Home > Twilight Watch (Watch #3)(16)

Twilight Watch (Watch #3)(16)
Author: Sergei Lukyanenko

In what way were we really better after all? Scheming, fighting, deceiving? I needed the answer, I needed it once again. And not from the smart-aleck Gesar, with his way of weaving words into fancy lace patterns. And not from myself, either -  I didn't trust myself anymore. I needed the answer from someone I did trust.

But I also needed to understand how Gesar had tricked the Inquisition.

Because if he had sworn on the Light, and lied... Then what was I fighting for?

"Aw, to hell with the..." I began and stopped short. Don't curse - they taught us that in the first few days after initiation. And I'd almost let rip...

Let the whole business be. Just let it be.

At that moment someone rang the doorbell - as if they'd guessed this was a bad time for me to be left on my own.

"Yes!" I shouted right across the room, remembering that I hadn't locked the door.

The door opened a bit and my neighbor Las stuck his head in. He glanced around and asked, "Okay to come in? I'm not interrupting anything?"

"No, that's fine, come in."

Las walked into the room and took another look around. He said, "Nah, it's not so bad in here... only you need to get a toilet installed... Okay if I grab a quick shower? Now or this evening... I really enjoyed it."

I stuck my hand in my pocket and felt for my bunch of keys. Imagined the keys swelling and splitting...

I tossed Las the new set.

"Here, catch!"

"What are these for?" Las asked, inspecting them.

"I have to go away. Use the place in the meantime."

"Oh no, the first straight-up guy to move in..." said Las, disappointed. "What a drag. Are you leaving soon?"

"Right away," I said. I'd suddenly realized how much I wanted to see Svetka and Nadya. "Maybe I'll be back again."

"And maybe not?"

I nodded.

"What a drag," Las repeated, moving closer. "I saw your disk player somewhere around the place... here."

I took the disk.

" 'Combat Implants,'" Las explained. "My album. Only don't play it when there are women or children present."

"I won't." I twirled the disk in my hands. "Thanks."

"Have you got problems or something?" Las asked. "Pardon me if I'm sticking my nose in, but you're looking pretty low..."

"No, it's nothing," I said, shaking myself. "I'm just missing my daughter. I'll go in a minute... she's with my wife at the dacha, and I've got all this work to do here..."

"A sacred duty," Las said approvingly. "A child must not be left without attention. At least if her mother's with her, that's the most important thing."

I looked at Las.

"The mother's most important for a child," Las said, with the air of a Vysotsky, Piaget, or some other doyen of child psychology. "It's biologically determined. What we males mostly do is take care of the female. And the female takes care of the child."

I was let into Timur Borisovich's apartment without any arguments. The bodyguards looked perfectly okay and they probably didn't have the slightest idea about recent events.

Gesar and his newfound son were drinking tea in the study. The study was large. I'd even be tempted to call it substantial, with a massive desk and heaps of all sorts of amusing trinkets on the shelves of the antique cabinets. It was amazing how similar their tastes were. Timur Borisovich's study was remarkably like his father's office.

"Come in, young man," Timur Borisovich said, and smiled at me. "You see, everything's been worked out."

He cast a quick glance at Gesar. "He's still young, hotheaded..."

"That's for sure," Gesar said with a nod. "What's happened, Anton?"

"I need to have a word," I said. "In private."

Gesar sighed and looked at his son. His son stood up:

"I'll go see my blockheads. No point in them polishing the seats of their pants here. I'll find them something to do."

Timur Borisovich went out, and I was left alone with Gesar.

"Well, what's happened, Gorodetsky?" Gesar asked wearily.

"Can we speak freely?"

"Yes."

"You didn't want to see your son become a Dark Magician, did you?" I asked.

"Would you like to see your Nadiushka as a Dark Enchantress?" said Gesar, answering a question with a question.

"But Timur was certain to have become a Dark One," I went on. "You needed to be granted the right to his remoralization. And for that the Dark Ones or, even better, the Inquisition, had to panic and apply unreasonable force to your son."

"And that's what happened," said Gesar. "All right Gorodetsky, are you trying to accuse me of anything?"

"No, I'm trying to understand."

"You saw me swear on the Light. I hadn't met Timur before. I didn't promise him anything, I didn't send the letters. And I didn't engage anyone to do these things."

No, Gesar wasn't making excuses. And he wasn't trying to pull the wool over my eyes. It was as if he were setting out the terms of a problem - waiting with relish to see what answer his pupil would give.

"Witezslav only needed to ask one more question," he said. "But apparently that question was too human for him..."

Gesar flapped his eyelids as if he were rehearsing a nod.

"The mother," I said.

"Witezslav killed his own mother," Gesar explained. "Not with deliberate intent. He was a young vampire and he couldn't control himself. But... ever since then he tries not even to pronounce that word."

"Who is Timur's mother?"

"There ought to be a name in the file."

"There could be any name at all in the file. It says that Timur's mother disappeared at the end of the war... but I know a female Other who spent the time since then in the body of a bird. As far as people knew, she had died."

Gesar didn't say anything.

"Could you really not find him any sooner?"

"We were sure that Timka had died," Gesar said quietly. "Olga was the one who didn't want to accept it. And when she was rehabilitated, she went on looking..."

"She found her son. And she made him a rash promise," I concluded.

"It's permissible for women to give way to their feelings," Gesar said dryly. "Even the wisest of women. And men exist to protect their woman and their child. To organize everything on a serious, rational basis."

I nodded.

"Do you blame me?" Gesar asked curiously. "Anton?"

"Who am I to blame you?" I asked. "I have a daughter who's a Light Other. And I wouldn't want to let the Darkness have her."

