Home > Twilight Watch (Watch #3)(6)

Twilight Watch (Watch #3)(6)
Author: Sergei Lukyanenko

"What for?" I asked. Thanks to my hairdresser, my hair hadn't stood up on end - there was nothing left to stand up.

"It's just a fascinating idea!" Las explained. "Imagine you want to hammer in a nail! You just raise your fist and smash it down, and the nail sinks into concrete. Those bones are titanium! Or say someone tries to punch you... nah, of course, there are a number of drawbacks. And artificial organs aren't coming on too well yet. But I'm pleased with the general trend of progress."

He poured us another glass each.

"It seems to me the trend of progress lies in a different direction," I went on, sticking to my guns. "We need to make greater use of the potential abilities of our organisms. All those amazing things that lie hidden inside us! Telekinesis, telepathy..."

Las looked a bit sad. I was getting morose too, trying to play the idiot.

"Can you read my thoughts?" he asked.

"Not right now," I confessed.

"I don't think we ought to invent any extra dimensions of reality," Las explained. "We've already known for a long time what man is capable of. If people could read thoughts, levitate and do all that other nonsense, there'd be some proof."

"If someone suddenly acquired abilities like that, they'd hide them from everybody else," I said, and took a look at Las through the Twilight. "A really different, Other kind of being would provoke the envy and fear of people around him."

Las didn't betray the slightest sign of excitement. Just skepticism.

"Well, surely this miracle worker would want to give the woman he loves and his children the same kind of abilities? They'd gradually take over from us as a biological species."

"But what if the special abilities couldn't be inherited?" I asked. "Or they weren't necessarily inherited? And you couldn't transmit them to anyone else either? Then you'd have the people and the Others existing independently. And if there weren't many of the Others, then they'd hide their abilities from everybody else..."

"Seems to me like you're talking about a random mutation that produces extrasensory abilities," Las said, thinking out loud. "If that mutation is random and recessive, it's absolutely no use to us. But you can actually have titanium bones installed right now!"

"Not a good idea," I muttered.

We had a drink.

"You know, this is a pretty weird situation we're in here!" Las mused. "A huge empty building! Hundreds of apartments - and only nine people living in them... that's if we include you. The things you could get up to! It takes your breath away! And what a video you could shoot! Just imagine it - the luxurious interiors, empty restaurants, dead laundries, rusting exercise machines and cold saunas, empty swimming pools and casino tables wrapped in plastic sheeting. And a little girl wandering through it all. Wandering around and singing. It doesn't even matter what."

"Do you shoot videos?" I asked cautiously.

"Nah..." Las frowned. "Well... just the once I helped this punk band I know shoot one. They showed it on MTV, but then it was banned."

"What was so terrible about it?"

"Nothing really," said Las. "It was just a song, nothing offensive about it, in fact it was about love. The visuals were unusual. We shot them in a hospital for patients with motor function disorders. We set up a strobe light in a hall, put on the song 'Captain, Captain, Why Have You Left the Horse?' and invited the patients to dance. So they danced to the strobes. Or they tried to. And then we laid the new sound sequence over the visuals. The result was really stylish. But you really can't show it. It has a bad feel somehow."

I imagined the "visuals" and I squirmed.

"I'm no good as a video producer," Las admitted. "Or as a musician... they played a song of mine on the radio once, in the middle of the night, in a program for all sorts of hardcore weirdos. And what do you think? This well-known songwriter immediately called the radio station and said all his life in his songs he'd been teaching people about good, and about eternal values, but this one song had cancelled out his entire life's work... You must have heard one song, I think - did you think it was encouraging people to do bad things?"

"I think it made fun of bad attitudes," I said.

"Thank you," Las said sadly. "But that's exactly the problem -  there are too many people who won't understand that. They'll think it's all for real."

"That's what the fools will think," I said, trying to console the unacknowledged bard.

"But there are more of them!" Las exclaimed. "And they haven't perfected head replacements yet..."

He reached for the bottle, poured the vodka and said, "You drop in any time you need to, no need to be shy. And later I'll get you a key for an apartment on the fifteenth floor. The apartment's empty, but it has a toilet."

"Won't the owner object?" I asked with a laugh.

"It's all the same to him now. And his heirs can't agree on how to share out the space."

Chapter 3

I GOT BACK TO MY PLACE AT FOUR IN THE MORNING. SLIGHTLY DRUNK,

but remarkably relaxed. After all, you don't often come across people who are so different. Working in the Watch encourages you to be too categorical. This guy doesn't smoke or drink - he's a good boy. This one swears like a trooper - he's a bad boy. And there's nothing to be done about it. Those are precisely the ones we're most interested in - the good ones as our support, the bad ones as a potential source of Dark Ones.

But somehow we tend to forget that there are all different sorts of people...

The bard with the bass guitar didn't know anything about the Others. I was sure of that. If only I could have sat up half the night with every one of Assol's inhabitants, I could have formed an accurate opinion of all of them.

But I wasn't entertaining any such illusions. Not everybody will ask you to come in, not everybody will start talking to you about obscure, abstract subjects. And apart from the ten or so residents, there were hundreds of service personnel - security guards, plumbers, laborers, bookkeepers. There was no way I could possibly check all of them in a reasonable amount of time.

I took a wash in the shower - I discovered a strange sort of hose in it that I could get a jet of water out of - and then walked out into my one and only room. I needed to get some sleep... and the next morning I'd try to come up with a new plan.

"Hi, Anton," a voice said from the window.

I recognized the voice. And I immediately felt sick at heart.

"Good morning, Kostya," I said. The words of greeting sounded inappropriate somehow, but to wish the vampire a bad morning would have been even more stupid.

