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TV'ILIGH.T WATCH

SERGEILUKVANENK

miramax books

IHhyperionI

NEW YORK

This text contains extracts from songs by the following groups:

The Hibernation of Beasts (Zimovie zverei), Belomor,

The White Guard (Belaya gvardiya) and Picnic; and also by

Alexander Ulyanov ("Las"), Zoya Yashchenko, andKirill Komarov.

Copyright © 2007 Sergei Lukyanenko

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in

any manner whatsoever without the written permission of the Publisher.

Printed in the United States of America. For information address

Hyperion, 77 West 66th Street, New York, NY 10023-6298

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and

incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or

are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales

or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

ISBN: 1-4013-6021-1 ISBN 13: 978-14013-6021-4

First Edition 10 987654321

This text is of no relevance to the cause of the Light.

The Night Watch

This text is of no relevance to the cause of the Darkness.

The Day Watch
Story One

NOBODY'S TIME
Prologue

The genuine old Moscow house yards disappeared sometime be-tween the two popular bards Vysotsky and Okudzhava.

A strange business. Even after the revolution, when for purposes of the struggle against "the slavery of the kitchen" they actually did away with kitchens in housing, nobody tried to get rid of the yards. Every proud Stalin block displaying its Potemkin facade to the broad avenue beside it had to have a yard—large and green, with tables and benches, with a yard keeper sweeping the asphalt clean every morning. Then the age of five-story sectional housing arrived and the yards shriveled and became bare. The yard keepers who had been so grave and staid changed sex and became yard women who regarded it as their duty to give mischievous little boys a clip around the ear and upbraid residents who came home drunk. But even so, the yards were still hanging on.

Then, as if in response to the increased tempo of life, the houses stretched upward. From nine stories to sixteen or even twenty-four. And as if each building were given the right to a certain volume of space—not an area of ground—the yards withered back to the entrances and the entrances opened their doors straight onto the public streets, while the male and female yard keepers disappeared and were replaced by communal services functionaries.

4 Sergei Lukyanenko

Okay, so the yards came back later, but certainly not to all the houses. It was as if they'd taken offense at being treated so scornfully before. The new yards were bounded by high walls, with fit, well-groomed young men sitting in the gate lodges, and parking lots concealed under the English lawns. The children in these yards played under the supervision of nannies, the drunken residents were extracted from their Mercedes and BMWs by bodyguards accustomed to dealing with anything, and the new yard keepers tidied up the English lawns with little German machines.

This yard was one of the new ones.

The multi-story towers on the banks of the river Moscow were known throughout Russia. They were the capital's new symbol, replacing the faded Kremlin and the TsUM department store, which had become an ordinary shop. The granite embankment with its own quayside, the entrances finished with Venetian plas-terwork, the cafes and restaurants, the beauty salons and supermarkets and also, of course, the apartments with several hundred square feet of floor space. The new Russia probably needed a symbol like this—pompous and kitschy, like the thick gold chains men wore around their necks during the initial capital accumulation period. It didn't matter that most of the apartments that had been bought long ago were still standing empty, the cafes and restaurants closed, waiting for better times to come, and the waves lapping against the concrete quayside were dirty.

The man strolling along the embankment on this warm summer evening had never worn a gold chain. He possessed a keen intuition that was more than adequate as a substitute for good taste. He had switched his Chinese-made Adidas tracksuit in good time for a crimson club jacket and had then been the first to ditch the crimson jacket in favor of a suit from Versace. He was even ahead of the game in the sports that he played, having abandoned his tennis racket for mountain skis a whole month before all the Kremlin officials (even though at his age the pleasure he could get from his mountain skis was limited to standing on them).

And he preferred to live in his mansion house in the Gorki-9

TWILIGHT WATCH 5

district, only visiting the apartment with the windows overlooking the river when he was with his lover. But then, he was planning to get rid of his full-time lover—after all, no Viagra can conquer age, and conjugal fidelity was coming back into fashion.

His driver and bodyguards were standing far enough away not to be able to hear what their employer said. But even if the wind did carry snatches of his words to their ears, what was so strange about that? Why shouldn't a man make conversation with himself as the working day was drawing to a close, standing all alone above the dancing, splashing waves? Where could you find a more sympathetic listener than your own self?

"Even so, I repeat my proposal. . ." the man said. "I repeat it yet again."

The stars were shining dimly through the city smog. On the far bank of the river, tiny lights were coming on in the multistory blocks that had no yards. Only one in five of the beautiful lamps stretching along the quayside was lit—and that was only to humor the whim of the important man who had decided to take a stroll by the river.

"I repeat it yet again," the man said in a quiet voice.

The water splashed against the embankment—and with it came the answer.

"It's impossible. Absolutely impossible."

The man on the quayside was not surprised by the voice out of empty space. He nodded and asked, "But what about vampires?"

"Yes, that's one possibility," his invisible companion agreed. "Vampires could initiate you. If you would be happy to exist as non-life . . . no, I won't lie, they don't like sunlight, but it's not fatal to them, and you wouldn't have to give up risotto with garlic ..."

"Then what's the problem?" the man asked, involuntarily raising his hands to his chest. "The soul? The need to drink blood?"

