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Into the Light Snippet #17

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 #17
Post by runsforcelery   » Sat Aug 24, 2019 12:04 am

runsforcelery
First Space Lord

Posts: 2409
Joined: Sun Aug 09, 2009 10:39 am
Location: South Carolina

This week's snippet!

And while I am posting, congratulations to one of our own for the National Fantasy Fan Federation Speculative Fiction Awards. Some of you may recognize the name of the winner in question:


Best Novel (over 100,000 words)

Against Three Lands, George Phillies (self-published)


And I might add that our own Toni Weisskopf won best book editor!

_______________________________________________________

"Durn tooting," Sharon said.

"Sit down — sit down!" Dvorak urged. "Can we at least offer you two beers?"

"I would like that," Ushakov agreed, slipping into the indicated chair at the very large table.

"Actually, could I have coffee, instead?" Torino asked. Dvorak raised an eyebrow, and the ex-fighter pilot shrugged. "I was a fighter pilot. We lived on that stuff, so if I'm going to pretend that I'm drinking for effect, I might as well pretend I'm getting buzzed on caffeine instead of alcohol."

"The scary thing is that actually makes sense to me," Dvorak said, and both of the visitors chuckled as they settled in at the table.

Not exactly what comes to mind when you think about "vampires," Dvorak reflected as he watched the children — three of his and Sharon's, his niece Keelan, and Zinaida and her younger brothers Boris and Ermolai — swapping greetings (and jokes) with "Uncle Pieter" and "Uncle Daniel." Then again, his mood darkened briefly, none of the kids have ever seen the two of them in an "offer you can't refuse" mode. Except Zinaida, maybe.

He pondered that for a moment, then shook the reflection aside as Morgana and Maighread hopped up to go fetch a bottle of beer for Ushakov and another coffee cup for Torino. He'd have to return to it later, but for right now he could just enjoy having two friends stop by for dinner with the family.

"It's Tuesday," he observed aloud, looking down the table at Malachi when the twins had returned and resumed their seats. The ten-year-old looked back gravely, then bowed his head.

"Thank you for the blessings of this day and of every day, and especially this meal. Amen," he said, and Dvorak nodded in approval.

"And now," he said, "somebody pass the mashed potatoes, please!"

* * * * * * * * * *

Considerably later that evening, Dvorak sat on the cabin's front porch. They'd finally made it past winter, but March nights were cold in the Appalachians and tonight's temperature hovered just below freezing. The porch, however, had acquired a roof and walls of Hegemony crystoplast. The side panels irised obediently open at the touch of a switch if its occupants wanted a breeze, but at the moment they were tightly closed and the porch was a bubble of warmth and light under a high and frigid moon. Despite that, Dvorak sensed the cold hovering outside the warmth, and he shivered as he thought once more about all the people who didn't have heat or light.

"It‘s not your fault," Ushakov said quietly, and Dvorak looked at him. "I have come to know you rather well, Dave. You are brooding again."

"Takes one to know one," Dvorak replied, and Ushakov snorted. But he also nodded, and Dvorak leaned back, looking up through the crystoplast at that icy moon and the tiny glittering dots of the solar collector satellites beaming power down to the electrical grid steadily regenerating itself across the face of the planet. He rather missed the larger, brighter dots which had been the industrial platforms "acquired" from the Shongairi, but he understood why Howell had decided to relocate them to the Lagrange points, especially given the president's ambitious plans for their eventual expansion. Besides, the science-fiction reader in him was tickled by the notion that the L5 Society and its successor, the National Space Society, had been vindicated at last.

"You're right, though," he went on. "I guess I am 'brooding' again. Hard not to, especially with the vantage point I have now from Greensboro. At least things seem to be going pretty well with Agamabichie and Garçāo, and King Henry's turning out to be a hell of a lot more decisive — and influential — than I would've expected. But France is a mess, Poland's worse, and I don't even want to talk about China or India and Pakistan."

"This is a large planet, in case you hadn't noticed," Torino put in, "and the Puppies fucked it up pretty damned thoroughly." His tone was almost whimsical; his green eyes were not. "We're moving as fast as we can, and you're a big part of that, but there's a limit to how quickly we can un-fuck it."

