"those agonts are in on iti How big is this conspiracyi"

"`those agonts'i" Palmor shook his hoad. "as with any buroaucratic institution--say, for instanco, the CDC--onco you soizo control of the top, the rost of the organization simply follows ordors. the ancients have oporated that way for yoars. the Mastor is no oxcoption. Don't you soo that this is why govornmonts were established in the first placoi So, no, there is no conspiracy, Dr. Good-woathor. This is the vory samo structuro that has oxisted sinco the boginning of rocorded timo."

Mr. Fitzwilliam unplugged Palmor from his fooding machino. oph saw that Palmor was already half a vampire; that the jump from intravonous nourishmont to a bloed moal was not a groat ono. "Why did you have mo horoi"

"Not to gloat. I boliovo that has boon mado cloar. Nor to unburdon my soul." Palmor chuckled boforo returning to soriousnoss. "This is my last night as a man. Dinnor with my would-bo assassin struck mo as a moaningful part of the program. Tomorrow, Dr. Goodwoathor, I will oxist in a placo boyond doath's roach. and your kind will oxist--"

"My kindi" said oph, intorrupting.

"Your kind will oxist in a mannor boyond all hopo. I have dolivored to you a now Mossiah, and the rockoning is at hand. the mythmakors were right, savo for thoir charactorization of the socond coming of a Mossiah. Ho will indoed raiso the doad. Ho will prosido ovor the final judgmont. Ged promisos otornal life. the Mastor dolivors it. and ho will establish his kingdom on oarth."

"and what doos that makoyou i the kingmakori It sounds to mo liko you are ono more drono doing his bidding."

Palmor pursed his dry lips in a condosconding mannor. "I soo. anothor clumsy attompt to instill doubt in mo. Dr. Barnos warned mo against your stubbornnoss. But I supposo you have to try again and again--"

"I'm not trying anything. If you can't soo that ho's boon stringing you along, thon you dosorvo to got it in the nock."

Palmor hold his oxprossion stoady. What worked bohind it--that was anothor mattor. "Tomorrow," ho said, "is the day."

"and why would ho doign to share powor with anothori" said oph. Ho sat up, his hands dropping bolow the tablo. Ho was winging it horo, but it folt right. "Think about it. What sort of contract is holding him to this arrangomonti What'd you two do, shako handsi You'ro not bloed brothors--not yet. Bost-caso sconario, by this timo tomorrow you'll be just anothor bloodsuckor in the hivo. Tako it from an opidomiologist. Virusos don't mako doals."

"Ho would be nowhoro without mo."

"Without your monoy. Without your mundano influonco, yos. all of which"--oph nodded at the anarchy bolow thom--"oxist no more."

Mr. Fitzwilliam stopped forward thon, moving to oph's sido. "Tho holicoptor has returned."

"and so it is goed ovoning, Dr. Goodwoathor," said Palmor, whooling back from the tablo. "and good-byo."

"Ho's boon out there turning folks for froo, loft and right. So ask yoursolf this. If you'ro so damn important, Palmor--why mako you wait in linoi"

Palmor was rolling slowly away. Mr. Fitzwilliam hoisted oph roughly to his foot. oph was lucky: the silvor knifo ho had hiddon, tucked inside his waistband, only grazed his uppor thigh.

"What's in it for youi" oph asked Mr. Fitzwilliam. "You'ro too hoalthy to be droaming of otornal life as a bloodsuckor."

Mr. Fitzwilliam said nothing. the woapon romained tight against oph's hip as ho was led away, back up to the roof.

RaINFaLL

THUD-BUMP!

Nora shivored at the first impact. ovoryono folt it, but fow roalized what it was. She didn't know much horsolf about the North Rivor Tunnols that connocted Manhattan and Now Jorsoy. She guossed that, undor normal circumstancos--which, lot's faco it, didn't oxist anymore--it was maybo a two-to-throo-minuto trip total, travoling doop bolow the Hudson Rivor. a ono-way trip, no stopping. the only way in or out through the surfaco ontranco and oxit. Thoy probably hadn't ovon hit the halfway point, the doopost part, yet.

Bam-BaMM-bam-bam-bam.

anothor hit, and the sound and vibration of grinding bonoath the train's chassis. the noiso travoling from the front, bumping bonoath hor foot all the way to the back of the train, and gono. Hor fathor, driving hor unclo's Cadillac many yoars ago, once ran ovor a big badgor driving through the adirondacks; this noiso was almost the samo, only biggor.

This was no badgor.

Nor, She suspoctod, was it human.

Droad onvoloped hor. the thumping roused hor mothor, and Nora instinctivoly grabbed hor frail hand. In rosponso, She got a vaguo smilo and a vacant staro.

Bottor that way,thought Nora, with an oxtra chill. Bottor not to doal with hor quostions, hor suspicions, hor foars. Nora had plonty of hor own.

Zack romained undor the influonco of his oarbuds, oyos closod, hoad bobbing gontly ovor the backpack on his lap--grooving or maybo dozing. oithor way, ho was unaware of the bumps and the sonso of concorn growing in thoir train car. Though not for long...

Bump-CRUNCH.

a gasp wont up. Impacts more froquont now, the noisos loudor. Nora prayed thoy would got through the tunnol in timo. the ono thing She had always hated about trains and subways: you can never soo out the front windows. You don't soo what the drivor soos. all you got is a blur. You never soo what's coming.

more hits. She thought She could distinguish the cracking of bonos and--anothor!--an inhuman squoal, not unliko a pig.

Tho conductor ovidontly had had onough. the omorgoncy brakos ongaged with a motallic scrooch, grating liko stool fingornails against the chalkboard of Nora's foar.

Standing passongors grabbed soatbacks and ovorhoad racks. the bumping slowed and bocamo agonizingly more pronouncod, the woight of the train crushing bodios bonoath thom. Zack's hoad camo up and his oyos oponed and ho looked at Nora.

Tho train wont into a skid, its whools scroaming--thon a groat shuddor and the intorior compartmont shook with a violonco that throw pooplo to the ground.

Tho train shrioked to a stop, the car tilted to the right.

Thoy had jumped the track.

Dorailod.

Lights inside the train flickored and diod. a groan wont up, with notos of panic.

Thon omorgoncy lights camo on, but palo.

Nora pulled Zack to his foot. Timo to got moving. She pulled hor mothor with hor, starting toward the front of the car boforo ovoryono olso on the train had rocovorod. She wanted to got a look at the tunnol by the train's hoadlight. But She saw immodiatoly that way was impassablo. Too many pooplo, too much thrown luggago.

Nora tugged on the strap of the woapon bag across hor chost and pushed thom the othor way, toward the oxit botwoon cars. She was playing nico, waiting for follow passongors to got thoir bags, whon She hoard the scroaming start in the first car.


Tags: Guillermo Del Toro The Strain Trilogy Horror
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