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Into the Light Snippet #5

Aliens? Invading aliens? What will Earth do? Well...we may have a few more resources than we first thought. Come join a friendly discussion about David Weber's newest Tor series - "Out of the Dark."
Into the Light Snippet #5
Post by runsforcelery   » Sat May 25, 2019 3:18 pm

runsforcelery
First Space Lord

Posts: 2402
Joined: Sun Aug 09, 2009 10:39 am
Location: South Carolina

We're heading into the weekend, and I've got a lot of stuff going on, so I'm going to go ahead and post the fifth snippet now and probably not put another one up until Wednesday. Altogether, I am planning on snippeting about a third of the total manuscript. Haven't figured out exactly how long that will take. :D

________________________________________________________



.V.
Greensboro, North Carolina
United States




"Come in, Dave!"

Dave Dvorak paused, despite the invitation and who'd issued it, because this was the first time he'd actually seen the conference room. He was more than a little surprised by the quality of the accommodations, and his lips twitched as he remembered Sharon's incredulous response when she heard about his destination.

"A mall?" she'd demanded. "You're telling me the new birthplace of the United States of America is a shopping mall?"

"But it's a really nice mall," he'd said a bit defensively. "I mean, I've never actually seen it, but now that the Net's back up, I checked it out. The Four Seasons Mall is right in the middle of Greensboro, with scads of room — I understand they're going to remodel the JCPenney store for the new House Chamber and Dillard's for the Senate. And the Sheraton Greensboro's huge! There's plenty of room for everybody — for now, at least — and there's a major convention center attached to the Sheraton, with all kinds of facilities. It's got a heck of a lot more space than Independence Hall ever had, anyway!"

"But a mall?!"

"Well, Governor Foster's going to need every square foot of space in Raleigh just managing the state and dealing with all the refugees right here at home," he'd pointed out. "It makes more sense to let the people doing that stay where they've already settled in while the new kids on the block have to fit in somewhere else. And unless Howell wanted to take over one of the university campuses, this probably really is his best bet."

"A mall." She'd shaken her head.

"Don't worry, honey. I'm sure history will come up with a much fancier name to hang on it. One that neatly camouflages its sordid origins."

In fact, there was nothing sordid about this conference room. Greensboro was still on the power grid, and it still had running water. Food was in somewhat shorter supply than either of those, but at least no one was dying of exposure . . . unlike other places in the world. Until the Shongairi, Americans especially had taken a limitless supply of electricity for granted, just as they had oxygen. The catastrophic consequences when an energy intensive society was suddenly denied that electricity had been far more than simply sobering.

But here, in this room, there was indirect lighting, the circulating whisper of warm air, and deep carpet under foot.

He wondered how long it would take for this kind of setting to blunt someone's awareness of how terrible things were outside its comfortable walls.

The moderately tall, brown-haired man at the head of the conference table interrupted his thoughts, waving a greeting that repeated his invitation. Dvorak stepped just a bit hesitantly into the room, and the brown-haired man pointed at a chair about halfway down one side of the long table.

"Sit," the man who'd been Governor Judson Howell until very recently commanded with a smile, then turned back to the sandy-haired, uniformed officer standing at the large screen TV with a pointer in hand. "General Landers is just bringing us up to speed on search and rescue operations." The smile faded for a moment, but then it was recovered with something suspiciously like an actual chuckle. "Too bad you missed the part about Major Torino's current expedition. It sounds like it's going to be downright memorable."

"The Major does have a way about him," the very dark-skinned young woman sitting at the foot of the table agreed. She nodded to Dvorak. "It's good to see you again, Mister Dvorak. How are the kids?"

"They're fine, Jasmine," he replied. "I think Pieter's going to have more trouble than he expects getting Renfield away from them, though. After all, we've more or less adopted Zinaida and Boris while he's off gallivanting around Europe. The kids don't see any reason we shouldn't keep them and their mom and brother. And Renfield, of course."

Jasmine Sherman chuckled and shook her head. Unlike Pieter Ushakov, she'd known exactly why Vlad Drakulya had suggested that name for Ushakov's German Shepherd puppy. It had amused her no end, and she shared more than a sense of humor with Vlad and Ushakov. A pre-invasion petty officer of the U.S. Navy, she was one of only four survivors from Stephen Buchevsky's mixed force of Americans and Romanians who'd fought to the last against the Shongairi, fighting and dying to protect the villagers who'd taken them in. Like Buchevsky himself, she'd been mortally wounded and left for dead by the invaders, only to be pulled back from the brink — or perhaps pulled across the brink — when Vlad returned.

