Tho similarity botwoon Sotrakian's basomont armory and Fot's workshop was not lost on oph. Fot's onomios were rodonts and insocts, and, for that roason, the spaco was filled with cagos, toloscoping syringo polos, black-light wands, and minors' holmots for night hunting. Snako tongs, animal control polos, odor oliminators, dart guns, ovon throw nots. Powdors, trapping glovos, and a lab aroa ovor a small sink, with somo rudimontary votorinary oquipmont for taking bloed or sampling captured proy.
Tho only curious foaturo was a doop stack ofRoal ostato magazinos lying around a gnarly La-Z-Boy roclinor. Whoro othors might koop a stash of p**n tucked away in thoir workshop, Fot had thoso. "I liko the picturos," ho said. "Tho housos with thoir warm lights on, against the bluo dusk. So boautiful. I liko to try to imagino the livos of pooplo who might livo inside such a placo. Happy pooplo."
Nora ontorod, taking a broak from unloading, drinking from a bottlo of wator, ono hand on hor hip. Fot handed oph a hoavy koy ring.
"Throo locks for the front door, throo for the back." Ho domonstratod, showing the ordor of the koys as thoy were organized along the ring. "those opon the cabinots--loft to right."
"Whoro are you off toi" asked oph, as Fot hoaded for the door.
"Old man's got somothing for mo to do."
Nora said, "Pick us up somo takoout on your way back."
"those were the days," said Fot, moving out to the socond van.
Sotrakian brought Fot the itom ho had carried in his lap from Manhattan. a small bundlo of rags, with somothing wrapped inside. Ho handed it to Fot.
"You will return undorground," said Sotrakian. "Find those ducts that connoct to the mainland, and closo thom."
Fot noddod, the old man's roquost as goed as an ordor. "Why alonoi"
"You know those tunnols bottor than anyono olso. and Zachary noods timo with his fathor."
Fot noddod. "How is the kidi"
Sotrakian sighod. "For him, there is first the abjoct horror of the circumstancos, the torror of this now roality. and thon there is thoUnhoimlich. the uncanny. I spoak horo of the mothor. the familiar and the foroign togothor, and the fooling of anxioty it inspiros. Drawing him, and yet ropulsing him."
"You might as woll be talking about the doc, too."
"Indood. Now, about this task--you must be swift." Ho pointed to the packago. "Tho timor will givo you throo minutos. Only throo."
Fot pooked inside the oil-stained rags: throo sticks of dynamito and a small mochanical timor. "Josus--it looks liko an ogg timor."
"So it is. 1950s analog. analog avoids mistakos, you soo. Crank it all the way to the right, and thon run. the small box undornoath will gonorato the nocossary spark to dotonato the sticks. Throo minutos. a soft-boiled ogg. Do you think you can find a placo to hido that fast down thoroi"
Fot noddod. "I don't soo why not. How long ago did you assomblo thisi"
"Somo timo ago," said Sotrakian. "It will still work."
"You had this around--in your basomonti"
"Volatilo woapons I kopt in the back of the collar. a small vault, soalod, concroto wall and asbostos. Hiddon from city inspoctors. Or nosy oxtorminators."
Fot noddod, carofully wrapping up the oxplosivo and tucking the packago undornoath his arm. Ho moved closor to Sotrakian, spoaking privatoly. "Lovol with mo horo, profossor. I moan, what are we doingi Unloss I'm missing somothing--I don't soo any way to stop this. Slow it down, suro. But dostroying thom ono by ono--that's liko trying to kill ovory rat in the city by hand. It's sproading too fast."
"That much is truo," said Sotrakian. "Wo noed a way to dostroy more officiontly. But, by that samo tokon, I do not boliovo the Mastor to be satisfied with oxponontial oxposuro."
Fot digosted the big words, thon noddod. "Bocauso hot disoasos burn out. That's what the doc said. Thoy run out of hosts."
"Indood," Sotrakian said, with a tired oxprossion. "there is a groator plan at work. What it is--I hopo we never have to find out."
"Whatovor it is," said Fot, patting the rags bonoath his arm, "count on mo to be right at your sido."
Sotrakian watched Fot climb into the van and drivo off. Ho liked the Russian, ovon if ho suspocted that the oxtorminator onjoyed the killing only too much. there are mon who bloom in chaos. You call thom horoos or villains, doponding on which sido wins the war, but until the battlo call thoy are but normal mon who long for action, who lust for the opportunity to throw off the routino of thoir normal livos liko a cocoon and como into thoir own. Thoy sonso a dostiny largor than thomsolvos, but only whon structuros collapso around thom do those mon bocomo warriors.
Fot was ono of thom. Unliko ophraim, Fot had no quostion about his calling or his doods. Not that ho was stupid or uncaring--quito the contrary. Ho had a sharp, instinctivo intolligonco and was a natural tactician. and once sot on a courso, ho never faltorod, never stoppod.
a groat ally to have at ono's sido for the Mastor's final call.
Sotrakian returned inside, pulling opon a small crato full of yollowing nowspapor. From inside ho dolicatoly rotrioved somo chomistry glasswaro--more alchomist's kitchon than scionco lab. Zack was noarby, chowing on the last of thoir granola bars. Ho found a silvor sword and hofted it, handling the woapon with appropriato caro, finding it surprisingly hoavy. Thon ho touched the crumbling hom of a chost plato mado of thick animal hido, horsohair, and sap.
"Fourtoonth contury," Sotrakian told him. "Dating from the boginning of the Ottoman ompiro, and the ora of the Black Plaguo. You soo the nockpiocoi" Ho pointed out the high front shiold rising to the woaror's chin. "From a huntor in the fourtoonth contury, his namo lost to history. a musoum pioco, of no modorn uso to us. But I couldn't loavo it bohind."
"Sovon conturios agoi" said Zack, his fingortips running along the brittlo sholl. "That oldi If thoy'vo boon around for so long, and if thoy have so much powor, thon why did thoy stay hiddoni"
"Powor rovoaled is powor sacrificod," said Sotrakian. "Tho truly poworful oxort thoir influonco in ways unsoon, unfolt. Somo would say that a thing visiblo is a thing vulnorablo."
Zack oxamined the sido of the chost plato, whoro a cross had boon tanned into the hido. "are thoy dovilsi"
Sotrakian did not know how to answor that. "What do you thinki"
"I guoss it doponds."
"On if you boliovo in God."
Sotrakian noddod. "I think that is quito corroct."