Out Of The Dark – Snippet 17

Out Of The Dark – Snippet 17

Chapter .XI.

One more cannonball while I’m trying to cook here, and someone isn’t getting any hamburgers!” Dave Dvorak said ominously, turning to look over his shoulder at the water-plastered head of dark hair which had just bobbed back to the surface of the swimming pool.

His outsized stainless-steel gas grill was parked on the wooden deck at the deep end of the pool. The deck was separated from the pool itself by a four-foot flagstoned surround, and one wouldn’t normally have thought a slender, nine- year-old female could have produced sufficient spray to reach him. His daughter, however, had risen to new heights — not to mention new elevations off the diving board — and the brisk breeze sweeping across the pool had carried him a hefty dollop of chlorine-scented rain.

“Sorry, Daddy!”

Morgana Dvorak’s contrition didn’t sound especially sincere, her male parental unit noted. She was the smaller of the twins — although there wasn’t a lot to choose, height-wise, between her and her sister Maighread — which seemed to have imbued her with an automatic need to test the limits more than either of her two siblings. Maighread was just as capable of working her way towards a desired objective by any means necessary, but she preferred indirection (not to say sneakiness, of course) rather than head-on confrontation. Their younger brother, Malachai, was even more . . . straightforward than Morgana, of course. He didn’t so much “test the limits” as charge straight at them. Morgana undoubtedly pushed more rules than he did, but nobody could have pushed the ones he did any harder. Probably because he shared his mother’s red hair. That was Dvorak’s explanation, at any rate. Sharon, on the other hand, was fonder of the explanation which had been offered by one of their friends who also happened to be a child psychologist. Malachai, she’d said, was physically a clone of his mother… but psychologically he was his father in miniature.

An explanation which was patent nonsense in Dvorak’s considered opinion, thank you. And one which made him contemplate a thirteen-year-old Malachai with a distinct sense of dread.

“Yeah, sure you’re sorry!” he told his errant daughter as she trod water, and she giggled. Unmistakably, she giggled. “You just bear in mind what I said, young lady.” He shook his spatula in her direction. “And if you’re not careful, I’ll cook your burger all the way through, too — turn it into one of those hockey pucks your uncle likes!”

“Hey, now!” Rob Wilson objected from where he reclined, beer in hand, in a folding chaise lounge strategically located upwind of the grill. “Cooking is good. Just because you like your food raw doesn’t mean smart people do.”

“There’s a difference between cooked and charcoal, you Philistine,”
Dvorak retorted. “I’m just grateful I managed to rescue my children from
your unnatural fascination with things that go crunch.”

“Rescue them? Is that what you call brainwashing them into eating sushi?” Wilson demanded.

“Sushi? Did someone say sushi? Yum!” Maighread Dvorak put in. She’d just come out of the house, carrying a platter of buns. Her younger brother and her cousin Keelan came behind her, carrying potato salad, pickles, lettuce,
and sliced tomatoes and onion rings. Morgana had deposited the mayonnaise, mustard, and ketchup on the picnic table before launching herself into the pool, and Sharon and Veronica Wilson brought up the rear with iced tea, soft drinks, and what looked like a wheelbarrow load of potato chips.

“Unnatural, that’s what it is,” Wilson said, smiling at his niece. “Fish isn’t food to begin with, even when it’s cooked. But raw?” He shook his head. “Next thing, you’ll be expecting me to eat vegetables!”

“Potatoes are vegetables,” Dvorak pointed out, “and you eat — what? Nine or ten pounds? Twenty? — of them a week!”

“While I always hate coming to Rob’s defense, potatoes aren’t vegetables,” his wife corrected him. He cocked an eyebrow at her, and she shrugged. “Potatoes,”
she explained, “are a traditional Irish delicacy whose ancient pedigree and lineage place them in a unique category, transcending the limitation of mere ‘vegetables.’ Besides, they have very little of that chlorophyll stuff that gives all those other vegetables such a strange taste. Or that’s what I’ve been told causes it, anyway. I don’t eat enough of them to know, myself.”

“You shouldn’t encourage him, you know,” Dvorak said. “Vegetables are good for you.”

“Vegetables,” his brother-in- law riposted, “are what food eats before it becomes food.”

