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Into the Light Snippet #6

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 #6
Post by runsforcelery   » Wed May 29, 2019 10:34 pm

runsforcelery
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Sharon and I are leaving for ConCarolinas tomorrow, so I don't know if I'll get a snippet posted Friday or not. Here's today's though.

_________________________________________________________

* * * * * * * * * *

"Good job at the meeting this afternoon, Dave," Judson Howell said as he handed Dvorak the beer stein.

"I beg your pardon?" Dvorak asked, cocking his head.

"I felt like you were channeling a little Winston Churchill there." Howell flashed a quick grin. "He was a pretty fair historian, too, if I recall correctly."

"And one tough-minded son-of-a-bitch," William Jeffers added. Despite his choice of phrase, Jeffers was a lifelong Baptist who never touched alcohol, although he'd never been prudish about people who did. Instead of a beer, he nursed a can of Cheerwine with the care of the truly addicted who know their supply is limited. Soft drink production wasn't high on the new government's priority list, and despite its popularity in the Carolinas and Georgia, Cheerwine was available in rather smaller quantities than beer.

Which probably said something interesting about the actual drinking habits of the "Bible Belt," Dvorak reflected.

"He was that," Howell agreed. "He was that."

"No brooding," Sarah Howell said, and her husband looked up with another of those quick grins which had been one of his political hallmarks for so long. "You'll be just as tough-minded as you need to be, Judson," she said in a gentler tone. "Don't go worrying yourself about all the crap piled up around you any more than you have to."

"Good advice," Jeffers said firmly, and Dvorak nodded. It was good advice, and having Jeffers endorse it only gave it more point.

William Jeffers was sixty-one, with gray hair and brown eyes, and as far as anyone knew, he was also the sole surviving member of the pre-invasion U.S. Congress. He'd represented Kentucky's Sixth Congressional District for almost eighteen years, and the truth was that, legally, he had an arguably far stronger claim to the Office of the President than any mere state governor. It was probable that there were other Congressional survivors, although none of them had so far surfaced. And it might actually be less probable than Dvorak had assumed, since Congress had been in session when the Shongairi attacked. Jeffers had been outside the District of Columbia, en route from Washington to visit a friend in Petersburg Virginia, when the KEWs hit. He'd headed home to his family immediately . . . and gotten as far as North Carolina before word reached him that Lexington had been annihilated, as well. His wife, three of their children, and seven of their grandchildren had died in that attack, leaving him only his son, Bryant, and his wife and two children, who'd happened to live in High Point, less than twenty miles from this very sitting room.

Jeffers knew a "tough-minded son-of-a-bitch" when he saw one, Dvorak thought. He saw one every morning in his mirror, because there wasn't an ounce of quit in him. In fact, what he wanted more than anything else was revenge on the Hegemony who'd thrown his home world to the Shongairi.

That determination made it even more astonishing, in some ways, that he hadn't asserted his own claim to the Presidency when the state legislature — acting in the name of the entire United States — named Howell President and he'd handed the state government over to Lieutenant Governor Alvin Foster. Of course, the law would actually have been pretty ambiguous, even in Jeffers' case. The Presidential Succession Act had never been extended beyond the cabinet level, despite concerns following 9/11, but it was certainly arguable that someone elected to national office would have a better claim than someone elected to state office, if he'd chosen to assert it.

Jeffers hadn't, for several reasons — the most important of which was that he was a very, very smart fellow. As he'd pointed out, he'd been elected to Congress by less than eight hundred thousand people, whereas Judson Howell had been elected governor by over ten million voters. Demographically speaking, that was a bit broader mandate than he'd enjoyed. Howell had also been the head of the only functional, intact state government in the country — nothing else above the county level had survived — and Jeffers had refused to joggle his elbow in the face of such an existential crisis. He was also almost twenty years older than Howell, and dealing with the ruin the Shongairi had wrought was a job for a younger man's energy. And perhaps even more importantly — and the reason he'd agreed to serve as Howell's Vice President — was that his acceptance of Howell's presidency would go a long, long way in legitimizing that succession if some other senator or congressman turned up and chose to challenge it.

Dvorak had to wonder how many people in Jeffers' situation, especially knowing the new president would very probably end up calling the shots for pretty much the entire human race, could have made that decision. The one thing he was certain of was that it hadn't been the result of any moral cowardice, any need to evade responsibility, on Jeffers' part.

"Listen to Bill," Sarah Howell said now, swatting her husband lightly on the shoulder. "He always was one of the smartest people in Washington."

"You only say that because I was always willing to come on your program," Jeffers said with a slow smile, and she laughed.

