Out Of The Dark – Snippet 18

Out Of The Dark – Snippet 18

Chapter .XII.

Major Dan Torino, call sign “Longbow,” loved the F-22 Raptor.

At 5’8″ he was no towering giant (few fighter pilots were) but he had a compact, squared-off frame, a solid, hard-trained muscularity, heavy black eyebrows, a proud nose, and intense gray-green eyes. In many ways, he was an easygoing sort of fellow, but those eyes told the true tale, for the killer instinct of the born fighter pilot ran deep in his blood and bone, as well. Even his dark hair seemed to bristle aggressively when he thought about flying. Well, to be honest, it bristled most of the time, if he ever let his usual “high-and-tight” get out of hand. In fact, it was just plain unruly, and his wife Helen loved to run her fingers through it and tease it into tufts and laugh whenever he let it get a mite long. She called it his “crabgrass tiger look.”

But crabgrass or not, he loved the F-22.

He knew the party line was that the F-35 Lightning II was the way to go, and he was willing to admit that the Joint Strike Fighter Program had (finally) produced a capable medium-range ground support aircraft — which, after all, was what “strike” fighter was all about, wasn’t it? But the sacrifices and trade- offs in the F-35 left the “fighter” part of its designation sucking wind in Torino’s opinion. It wasn’t turning out to be all that much cheaper by the time the dust settled and all the cost overruns were in, either. In fact, if the total buy on the F-22 had been as large as the projected total buy on the F-35, its fly-away price tag per aircraft would actually have been lower.

By any measure he could come up with, the Raptor was still the best air-
superiority fighter in the world. It had the lowest radar signature, it had the
best airborne intercept radar, its new infrared detection system had taken
the lead in IR detection and targeting away from the Russians, and in “supercruise” it was capable of “dry” supersonic flight, without the enormous fuel penalties of afterburner operation. It was seventy-five percent faster than the F-35 in “dry” flight, which gave it a far greater operating radius; in afterburner it could break Mach 2.0 without raising a sweat; and it was just as capable of hitting ground targets — and even better at penetrating defended airspace in the strike role — than the F-35.

Not to mention the fact that the F-22 had been fully operational since 2005 and the F-35 was still lagging behind (badly) on its projected deployment rates. And likewise not to mention the interesting news stories that Congress was now thinking about capping its total production numbers because of cost concerns, as well. In Torino’s opinion, there was a certain bittersweet, ironic justice in that possibility, although anyone who was really surprised by the final outcome of this particular little morality play probably liked to buy bridges and magic beans of questionable provenance, as well.

The truth was that the real reason Raptor production had been capped at less than two hundred aircraft was that no one had expected to be going up against other fifth-generation fighter operators anytime soon. They had expected to be dropping bombs and precision guided munitions on ground targets in lower-intensity conflicts in places like Afghanistan, however — thus the emphasis on the Lightning and its ability to defeat ground defense systems, like SAMs and anti-aircraft fire, rather than other fighters. Besides, with only so many dollars in the till, not even the U.S. military could afford to buy everything it wanted, and the F-35 had a lot more “jointness” going for it. The Navy and Marines badly needed a replacement for the A-6, F/A-18, and Harrier, and this way they got to buy at least some of their aircraft on the Air Force’s nickel. Then there were all of the other nations which had been brought into the procurement program, helping to spread the cost burden, whereas Congress had specifically prohibited the overseas sale of the F-22.

All of which explained why “Longbow” Torino had felt incredibly lucky when he found out he was going to be one of the pilots who actually got to fly the aircraft. He’d taken Helen and the kids out and blown the better part of two hundred bucks on a celebratory dinner when he found out he’d been assigned to the First Air Wing’s 27th Fighter Squadron. After his wedding and the days his children were born, it had been the greatest day of his life.

A life which suddenly felt unspeakably empty as he sat in the uncomfortable plastic chair, staring down at his hands, trying to wrap his mind around the impossible.

He and three other pilots had been unceremoniously turfed out of their billets at Langley Air Force Base three days earlier. Colonel Ainsborough, the First’s CO, claimed he’d chosen Torino to lead the four-ship detachment because the major was the best man for the job. Personally, Torino had been inclined to take that with a grain of salt, but he hadn’t complained, even though it did mean he was going to miss his older son’s birthday. In the wake of what was rumored to have been a truly massive penetration of DoD’s secure databases (and, if the even more quietly whispered rumors were accurate, almost all of their allies’ databases, as well), it made sense to deploy at least some of their air defense assets to bases that weren’t in any of the upper tier contingency plans, and somebody had to take the duty.