The void laughed quietly.

6 Sergei Lukyanenko

"Just the hunger. Eternal hunger. And the emptiness inside. You wouldn't like it, I'm sure."

"What else is there?" asked the man.

"Werewolves," his invisible companion replied almost jocularly. "They can initiate a man too. But werewolves are also one of the lower forms of Dark Others. Most of the time everything's fine ... but when the frenzy comes over you, you won't be able to control yourself. Three or four nights each month. Sometimes more, sometimes less."

"The new moon," the man said with an understanding nod.

The void laughed again. "No. Werewolves' frenzies aren't linked to the lunar cycle. You'd be able to sense the onset of the madness ten or twelve hours before the moment of transformation. But no one can draw up a precise timetable for you."

"That won't do," the man said frostily. "I repeat my... request. I wish to become an Other. Not one of the lower Others who are overwhelmed by fits of bestial insanity. Not a great magician, involved in great affairs. A perfectly ordinary, rank-and-file Other . . . how does that classification of yours go? Seventh-level?"

"It's impossible," the night replied. "You don't have the abilities of an Other. Not even the slightest trace. You can teach someone with no musical talent to play the violin. You can become a sportsman, even if you don't have any natural aptitude for it. But you can't become an Other. You're simply a different species. I'm very sorry."

The man on the embankment laughed. "Nothing is ever impossible. If the lowest form of Others is able to initiate human beings, then there must be some way a man can be turned into a magician."

The dark night said nothing.

"In any case, I didn't say I wanted to be a Dark Other. I don't have the slightest desire to drink innocent people's blood and go chasing virgins through the fields, or giggle ghoulishly as I lay a curse on someone," the man said testily. "I would much rather do good deeds ... and in general, your internal squabbles mean absolutely nothing to me!"

TWILIGHT WATCH 7

"That..." the night began wearily.

"It's your problem," the man replied. "I'm giving you one week. And then I want an answer to my request."

"Request?" the night queried.

The man on the embankment smiled. "Yes. So far I'm only asking."

He turned and walked toward his car—a Russian Volga, the model that would be back in fashion again in about six months.

Chapter 1

Even if you love your job, the last day of vacation always makes you feel depressed. Just one week earlier I'd been roasting on a nice clean Spanish beach, eating paella (to be quite honest, Uzbek pilaf is better), drinking cold sangria in a little Chinese restaurant (how come the Chinese make the Spanish national drink better than the natives do?) and buying all sorts of rubbishy resort souvenirs in the little shops.

But now it was summer in Moscow again—not exactly hot, but stifling and oppressive—and it was that final day of vacation, when you can't get your head to relax anymore, but it flatly refuses to work.

Maybe that was why I felt glad when I got the call from Gesar.

"Good morning, Anton," the boss began, without introducing himself. "Welcome back. Did you know it was me?"

I'd been able to sense Gesar's calls for some time already. It was as if the trilling of the phone changed subtly, becoming more demanding and authoritative.

But I was in no rush to let the boss know that.

"Yes, Boris Ignatievich."

"Are you alone?"

An unnecessary question. I was certain Gesar knew perfectly well where Svetlana was just then.

"Yes. The girls are at the dacha."

TWILIGHT WATCH 9

"Good for them," the boss sighed at the other end of the line, and an entirely human note appeared in his voice. "Olga flew off on vacation this morning too . . . half the Watch staff are sunning themselves in southern climes . . . Think you could come around to the office right away?"

Before I had time to answer, Gesar went on cheerily. "Well, that's excellent! See you in forty minutes, then."

I really felt like calling Gesar a cheap poser—after I hung up, of course. But I kept my mouth shut. In the first place, the boss could hear what I said without any telephone. And in the second, whatever else he might be, he was no cheap poser. He simply didn't like wasting time. If I was about to say I'd be there in forty minutes, what point was there in listening to me say it?

Anyway, I was really glad I'd gotten the call. The day was already shot to hell. It was still too early to tidy up the apartment (like any self-respecting man whose family is away, I only do that once, on the final day of bachelor life). And I definitely didn't feel like going around to see anyone or inviting anyone back to my place either. By far the most useful thing would be to go back to work a day early—that way, I could ask for time off with a clear conscience when I needed to.

Even though asking for time off wasn't something we did.

"Thanks, boss," I said with real feeling. I detached myself from the armchair, put down the book I hadn't finished, and stretched.

And then the phone rang again.

Of course, it would have been just like Gesar to ring and say, "You're welcome!" But that definitely would have been cheap clowning.

"Hello," I said in a very businesslike tone.

"Anton, it's me."

"Svetka," I said, sitting back down again. And suddenly I tensed up—Svetlana's voice sounded uneasy, anxious. "Svetka, has something happened to Nadya?"

"Everything's fine," she replied quickly. "Don't worry. Why don't you tell me how you've been getting on?"

10 Sergei Lukyanenko

I thought for a few seconds. I hadn't held any drinking parties, I hadn't brought any women back home, I wasn't drowning in garbage, I'd even been washing the dishes . . .

And then I realized.

"Gesar called. Just a moment ago."