"Can I come in?" Kostya asked.

I walked over to the window. Kostya was sitting on the outside sill with his back to me, dangling his legs. He was completely na**d, as if to make obvious that he hadn't climbed up the wall, but flown to the window in the form of a gigantic bat.

A Higher Vampire. At not much more than twenty years old. A talented boy...

"I think not," I said.

Kostya nodded and didn't try to argue. "As I understand it, we're working on the same job?"

"Yes."

"That's good." Kostya turned around and flashed a gleaming white smile. "I like the idea of working with you. But are you really afraid of me?"

"No."

"I've learned a lot," Kostya boasted. Just like when he was a kid and he used to declare, "I'm a terrible vampire! I'm going to learn how to turn into a bat! I'm going to learn how to fly!"

"You haven't learned anything," I corrected him. "You've stolen a lot."

Kostya frowned. "Words. The usual Light word game. Your people allowed me to take it, so I did. So what's the problem?"

"Are we going to carry on sparring like this?" I asked. I raised my hand, folding the fingers into the sign of Aton, the negation of non-life. I'd been wanting for ages to find out if the ancient North African spells worked on modern Russian creatures of the Darkness.

Kostya glanced warily at the incomplete sign. Either he knew what it was, or he'd caught a whiff of Power. "Are you allowed to breach your disguise?"

I lowered my hand in annoyance. "No. But I might just risk it."

"No need. If you say so, I'll leave. But right now we're doing the same job... we have to talk."

"So talk," I said, dragging a stool over to the window.

"You won't let me in then?"

"I don't want to be all alone in the middle of the night with a na**d man," I chuckled. "Who knows what people will think? Let's hear it."

"What do you make of the T-shirt collector?"

I looked at Kostya quizzically.

"The guy on the tenth floor. He collects funny T-shirts."

"He doesn't know anything," I said.

Kostya nodded. "That's what I think too. Eight of the apartments here are occupied. The owners of another six show up from time to time, but all the rest are very rarely here. I've already checked out all the permanent residents."

"And?"

"Nothing. They don't know anything about us."

I didn't ask how Kostya could be so sure. After all, he was a Higher Vampire. They can enter another person's mind as easily as an experienced magician.

"I'll deal with the other six in the morning," said Kostya. "But I'm not very hopeful."

"And do you have any suggestions?" I asked.

Kostya shrugged. "Anyone living here has enough money and influence to interest a vampire or a werewolf. A weak, hungry one... newly initiated. So the list of suspects is pretty long."

"How many newly initiated lower Dark Ones are there in Moscow now?" I asked. I was amazed at how easily the phrase "lower Dark Ones" slipped off my tongue.

I never used to call them that.

I used to feel sorry for them.

Kostya reacted calmly to the phrase. He really was a Higher Vampire. In control, confident of himself.

"Not many," he said evasively. "They're being checked, don't worry. Everybody's being checked. All the lower Others, and even magicians."

"Is Zabulon really concerned?" I asked.

"Gesar isn't exactly a model of composure," Kostya chuckled. "Everyone's concerned. You're the only one taking the situation so lightly."

"I don't see it as a great disaster," I said. "There are human beings who know we exist. Not many, but there are some. One more person doesn't change the situation. If he makes a sensation out of this, we'll soon locate him and make him look like some kind of psycho. That sort of thing has already..."

"And what if he becomes an Other?" Kostya asked curtly.

"Then there'll be one more Other," I said and shrugged.

"What if he doesn't become a vampire or a werewolf, but a genuine Other?" Kostya bared his teeth in a smile. "A genuine Other? Light or Dark... that doesn't matter."

"Then there'll be one more magician," I said.

Kostya shook his head. "Listen, Anton, I'm quite fond of you. Even now. But sometimes I'm amazed at just how naive you are..." Kostya stretched - his arms rapidly sprouted a covering of short fur, his skin turned dark and coarse. "You deal with the staff," he said in a shrill, piercing voice. "If you get wind of anything, call me."

He turned his face, distorted by the transformation, toward me and smiled again. "You know, Anton, a naive Light One like you is the only kind a Dark One could ever be friends with..."

He jumped down, flapping his leathery wings ponderously. The huge bat flew off into the night, a little awkwardly, but quickly enough.

There was a small rectangle of cardboard lying on the outside sill - a business card. I picked it up and read it. "Konstantin. Research assistant, the Scientific Research Institute for Hematological Problems."

And then the phone numbers - work, home, cell. I actually remembered the home number - Kostya was still living with his parents. Most vampires tend to have pretty strong family ties.

What had he been trying to tell me?

Why all the panic?

I switched on the light, lay down on the mattress and looked at the pale-gray rectangles of the windows.

"If he becomes a genuine Other..."

How did Others appear in the World? No one knew. "A random mutation" Las had called it - a perfectly adequate term. You were born a human being, you lived an ordinary life... until one of the Others sensed your ability to enter the Twilight and pump Power out of it. After that you were "guided." Lovingly and carefully coaxed into the required spiritual condition so that in a moment of powerful emotional agitation you would look at your shadow and see it in a different way. See it lying there like a black rag, like a curtain you could pull up over yourself and then draw aside to enter another world.

The world of the Others.

The Twilight.

And the state you were in when you first found yourself in the Twilight - joyful and benign or miserable and angry - determined who you would be. What kind of Power you would go on to draw from the Twilight... the Twilight that drinks Power from ordinary people.

"If he becomes a genuine Other..."

There was always the possibility of coercive initiation, but only through the loss of life and transformation into a walking corpse. A human being could become a vampire or a werewolf and he would be forced to maintain his existence by taking the lives of human beings. So there was a route for the Dark Ones... but one that even they weren't particularly fond of.

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