Home > Night Watch (Watch #1)(6)

Night Watch (Watch #1)(6)
Author: Sergei Lukyanenko

"What do you care about a vampire's dreams?"

"Listen, son. There are plenty of people living in the world who need regular blood transfusions. There are at least as many of them as there are of you. And then there are all the emergencies. That's why people give blood, that's why it's such an honorable and respected thing to do... I know about your kind's contributions to the development of medicine and the way you promoted the giving of blood. Kostya, if someone needs blood in order to live... to exist - that's no big deal. And whether it goes in through the veins or the stomach is irrelevant too. The important thing is how you get hold of it."

"Empty words," Kostya snorted. I got the feeling he'd crossed over into the Twilight for an instant and then popped straight back out. The boy was growing up, all right. And he was getting really strong.

"You showed the way you really feel about us yesterday."

"You're wrong."

"Ah, drop it..." He put the bottle down, then changed his mind and turned it upside down over the sink. "We don't need your..."

I heard a hoot behind me and swung around. I'd completely forgotten about the owl, but now it had turned its head toward Kostya and spread its wings.

"Agh..." he said. "Agh..."

The owl folded its wings and closed its eyes.

"Olga, we're talking," I growled. "Just give us a moment..."

The bird didn't respond. Kostya glanced from me to the owl and back again. Then he sat down and folded his hands on his knees.

"What's wrong with you?" I asked.

"Can I go now?"

He wasn't just surprised or frightened; he was in shock.

"Okay. But take this, will you..."

Kostya began hastily grabbing up the bottles and putting them in his pockets.

"Take a plastic bag, you idiot! What if there's someone in the hallway?"

The vampire obediently packed all the bottles into a plastic bag bearing the noble inscription "For the resurrection of Russian culture!" He gave the owl a sideways glance, went out into the hallway, and began hastily putting on his shoes.

"Come around again," I said. "I'm not your enemy. Not until you cross that line, I'm not."

He nodded and shot out of my apartment like a bullet. I shrugged and closed the door, then went back into the kitchen and looked at the owl.

"Well? What happened there?"

It was impossible to read anything in those amber-yellow eyes. I threw my hands up.

"How can we work together? Eh? How are we going to collaborate? Do you have any way of communicating? I'm trying to be frank with you, do you hear me? A frank conversation!"

I didn't shift all the way into the Twilight, just reached in there with my thoughts. It's not good to trust anyone you don't know like that, but the boss wouldn't have given me a partner I couldn't trust, would he?

No answer. Even if Olga could communicate telepathically, she wasn't going to.

"What shall we do? We need to look for that girl. Will you accept her image?"

No reply. I sighed and tossed the scrap of my memory at the bird anyway.

The owl stretched its wings and soared across onto my shoulder.

"Ah, so we do hear when we're spoken to? But we don't condescend to reply. All right, have it your own way. What shall I do?"

She still wouldn't speak.

In fact, I knew what to do. There was no hope of success, but that was a different matter.

"And how am I going to wander around the streets with you sitting on my shoulder?"

A mocking glance, definitely mocking. And the bird on my shoulder shifted into the Twilight.

So that was it. An invisible observer. And no ordinary observer - Kostya's reaction to the owl had been very instructive. Apparently I'd been given a partner that the powers of Darkness knew better than the rank-and-file servants of the Light did.

"Agreed," I said cheerfully. "I'll just grab a bite to eat, okay?"

I took out some yogurt and poured a glass of orange juice. The very thought of what I'd been feeding myself with for the last week - half-raw steaks and meat juices that were not much different from blood - made me feel sick.

"Maybe you'd like a bit of meat?"

The owl turned away.

"Have it your own way," I said. "No doubt when you get hungry you'll find some way to communicate."

Chapter 3

I like walking around town inside the twilight. You don't actually become invisible, or you'd have people bumping into you all the time. They just somehow look straight through you and don't notice you. But this time I'd have to work out in the open.

The day's not our time. Funny as it may seem, the adherents of the Light work at night, when the Dark Ones become active. Just at the moment there wasn't too much the Dark Ones could do. During the daytime vampires, werewolves, and Dark Magicians are obliged to live like ordinary people.

Most of them, that is.

I was walking around the Tulskaya metro station. Following the boss's advice, I'd worked through all the stations on the circle line where the girl with the black Inferno vortex could possibly have left the metro. She should have left a trail behind, a weak one maybe, but still detectable. Now I'd decided to work my way out along the radial lines.

It was a stupid station in a stupid district, with two exits set quite a distance apart from each other. A market, the pompous-looking skyscraper occupied by the tax police, a massive apartment block. With all those dark emanations all around, any chance of picking up the trail of the black vortex was looking pretty doubtful.

Especially if it had never even been there.

I walked around everything, trying to sniff out the girl's aura, sometimes glancing into the Twilight at the invisible bird nestling on my shoulder. The owl was dozing. It couldn't sense anything either, and for some reason I felt certain its reconnaissance skills were better than mine.

Once a militiaman checked my papers. Twice I was pestered by crazy young guys who wanted to give me, absolutely free - that is, for only fifty bucks - a Chinese fan, a child's toy, and a dirt-cheap Korean telephone.

And again I couldn't control myself. I brushed aside the next sidewalk salesman who pestered me and performed a remoralization. Only a slight one, right on the very edge of what's allowed. Maybe the young guy would start looking for a different kind of work. Or maybe he wouldn't...

But that very instant someone grabbed hold of my elbows. One minute there was no one there - then the next suddenly there was a young couple: an attractive-looking young woman with red hair and a solid-looking guy with a surly expression on his face.

"Hold it," said the girl. She was the leader, I could tell that right away. "Day Watch."