"What does he want?" Svetlana asked quickly.

"Nothing special. He asked me to turn up for work today."

"Anton, I sensed something. Something bad. Did you say yes? Are you going to work?"

"Why not? I've got absolutely nothing else to do."

Svetlana said nothing on the other end of the line (although, what lines are there with cell phones?). Then she said reluctantly, "You know, I felt a sort of pricking in my heart. Do you believe I can sense trouble?"

I laughed. "Yes, Great One."

"Anton, be serious, will you!" Svetlana was instantly uptight, the way she always got when I called her Great One. "Listen to me ... if Gesar asks you to do something, say no."

"Sveta, if Gesar called me in, it means he wants to ask me to do something. It means he needs more help. He says everyone's on vacation ..."

"He needs more cannon fodder," Svetlana snapped. "Anton . . . never mind, you won't listen to me anyway. Just be careful."

"Svetka, you don't seriously think that Gesar's going to put me in any danger, do you?" I said cautiously. "I understand the way you feel about him ..."

"Be careful," said Svetlana. "For our sake. All right?"

"All right," I promised. "I'm always very careful."

"I'll call if I sense anything else," said Svetlana. She seemed to have calmed down a bit. "And you call, all right? If anything at all unusual happens, call. Okay?"

"Okay, I'll call."

Svetlana paused for a few seconds, then before she hung up said, "You ought to leave the Watch, third-class Light Magician ..."

TWILIGHT WATCH 11

It all ended on a suspiciously light note, with a cheap jibe ... Although we had agreed not to discuss that subject a long time ago—three years earlier, when Svetlana left the Night Watch. And we hadn't broken our promise once. Of course, I used to tell my wife about my work ... at least, about the jobs that I wanted to remember. And she always listened with interest. But now she had come right out with it.

Could she really have sensed something bad?

The result was that I got ready to go slowly and reluctantly. I put on a suit, then changed into jeans and a checked shirt, then thought "to hell with it" and got into my shorts and a black t-shirt with an inscription that said: "My friend was in a state of clinical death, and all he brought me from the next world was this T-shirt!" I might look like a jolly German tourist, but at least I would retain the semblance of a holiday mood in front of Gesar . . .

Eventually I left the building with just twenty minutes to go before the time set by the boss was up. I had to flag down a car and feel out the probability lines, and then tell the driver which streets to take so we wouldn't hit any traffic jams.

The driver accepted my instructions reluctantly—he obviously had serious doubts.

But we got there on time.

The elevators weren't working—there were guys in blue overalls loading paper sacks of cement into them. I set off up the stairs on foot, and discovered that the second floor of our office was being refurbished. There were workmen lining the walls with sheets of plasterboard, and plasterers bustling about beside them, filling in the seams. At the same time they were installing a false ceiling, which already covered the air-conditioning pipes.

So our office manager Vitaly Markovich had gotten his own way after all. He'd managed to get the boss to shell out for a full-scale renovation, and even worked out where to get the money from.

I stopped for a moment and took a look at the workmen

12 Sergei Lukyanenko

through the Twilight. Ordinary people, not Others, as I ought to have expected. There was only one plasterer, who wasn't much to look at, whose aura seemed suspicious. But after a second I realized he was simply in love. With his own wife! Well, would you ever . . . there were still a few good people left in the world.

The third and fourth floors had already been refurbished and that assured my good mood. At long last it would be cool in the IT department too. Not that I was in there every day now, but even so ... As I ran past I greeted the security guards who had clearly been posted here for the duration of the renovation. Just as I got to Gesar's office, I ran into Semyon. He was impressing something on Yulia in a serious, didactic tone of voice.

How time did fly . . . Three years earlier Yulia had still been just a little girl. Now she was a beautiful young woman. And a very promising enchantress—she had already been invited to join the European office of the Night Watch. They like to skim off the young talent—to a multilingual chorus of protestations about the great common cause ...

But this time they hadn't gotten away with it. Gesar had held on to Yulia, and in addition let them know that he could recruit young European talent if he felt like it.

I wondered what Yulia herself had wanted in that situation.

"Been called back in?" Semyon enquired sympathetically, breaking off his conversation the moment he spotted me. "Or is your time up already?"

"My time's up, and I've been called in," I said. "Has something happened? Hi, Yulka."

For some reason Semyon and I never said hello, as if we'd only just seen each other. Anyway, he always looked exactly the same—dressed very simply, carelessly shaved, with the crumpled face of a peasant who has moved into the big city.

That day, in fact, Semyon was looking homelier than ever.

"Hi, Anton," Yulia said. Her expression was glum. It looked

TWILIGHT WATCH

13

as though Semyon had been educating her again—he was a past master at that sort of thing.

"Nothing's happened," Semyon said with a shake of his head. "Everything's perfectly calm. Last week we only picked up two witches, and that was for petty offenses."

"Well, that's just great," I said, trying not to notice Yulia's imploring glance. "I'll go see the boss."

Semyon nodded and turned back toward the girl. As I walked into the boss's reception room, I heard him saying, "So listen, Yulia, I've been doing the same job for sixty years now, but this kind of irresponsible behavior ..."