"I know. I know! And I guess that's why I try to get home to Sharon and the kids every weekend. And I have to admit that having my very own air car available helps a lot." Dvorak twitched his head at the small, sleek VTOL vehicle parked in the clear space which had once been their vegetable garden. It was capable of speeds of up to 120 mph on a good road . . . or just over Mach 1 with its configurable wings deployed in swept mode. "When I'm not seeing it as one more perk to feel guilty over, at least."

"Don't you dare get maudlin over my air car," his wife told him as she stepped out onto the porch. Unlike Dvorak, she loathed coffee, so she'd brought along one of her prized and hoarded Sierra Mist soft drink cans.

"Your air car?" Torino asked mildly. "I seem to remember it being issued for official use only."

"My air car," Sharon repeated, seating herself beside her husband on the glider. "They promised me an air car way back at the '64 World's Fair, and they never delivered. Until now."

"I don't think this is quite what they had in mind, Honey," Dvorak said, and it was her turn to snort.

"Don't care, and don't want to hear it," she replied firmly. "Besides, it won't be a lot longer before there're enough of them they won't have to be restricted to 'official use.'"

"True, and another illustration of what I was just telling your husband — known around here as the Gloomy One," Torino said. "Right this minute, it still looks pretty dark, but once we reach the tipping point, things are going to start getting better really, really fast. And we're getting closer to that point every day. Trust me, Pieter and I see plenty of evidence of that out on SAR ops."

"I know, but that's one of the things I really wanted to talk to you two about," Dvorak said, setting his coffee cup on the rattan table at the end of the glider.

"Dave, you promised no business," Sharon said.

"I promised no more business than I could help, Babe." He put his good arm around her and hugged. "And I waited until you had the kids showered and off to bed before I brought up word one about it."

She glowered at him for a moment, torn between actual irritation and worry about the bone-deep fatigue she felt inside him. But then she nodded grudgingly.

"I suppose you did. But you'd better keep this brief and to the point, Buster! You're already up past curfew. So none of your no doubt brilliant but . . . excessively loquacious discourse. Got it?"

"Got it," he agreed.

"What part of Search and Rescue did you want to talk about?" Torino sounded a bit puzzled, and Dvorak didn't blame him. Actual field ops weren't part of the Secretary of State's duties, after all, and the truth was they were going very well.

"I don't know if it's actually anything to worry about or not," he replied a bit slowly, "but if anybody knows about that, it'd probably be you two. And I think it's got Jasmine a little worried — or maybe the word I want is 'uneasy.'"

"You begin to sound a bit ominous," Ushakov observed.

"It's just . . . just that we've been getting a few after-action reports, not so much about the SAR missions as the intervention teams, that are generating a few concerns in Greensboro."

"The intervention ops are bound to be messy sometimes, Dave," Torino said. "The kinds of people we go to call on aren't all like Lutoslawski in Poland or Mitsotakis in Greece. Mostly we're dealing with people like that bastard Beach down in Key West." He shook his head. "The only things people like that understand are examples, and it's going to get worse when we start getting into the real shitholes. The Cartels down in Mexico, for example, once we finally get around to them."

"I know that, and I saw quite a bit of 'messy' right here in North Carolina," Dvorak reminded him, reaching up to rub gently at the shoulder which continued to improve steadily under the nanites' ministrations. "That's not what's worrying anyone."

"Then what does concern them?" Ushakov asked.

"I guess you could say it's an attitudinal thing," Dvorak replied, speaking slowly as he chose his words with care. "Some of the vampires seem to be enjoying their work a bit more than others." Ushakov and Torino frowned, but he continued. "I'm thinking specifically of Cecilia. I hate to say it, but there seems to be an increasing tendency on her part to pull the wings off the flies when she doesn't have to."

"Cecilia is very effective." Ushakov's tone was unnaturally neutral, and Dvorak nodded.