Which was how Torino, Captain “Killer” Cunningham, his wingman, two other 27th Squadron pilots, and a maintenance section had found themselves “stationed” at the Plattsburgh International Airport. Once upon a time, Plattsburgh International had been Plattsburgh Air Force Base. Most of the Air Force buildings were still there, although they’d been converted to civilian use, and its twelve-thousand-foot concrete runway was more than adequate to the needs of an F-22.

And because it was, Torino and his fellow pilots were still alive . . . for now, at least.

Funny how that seemed so much less important than it would have been three days ago.

He raised his head, looking around the improvised ready room. The other three pilots sat equally silent, equally wrapped in their own grim thoughts. None of them knew how bad it really was, but they knew enough. They knew Langley and the rest of the wing — and their families — were gone. They knew Washington had been destroyed, and that neither the president nor the vice president had gotten out. They knew Shaw Air Force Base, the Ninth Air Force’s home base, had been destroyed, taking with it the command-and-control element of the eastern seaboard’s air defenses. They knew Vandenberg, Nellis, and at least another dozen Air Force bases were gone. They knew Fort Bragg was gone, along with Fort Jackson, Fort Hood, Fort Rucker, Navy Air Station Oceana, NAS Patuxent River, Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, MCAS Beaufort….

The list went on forever. In one cataclysmic afternoon of deadly accurate, pinpoint strikes, the United States of America had been annihilated as a military power, and God only knew how many millions of American citizens had died in the process. Against that, what could a single woman and three children matter… even if their last name had been Torino?

He looked back down at his hands. As far as he knew, he and his three pilots were all that was left of Air Combat Command. They were it, and against whoever had done this, four fighters — even four Raptors — weren’t going to stop them when they followed up their attack.

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32 Responses to Out Of The Dark – Snippet 18

  1. robert says:

    Is this the whole snippet or did some of it get lost?

  2. 4th Dimension says:

    Yeah. It’s only 1300 words long. Couple of paragraphs are missing.

  3. Elim Garak says:

    Huh. I wonder if Cheyenne Mountain is gone as well. Shouldn’t be too hard, I guess, considering that it was designed to survive a multi-megaton hit within 1.5 miles (according to Wikipedia). OTOH I would be very surprised if that is the best protected secret base, considering that Cheyenne is so well known, and has been built way back in 1960s.

    Also, what about the Russian Dead Hand system? That’s a semi-automatic automatic trigger that fires nukes when some central signal is gone – like when Moscow is taken out or something. The Russian version may be based on top of the UVB-76 radio station and has been running since 1982. I suspect that there is an equivalent system in US, although it would also have a human backup in the control loop.

  4. Also, there was a contract let — it was in my local paper — to add an extra mile down to the NORAD base location. This was back about the time the Russians tested the TsarBomba, even though period coverage did not emphasize that the device was air dropped. Enough rocks will make it go away, but there will be collateral damage. There is also the gadget to talk with submarines, whose protection is that it is rather spread out.

    One might be surprised that only a few aircraft or submarines were dispersed this way.

    Of course, by the apparent alien standard the most rational government in the world is perhaps the North Korean. This is not meant as a positive reference to Kim and his fellow lunatics.

    And referring back several episodes: The virtue of optical is that there is no traceable electrical field as the signal runs along it. Of course, the aliens will have their own gadgets.

  5. Drak Bibliophile says:

    4th Dimension, 1310 words but who’s counting. [Wink]

    Seriously, this is a long chapter and I wanted it to be the final chapter.

    There are only three more snippets remaining.

  6. Tim says:

    Seriously, re-fighting the F-22/F-35 debate? This book will look seriously dated in a decade if it keeps including this kind of stuff.

    And I’m not a big fan of the theory that survivalists would be a useful component of any post-apocalyptic future. The problem there is that humans advance when we act together, and a survivalist-centered America will be hopelessly fragmented, with each group suspicious of all others and convinced their way is the only right one. This belief would be heavily validated by the fact they survived when so many others did not, but it would only harden the tendency to act in each groups’ self-interest without compromise. You see people standing around the city center paralysed? I see heavily armed rural groups raiding each other until nothing useful remains.