"Thank you, Anton." Gesar nodded and visibly relaxed. "I'm glad you understand that."

"I just wonder how far you would have gone for your son and Olga," I said. "You know Svetlana had a premonition? Some kind of danger for me."

Gesar shrugged. "Premonitions are pretty unreliable things."

"What if I'd decided to tell the Inquisition the truth," I went on. "Decided to leave the Watch and join the Inquisition... What then?"

"You didn't leave," Gesar said. "Despite all Witezslav's hints. What else, Anton? I can tell you've got another question on the tip of your tongue."

"How did your son turn out to be an Other?" I asked. "It's a lottery. It's rare for a family of Others to have a child who's an Other."

"Anton, either go to Witezslav and present him with your conclusions," Gesar said in a low voice, "or beat it and go back to Svetlana, as you were planning to do. Spare me this interrogation."

"Aren't you afraid the Inquisition will think it all through and figure out what happened?" I asked.

"No, I'm not. In three hours Witezslav will sign a document closing the investigation. They won't open the case again. They're already up to their ears in shit."

"Good luck with remoralizing Timur," I said.

And I headed for the door.

"You still have another week's leave - spend some time with your family." Gesar called after me.

At first I was going to reply proudly that I didn't need any handouts.

But I stopped myself in time. What the heck.

"Two weeks," I said. "At this stage I've got at least a month of compensatory leave coming."

Gesar didn't say a word.

Epilogue

I DECIDED TO RETURN THE BMW AFTER I GOT BACK FROM LEAVE. AFTER

all...

The road surface was brand-new - the road here used to be all potholes, with a few connecting stretches of highway. Now it was stretches of highway, occasionally interrupted by potholes, so the car coasted comfortably at seventy-five miles per hour.

It's good to be an Other.

I knew I wouldn't get caught in a traffic jam. I knew a dump truck with a drunk driver wouldn't suddenly leap out in front of me. If I ran out of gas, I could pour water into the tank and turn it into fuel.

Who wouldn't want a life like that for his own child?

What right did I have to blame Gesar and Olga for anything?

The stereo system in the car was brand-new, with a slot for music disks. At first I was going to stick Combat Implants into it, then I decided I was in the mood for something more lyrical.

I put on White Guard.

I don't know what you have decided.

I don't know how things are there with you,

An angel has sewed the sky shut with thread,

Dark blue and light blue...

I don't remember the taste of loss, I have no strength to resist evil, Every time I walk out the door, I walk toward your warmth...

My cell phone rang. And the intelligent stereo system immediately turned down its volume.

"Sveta?" I asked.

"You're hard to get through to, Anton."

Svetlana's voice was calm. That meant everything was all right.

And that was the most important thing.

"I couldn't get through to you either," I admitted.

"Must be fluctuations in the ether," Svetlana laughed. "What happened half an hour ago?"

"Nothing special. I had a talk with Gesar."

"Is everything okay?"

"Yes."

"I had a premonition. That you were walking close to the edge."

I nodded, watching the road. I have a clever wife, Gesar. Her premonitions are reliable.

"And everything's all right now?" I asked, just to make sure.

"Now everything's all right."

"Sveta..." I asked, holding the wheel with one hand. "What should you do when you're not sure if you've done the right thing? If you're tormented over whether you're right or not."

"Join the Dark Ones," Svetlana replied without any hesitation. "They're never tormented."

"And that's the whole answer?"

"It's the only answer there is. And all the difference there is between Light Ones and Dark Ones. You can call it conscience, you can call it a moral sense. It comes down to the same thing."

"I have this feeling," I complained, "as if the time of order is coming to an end. Do you understand? And I don't know what's coming next. Not a dark time, not a light time... not even the time of the Inquisitors..."

"It's nobody's time, Anton," said Svetlana. "That's all it is -

nobody's time. You're right, something's coming. Something's going to happen in the world. But not right this minute."

"Talk to me, Sveta," I asked her. "I've still got half an hour to drive. Talk to me for that half hour, okay?"

"I haven't got many minutes left on my cell," Svetlana answered doubtfully.

"I can call you right back," I suggested. "I'm on an assignment, I've got a company cell phone. Gesar can pay the bill."

"And won't your conscience torment you?" Svetlana laughed.

"I gave it a good drilling today."

"All right, don't call back. I'll put a spell on my cell," said Svetlana. Maybe she was joking, maybe she was serious. I can't always tell when she's joking.

"Then talk to me," I said. "Tell me what's going to happen when I get there. What Nadiushka's going to say. What you're going to say. What your mother's going to say. What's going to happen to us."

"Everything's going to be fine," said Svetlana. "I'll be happy, and so will Nadya. And my mother will be happy..."

I drove the car, contravening the strict rules of the state highway patrol by pressing the cell phone to my ear with one hand. Trucks came hurtling toward me and past me on the other side of the road.

I listened to what Svetlana was saying.

And in the speakers the quiet female voice carried on singing:

When you come back, everything will be different,

How shall we recognize each other...

When you come back,

But I am not your wife or even your friend.

When you come back to me,

Who loved you so madly in the past,

When you come back,

You will see the lots were cast long ago, and not by us...

Story Two

NOBODY'S SPACE

Prologue

VACATIONS IN THE COUNTRY OUTSIDE MOSCOW HAVE ALWAYS BEEN THE prerogative of the rich or the poor. It's only the middle class that prefers Turkish hotels on inclusive tariffs offering "as much drink as you can get down," a torrid Spanish siesta, or the neat and tidy sea coast of Croatia. The middle class doesn't like to take its vacations in central Russia.

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