Before Judson Howell's election to the governorship, Sarah Howell had been one of the more visible cable news anchors and commentators. She was blonde, gray-eyed, and extraordinarily attractive, none of which had hurt her prospects at all. More importantly, however, she was also articulate and quite possibly the smartest person in a room which, Dvorak had to admit, with all due modesty, wasn't exactly brimming over with dummies. As the First Lady of North Carolina, she'd been forced to put her journalistic career aside, which had to have been hard for her. Especially since Howell had clearly been headed for national office of one sort or another after the governorship, which meant her career as an independent journalist had almost certainly been over forever. Not that she'd ever anticipated exchanging Burke Square in Raleigh for the White House.

Of course, Dvorak's mood darkened for a moment; there wasn't a White House anymore. Or a National Mall, or a Smithsonian Institute or Library of Congress. No Lincoln Memorial or National Gallery.

"I'm only saying it because it's true," she told Jeffers now, affectionately. "And I knew you had to be brilliant, not just smart, because you almost always agreed with me!"

Jeffers chuckled and sipped Cheerwine, and Dvorak took a pull at his own stein of Pilsner. Personally, and despite his family origins, he'd never been that fond of Pilsner. His father had tried — without much success — to guilt-trip him over that, but he much preferred the darker lagers and porters or a good oatmeal stout. Under the circumstances, however, he was prepared to settle even for Pilsner . . . especially, he admitted, Victory Prima. He had no idea where Howell had found it, although reports suggested Downingtown, Victory Prima's Pennsylvania hometown, had survived.

"Yes, he did," Howell said. "And Bill here really is one of the smart ones, Dave. Which is one of the reasons that I wanted him here this evening."

"Oh?" Dvorak heard the slight wariness in his own tone. He'd come to know Howell fairly well in the immediate aftermath of the Shongairi's defeat. Along the way he'd discovered the new president rarely said enigmatic things by accident. He'd assumed this was simply one more meeting with one of Howell's "kitchen cabinet" advisers, but something about the president's expression . . . .

"I'm about to really, really piss Sharon off," Howell said, and Dvorak felt a sinking sensation as the other man's lopsided smile confirmed his own trepidation. "I know she never wanted you to come to Greensboro in the first place, and I know she thinks — rightly, I'll add — that she and the kids need you right now. The problem is that I need you, too."

"She and I both know that," Dvorak said slowly. "That's why I'm here."

"I know, but right now you're here as an unpaid 'special advisor,' and I need to change that."

"I won't object to being a paid advisor!" Dvorak said quickly, and Howell's smile deepened at his obvious effort to deflect the conversation.

"That'll have to wait until we get the currency running again. At the moment, the US dollar has about the same market value as the quatloo. Besides, I have something else in mind for you."

"What?" Dvorak asked bluntly.

"Secretary of State," Howell replied, equally bluntly, and Dvorak's nostrils flared. Secretary of State? That was ridiculous! And Sharon would shoot him dead if he came home and told her he'd accepted the offer. Or maybe not. Maybe she'd settle for just shooting him in both kneecaps, since the kids did need a father.

"Sir, I —" he began, but Howell's raised hand stopped him.

"I know you hadn't considered it," he said, "but I've actually been thinking about this for a while. It's the real reason I left the Secretary of State's position unfilled instead of putting Jessica Tallman into it. The thing is, I can't leave it that way any longer. You know I've been in touch with Jeremiah Agamabichie up in Saskatchewan?"

He paused, eyebrows rising slightly, and Dvorak, despite his shock — nodded. Jeremiah Agamabichie, the Premier of Saskatchewan, was one of only two provincial premiers to survive the Shongairi's initial decapitation strike. Regina, the capital of Saskatchewan, had been spared throughout the war, in fact, despite total Canadian casualties which had been at least as grievous, proportionately, as those of the United States. The other premier, Anson McLarty of Alberta, had been in office for a much shorter period of time, was a younger man, and less well-known outside his home province. Ottawa had disappeared in its own fireball, along with Washington, DC . . . and London, which had left the lieutenant governors of Saskatchewan and Alberta as the senior officers of the Crown in Canada, and they — along with McLarty — had agreed that Agamabichie was the only person to serve as Acting Prime Minister, despite the fact that Alberta's population was over three times that of Saskatchewan.

Agamabichie was said to be a tough, no-nonsense sort of a fellow with bulldog pugnacity, and he — and McLarty, who'd become Acting Deputy Prime Minister — had done a remarkable job in their home provinces. The rest of the country had fared less well, however, and despite the vast size of the two provinces, both of them together had boasted barely half the pre-invasion population of North Carolina by itself. The Canadian infrastructure had sustained less damage, but Canadian winters were far more severe, even in normal conditions, than those of their neighbors to the south, and it was obvious Agamabichie needed all the help he could get, as well.