He's strict all right, but he never gives anyone a hard time without good reason, so I wasn't about to rescue Yulia from the conversation.

In the reception area there was a new air conditioner quietly humming away and the ceiling was dotted with tiny halogen bulbs for accent lighting. Larissa was sitting there—evidently Gesar's secretary, Galochka, was on vacation, and our field work coordinators really didn't have much work of their own to do.

"Hello, Anton," Larissa said to me. "You're looking good."

"Two weeks on the beach!" I replied proudly.

Larissa squinted at the clock. "I was told to show you right in. But the boss still has visitors. Will you go in?"

"Yes," I decided. "Seems like I needn't have bothered hurrying."

"Gorodetsky's here to see you, Boris Ignatievich," Larissa said into the intercom. She nodded to me. "Go on in ... oh, it's hot in there ..."

It really was hot inside Gesar's door. There were two middle-aged men I didn't know languishing in the armchairs in front of his desk—I mentally christened them Thin Man and Fat Man, after Chekhov's short story. But both of them were sweating.

"And what do we observe?" Gesar asked them reproachfully. He cast a sideways glance at me. "Come in, Anton. Sit down, I'll be finished in a moment..."

14 Sergei Lukyanenko

Thin Man and Fat Man perked up a bit at that.

"Some mediocre housewife ... distorting all the facts... vulgarizing and simplifying everything . . . running rings around you! On a global scale!"

"She can do that precisely because she vulgarizes and simplifies," Fat Man retorted morosely.

"You told us to tell everything like it is," Thin Man said in support. "And this is the result, Most Lucent Gesar!"

I took a look at Gesar's visitors through the Twilight. Well, well! More human beings! And yet they knew the boss's name and title! And they even pronounced them with candid sarcasm! Of course, there are always special circumstances, but for Gesar to reveal himself to ordinary people . ..

"All right," Gesar said with a nod. "I'll let you have one more try. This time work separately."

Thin Man and Fat Man exchanged glances.

"We'll do our best," Fat Man said with a good-natured smile. "You understand, though—we've already had a certain degree of success ..."

Gesar snorted. As if they'd been given some invisible signal that the conversation was over, the visitors stood up, shook the boss's hand in farewell and walked out. In the reception area Thin Man made some amusing and flirtatious remark to Larissa, and she laughed.

"Ordinary people?" I asked cautiously.

Gesar nodded, gazing at the door with a hostile expression. He sighed.

"People, people ... All right, Gorodetsky. Sit down."

I sat down, but Gesar still didn't start the conversation. He fiddled with his papers, fingered some bright-colored, smoothly polished glass beads heaped up in a coarse earthenware bowl. I felt like looking to see if they were amulets or really just glass beads, but I didn't want to risk taking any liberties in front of Gesar.

"How was your vacation?" Gesar asked, as if he'd exhausted all his excuses for delaying the conversation.

TWILIGHT WATCH 15

"Good," I answered. "I missed Sveta, of course. But I couldn't drag little Nadya out into that scorching Spanish sun. That's no good ..."

"No," Gesar agreed, "it isn't." I didn't know if the Great Magician had any children—even close associates weren't trusted with information like that. He probably did. He was almost certainly capable of experiencing something like paternal feelings. "Anton, did you phone Svetlana?"

"No," I said and shook my head. "Has she contacted you?"

Gesar nodded. Then suddenly he couldn't contain himself any longer—he slammed his fist down on the desk and burst out: "Just what did she think she was doing? First she deserts the Watch..."

"Gesar, every one of us has the right to resign," I objected. But Gesar had no intention of apologizing.

"Deserts! An enchantress of her level doesn't belong to herself! She has no right to belong to herself! If, that is... if she calls herself a Light One ... And then—she's raising her daughter as a human being!"

"Nadya is a human being," I said, feeling myself starting to fume too. "Whether or not she becomes an Other is for her to decide . .. Most Lucent Gesar!"

Gesar realized that I was all set to blow too and he changed his tone.

"Okay. That's your right. Pull out of the fight, ruin the little girl's life . . . anything you like! But where does this hate come from?"

"What did Sveta say?" I asked.

Gesar sighed. "Your wife phoned me. On a number that she has no right to know ..."

"Then she doesn't know it," I put in.

"And she told me I intended to have you killed! That I was hatching a highly complicated plot for your physical elimination!"

I looked into Gesar's eyes for a second. Then I laughed.

"You think it's funny?" Gesar asked in a voice filled with pain. "You really think so?"

16 Sergei Lukyanenko

"Gesar ..." I said, suppressing my laughter with an effort. "I'm sorry. May I speak frankly?"

"By all means..."

"You are the greatest plotter of anybody I know. Worse than Zabulon. Compared to you, Machiavelli was a mere pup ..."

"Don't be so quick to underestimate Machiavelli," Gesar growled. "I get the idea, I'm a plotter. And?"

"And I'm sure you have no intention of getting me killed. In a crisis, perhaps, you might sacrifice me. In order to save a commensurately greater number of people or Light Others. But not that way ... by planning . .. and scheming ... I don't believe it."