Light and Darkness!

I shrugged and looked at them.

"Give your name," the girl demanded.

There was no point in lying; they'd captured the image of my aura already, and after that, identifying the individual is only a matter of time.

"Anton Gorodetsky."

They waited.

"Other," I confessed. "Night Watch agent."

They lifted their hands off my elbows, and even took a step back. But they didn't seem disappointed.

"Okay, let's enter the Twilight," said the guy.

They didn't look like vampires. That was one good thing. At least I could hope for a certain degree of objectivity. I sighed and shifted from one reality into another.

The first surprise was that the couple turned out to be genuinely young. A witch about twenty-five years old and a warlock about thirty, roughly my age. I thought that if I needed to, I could probably even recall their names; there weren't that many witches and warlocks born in the late seventies.

The second surprise was that the owl wasn't there on my shoulder. Or rather, she was: I could feel her claws and I could see her, but only with a bit of an effort. It was as if the bird had shifted realities at the same time as I had and moved into a deeper level of the Twilight.

This was getting really interesting!

"Day Watch," the girl repeated. "Alisa Donnikova, Other."

"Pyotr Nesterov, Other," the young guy muttered.

"You have some kind of problem?"

The girl drilled me with one of those specialty "witch's glances." She started looking even more delightful and beguiling with every moment. Of course, I'm protected against direct influence; it's not possible to bewitch me, but it certainly was impressive.

"We're not the ones with the problem. Anton Gorodetsky, you have entered into unsanctioned contact with a human being."

"Yes? And what was that?"

"Only a seventh-degree intervention," the witch admitted reluctantly. "But a fact is a fact. And you also urged him toward the Light."

"Are we going to draw up a charge report?" I suddenly found the entire situation amusing. Seventh degree was next to nothing - a level of influence on the borderline between magic and ordinary conversation.

"We are."

"And what are we going to write? A Night Watch agent slightly increased one human being's aversion to deception?"

"Thereby disrupting the established balance," the warlock rapped out.

"Really? And what harm does it do to the Darkness? If the guy stops working as a petty crook, his life is bound to get worse. He'll be more moral, but more unhappy too. Under the terms of the commentaries to the treaty on the balance of power, that's not regarded as a violation of the balance."

"Sophistry," the young woman said curtly. "You're a Night Watch agent. What might be pardonable for an ordinary Other is not acceptable from you."

She was right. It was still a violation, even if it was petty.

"He was obstructing me. I have the right to use magical intervention in the course of conducting an investigation."

"Are you on duty, Anton?"

"Yes."

"Why during the day?"

"I have a special assignment. You can direct your inquiry to my superiors. Or rather, you have the right to address your inquiry to your superiors."

The witch and the warlock exchanged glances. No matter how opposed our goals and our moralities might be, the two hierarchies had to collaborate.

Only, to be quite frank about it, nobody really likes to get the bosses involved.

"Very well," the witch agreed reluctantly. "Anton, we can limit ourselves to a verbal warning."

I looked around. All around me there were people moving slowly through the gray gloom. Ordinary people, incapable of moving out of their own little world. We were Others, and though I stood on the side of Light and the other two were on the side of Darkness, we had far more in common with each other than with any of those ordinary human beings.

"On what terms?"

You must never try to second-guess the Darkness. You must never make any concessions. And it's even more dangerous to accept any gifts from it. But rules are made only in order to be broken.

"No terms."

Well, that was a surprise!

I looked at Alisa, trying to figure out the catch in what she'd said. Pyotr was obviously indignant at his partner's behavior; he was angry, he wanted to expose an adept of the Light as a criminal. That meant I didn't have to worry about him.

Where was the trap?

"That's not acceptable to me," I said, with a sigh of relief - I'd spotted the catch. "Alisa, thank you for your offer of a peaceful resolution. I can accept it, but in a similar situation I promise to forgive you a minor magical intervention, up to and including the seventh degree."

"Very well, Other," Alisa agreed readily. She held out her hand and I automatically shook it. "We have a personal agreement."

The owl on my shoulder flapped its wings. There was a furious screech right in my ear. And a moment later the bird materialized in the Twilight world.

Alisa took a step back and the pupils of her eyes rapidly extended into vertical slits. The young warlock took up a defensive posture.

"We have an agreement," the witch repeated sullenly.

What was going on?

I realized too late that I shouldn't have entered into an agreement with Olga there. But then - what was so terrible about what had happened? As if I hadn't been there when other guys from the Watch had concluded alliances like this, made concessions, agreed to terms for cooperating with the Dark Ones; even the boss himself had done it! Sure, it's undesirable, but sometimes you have to do it!

Our goal is not to exterminate the Dark Ones. Our goal is to maintain the balance. The Dark Ones will disappear only when human beings conquer the Evil in themselves. Or we'll disappear, if they decide they like the Darkness better than the Light.

"The agreement's been made," I told the owl. "Cool it. It's no big deal. Just standard collaboration."

Alisa smiled and gave me a wave. She took the warlock by the elbow, and they moved away. A couple of moments later they were out of the Twilight and setting off along the sidewalk. An ordinary young couple.

"What's eating you?" I asked. "Well? Field work has always been built on compromises!"

"You made a mistake."

Olga's voice was strange; it didn't match her appearance. It was soft, velvety, musical. The way werecats talk, not birds.

"Oho! So you can talk now?"

"Yes."

"Then why didn't you say anything before?"

"Everything was okay before."

I laughed, remembering the old joke about the child who didn't speak for years.

"I'll leave the Twilight, okay? And meanwhile you can explain what mistake I've made. Minor compromises with the Dark Ones ate inevitable in this line of work."

   
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