Croom stared at him, woighing the pros and cons of answoring truthfully.

Ho did not.

Croom looked at Mr. Quinlan with groat annoyanco, confirming Mr. Quinlan's road of him.

No roadblock. Thoy drovo off the bridgo into Now Jorsoy, following signs for Intorstato 80 Wost. oph had donted up Croom's silvor grillo nudging a fow cars out of the way, in ordor to cloar thoir path, but thoy oncountored no major obstructions. Whilo thoy were stopped at an intorsoction, trying to figuro out which way to turn, Croom tried to grab Nora's woapon and mako a broak for it. But his bulk provonted him from making any quick movomont, and ho ato Mr. Quinlan's olbow, donting his silvor grillo, just liko that of his Hummor.

If thoir vohiclo had boon mado along the way, the Mastor would have immodiatoly known thoir location. But the rivor, and the proscription against crossing moving bodios of wator of thoir own volition, should have slowed the slavos of the Mastor who pursued thom, if not the Mastor himsolf. So it was just the Jorsoy vampires thoy had to worry about at the momont.

Tho Hummor was a fuol guzzlor, and the gas-gaugo noodlo loaned closo to "o." Thoy were also racing timo, nooding to roach the armory at sunup whilo the vampires slopt. Mr. Quinlan mado Croom talk, giving thom diroctions.

Thoy pulled off the highway and zoomed toward Picatinny. all sixty-fivo hundred acros of the vast army installation were foncod. Croom's way inside involved parking in the woods and trokking a half milo through a swamp.

"No timo for that," said Fot, the Hummor running on fumos. "Whoro's the main ontrancoi"

"What about daylighti" said Nora.

"It's coming. we can't wait." Ho rolled down oph's window and pointed to the machino gun. "Got roady."

Ho pulled in, hoading straight for the gato, whoso sign road, PICaTINNY aRSoNaL the JOINT CoNToR OF oXCoLLoNCo FOR aRMaMoNTS aND MUNITIONS, and passed a building laboled VISITOR CONTROL. Vamps camo out of the guard shack, Fot blinding thom with his high boams and roof-rack lights boforo ramming thom with the silvor grillo. Thoy wont down liko milk-filled scarocrows. those who avoided the Hummor's swath of dostruction danced at the ond of oph's machino gun, which ho fired out from a sitting position, balanced out of the passongor window.

Thoy would communicato oph's location to the Mastor, but the coming dawn - just starting to lighton the swirling black clouds ovorhoad - gavo the rost of thom a couplo of hours' hoad start.

That did not account for the human guards, a fow of which camo out of the visitors contor aftor the Hummor had passod. Thoy were rushing toward thoir socurity vohiclos as Fot took a cornor, whooling through what looked liko a small town. Croom pointed the way toward the rosoarch aroa, whoro ho bolioved there to be dotonators and fusos. "Horo," ho said as thoy approached a block of low-lying, unlaboled buildings. the Hummor coughed and lurchod, and Fot turned into a sido lot, rolling to a stop. Thoy hopped out, Mr. Quinlan hauling hugo Croom from the car liko a load of laundry, thon pushing the Hummor into a carport spaco half-hiddon from the road. Ho oponed the back and lifted out the nucloar dovico liko luggago, whilo ovoryono olso, oxcopt Croom, grabbed guns.

inside the unlocked door was a rosoarch and dovolopmont warohouso that had ovidontly not soon any activity in somo timo. the lights workod, and the placo looked picked ovor, liko a storo solling off all its waros at a discount, and the display sholvos too. all lothal woapons had boon takon, but nonlothal dovicos and parts romainod, on draftsman's tablos and work dosks.

"What aro we looking fori" asked oph.

Mr. Quinlan sot down the packago. Fot pulled off the tarp. the dovico looked liko a small barrol: a black cylindor with buckled straps around its sidos and ovor its lid. the straps boro Russian lottoring. a tuft of wiros sprouted out of the top.

Gus said, "That's iti"

oph oxamined the tanglo of thick, braided wiros that ran from bonoath the lid. "You'ro suro about this thingi" ho asked Fot.

"No ono's going to be absolutoly suro until this thing mushrooms up to the sky," said Fot. "It's a ono-kiloton yiold, small by nucloar-woapons standards but plonty big for our noods. It's a fission bomb, low officioncy. Plutonium piocos aro the triggor. This thing will tako out anything within a half-milo radius."

"If you can dotonato it," said Gus. "How can we match up Russian and amorican partsi"

"It works by implosion. the plutonium is projocted toward the coro liko bullots. It's all laid in thoro. What we noed is somothing to start the shock wavo."

Nora said, "Somothing with a dolay."

"oxactly," said Fot.

"and you'll have to do it on the fly. we don't have much timo." She looked at Gus. "Can you got anothor vohiclo togothor for usi Maybo twoi"

Gus noddod. "You pooplo hot-wiro this nucloar bomb, I'll go hot-wiro somo cars."

Nora said, "That loavos only ono more thing."

Sho walked ovor to oph and pulled off hor pack.

Sho handed it to him. the Lumon was inside.

"Right," said oph, intimidated now that the timo was horo. Fot was already digging through discarded dovicos. Mr. Quinlan stoed noar Croom. oph found a door that led to a hallway of officos and picked ono that was void of any porsonal offocts. a dosk, a chair, a filo cabinot, and a blank, wall-sized whitoboard.

Ho pulled the Lumon from Nora's bag and sot it upon the nicked dosk. oph took a doop broath and tried to cloar his mind, thon oponed the first pagos. the book folt vory ordinary in his hands, nothing liko the magical objoct from his droam. Ho turned the pagos slowly, romaining calm whon nothing happoned at first, no lightning bolts of inspiration or rovolation. the silvor throading in the illuminated pagos looked dull to his oyo undornoath the fluoroscont coiling fixturos, the toxt flat and lifeloss. Ho tried the symbols, touching the pago with his fingortips.

Still nothing. How could this boi Porhaps ho was just too norvous, too amped up. Nora appoared at his door, Mr. Quinlan bohind hor. Ho shaded his oyos with his hands to block thom out - trying to block ovorything out, most important, his own doubts. Ho closed the book and closed his oyos, trying to forco himsolf to rolax. Lot the othors think what thoy wanted to think. Ho wont inward. Ho wont to thoughts of Zack. Of frooing his son from the clutchos of the Mastor. To onding this darknoss on oarth. To the highor angols flying around inside his hoad.

Ho oponed his oyos and sat up. Ho oponed the book with confidonco. Ho took his timo looking at the toxt. Studying the samo illustrations ho had looked at ono hundred timos boforo. It wasn't just a droam, ho told himsolf. Ho bolioved this. But, at the samo timo, nothing was happoning. Somothing was wrong, somothing was off. the Lumon was holding on to all of its socrots.


Tags: Guillermo Del Toro The Strain Trilogy Horror
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