"Thanks, I'm glad to hear it," Gesar said with a nod. I couldn't tell if I'd nettled him or not. "Then what on earth has Svetlana gotten into her head? I'm sorry, Anton ..." Gesar suddenly hesitated and even looked away, but he finished what he was saying. "Are you expecting a child? Another one?"

I choked and shook my head. "No ... at least, I don't think so . . . no, she would have told me."

"Women sometimes go a bit crazy when they're expecting a child," Gesar growled and started fingering his glass beads again. "They start seeing danger everywhere—for the child, for their husband, for themselves ... Or maybe now she has ..." But then the Great Magician got really embarrassed and stopped himself short. "That's rubbish . . . forget it. Why don't you pay your wife a visit in the country, play with your daughter, drink some milk fresh from the cow ..."

"My vacation ends tomorrow," I reminded him. Oh, there was something not right here! "And I thought the idea was that I was going to work today?"

Gesar stared hard at me. "Anton, forget about work! Svetlana shouted at me for fifteen minutes. If she was a Dark One, there'd be an Inferno Vortex hanging over my head right now. That's it, work's cancelled. I'm extending your vacation for a week— go to the country and see your wife!"

TWILIGHT WATCH 17

In the Moscow department of the Watch we have a saying: "There are three things a Light Other can't do: organize his own personal life, achieve worldwide peace and happiness, and get time off from Gesar." To be honest, I was quite happy with my personal life, and now I'd been given an extra week of vacation. So maybe worldwide peace and happiness were only just around the corner?

"Aren't you pleased?" Gesar asked.

"Yes," I admitted. No, I wasn't inspired by the prospect of weeding the vegetable beds under the watchful eye of my mother-in-law. But Sveta and Nadya would be there. Nadya, Nadyenka, Nadiushka. My little two-year-old miracle. A lovely little human being... Potentially an Other of immense power. An Enchantress so very Great that Gesar himself couldn't hold a candle to her. I imagined the Great Light Magician Gesar standing there holding a candle, so that little Nadya could play with her toys, and grinned.

"Call into the accounts office, they'll issue you a bonus ..." Gesar continued, not suspecting the humiliation I was subjecting him to in my mind. "Think up the citation for yourself. Something like ... for many years of conscientious service ..."

"Gesar, what kind of job was it?" I asked.

Gesar stopped talking and tried to drill right through me with his gaze. When he got nowhere, he said, "When I tell you everything, you will phone Svetlana. From here. And you'll ask her if you should agree or not. Okay? And you tell her about the extra vacation too."

"What's happened?"

Instead of replying, Gesar pulled open the drawer of the desk, took out a black leather folder and held it out to me. The folder had a distinct aura of magic—powerful, dangerous battle magic.

"Don't worry, open it, you've been granted access ..." Gesar growled.

I opened the folder—at that point any unauthorized Other or human being would have been reduced to a handful of ash.

18 Sergei Lukyanenko

Inside the folder was a letter. Just one single envelope. The address of our office was written in newsprint, carefully cut out and stuck onto the envelope. And, naturally, there was no return address.

"The letters have been cut out of three newspapers," said Gesar. "Pravda, Kommersant, and Arguments and Facts."

"Ingenious," I remarked. "Can I open it?"

"Yes, do. The forensic experts have already done everything they can with the envelope—there aren't any fingerprints. The glue was made in China and it's on sale in every newspaper kiosk."

"And it's written on toilet paper!" I exclaimed in absolute delight as I took the letter out of the envelope. "Is it clean at least?"

"Unfortunately," said Gesar. "Not the slightest trace of organic matter. Standard cheap pulp. 'Fifty-four meters', they call it."

The sheet of toilet paper had been carelessly torn off along the perforation and the text was glued onto it in different-sized letters. Or rather, in entire words, with a few endings added separately, and with no regard for the typeface:

"The NIGHT WATCH should BE INTERESTED to know that a CERTAIN Other has REVEALed to a CERTAIN human being the entire truth about oTHErs and now inTENDs to turn this human beING into an OTHER. A wellWISHer."

I would have laughed, but somehow I didn't feel like it. Instead, I remarked perspicaciously, " 'Night Watch' is written in complete words..."

"There was an article in Arguments and Facts," Gesar explained. "About a fire at the TV tower. It was called night watch

ON THE OSTANKINO TOWER."

"Clever," I agreed. The mention of the tower gave me a slight twinge. That hadn't exactly been the best time of my life . . . And those weren't the most enjoyable adventures I'd ever had. I would be haunted for the rest of my days by the face of the Dark Other I threw off the TV tower in the Twilight. . .

"Don't get moody, Anton, you didn't do anything wrong," said Gesar. "Let's get down to business."

TWILIGHT WATCH 19

"Let's do that, Boris Ignatievich," I said, calling the boss by his old "civilian" name. "Is this for real, then?"

Gesar shrugged. "There's not even a whiff of magic from the letter. It was either composed by a human being, or by a competent Other who can cover his tracks. If it's a human being... that means there has to be a leak somewhere. If it's an Other . . . it's an absolutely irresponsible act of provocation."

"No traces at all?" I asked again to make sure.

