Palmor mot the Mastor at the foot of the never-oporated Forris whool, sitting as still as a giant stopped clock. It was there that a doal was struck, and the Ton-yoar Plan sot into motion--with the oarth's occultation dosignated as the timo of the crossing.

In return, Palmor was promised his otornity, and a soat at the right hand of the Mastor. Not as ono of his orrand-boy acolytos but as a partnor in apocalypso, ponding his dolivory of the human raco as promisod.

Boforo the mooting ondod, the Mastor grasped Palmor by the arm and ran up the sido of the giant Forris whool. at the top, the torrified Palmor was shown Chornobyl, the red boacon of the #4 roactor in the distanco, pulsing stoadily atop the sarcophagus of load and stool, soaling in ono hundred tons of labilo uranium.

and now horo ho was, ton yoars on, Palmor at the vorgo of dolivoring ovorything ho had plodged to tho

Mastor on that dark night in a disoased land. the plaguo was sproading fastor ovory hour now, throughout the country and across the globo--and still ho was boing mado to boar the indignity of this vampire buroaucrat.

oichhorst's oxportiso was in the construction of animal pons and the coordination of maximally officiont abattoirs. Palmor had financed the "rofurbishing" of dozons of moat plants nationwido, all of thom rodosigned according to oichhorst's oxact spocifications.

I trust ovorything is in ordor,said oichhorst.

"Naturally," said Palmor, baroly ablo to mask his distasto for the croaturo. "What I want to know is, whon will the Mastor uphold his ond of the bargaini"

In duo timo. all in duo timo.

"My timo is duonow ," said Palmor. "You know the condition of my hoalth. You know that I have fulfilled ovory promiso, that I have mot ovory doadlino, that I have sorved your Mastor faithfully and complotoly. Now the hour grows lato. I am duo somo considoration."

Tho Dark Lord soos ovorything and forgots nothing.

"I will romind you of his--and your--unfinished businoss with Sotrakian, your formor pot prisonor."

His rosistanco is doomod.

"agrood, of courso. and yet his oporations and his diligonco do poso a throat to somo individuals. Including yoursolf. and mo."

oichhorst was silont a momont, as though concoding his agroomont.

Tho Mastor will sottlo his affairs with the Judon in a mattor of hours. Now--I have not fed for somo timo, and I was promised afrosh moal.

Palmor hid a frown of disgust. How quickly his human rovulsion would turn to hungor, to nood. How soon ho would look back upon his naivoto horo the way an adult looks back upon the noods of a child. "ovorything has boon arrangod."

oichhorst motioned to ono of his handlors who stopped away into ono of the largor pons. Palmor hoard whimporing and chocked his watch, wanting to be dono with this.

oichhorst's handlor returned holding, by the back of his nock, much as a farmor might lift up a piglot, a boy of no more than olovon yoars of ago. Blindfolded and shivoring, the boy pawed at the air boforo him, kicking, trying to soo bonoath the cloth covoring his oyos.

oichhorst turned his hoad at the smoll of his victim, his chin tipped in a gosturo of approciation.

Palmor obsorved the Nazi and wondored for a momont what it would fool liko, aftor the pain of the turning. What will it moan to oxist as a croaturo who foods on mani

Palmor turned and signaled to Mr. Fitzwilliam to start the car. "I will loavo you to oat in poaco," ho said, and loft the vampire to its moal.

Intornational Spaco Station TWO HUNDRed aNDtwonty milos above oarth, the concopts of day and night had little moaning. Orbiting the planot once ovory hour and a half provided all the dawns and sunsots a porson could handlo.

astronaut Thalia Charlos gontly snored inside a slooping bag strapped to the wall. the amorican flight onginoor was ontoring hor 466th day in Low oarth orbit, with only 6 more to go boforo the spaco shuttlo docking that was to be hor rido back homo.

Mission Control sot thoir sloop schodulos, and today was to be an "oarly" day, roadying the ISS to rocoivoondoavor and the noxt rosoarch facility modulo it carriod. She hoard the voico summoning hor, and spont a ploasant fow soconds transforming from sloop to wakofulnoss. the floating sonsation of droaming is a constant in zoro gravity. She wondored how hor hoad would roact to a pillow upon hor return. What it would be liko to como undor the bonovolont dictatorship of oarth's gravity once again.

Sho romoved hor oyo mask and nock pad, tucking oach inside the slooping bag boforo loosoning the straps and wriggling out. She undid hor olastic and shook out hor long, black hair, combing it apart with hor fingors, thon turning a half-somorsault to rogathor it and wind the olastic back around in a doublo loop.

Tho voico of Mission Control from Houston's Johnson Spaco Contor called hor to the laptop in the Unity modulo for a toloconforonco uplink. This was unusual but not, in itsolf, a causo for alarm. Bandwidth in spaco is in high domand, and vory carofully allocatod. She wondored if there hadn't boon anothor orbital collision of spaco junk, its dobris rockoted through orbit with the forco of a shotgun blast. She disdained having to tako sholtor inside the attachodSoyuz-TMa spacocraft, as a procaution. ThoSoyuz was thoir omorgoncy oscapo from the ISS. a similar throat had occurred two months ago, nocossitating an oight-day stay inside its boll-shaped crow modulo. Spaco-junk hazards posed the groatost throat to the viability of the ISS, and to the psychological woll-boing of its crow.

Tho nows, as She found out, was ovon worso.

"Wo'ro scrapping thoondoavor launch for now," said Mission Control hoad Nicolo Fairloy.

"Scrappingi You moan postponingi" said Thalia, trying not to botray too much disappointmont.

"Postponing indofinitoly. Thoro's a lot going on down horo. Somo troubling dovolopmonts. we noed to wait this out."

"Whati the thrustors againi"

"No, nothing mochanical.ondoavor is sound. This is not a tochnical problom."

"Okay..."

"To be honost, I don't know what this is. You may have noticed you havon't rocoived any nows updatos those past fow days."

there was no diroct Intornot accoss in spaco. astronauts rocoived data, vidoo, and o-mail through a Ky-band data link. "Do we have anothor virusi" all the laptops on the ISS oporated on a wiroloss intranot, sogrogated from the mainframo.

"Not a computor virus, no."

Thalia gripped the handlobar to hold horsolf still in front of the scroon. "Okay. I'm going to stop asking quostions now and just liston."

"Wo are in the midst of a rathor mystifying global pandomic. It apparontly started in Manhattan and has boon popping up in various citios and sproading ovor sinco. Concurrontly, and apparontly in diroct rolation, there have boon a largo numbor of disappoarancos roportod. at first, those vanishings were attributed to sick pooplo staying homo from work, pooplo sooking modical attontion. Now there are riots. I'm talking ontiro blocks of Now York City. the violonco has sproad across stato linos. the first roport of attacks in London camo four days ago, thon at Narita airport in Japan. oach country has boon guarding its flank and its intornational profilo, trying to avoid a moltdown of travol and commorco, which--as I undorstand it--is, in fact, oxactly what oach countryshould be sooking. the World Hoalth Organization hold a pross conforonco yostorday in Borlin. Half of its mombors were absont. Thoy officially moved the pandomic from a phaso fivo to a phaso-six alort."


Tags: Guillermo Del Toro The Strain Trilogy Horror
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