“Carnivore!” Dvorak snorted.

“Me, too! Me, too!” Morgana put in from the pool. “I agree with Uncle Rob! But keep mine pink in the middle, Daddy.”

“Of course I will,” Dvorak assured her. He slid the current crop of sizzling meat patties to one end of the grill, over a lower flame, and began flipping fresh burgers onto the high- temperature end. “We’ll just let your mother’s and your uncle’s sit down here and cure into proper jerky while ours cook properly.”

“Don’t let mine get dried out,” Alec Wilson, Rob’s grown son, put in.

“Yeah? Well, in that case, you’d better come down here and start building your burger now,” Dvorak invited. “Certain lazy people — I mention no spouses or brothers-in-law in particular, you understand — are going to lie about until the overworked cook gets around to building theirs for them, so they’ll just have to take theirs the way they get them.”

“Nonsense, I’m sure my wife will look after me just fine, thank you,” Wilson said.

“I hate to break this to you,” Veronica told him, “but I’m afraid I’m going to be too busy swimming to take care of that for you.” She smiled sweetly at him. “Sorry about that.”

“Wait a minute,” Wilson protested, sitting up in the chaise lounge, “you know I can’t cook! You’re supposed to –”

The side door onto the pool deck slammed suddenly open, so violently every head turned towards it. Jessica Wilson, Alec’s wife, stood staring out of it, and her eyes were wide.

“Jessica?” Sharon’s tone was sharpened by sudden concern. “What’s wrong, honey?”

“The TV.” There was something odd about Jessica’s voice. It sounded . . . flattened. Almost crushed. “The TV just said –” She paused and drew a deep breath. “Somebody’s attacking us!”


The entire Dvorak-Wilson clan clustered around the big- screen TV. Dave Dvorak sat in his La-Z-Boy recliner with his daughters in his lap and Sharon perched on the chair arm. Malachai was in his mother’s lap, and Dave’s right arm was around both of them. Rob Wilson stood beside the coffee table, quivering with too much anger and intensity to sit, and Veronica, Keelan, Alec, and Jessica sat huddled together on the long couch.

“…still coming in,” the ashen-faced reporter on the screen was saying. “Repeating what we already know, many American cities have been attacked. The exact extent of damage is impossible to estimate at this point, but we’ve lost all communications with our affiliates in Washington, DC, Los Angeles, San Diego, Atlanta, and several smaller cities. Indications are that the continental United States has been attacked with nuclear weapons. I repeat, with nuclear –”

His image disappeared abruptly, replaced by the insignia of the Department
of Homeland Security.

“This is an emergency broadcast,” a flat, mechanical voice said. “A nationwide
state of emergency is now in effect. All active duty and reserve military personnel are instructed to report to –”

Dvorak pressed the button on the remote, and the TV went dead.

“What the fuck do you thin –?!” his brother-in-law snarled, turning on him with atypical fury.

“Shut up, Rob,” Dvorak said flatly. Wilson gaped at him, red-faced with anger, but Dvorak continued in that same flat voice. “I don’t know what’s happening,” he said, “but just from what we’ve already heard, it’s pretty damn obvious somebody’s kicked the shit out of the United States. God knows who it is, but if they’ve managed to hit that many cities simultaneously, then it sure as hell isn’t the Iranians! And whoever it is, and whatever they’re after, things are going to go to hell in a hand basket pretty damn quick. So instead of sitting around watching TV and hoping somebody will tell us what’s happening, we need to get our asses in gear. This is exactly what you and I have been working on the cabin for the last three years!”

Wilson closed his mouth with a click. Then he shook himself, like a dog shaking off water, and made himself draw a deep breath.

“You’re right,” he said. “How do you want to handle it?”

“Well, we’re lucky as hell we’re all here in one spot,” Dvorak said. He stood, easing his frightened daughters out of his lap and settling them in the chair he’d vacated. Then he reached out and cupped the side of Sharon’s face in his right hand. “The fact that we are all here means we don’t have to go start collecting people, at least.”

He let his eyes circle the faces of the adult members of the family, then looked down at the children and smiled as reassuringly as he could before he returned his gaze to his wife’s face.