"None. The only clue is the postmark." Gesar frowned. "But that looks very much like a red herring ..."

"Why—was the letter sent from the Kremlin, then?" I quipped.

"Almost. The mailbox the letter was posted in is located on the grounds of the Assol complex."

Great tall buildings with red roofs—the kind Comrade Stalin would have been sure to approve of. I'd seen them. But only from a distance.

"You can't just go walking in there!"

"No, you can't," Gesar said with a nod. "So, in sending the letter from the Assol residences after all this subterfuge with the paper, the glue, and the letters, our unknown correspondent either committed a crude error ..."

I shook my head.

"Or he's leading us onto a false trail..." At this point Gesar paused, observing my reaction closely.

I thought for a moment. And then shook my head again, "That's very naive. No."

"Or the 'wellwisher,'" Gesar pronounced the final word with frank sarcasm, "really does want to give us a clue."

"What for?" I asked.

"He sent the letter for some reason," Gesar reminded me. "As you well understand, Anton, we have to react to this letter somehow. Let's assume the worst—there's a traitor among the Others, who can reveal the secret of our existence to the human race."

"But who's going to believe him?"

"They won't believe a human being. But they will believe an Other who can demonstrate his abilities."

20 Sergei Lukyanenko

Gesar was right, of course. But I couldn't make sense of why anyone would do such a thing. Even the stupidest and most malicious Dark One had to understand what would happen after the truth was revealed. A new witch hunt, that was what. And people would gladly cast both the Dark Ones and the Light Ones in the role of the witches. Everyone who possessed the abilities of an Other ...

Including Sveta. Including little Nadya.

"How is it possible 'to turn this human being into an Other'?" I asked. "Vampirism?"

"Vampires, werewolves..." Gesar shrugged. "That's it, I suppose. Initiation is possible at the very crudest, most primitive levels of Dark Power, but it would have to be paid for by sacrificing the human essence. It's impossible to turn a human being into a magician by initiation."

"Nadiushka ..." I whispered. "You rewrote Svetlana's Book of Destiny, didn't you?"

Gesar shook his head. "No, Anton. Your daughter was destined to be born a Great One. All we did was make the sign more precise. We eliminated the element of chance ..."

"Egor," I reminded him. "The boy had already become a Dark Other . .."

"But we erased the specific quality of his initiation. Gave him a chance to choose again," Gesar said and nodded. "Anton, all the interventions that we are capable of only have to do with the choice of 'Dark' or 'Light.' But there's no way we can make the choice between 'human' or 'Other.' No one in this world can do that."

"Then that means we're talking about vampires," I said. "Supposing the Dark Ones have another vampire who has fallen in love ..."

Gesar spread his hands helplessly. "Could be. Then everything's more or less simple. The Dark Ones will check their riffraff—it's in their interest as much as ours... And yes, by the way. They received a letter too. Exactly the same. And sent from Assol too."

TWILIGHT WATCH 21

"How about the Inquisition—did they get one?"

"You get shrewder and shrewder all the time," Gesar laughed. "They got one too. By mail. From Assol."

Gesar was clearly hinting at something. I thought for a moment and drew yet another shrewd conclusion.

"Then the investigation is being conducted by both Watches and the Inquisition?"

There was a brief flicker of disappointment in Gesar's glance.

"Yes, that's the way it is. When it's absolutely necessary, in a private capacity, it is permissible to reveal yourself to human beings. You know yourself . . ."he nodded toward the door through which his visitors had left. "But that's a private matter. And the appropriate magical limitations are imposed. This situation is far worse than that. It looks as if one of the Others intends to trade in initiations."

I imagined a vampire offering his services to rich New Russians and smiled. "How would you like to drink the people's blood for real, my dear sir?" But then, it wasn't all about blood. Even the very weakest vampire or werewolf possesses Power. They have no fear of disease. They live for a very, very long time. And their physical strength shouldn't be forgotten either—any werewolf would beat Karelin and give Tyson a good whipping. And then there was their "animal magnetism," the "call" that they had such complete control over. Any woman was yours for the taking, just summon her.

Of course, in reality, both vampires and werewolves were bound by numerous restrictions. Even more so than magicians—their instability required it. But did a newly initiated vampire really understand that?

"What are you smiling at?" Gesar asked.

"I just imagined an announcement in a newspaper. T will turn you into a vampire. Safe, reliable, a hundred years guarantee. Price by arrangement.'"

Gesar nodded. "Good thinking. I'll have the newspapers and internet notice boards checked."

I looked at Gesar, but I couldn't tell if he was joking or seri-

22 Sergei Lukyanenko

ous. "I don't think there's any real danger," I said. "Most likely some crackpot vampire has decided to earn a bit of money. Showed some rich man a few tricks and offered to... er... bite him."

"One bite, and all your troubles are over," Gesar said encouragingly.

Encouraged, I continued. "Someone ... for instance, this man's wife, found out about the terrible offer. While her husband is hesitating, she decided to write to us. Hoping that we'll eliminate the vampire and her husband will remain a human being. Hence the combination of letters cut out of newspapers and the post office in Assol. A cry for help. She can't tell us openly, but she's literally begging us: Save my husband!"

