit simultaneous launch of more missiles than a single ship typically can fire; new vessels analogous to aircraft carriers, which instead carry souped-up LACs (Light Attack Craft); and a new generation of remotely-deployed EW drones. Hamish, in a knee-jerk response to anything smacking of the technological innovation, opposes the recommendations without examining the full report, and Honor forcefully refutes his opposition. As she argues for the recommendations, Alexander realizes that he has feelings for her he can never express: the married admiral is her superior officer.

In an attempt to escape her own feelings, Honor goes with Alistair McKeon on a convoy escort mission to the Adler system, a small system near the front line. The Adler system, unbeknownst to most parties, had been the victim of a lightning sneak attack masterminded by Citizen Rear Admiral Lester Tourville of the DuQuesne base, under the orders of Thomas Theisman. Tourville knew perfectly well that he could not hold system, but had arranged this thrust so that he could destroy the system pickets, and capture any inbound traffic -- traffic like the convoy Honor's heavy cruisers were shepherding. During the hyperspace transition, Honor boards McKeon's heavy cruiser Prince Adrian for his birthday party, and is still aboard as the ship drops out of hyperspace well before the rest of the convoy as a point guard. Due to the absence of the expected system picket, Prince Adrian proceeds cautiously, detecting the PNS ships waiting to ambush the convoy; the only possible course is to draw off the ambushers away from the convoy. They hold off the Havenites long enough for the transports to escape. Then, out-matched and unable to escape, Honor orders McKeon to surrender.

At first, she and her officers are treated respectfully by Tourville and Admiral Thomas Theisman, who remember Honor's treatment of Havenite prisoners such as Tourville's staff officer, Shannon Foraker, and the Havenite officers plan to inter Harrington and her officers in a Navy-run POW camp instead of turning her over to State Security. Unfortunately, Cordelia Ransom, the People's Republic's Secretary for Public Information, happens to be in the system testing Theisman's political loyalty and developing propaganda. She demands that the Manticorans be surrendered to her. Unable to deny Ransom and her "StateSec" enforcers, Admiral Theisman transfers Honor to them.

Honor, Alistair, Horace Harkness, and the rest of the crew are transferred to the Havenite battlecruiser PNS Tepes, which belongs to State Security and not to the People's Navy and is Ransom's personal flagship, bound for the Havenite prison planet of Hades, where Ransom intends to execute the sentence the Legislaturists passed upon Honor for attacking and blowing up a Havenite Q-ship, (the events of On Basilisk Station). The rest of the prisoners are merely sentenced to lifetime imprisonment on Hades. The journey towards Hades is marked by Honor's torture at the hands of StateSec and the general mistreatment of the other Manticoran prisoners, except Horace Harkness, who defects.

Back on Grayson, Allison Chou Harrington, Honor's mother, is attempting to cure genetic diseases by setting up a modern genetic clinic, and the treecats begin setting up their first off-planet colony. The Manticoran Admiralty is occupied defending against Esther McQueen's attacks and preparing their new weapons, hoping to deliver a knock-out blow to end the war.

Unbeknownst to StateSec, Harkness has no intention of truly defecting, and after fooling his assigned watchdogs, hacks into the security and communication systems, eventually disabling them and causing massive explosions in the boat bays. He breaks out his fellow Manticorans, and while a group rescues Honor, the rest fight their way through Tepes. In the remaining undamaged boat bay, they jury-rig the four remaining small vessels: the first is programmed to go on an unmanned kamikaze ride through the minefields surrounding Hades, (the detonating nuclear mines were to blind the sensors of Tepess escorts, covering their escape); the second and third assault shuttles were used to escape the ship; and the fourth was modified to bring its impeller wedge up inside' the battlecruiser, causing a catastrophic explosion and killing all aboard. Despite their remarkable escape, they find themselves injured, (among other injuries, Honor's left arm is amputated), and stranded on Cerberus III, facing a well-provided for prison camp and unknown amounts of space forces.


This novel marks the loss of Honor's arm, a reference to Horatio Nelson, whom David Weber used as a principal role-model for the character.

In Enemy Hands is also the first Honor Harrington novel with a cliffhanger ending, leaving the main characters in a precarious and difficult situation.

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