"Bill just said Churchill was a tough-minded fellow," Howell went on, "and from what I can see so far, that's just as true of Agamabichie. But after what we have right here, he and McLarty between them have held together the largest region of unified, functional government in North America. They've got less than twenty percent of the warm bodies we do, but geographically, the area under their control — nominally at least — is six times our size. More than that, Agamabichie's got a damned good claim to be the legitimate, legal chief executive of Canada, with a lot less breaks in the chain of succession than just about anywhere else on the planet. That gives him even more legitimacy as the head of an existing national government than I have. That means I need him on my side when we start trying to put things back together, and that means I need someone to be my official spokesman with him. Which is pretty much the definition of a Secretary of State, isn't it?"

"Well, yes," Dvorak said after a moment. "But I'm the kind of guy who runs a rifle range, Judson — not a diplomat! I couldn't tell a canapé from a croissant!"

"That's not the kind of diplomat we're going to need for the immediate future, Dave," Jeffers put in. "And the way you and your brother-in-law handled yourselves during the invasion's a pretty clear indication you have the qualities to be the kind of diplomat we are going to need."

"Bill's right," Howell said seriously. "And even if you hadn't handled yourselves so well, I'd still need you, because I need somebody who's a historian. Somebody who's at least tried to understand how people outside his own bubble of time and place think. I'm always astonished how few people ever manage to pull that off. I guess we do all still live in our own villages, at least intellectually. But I've listened to you for long enough to know you do try. I don't think you always succeed, but your batting average's pretty damned good, all things considered. And I need that. We need that."

"I appreciate the compliment," Dvorak said after a moment, "and you're right, I do try to do that. And you're right that I don't always succeed. I think I can even see where you're coming from on this, but I genuinely don't have the stature and the training for it."

"Been a lot of that going around lately," Howell observed, and Dvorak was forced to nod. "Look," the President went on, "there are all kinds of people I could pick from UNC's and Duke's political science faculties. People who probably would have at least the theoretical training you're talking about not having. But I don't know them the way I know you, I don't trust them the way I trust you, and most of them — no shame to them — pretty much sheltered in place during the invasion. You and Rob didn't."

"We'd planned to," Dvorak half-muttered, and Howell snorted.

"Of course you did — neither of you is an idiot! But when the Resistance came knocking on your door, you didn't hesitate, either of you, and you almost got your fool selves killed. That's a pretty hefty credential, in my eyes. And from what I've seen of Agamabichie, it'll probably carry a lot of weight with him, too. When I can get that in the same package as someone who's studied history the way you have and has such a clear view of what we need to do before those Hegemony bastards come calling again, I don't have any choice. I need you, and I'm an unscrupulous, devious bastard who'll do anything he has to do to get you."

"In his own thankfully inimitable fashion, he's saying he thinks you're the best man for the job and that he'd really, really like you to go be his spokesman to Prime Minister Agamabichie," Sarah Howell put in, with a half-humorous half-scolding look at her husband. "And he's dead right," she continued, looking back at Dvorak. "You have the qualities he needs, I think you and Agamabichie will like each other, and it's hugely important we get him on board."

"On board?" Dvorak looked back and forth between her and her husband. "From everything I've heard, they need our help a lot more than we need theirs right now!"

"So they do . . . right now," Jeffers said, drawing Dvorak's eyes back to him. "But that's not going to be true forever, especially if Judson here really hopes he can get away with his more grandiose plans."

"Grandiose?" Dvorak repeated.

"Yep." Jeffers shook his head, brown eyes gleaming with something suspiciously like admiration. "Our Judson's not content with just 'usurping' the office of President from such an august personage as myself. He's got bigger plans, starting with unification of what's left of us and Canada into a single country."

Dvorak's eyes narrowed. It wasn't as if he hadn't seen the need for something like that coming, but he hadn't realized Howell was that far along with the process. After all, they still hadn't put the United States is was back together again!

"Starting with unification with Canada?" he said.

"Starting," Howell confirmed, and there were no smiles in evidence now. "We can't stop there, and right this minute I've got the stick to make it happen, thanks to the combination of the Puppies' industrial base and Vlad and people like Pieter and Jasmine. I control all access to that industry, which means I decide who gets to use it — and survive — and who doesn't, so I could beat just about anybody into signing on the dotted line if I wanted to. But what we need to build won't work if all I use is a stick. It won't have legitimacy, because every other potential political type out there will figure he only agreed to it under duress. And that means it won't have the staying power it needs. I need somebody who understands that, and who can help me build something that will have legitimacy. And I've decided the somebody in question is you. So, how do I go about convincing Sharon to not shoot both of us when you finally surrender to the inevitable and accept the office?"





.VI.
Key West, Florida
United States


“End of the line,” the driver said, stopping the car.