She didn't breathe anymore . . . unless her vocal cords needed the air.

"I'm sorry I interrupted, Sir," Sherman said now, turning back to the three-star general by the TV. "I haven't seen Mister Dvorak in several weeks now."

"Not a problem, Ms. Sherman," Truman Landers replied. Technically, Sherman was still a U.S. Navy noncom, and third-class petty officers did not, as a general rule, interrupt lieutenant generals. But Sherman had been transferred to a rather different armed force in which precise military ranks meant very little, and Landers not only knew that, but accepted it, which was quite a different thing. He obviously understood that what mattered was that she was effectively the third ranking vampire on Earth, serving as Pieter Ushakov's chief of staff and also his representative to the steadily evolving Howell Administration.

"Continue, please, General," Howell said now, tipping back in his chair and clasping his hands behind his head.

"Of course, Mister President," Landers said, and Dvorak watched Howell's expression very carefully as the general gave him his brand-new title.

That expression gave away very little as Landers resumed his briefing, using the satellite feeds and the big TV to give real-time reports on their rescue expeditions. Howell was only about five-feet-ten, a good five inches shorter than Dvorak himself, with pleasantly plain, rather blunt features. There were a lot of fresh lines in that face, and he'd started to gray at the temples. Dvorak had never known him before the Shongair invasion, but people who had known him longer all agreed the gray was a new development.

Howell wore his trademark blue dress shirt, red bow tie, and black suspenders. The political cartoonists had loved those before the invasion, and Dvorak doubted they were going to stop using them now that Howell had risen to a rather more prominent role. But if Howell cherished any concerns about the burdens — or, for that matter, the legality — of his new role, those blunt features did a remarkably good job of hiding it.

Dvorak looked around at the conference room's other occupants while Landers finished his briefing. Only four members of Howell's new cabinet were present.

Doctor Nancy Kaufman, the Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services, was a petite, silver-haired oncologist with twinkling green eyes. The former head of the University of North Carolina Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, she and Hosea MacMurdo were Secretary Leonard Gillespie's chief lieutenants in the evaluation of Hegemony medical tech.

Secretary of Homeland Security Patrick O'Sullivan was an inch or so taller than Howell, with red hair, blue eyes, and freckles. In fact, he looked exactly like what he preferred to call himself: an old-fashioned Irish cop . . . with a southern accent. A career policeman until his late thirties, he was in his early fifties now, and he'd become the North Carolina State Secretary of Public Safety about a year and a half before the invasion. He'd never expected to inherit national office, although, admittedly, the "nation" in question consisted of only parts of four or five states at the moment, but he seemed to be bearing up well.

Kacey Zukowski had been Howell's Secretary of Military and Veteran Affairs before the invasion. Now she'd handed that title off to her pre-invasion chief of staff to become Howell's Secretary of Defense, although Dvorak knew she and Howell both favored returning to the original title of the Secretary of War, instead. He also knew why they both favored that change, and he agreed with their reasoning wholeheartedly. Zukowski was fifty-one, five and a half feet tall, with dark hair and eyes, and she'd risen to the rank of major in the US Air Force before a catastrophic helicopter landing invalided her out with a shattered right knee and seriously impaired vision in her right eye. A skilled surgeon by the name of Hosea MacMurdo had put the knee back together, however, and she was almost dauntingly fit: a longdistance runner and an avid tennis player, although Dvorak suspected she was finding it hard to steal court time given her new and crushing responsibilities.

And, finally, there was Doctor Fabienne Lewis, Howell's Secretary of Information Technology. At thirty-one, she was the youngest person in the room, with black hair and dark eyes. Her son, Raymond, was the same age as Dvorak's own Malachi, and the two of them were far too much alike for his peace of mind. They'd taken to one another on sight, and Dvorak knew from personal experience that the amount of mischief a boy child could get into increased exponentially with each additional boy child plugged into the equation.

He turned his attention back to Landers as the general completed his report. Truman Landers had been a colonel before the invasion, the commanding officer of the 1st Attack and Reconnaissance Battalion of the 130th Aviation Regiment, a component of the 449th Theatre Aviation Brigade, one of the three major units of the North Carolina National Guard. He'd been on leave when President Palmer called the snap nationwide antiterrorism exercise that had inadvertently concentrated so much of the US military and state-level first responders on convenient bull's-eyes for the Shongair KEWs. He'd been on his way to Fort Bragg — indeed, his chopper had been only fifty miles out — when the enormous base was reduced to flaming rubble by half a dozen kiloton-range KEW strikes. The blast front had nearly swatted him right out of the air.