"You hopeless romantic," Gesar said disapprovingly. "So then she takes a pair of nail scissors, and snippety-snips the letters out of the latest Pravda ... Did she get the addresses out of the newspapers too?"

"The address of the Inquisition!" I exclaimed, suddenly realizing the problem.

"Now there you're right. Could you send a letter to the Inquisition?"

I didn't answer. I'd been put firmly in my place. And Gesar had told me straight out about the letter to the Inquisition.

"In our watch I'm the only person who knows their address. In the Day Watch, I presume Zabulon is the only one. So where does that leave us, Gorodetsky?"

"You sent the letter. Or Zabulon did."

Gesar only snorted.

"And is the Inquisition really uptight about this?" I asked.

"Uptight is putting it mildly. In itself, the attempt to trade in initiations doesn't bother them. That's standard business for the watches—identify the perpetrator, punish him, and seal the leak. Especially since we and the Dark Ones are both equally outraged by what has happened .. . But a letter to the Inquisition—that's something really exceptional. There aren't very many of them, so you can see ... If one side violates the Treaty,

TWILIGHT WATCH 23

the Inquisition takes the other side, maintaining equilibrium. That gives all of us . . . discipline. But let's just say somewhere in the depths of one of the Watches a plan is being hatched for ultimate victory. A group of battle magicians who have come together and are capable of killing all the Inquisitors in a single night—that is, of course, if they happen to know all about the Inquisition—who serves in it, where they live, where they keep their documents ..."

"Did the letter arrive at their head office?" I asked.

"Yes. And judging from the fact that six hours later the office was empty, and there was a fire in the building, that must have been where the Inquisition kept all its archives. Even I didn't know that for certain. Anyway, by sending the letter to the Inquisition, this person ... or Other . . . has thrown down the gauntlet to them. Now the Inquisition will be after him. The official reason is that security has been breached and an attempt is being made to initiate a human being. But in reality, what's driving them is concern for their own skin."

"I never thought it was like them to feel afraid for themselves," I said.

"Oh yes, and how, Anton! Here's a little something for you to ponder . . . Why aren't there any traitors in the Inquisition? Dark Ones and Light Ones join them. They go through their training. And then—the Dark Ones punish Dark Ones severely, the Light Ones punish Light Ones, the very moment they violate the Treaty."

"A special character type," I suggested. "They select Others who are like that."

"And they never make a mistake?" Gesar asked skeptically. "That couldn't happen. But in the whole of history, there has never been a single case of an Inquisitor violating the Treaty..."

"They evidently understand too clearly what violating the Treaty leads to. There was one Inquisitor in Prague who told me, 'We are constrained by fear.'"

Gesar frowned. "Witezslav... he's fond of fine phrases... All right, don't bother your head about that. The situation's simple

24 Sergei Lukyanenko

there's an Other who is either in violation of the Treaty or taunting the Watches and the Inquisition. The Inquisition will conduct its investigation, the Dark Ones will conduct theirs. And a staff member is required from us too."

"May I ask why me in particular?"

Gesar spread his hands expressively again. "For a number of reasons. The first is that in the course of the investigation you'll probably come up against vampires. And you're our top specialist on the lower Dark Ones."

No, he didn't seem to be making fun of me.

"The second reason," Gesar went on, opening the fingers of his fist as he counted, in the German fashion, "is that the investigators officially appointed by the Inquisition are old friends of yours. Witezslav and Edgar."

"Edgar's in Moscow?" I asked, surprised. I couldn't say that I actually liked the Dark Magician who had transferred to the Inquisition three years earlier. But . . . but I could say that I didn't find him unpleasant.

"Yes, he is. He completed his course of training four months ago and flew back here. Since this job means you'll be in contact with Inquisitors, any previous personal acquaintance is useful."

"My acquaintance with them wasn't all that enjoyable," I reminded him.

"What do you think I'm promising you here, Thai massage during working hours?" Gesar asked cantankerously. "The third reason why I particularly wanted to give this assignment to you is..." He stopped.

I waited.

"The Dark Ones' investigation is also being conducted by an old acquaintance of yours."

Gesar didn't need to go on and mention the name. But he did anyway.

"Konstantin. The young vampire . . . your former neighbor. I recall that you used to be on good terms."

"Yes, of course," I said bitterly. "When he was still a child, only drank pig's blood, and dreamed of escaping from the 'curse'. ..

TWILIGHT WATCH 25

Until he realized that his friend the Light Magician burns his kind to ashes."

"That's life," said Gesar.

"He's already drunk human blood," I said. "He must have! If he's in favor in the Day Watch."

"He has become a Higher Vampire," Gesar declared. "The youngest Higher Vampire in Europe. If you translate that into our terms, that means ..."

"Third or fourth level of Power," I whispered. "Five or six lives destroyed."