“Sharon, Rob and I will get the Outback hitched to the van. While we’re doing that, you and Ronnie get organized to clean out the pantry and the gun safe. Then shove anything else you can think of that might be useful in on top of that. Keep your PSN90 and a couple of the twelve-gauges out and loaded.” His expression was grim. “I hope you won’t need them, but if you do, I want you to have something heftier than your Taurus.”

She looked at him silently for a moment, then nodded, and he turned to Alec.

“Alec, I need you to stay here and help Ronnie and Sharon get that organized.
Most people’re probably going to be sitting around, too shocked and too busy wondering what the hell’s happening to make trouble for anyone else — for a while yet, at least — but we can’t be sure of that. So keep an eye out. And get my Browning auto out of the gun safe. I don’t want anybody shot if we can help it, and it may be silly and chauvinistic, but a lot of the kind of people who’d make trouble are less likely to push it if they see a man with a twelve-gauge standing in front of them than if they see an armed woman even if she’s got a Ma Deuce. Stupid of them, but stupid people can kill you just as dead as smart people.”

Alec nodded, and Dvorak gazed into his eyes for another moment, then drew a deep breath.

“And, Alec,” he said, his voice much softer, “if somebody does make trouble, don’t hesitate. Warn them off if you can, but if you can’t…”

“Understood.” Alec’s voice was equally quiet, and Dvorak turned to Wilson’s daughter-in-law, who worked with him and his brother-in-law at the shooting range.

“Jess, I want you to come with me and Rob. We’ll hitch the big trailer to
my truck and go clean out the range before someone else gets any bright ideas about helping themselves to the stock.”

She nodded. Her color was stronger than it had been, although it was obvious she was still more than a little frightened.

“What about the dogs, Daddy?” Maighread asked. Her voice quivered around the edges from the obvious tension and fear of the adults around her, but she was trying hard to be brave, and Dvorak’s heart melted inside him as he looked down at her.

“Don’t worry, honey,” he said, managing — somehow — to keep his own voice steady as he ran his hand lightly over her hair. “They’re covered under the plan, too. But speaking of the dogs,” he went on, turning to his wife again, “don’t forget to break down their crates and stack them in the trailer somehow.”

“Anything else you’d like to suggest?” Sharon Dvorak retorted with something like her usual spirit. “Like maybe that I should remember to bring along my hiking boots? Or pack along all the stuff in the medicine cabinets? Stick my Swiss Army knife in my pocket?”

“Actually,” he put his arms around her, letting his chin rest on the top of her head, “all of those sound like really good ideas. Be kind to them — they’re in a strange place.”

He “oofed” as she poked him — hard — in the pit of the stomach, then stood back and looked at all the others again.

“Go ahead and switch the TV back on while you work, if you want, but don’t let yourself get mesmerized watching it. We need to move — move quickly — and there’ll be time to figure out what’s going on after we get ourselves safely to the cabin. Clear?”

Heads nodded, and he nodded back, then looked at Wilson and Jessica.

“Let’s go get those trailers hitched,” he said.

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22 Responses to Out Of The Dark – Snippet 17

  1. Jared says:

    Interesting…so it seems this family has a little hidey hole already in place. Also, this is the kind of dialogue I’ve come to love about Weber. Brings me back to the good ol’ Honor Harrington Series.

  2. PharMed2016 says:

    I know what you mean. Can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of this new book… probably won’t be until after my test which is probably for the better, lol.

  3. Summercat says:

    Wait, is this book ‘Survivalists Save The World’?

  4. Lars says:

    no, i don’t think so.
    More as:
    if you have room to run and hide.. then do it
    if you have weapons, use them to your defense
    and have some good plans is always good.

    sadly this plan will work not for everybody

  5. Scott says:

    @3 yes, everyone else is in a city practicing being a target.
    When you think about it people who are prepared psychologically not just material wise are more likely to survive an invasion as described in this book. Following people who’s purpose is to be turned in to radioactive ashes would not make for an interesting read, maybe as window dressing but no more.

  6. Summercat says:

    “Burn in Hell, Nathan Holn.” Across a dark continent it was a common liturgy.

    /Might have misremembered the exact phrasing.

  7. Elim Garak says:

    Interesting – are these nukes nukes or KEW “nukes”? As in big rocks?