  7. alejo says:

    Extremely interesting point, Tim. If you think about it for a bit, it makes perfect sense. Think of all the hunter gatherer soticeties that still lived as if they werein the stone age right up into the end of the last century. For that matter, there are still a few of them out there. Fragmented groups never advance because they are insular and self-interested. When societies aggregate, our species’ social stengths in particular our ability to, as I believe Newton put it, “stand on the shoulders of giants” comes to the fore. Sirvivalist stories make for good reading though. Drak, will this book be on webscriptions?

  8. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Alejo, I think you and Tim “underestimate” survivalists.

    IMO survivalists would be “places of order” in a chaotic situation and would be the “seeds” of a new society.

    Of course, I hope we don’t have to find out (in the Real World) which view is correct. [Grin]

    As for this book showing up in WebScriptions, I’m afraid not.

    It is a TOR Book and the owners of TOR decided against having TOR ebooks on Webscriptions.

    It will be out as an ebook on the 28th.

  9. Tim says:

    We agree to disagree, but we also agree that God willing we’ll never know who was correct.

  10. Scott says:

    @6 you’re right to a point but I think that surviving members of the military command structure will use such groups to rebuild. Groups that don’t play nice with others will not reciev support/training and will eventually run out of goodies and dissolve. As the resistance gains some successes members will flow away from such groups to those who cooperate.

  11. Verulamius says:

    8 Drak

    Will the ebook be available to us in the UK, or are the DRM limiting access to US readers?

  12. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Scott, who says there enough of the “military command structure” left to rebuild or support the resistance? [Evil Grin]

    Seriously, IMO this isn’t really a “survivalist” story.

  13. Scott says:

    Drak, no fair! *grin*
    On another point, I figure that the f22’s will get one flight in before they are toast.
    Question is how much damage can they do if any? If they were loaded with nukes and were able to hit a major landing zone. . .

  14. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Now Scott, do you really want me to answer that? [Grin]

  15. Scott says:

    I can wait thanks, be hard though!
    I’ll be interested to see how David fits vampires in, he’s done something like it before in the War God’s Own series with an aslav and marines I think fighting demons, can’t remember the stories name, but it worked.

  16. TimC says:

    TOR ebooks- do they require us to set the reader up with digital rights mgt or are they simple, straightforward and sensible like Baen? (not that I am expressing a preference you know but so far the ONLY books I have bought for the Sony have been Baen because I can’t be a***d (english abbreviation) to fiddle around with copy protect!)

  17. Drak Bibliophile says:

    TimC, the TOR ebooks are DRM protected.

  18. @13

    Do you…

    Three obvious choices here:


    MERCY ME, Yes!

    Pretty please with extra chocolate?

  19. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Verulamius, I don’t know anything about that. [Frown]

    George, DW just replaced the batteries in my snerk collar. [Wink]

  20. robert says:

    @7 The ebooks from TOR are only available for the Kindle, iPad, nook, Kobo, and Sony Reader. They are not downloadable directly to a computer (heh). This book’s ebook price is $12.99. But you can now get “Off Armageddon Reef,” for example, for $2.99.

    Amazon UK does not have a Kindle version of this listed.

  21. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Robert, I have purchased ebooks from Amazon (Kindle), B&N online (Nook), KoboBooks and the Sony Store.

    I was able to get those ebooks downloaded to my computer.

  22. hank says:

    @15 Scott. Story was a Novella entitled “Sword Brother” & included in the Trade paper reissue of “Oath of Swords” (January , 2007)
    I’m still waiting for one of the “at least seven more books” Mr. Weber mentioned in the foreword… :)
    A diet of just Honor and Safehold, while filling, lacks a certain spice, IMHO

  23. Rocky says:

    I started reading the snippet and wondered what the frack was going on until I realized that I was reading the snippet for 1635: The Eastern Front. :)

    Anyway, it seems to me that just 4 F22 survived the initial strike is a bit low. What I’m wondering what happened to the satellite infrastructure, did that get hit too?

