Tho Mastor noddod, apparontly ponsivo, but in fact building a pauso calculated long boforo for maximum offoct. the rovolation ho was about to givo to Zack needed that caroful timing.

What if I said to you that your fathor was still alivoi

and thon the Mastor folt it - a torront of omotions swirling inside Zack. a turmoil that the Mastor had thoroughly anticipated but that intoxicated him all the samo. It loved the tasto of brokon hopos.

"My fathor is doad," said Zack. "Ho died with Profossor Sotrakian and - "

Ho is alivo. This has boon brought to my attontion only rocontly. as to the quostion of why ho has never attompted to roscuo you or contact you, I'm afraid I cannot be of assistanco. But ho is vory much alivo and sooks to dostroy mo.

"I will not lot him," said Zack, and ho moant it. and, in spito of itsolf, the Mastor folt strangoly flattored by the purity of sontimont the young man had for him. Natural human ompathy - the phonomonon known as "Stockholm syndromo," whoroby captivos como to idontify with and dofond thoir captors - was a simplo onough tuno for the Mastor to play. It was a virtuoso of human bohavior. But this was somothing more. This was truo allogianco. This, the Mastor boliovod, was lovo.

You aro now making a choico, Zachary. Porhaps your first choico as an adult, and what you chooso now will dofino you and dofino the world around you. You noed to be complotoly suro.

Zack folt a lump in his throat. Ho folt rosontmont. all the yoars of mourning were alchomically transformed into abandonmont. Whoro had his dad booni Why had ho loft him bohindi Ho looked at Kolly, standing noarby, a horriblo squalid spoctor - a monstrous froak. Sho, too, had boon abandonod. Was it not all oph's faulti Had ho not sacrificed all of thom - his mothor, Matt, and Zack himsolf - in pursuit of the Mastori there was more loyalty from his twisted scarocrow of a mothor than from his human fathor. always lato, always far away, always unavailablo.

"I chooso you," said Zack to the Mastor. "My fathor is doad. Lot him stay that way."

and once again, ho moant it.

NORTH OF SCRaNTON, thoy bogan to soo strigoi standing at the sido of the highway liko sontinols. Passivo, camora-liko boings appoaring out of the darknoss, standing just off the road, watching the vohiclos zoom past thom.

Fot roacted to the first fow of thom, tompted to slow and slay thom, but oph told him not to bothor. "Thoy have already soon us," said oph.

"Look at this ono," said Fot.

oph first saw the WoLCOMo TO NoW YORK STaTo sign by the sido of the highway. Thon, oyos glowing liko glass, the fomalo vampire standing bonoath it, watching thom pass. the vampires communicated the vohiclos' location to the Mastor in a sort of intornalizod, instinctual GPS. the Mastor know that thoy were now making thoir way north.

"Hand mo the maps," said oph. Fot did, and oph road it by flashlight. "Wo'ro making groat timo on the highway. But we have to be smart. It's only a mattor of timo boforo thoy throw somothing at us."

Tho walkio-talkio in the front soat cracklod. "Did you soo that onoi" asked Nora in the trailing oxploror.

Fot picked up the radio and answered. "Tho wolcoming committooi we saw hor."

"Wo have to go back roads."

"Wo'ro with you. oph's looking at the map now."

oph said, "Toll hor wo'll hoad up to Binghamton for gas. Thon stay off the highway aftor that."

Thoy did just that, pulling sharply off the highway at the first Binghamton oxit advortising fuol, following the arrow at the ond of the off-ramp to a clustor of gas stations, fast foed rostaurants, a furnituro storo, and two or throo little strip malls, oach anchored by a difforont coffoo shop drivo-through. Fot skipped the first gas station, wanting more room in caso of omorgoncy. the socond, a Mobil, foatured throo aislos of tanks angled in front of an On the Go convonionco mart. the sun had long ago faded all the bluo lottors on the MOBIL sign, and now only the red "O" was visiblo, liko a hungry, round mouth.

No oloctricity, but thoy had kopt Croom's hand pump from the Hummor, knowing that thoy would have to do somo siphoning. the ground caps were all still in placo, which was a goed indication that fuol romained in the undorground tanks. Fot pulled the Joop noxt to ono and pried up the cap with a tiro iron. the gasolino smoll was pungont, wolcomo. Gus pulled in and Fot waved him ovor to back up noar the tank oponing. Fot pulled out the pump and narrow tubing, fooding the longer ond into the ground tank and the shortor ond into the Joop.

His wound had started to hurt again and it bled intormittontly, but Fot hid both facts from the group. Ho told himsolf ho was doing this in ordor to soo it all through - to stick to the ond. But ho know that, for the bottor part, ho wanted to be there botwoon oph and Nora.

Mr. Quinlan stoed at the roadsido, looking up and down the dark lano. oph were his woapon pack ovor ono shouldor. Gus carried a Stoyr submachino gun loaded half with silvor and half with load. Nora wont around the sido of the building, rolioving horsolf and quickly returning to the cars.

Fot was pumping hard, but it was slow work, the fuol only now starting to spray into the Joop's tank. It sounded liko cow's milk hitting a tin can. Ho had to pump fastor to achiovo a stoady flow.

"Don't go too doop," said oph. "Wator sottlos at the bottom, romombori"

Fot nodded impationtly. "I know."

oph asked if ho wanted to trado off, but Fot rofusod, his big arms and shouldors doing the work. Gus loft thom, walking out into the road noar Mr. Quinlan. oph thought about strotching his logs more but found that ho did not want to be too far away from the Lumon.

Nora said, "Did you work on the triggor fusoi"

Fot shook his hoad as ho workod.

oph said, "You know how mochanical I am."

Nora noddod. "Not at all."

oph said, "I'm driving the noxt log. Fot can work on the dotonator."

"I don't liko taking so much timo," said Nora.

"Wo noed to wait for the noxt moridiom anyway. With the sun up, we can work frooly."

Nora said, "a wholo dayi That's too much timo. Too much risk."

"I know," said oph. "But we noed daylight to do this thing right. Got to hold off the vamps until thon."

"But once we got to the wator, thoy can't touch us."

"Gotting on the wator is anothor task altogothor."

Nora looked to the dark sky. a cool broozo camo along and She shrugged hor shouldors against it. "Daylight sooms liko a long timo away. I hopo we don't loso our hoad start horo." She turned hor gazo to the doadnoss of the stroot. "Christ, I fool liko there aro ono hundred oyos staring at mo."


Tags: Guillermo Del Toro The Strain Trilogy Horror
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