Major Daniel “Longbow” Torino, U.S. Air Force, glanced through the windshield and sighed as he inspected the empty space the Seven Mile Bridge should have filled to the west of Marathon, Florida. Several spans of both the new bridge and the old one had been dynamited since the last satellite pass. The destruction of infrastructure—by humans—was an all-too-frequent problem in the aftermath of the Shongairi. Don’t like your neighbors? Knock down the bridge connecting you. Problem solved. Want to set up your own little fiefdom? Just isolate your community and proclaim yourself the new ruler. In the post-apocalyptic nightmare of the months following the Shongairi retreat, if you had the guns to back you up, you could probably get away with it. Longbow was just glad he wasn’t in charge of infrastructure. Whoever got saddled with that chore was going to have their work cut out for them.

Longbow shook his head. Unfortunately, this was more than a case of bad neighbors. The people who'd likely dropped the bridge—and who waited five miles west—were the bad neighbors, as evidenced by the crudely drawn signs his eyes could see in the dark at the end of the bridge. The skull and crossbones motifs indicated quite well what you could expect if you continued.

The contact forces had heard stories for a while about missing fishing boats and pleasure craft. After the invasion, the fishing boats had continued to work the waters, at least as long as they had fuel—people had to eat, after all—and, with increasing frequency as time went on, many didn’t return. Similarly, there were rumors of civilian pleasure craft that had left ports on the east and gulf coasts—their owners trying to flee to the islands to get away from the Shongairi—who'd never called back to report arriving at their destinations. To hear the locals tell it, the Bermuda Triangle was operating at peak efficiency. Garbled messages sometimes gave an indication of something being wrong, but the Shongair prohibition of human aircraft precluded any sort of aerial search, and by the time surface rescue craft reached the area, the vessels had simply disappeared. It didn’t matter what type of ship—fisherman or pleasure craft—if it went to sea by itself, all too often it vanished without a trace.

Longbow Torino didn’t believe in the Bermuda Triangle any more than he believed in the goodness of people’s hearts; he’d suspected foul play, even before he’d seen the satellite photos of the missing ships in port. He motioned for the trucks loaded with supplies to begin the slow process of backing down the highway to where they could turn around, then got back in the car with another sigh. Although he’d been able to use the carrot with most of the communities he’d contacted, he suspected Key West was going to need the stick.


"Oh, bother!" said Pooh, as Piglet came back from the dead.
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Re: Into the Light Snippet #6
Post by Theemile   » Thu May 30, 2019 2:19 pm

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The Plot thickens! Thanks David!
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RFC said "refitting a Beowulfan SD to Manticoran standards would be just as difficult as refitting a standard SLN SD to those standards. In other words, it would be cheaper and faster to build new ships."
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Re: Into the Light Snippet #6
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Thu May 30, 2019 3:15 pm

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Great! :D
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Re: Into the Light Snippet #6
Post by iranuke   » Fri May 31, 2019 11:27 am

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Would it do any good to state that I want this book NOW!
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Re: Into the Light Snippet #6
Post by richardinor   » Sat Jun 01, 2019 6:43 pm

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I wonder if Jeffers is a repeat of Jefferson in the Dahak series.
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Re: Into the Light Snippet #6
Post by phillies   » Mon Jun 03, 2019 12:51 pm

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So how are we to interpret the "vampires"?

Someplace, there is another species that also opposes the current galactic order, and that is covertly planting people on various planets to assist when needed. However, they can do very little in the way of aid, because they want to staty not-noticed. Their agents can, however, inject humans with nanites that convert men into supermen, err, vampires.
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Re: Into the Light Snippet #6
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Mon Jun 03, 2019 2:30 pm

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That's a possibility.

Of course, it might be the actions of the last remaining members of a defeated species that is planning to use humans for "vengeance from the grave" (so to speak). :twisted:

phillies wrote:So how are we to interpret the "vampires"?

Someplace, there is another species that also opposes the current galactic order, and that is covertly planting people on various planets to assist when needed. However, they can do very little in the way of aid, because they want to staty not-noticed. Their agents can, however, inject humans with nanites that convert men into supermen, err, vampires.
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Paul Howard (Alias Drak Bibliophile)
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Sometimes The Dragon Wins! [Polite Dragon Smile]
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Re: Into the Light Snippet #6
Post by FriarBob   » Tue Jun 04, 2019 9:02 am

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What about symbiosis of some sort? Perhaps the nanites (if of course that's what they are) ARE the external species in question.

DrakBibliophile wrote:That's a possibility.

Of course, it might be the actions of the last remaining members of a defeated species that is planning to use humans for "vengeance from the grave" (so to speak). :twisted:

phillies wrote:So how are we to interpret the "vampires"?

Someplace, there is another species that also opposes the current galactic order, and that is covertly planting people on various planets to assist when needed. However, they can do very little in the way of aid, because they want to staty not-noticed. Their agents can, however, inject humans with nanites that convert men into supermen, err, vampires.
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