It had been agonizingly obvious there was nothing he could do at Bragg, so he'd returned to Raleigh to do what he could to assist the governor in the new nightmare world which had come for all of them. He'd never expected to end up a three-star general, nor to almost certainly become the senior uniformed officer of the United States . . . assuming Howell really could put that particular Humpty Dumpty back together again. He wasn't the smartest man Dvorak had ever met — the general was obviously somewhat in awe of Secretary Zukowski's razor-sharp intelligence, actually — but he was methodical, organized, unflappable, and approached problems with an analytical dispassion far more effective than mere brilliance. Dvorak thought of him as Ulysses S. Grant, not Robert E. Lee, and he'd always thought Grant was actually the better general (although he'd been careful to keep that opinion to himself growing up in the South).

"Thank you, General," Howell said as Landers finished. The newly elevated president puffed his cheeks for a moment, then shook his head. "I hate how many people we're still going to lose," he said more grimly. "All of your people are performing superbly, Kacey," he added quickly, looking at his Secretary of Military Affairs, "and none of that was meant as any criticism, General Landers! It's just that it's such a deep damned hole and we don't have nearly enough shovels. We're going to lose people to starvation and hypothermia right here in North Carolina, despite all we can do. God only knows what it's going to be like someplace like northern Russia."

He shook his head again, and the same cold wind whispered through Dvorak's bones. There was snow on the ground here in Greensboro. Not nearly as much as other places, but far more of it than Greensboro usually saw, especially this early in the winter. It would appear that all the dust blown into the atmosphere by the Shongair KEWs had turned the planetary thermostat back down, at least temporarily, and no one needed the vanished National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to tell them it was going to get worse before it got better.

And from Judson Howell's expression, it was going to be a long time before this palatial room's comfort blunted his awareness of what was happening outside it.

"All we can do is the best we can do, Mister President." Landers' quiet response sounded almost compassionate, Dvorak thought. "And our capabilities are increasing rapidly. Secretary Jacobi really is working some miracles on his end."

Howell nodded, but his eyes were hooded, and Dvorak knew why. The industrial modules they'd "appropriated" from the Shongairi had begun turning out landing shuttles, aircraft, prefabricated emergency housing, and a veritable cornucopia of incredibly capable hardware. But Howell and Brian Jacobi, his Secretary of Industry (the previous title of Secretary of Commerce had been changed, in light of how little actual "commerce" there was at the moment) had to balance an agonizing equation. How much of their growing capacity could they use to support immediate search-and-rescue operations and how much of it did they devote to expanding their overall industrial base? Every shuttle they built now was two shuttles they could have built three months from now if they hadn't diverted the effort to build it now. And how badly were they going to need those additional shuttles when winter really hit . . . or when it was the southern hemisphere's turn to be socked in by snow and ice?

And how did they explain to a starving child in Finland why there was no rescue flight to pluck him and his family to safety today?

Not for the first time, Dave Dvorak was uncomfortably aware that he vastly preferred the role of advisor to being the one forced to actually make those gall-bitter decisions. Perhaps he could have made them, if he'd had to, but he'd seen what actually making them cost Judson Howell, and he was prayerfully grateful to have been spared that price.

"It's like we've entered a new Dark Ages," Doctor Kaufman murmured.

"Actually, that's not a bad parallel in a lot of ways," Dvorak said. "I know what you mean, given how grim things look right now, Nancy, but there's another side to it, too, because people tend to forget that the 'Dark Ages' weren't really all that dark."

Kaufman's eyes widened in polite disbelief, and Dvorak shook his head and leaned back in his chair. It was a posture with which his friends and family were only too familiar, and Jasmine Sherman hid a smile as she sat back on her own side of the table to listen.

"When most people use the term 'Dark Ages,' they're using it in a . . . pejorative sense," he began. "They're using it to describe a time in European history when life was 'nasty, short, and brutish,' to misappropriate Mr. Hobbes' phrase. A time when the light of Classic civilization had gone out and left everyone living in muddy misery. But that's not really fair. The real reason they're the 'Dark Ages' is that we don't have a lot of written records from them, compared to other eras. We don't know as much about them, so they're 'dark' to us. And a lot of what we thought we knew about them for a long time was projected backward from the fourteenth century. The truth is, what we call the Dark Ages was actually a fairly stable culture that served its society's needs pretty well . . . until the Black Death came calling in the 1340s. As we've just found out for ourselves, any society that loses somewhere around half its total population is going to have problems, and the Black Plague killed between seventy-five and two hundred million people in Europe and Asia in just six years, between 1347 and 1353. For that matter, the net world population declined from somewhere around four hundred fifty million to maybe three hundred and sixty million during the fourteenth century, almost all of it because of the Plague. In fact, it took two hundred years for the population to get back up just to the pre-Plague numbers!