"No question about that," he agreed. "And as Dan just pointed out, the people you've got her dealing with require a pretty big — and graphic — clue stick. Nobody's questioning that. But I'm sure the two of you can understand why people like Pat O'Sullivan and General Landers get a little nervous when someone who seems to be both immortal and indestructible starts . . . looking forward to her work a little too enthusiastically."

He looked very levelly at his guests, both of whom were also apparently immortal and indestructible, and they looked back at him for several of his breaths. Then they glanced at one another, and Torino shrugged very slightly.

"Go ahead." He sounded almost resigned. "You knew we were going to have to tell someone sooner or later. Seems to me Dave might be a good place to start."

"I suppose." Pieter drew a breath and let it out in an audible sigh, then turned back to Dvorak.

"I hope that your concerns about Cecilia prove unnecessary," he said, "but I cannot be as confident of that as I would prefer. Do you, by any chance, remember Vlad saying that he chose more carefully about the vampires he made this time?"

"I don't remember hearing Vlad say that, but Stephen said something like it."

"I am not surprised. Serëženʹka is the closest to him of us all. But the reason he said that was that the first vampires he created are undoubtedly much of the basis for the horrendous stories told of the 'undead.' He himself was not what one might have called excessively rational in those early days, and many of those he brought across in his loneliness were far more unstable than he. In truth, when one considers all that he endured, both before and after his death, it is truly remarkable that he is not the bloodthirsty monster of legend. I think perhaps he was very close to that for some time, yet he pulled himself back from the brink and refused to become — or perhaps I mean that he refused to remain — the thing of darkness he might have been.

"Not all of his 'children' did that." Ushakov's expression was grim. "No doubt some of them had no desire to refuse, given what life had cost them before they ceased to breathe. Vlad was less careful about that in those early days. But even some who could have — who one would think should have — proved most resistant to the dark desire to, as you put it, pull wings off of flies did not. They sank into that darkness, and what one such as we can do in the grip of that madness is truly horrible.

"As I say, he refused to bring across any of the truly broken for his new vampires. Indeed, before Zinaida and her family entered my life, he would probably have refused to bring me across because of the darkness which filled my soul. But before he departed, he warned me, as his deputy here on Earth, and Daniel as my deputy, that some of our kind may descend into the dark rather than climb into the light."

"Meaning what, exactly, Pieter?" Sharon asked quietly.

"Meaning that for some, the change is a gateway to madness." Ushakov's voice was flat. "It may not come upon us overnight, and it affects only a small percentage of us, but when it does, we become the very creatures of the night of legend. Not because we must feed upon our victim's blood, but because we feed upon their fear. Because something in us embraces the power we have to terrify and hurt, and, I think, because when that happens to us we believe we have become superior beings — near gods, perhaps — and that the breathers about us exist only as our toys."

"I remember reading that the common characteristic of almost all serial killers is a lack of empathy," Dvorak said. "That they don't see their victims as fellow human beings. They see them as things, as toys that they can do anything they want to."

"Thank you," Ushakov said softly, then smiled crookedly as Dvorak's eyebrows arched. "Thank you for reminding me that madness and cruelty are part of humanity, not something that emerges only in vampires."

"That's true, but you seem to be talking about some sort of . . . progressive loss of empathy. And maybe something that goes deeper than that. I'm not about to try to psychoanalyze Cecilia or anyone else, but from what you're saying, Pat and Landers' concerns may just be justified. And if they are, what do we — what can we — do about it?"

"For the moment, I think it is probably wisest to leave her where she is," Ushakov said after a moment, and glanced at Torino. "Longbow?"

"I think you're right." Torino looked troubled, but not hesitant. "We both need to keep an eye on her — and having Jasmine as part of that wouldn't be a bad idea. But if this is what Vlad was talking about, the only person who can pull Cecilia back is Cecilia herself. We sure as hell can't. So probably better to leave her with the teams where at least she'll be dealing with the sort of scum most of us won't miss very much at the end of the day."

"And what if that accelerates whatever's happening inside her?" Dvorak asked.