    Also, can’t wait for the vampires. That should clear up this whole survivalist gun nut thing.

  8. tsmock says:

    I wonder what their exact reasons were for building the Cabin in the first place.
    It would be interesting to see if they were avid Science Fiction readers and had looked at the Drake equation, or if they figured that someone, somewhere would decide to nuke the United States.

    @7 It would be interesting to know if they are nuclear bombs or KEW’s. Chances are, however, that they were basically big rocks-its cheaper than hauling nukes from wherever the Shongari come from, and they don’t have to deal with the economic costs of radiation cleanup. On the other hand, looking at their level of technology, it is possible that they might have brought nukes anyway, but then a KEW accelerated to near-light speeds is going to be far more effective than a nuke, and it appears that they have FTL travel, so they should be able to accelerate big rocks to speeds which would have a nuke-like impact.

  9. Bryan says:

    @7 Don’t expect newsies to know the difference between a nuke and a KEW. At least not untill someone runs some tests and starts doing press releases.

  10. Elim Garak says:

    @8 – I guess, although I would think that the difference would be pretty obvious. At the very least there would have to be a streak of light – a visible meteorite trail. I am also wondering how many many attack platforms there are – that should be possible to discover by looking at the directions of the attack trails.

  11. Robert H. Woodman says:

    @9 – Elim, I imagine that right now with the major cities and military bases taken out most people are not thinking about looking at the directions of the attack trails. They’re just interested in surviving and finding out what’s going on. Also, I doubt anyone is thinking that aliens from outer space are attacking. They’re wondering what nation on Earth is attacking and why.

  12. Scott says:

    Well, the news networks are still working which would for me say that this attack was different. Afterall the electromagnetic pulses produced by nukes are well known. Don’t think I would assume an alien invasion based on what was known from news reports, I’d have to wait for the orbital drop ships to start unloading. It appears that some control still exists though how long it will last only DW and Drack know!

  13. evilauthor says:

    You know, given the lack of vampires so far, I can’t help but wonder if there are actually no real vampires in this story at all, that the “vampires” are just tall tales being told to the Shongairi, and the Shongairi believing them because of all the resistance they’re getting.

  14. @10

    Streak of light…how is this supposed to be different than a re-entering ICBM warhead?

  15. Ric says:

    @8 – there’s a streak of light with a nuclear missile also. Look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Peacekeeper-missile-testing.jpg

  16. @12

    These are low altitude explosions, which do not raise EMP issues. as demonstrated by the large number of above-ground nuclear and thermonuclear tests of some decades past. EMP was observed with the one high-altitude test visible from Hawaii.

  17. Virgil says:

    Rock timewise make no sense, but KEW do. Simply shoot a 1-3 ton missled to a very large percentage of light what is the energy out put 1 or 2 would take out most major cities in USA and do a job on buckers .
    Will any major hits with nuke would really mess up the radio waves.

    oh its vampire beats the alien invaders. After they wake up from having their homes and food supply depleted they are going to be really piss.

  18. Daryl says:

    Heinlein did the prepared survivalist family subplot in various ways many years ago, then (among others) Niven in Footfall, Ringo with the Pozleens, and the Emberverse by Stirling does it well also. I have this vision of about 90% of the population waiting outside vacant government offices and fast food joints for someone to come along and fix things.

  19. robert says:

    @18 Heinlein did it in Analog if I remember (so long ago) and it was Russians not aliens as I recall. Um..”recall” is overstating it.

  20. Alejo says:

    One little famine and the world forgets something. Potatoes, sweet or otherwise are *not* Irish. They are south American. The land whence they first came to be exported form to Europeans was Tawantinsuyu (Land of the four corners) also called Beiru. Peru nowadays. Before the 1500’s, the Gael ate cabbage.

    Imai nayam

  21. Randy says:

    Not only are there vampires, but good only Vlad Tepes is back and enjoying his favorite form of entertainment.

  22. Alejo says:

    Oh, yes, and I do hope that this book is about the survivalist gun nuts saving the world. Sounds so much better to me than vampires. I mean, … vampires! I don’t think this is a tale that would acommodate itself well to the meeting of fantasy and science fiction. For that, you want the Liaden Universe or DW’s own Hell’s Gate series.

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