"So, yeah, folks in the Renaissance, looking back on that kind of an experience, called everything on the other side of the Plague 'dark,' and it's kinda hard to blame them. And we've lost one hell of a lot more people — even in relative terms, as a percentage of the total population, far less in absolute numbers — in a lot less time than the Plague ever killed. So right this minute, we're in the middle of our very own Dark Ages for sure."

It was very quiet in the conference room, and he looked around the watching faces.

"But you know what lay on the other side of the Black Death?" His eyes circled the conference table again. "The Renaissance. The explosion of art and literature — and commerce, for that matter — that led directly to the Scientific Age. From the fall of the Western Roman Empire to the start of the sixteenth century — a thousand years — nothing changed very much in terms of technology, because there was no pressure to change it. But you can only compress a spring so long. Then it breaks loose, and that's what happened in the Renaissance and the Age of Reason. In five hundred years, we went from feudalism to the Moon . . . all on our own."

The silence was deeper than ever, and he shrugged.

"I've just really started digging into Hegemony history, people, but I can already tell you no other species in that history ever moved that quickly from plowing with oxen to riding rocket boosters into space. We chained the lightning — chained it on our own — and nobody — nobody — else ever did it in that teeny, tiny a window. That blink in the eye of eternity. But we did. The monkey boys and the monkey girls — we did it. Our ancestors crawled up out of the grave of the Black Death, and they launched a trajectory that would have taken us to the stars on our own faster than anyone else in the history of the galaxy if the Shongairi hadn't tried to kill us all.

"They had to do it from scratch, so what kind of Renaissance d'you think we'll be able to pull off when our starting point means the stars are already in our grasp?"

He smiled, his eyes on Landers and Zukowski, and that smile was cold and thin.

"The bastards didn't just give us their tech. They gave us one hell of a motivation to use it — and to improve on it — so we can show our teachers just how well we've learned the lesson when we meet up with them again."


"Oh, bother!" said Pooh, as Piglet came back from the dead.
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Re: Into the Light Snippet #5
Post by richardinor   » Sat May 25, 2019 6:38 pm

richardinor
Commander

Posts: 199
Joined: Sat Jul 31, 2010 12:23 am
Location: Oregon

Thanks again.
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Re: Into the Light Snippet #5
Post by Randomiser   » Sun May 26, 2019 8:13 am

Randomiser
Rear Admiral

Posts: 1409
Joined: Sat Mar 10, 2012 1:41 pm
Location: Scotland

runsforcelery wrote:We're heading into the weekend, and I've got a lot of stuff going on, so I'm going to go ahead and post the fifth snippet now and probably not put another one up until Wednesday. Altogether, I am planning on snippeting about a third of the total manuscript. Haven't figured out exactly how long that will take. :D



Good to see you back on here again. Thanks for this. I always get disappointed when snippets run out some time before publication though, so I'm a bit conflicted between wanting more snippets NOW, and wanting you to wait till the publication date is confirmed so you can manage the flow better.
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Re: Into the Light Snippet #5
Post by Randomiser   » Sun May 26, 2019 8:19 am

Randomiser
Rear Admiral

Posts: 1409
Joined: Sat Mar 10, 2012 1:41 pm
Location: Scotland

runsforcelery wrote:
"A mall?" she'd demanded. "You're telling me the new birthplace of the United States of America is a shopping mall?"

"But it's a really nice mall," he'd said a bit defensively.


Oh, this is just sooo delicious. ROFLOL

Hope Dave and Sharon are getting on well down there in the Carolina's
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Re: Into the Light Snippet #5
Post by Panzer   » Sun May 26, 2019 11:27 am

Panzer
Lieutenant Commander

Posts: 101
Joined: Sat Sep 05, 2009 9:10 am

runsforcelery wrote:Dvorak thought of him as Ulysses S. Grant, not Robert E. Lee, and he'd always thought Grant was actually the better general (although he'd been careful to keep that opinion to himself growing up in the South)


Yay! I'm not the only one that thinks so!
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Re: Into the Light Snippet #5
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Sun May 26, 2019 2:56 pm

DrakBibliophile
Admiral

Posts: 2271
Joined: Sun Sep 06, 2009 2:54 pm
Location: East Central Illinois

Like!!! :D
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Paul Howard (Alias Drak Bibliophile)
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Sometimes The Dragon Wins! [Polite Dragon Smile]
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