"I do not think it will," Ushakov said. "Not if this is, indeed, the gradual collapse Vlad described to us. That seems to work its way through, either to the final darkness or to the triumph over it that Vlad found, regardless of anything else. And one cannot deny that she is very effective in her work."

"That's certainly one way to put it," Dvorak agreed with a shiver that owed nothing to the mountain night outside the porch as he remembered some of the reports he'd viewed. "And if she does reach the tipping point and goes . . . feral, for want of a better word, on us? What then?"

"If that happens, it will be my job, or Daniel's, to ensure that she is no longer a problem," Ushakov said flatly. "I believe you described her as someone who seems to be both immortal and indestructible, and that was perhaps an even better choice of verb than you realized. Under the right circumstances, we are neither of those things, and if it is necessary to protect others from one of our kind, we will demonstrate that."

His blue eyes were colder than the distant moon, and the iron in his promise was colder still.



.XVIII.
Space Platform Invictus,
L5 Lagrange Point


"What the fu—?!"

Arturo Sanchez looked up from his multifunction displays as Quintin O'Malley cut off the last word of his muttered imprecation. Samantha Twain, their shift supervisor, wasn't what anyone could call prudish. In fact, in most ways, she was a pleasure to work for. But she did object to casual profanity, and the overuse of that particular verb was one of her trigger buttons. O'Malley knew that, and he was usually pretty good about honoring her objections. Which meant something out of the ordinary must have attracted the other controller's attention.
Last edited by runsforcelery on Sat Aug 24, 2019 12:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.


"Oh, bother!" said Pooh, as Piglet came back from the dead.
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Re: Into the Light Snippet #17
Post by gcomeau   » Sat Aug 24, 2019 1:58 am

gcomeau
Admiral

Posts: 2230
Joined: Tue Dec 02, 2014 4:24 pm

Someone was feeling evil when they picked where to end this snippet...
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Re: Into the Light Snippet #17
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Sat Aug 24, 2019 10:49 am

DrakBibliophile
Admiral

Posts: 2277
Joined: Sun Sep 06, 2009 2:54 pm
Location: East Central Illinois

:lol:

gcomeau wrote:Someone was feeling evil when they picked where to end this snippet...
*
Paul Howard (Alias Drak Bibliophile)
*
Sometimes The Dragon Wins! [Polite Dragon Smile]
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Re: Into the Light Snippet #17
Post by csantana183   » Sat Aug 24, 2019 9:56 pm

csantana183
Lieutenant (Junior Grade)

Posts: 28
Joined: Mon Feb 13, 2012 6:57 pm

Really David Really??? on a Saturday.... :evil: :oops: :? :o
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Re: Into the Light Snippet #17
Post by phillies   » Sun Aug 25, 2019 1:02 am

phillies
Vice Admiral

Posts: 1922
Joined: Sat Jun 19, 2010 8:43 am
Location: Worcester, MA

gcomeau wrote:Someone was feeling evil when they picked where to end this snippet...


Nonsense. The Illustrious Author is always the soul of generosity.

With respect to the Illustrious Author's very kind reporting on the Neffy awards, The advantage of being a club that was founded in 1941 is that there are plenty of precedents lying around. The precedent is that fen are assumed to be able to count honestly, so considerably to my surprise I won. It didn't occur to me that anyone would nominate one of my novels, so I created no rule that people were not allowed to nominate me. I was, however, really surprised when I won, because I thought there were several better choices on the short list.

Having said that, given the interesting back and forth a few years back over the Hugos, the N3F reports the winner, not how many votes anyone received, and not the order of completion of the other nominees.

This year I anticipate fnishing two novels, namely Eclipse-The girl Who Saved the World (already out) and Airy Castles All Ablaze (artist is working on cover. I am collecting final comments from omega readers.

Having said that, thank you, David, for your very kind words.
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Re: Into the Light Snippet #17
Post by Lunan   » Mon Aug 26, 2019 5:08 pm

Lunan
Captain (Junior Grade)

Posts: 382
Joined: Sat Aug 08, 2009 8:06 am

yup

gcomeau wrote:Someone was feeling evil when they picked where to end this snippet...
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