  24. TimC says:

    @22 Now now Hank, some of us would be happy of a diet of Honor, safehold and a few vampires. I am sure Lois McM Bujold found her sword and sorcery volumes were good sellers but she lost a reader after a couple of them, now I am waiting for the next Vorkosigan. Similarly with DW, other writers cater for the dragon enthusiasts, no one else writes the military sf of his quality. (anyone else seen the sf review site which graded Shannara at 6 in a range of 1 (good) to 5 (awful)?)

  25. Elim Garak says:

    Come on vampires! I am guessing the vampire sub-plot (if it ever happens) will go in one of three possible directions:

    A. Dracula (or some other vamp) has been asleep for the last couple of hundred years in some castle or cave, but now the nukes woke him up. And he is pissed.
    B. Modern vampires are basically humans infected with a mutagenic virus of some sort. They are sophisticated, but don’t mess with the real world or walk around openly. This brings them to the surface however.
    C. Vampirism is a result of some sort of bioweapon released by the aliens.

    I am hoping for A or B – or a combination of those two.

  26. Guy-Francis says:

    Macmillan/TOR’s new release ebooks are avialable for kindle for the pc, but only inside the US. Indeed as far as I can tell Macmillan don’t make any ebooks newer than about 2005 available outside the US.

    The anoying thing about this – as opposed to Baen’s commercially forward looking approach – is that it tells any non-American that doesn’t want to buy a hardcopy that Macmillan doesn’t want their business. I haven’t bought a hardcopy since Webscriptions was launched and have converted all my hardcopy novels to ebook and then thrown away the hardcopy. Lots of saved shelf space that way!

    My bebook doesn’t support any particular retailer, runs almost every format including Amazon’s mobi, but doesn’t like DRM.

    I won’t pirate books; authors get paid little enough without suffering because their publishers are greedy idiots flogging a dead business model. The result is having to jump through hoops to just be able to pay an author for a product he wants to sell.

    I do buy US kindle ebooks, through a friend in Idaho, and under Australian fair use laws I can legally strip the DRM so i can read them on my bebook. It is a pain in the rear-end though.

    Have never gotten a response from Macmillan to my complaints about their policy of trying to screw forgien customers. I’d much rather DW released everything through Baen.

  27. Guy-Francis says:

    @6 the F-22/F-35 debate is stilling ongoing down here. I get the feeling – from official and unofficial comments from the RAAF and defence officials – we’d really much rather replace our F18s and F111s with F-22’s if only the US will let us. As it is we will end up with an inferior aircraft for almost as much money and nowhere near the air superiority over the rest of the region as we have been able to maintain historically.

  28. Thirdbase says:

    @ 23, As I read it, he was dispersed with 4 F22s at his location, at other locations, there are probably other F22s and fighters.

  29. gjk says:

    Hmm… Plattsburgh…

    one of the few small cities with alot of large shopping centers, lots of airline service, Amtrak service, lots of intercity bus service… all the major networks, including two PBS stations… and isn’t a suburb of something else

    as for F-22’s I hope this isn’t supposed to be some miracle where F-22s are undetectable to the alien powers… Otherwise, it’d be better just to use F-15s and F-18E’s – easier to build and maintain, the stealth skin won’t delaminate because it wasn’t stored in a hangar properly…

  30. Tim says:

    Yes, I’ve seen that certain members of the military aviation community in Australia are convinced that nothing short of the F-22 will do, although I found their pronouncements a bit hyperbolic. The Japanese, too, were said to be disappointed.

    Until we see more capable competitors, though, I still think the F-35 meets far more of the actual needs of a Western air force than the F-22.

  31. Guy-Francis says:

    @30 if and when it gets delivered, at what price. At this point in time we are going to end up paying more than we would have for F22s when you consider the extra FA18s we have bought and the time we put into keeping the F111s and the older FA18s in service. Something to be said for buying S30s and upgrading the electronics.

  32. Daryl says:

    @30 and @31, just how many of us on here are Aussies? As a retired aerospace Defence Aussie I wonder if we mightn’t have been better off just getting the old F111s copied by someone like Mitsubishi; using modern materials, missiles and avionics. Not stealthy but quick with a massive range and load. Just joking on that; but the F22 is best against cutting edge interceptors, while the F35 is more versatile. Pity the Eurofighter doesn’t have more range. On the subject of survivalists I’m personally in an excellent survivalist situation by chance simply because of my history and living preferences, but the real ideological survivalists I’ve met appear to be a little strange and wouldn’t be what I’d opt to use as the core of a new society.

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