Kostya, Kostya ... I was a young, inexperienced Light Magician back then. I just couldn't make any friends in the Watch, and relations with all my old friends were rapidly falling apart . . . Others and people can't be friends. . . and suddenly I discovered that my neighbors on the same staircase were Dark Others. A family of vampires. The mother and father were vampires, and they'd initiated their child, too. There was nothing really sinister about them though. No nocturnal hunting, no applications for licenses, they respected the law and drank pig's blood and donors' blood. And so, like a fool, I let my defenses down. I became friends with them. I even used to go around to see them. I even invited them to my place. They ate food that I'd cooked, and praised it. . . and, fool that I was, I didn't realize that human food is tasteless to them, that they are tormented by an ancient, eternal hunger. The little vampire kid even decided that he was going to be a biologist and discover a cure for vampirism . . .

Then I killed my first vampire.

After that Kostya joined the Day Watch. I didn't know if he'd ever graduated from his biology faculty, but he'd certainly shed his childhood illusions . . .

He'd started receiving licenses to kill. Rise to the level of a Higher Vampire in three years? He must have had help. All the resources of the Day Watch must have been brought to bear so that the nice young guy Kostya could sink his fangs into human necks over and over again ...

26 Sergei Lukyanenko

And I had a pretty good idea who had helped him.

"What do you think, Anton," said Gesar, "in the given situation, who should we appoint as the investigator from our side?"

I took my cell phone out of my pocket and dialed Svetlana's number.

Chapter 2

In our line of business you don't often get to work undercover.

In the first place, you have to completely disguise your nature as an Other so that nothing gives you away—not your aura, or any streams of Power, or any disturbances in the Twilight. And the situation here is quite simple—if you're a fifth-level magician, then you won't be discovered by magicians weaker than you (i.e., those who are sixth- and seventh-level). If you're a first-level magician, then you're concealed from the second level and below. If you're a magician beyond classification . . . well, then you can hope that no one will recognize you. I was disguised by Gesar himself. Immediately afterward, I spoke to Svetlana—a conversation that was brief, but painful. No, we didn't quarrel. She was just very upset.

And in the second place, you need a cover story. The simplest way to provide a cover story is by magical means—people you don't know will gladly believe you're their brother, their son-in-law's father, or the army buddy they drank home brew with when they went absent without leave. But any magical cover story will leave traces that any reasonably powerful Other can spot.

So there was no magic at all involved in my cover story. Gesar handed me the keys to an apartment in the Assol complex—500 square feet of floor space on the eighth floor. The apartment was registered in my name and had been bought six months earlier.

28 Sergei Lukyanenko

When I opened my eyes wide at that, Gesar explained that the documents had been signed that morning, but backdated. For big money. And the apartment would have to be handed back afterward.

I got the key to the BMW just to add substance to my story. It wasn't a new car, or the most luxurious model, but then my apartment was a small one too.

Then a tailor came into the office—a mournful little old Jew, a seventh-level Other. He took my measurements, promised the suit would be ready by the evening, and then, he said, "This boy will start to look like a man." Gesar was extremely polite with the tailor. He opened the door for him and then saw him out into the reception, and as he said goodbye, he asked timidly how his "little coat" was coming on. The tailor told him there was no need to worry—a coat worthy of the Most Lucent Gesar would be ready before the cold weather set in.

After hearing that, I wasn't so delighted by the decision that I could keep my suit. The tailor clearly didn't make genuine, monumental things in half a day.

Gesar himself provided me with ties. He even taught me a particularly fashionable knot. Then he gave me a wad of banknotes and the address of a shop and ordered me to buy myself everything else to match—including underwear, handkerchiefs, and socks. I was offered the services of Ignat as a consultant—one of our magicians who would have been called an incubus in the Day Watch. Or a succubus—he didn't really care much either way.

The expedition around the boutiques, where Ignat felt right at home, was amusing. But the visit to the hairdresser's, or rather, the "Beauty Salon," left me completely wrecked. Two women and a young guy who tried to act like he was gay, although he wasn't, took turns inspecting me. They all sighed for a long time and made uncomplimentary remarks about my hairdresser. If their wishes had come true, the hairdresser would have been condemned to shearing the wool off mangy sheep for the rest of his life. And for some reason in Tajikistan. This was clearly the most terrible hairdresser's curse ... I even decided that after my mis-

TWILIGHT WATCH 29

sion I'd drop into the second-class hairdresser's where I'd been getting my hair cut for the last year, just to make sure they hadn't left an Inferno Vortex hanging over the man's head.

The collective wisdom of the beauty specialists was that my only hope of salvation was a short comb-cut, like one of those small-time hoods who fleece the traders at the market. In consolation they told me that the forecast was for a hot summer and I'd feel more comfortable with a short haircut.

After the haircut, which took more than an hour, I was subjected to a manicure and a pedicure. When Ignat was satisfied, he took me to a dentist, who removed the tartar from my teeth with a special fitting on his drill and advised me to have the procedure repeated every six months. After the procedure my teeth felt somehow naked—it was even unpleasant to touch them with my tongue. I couldn't think of what to say in reply to Ig-nat's ambivalent comment, "Anton, you look good enough to fall in love with!" and just mumbled something incomprehensible. All the way back to the office I served as a defenseless target for his unsubtle wit.

The suit was already waiting for me. And the tailor too, muttering discontentedly that sewing a suit without a second fitting was like getting married on impulse.

I don't know. If every marriage made on impulse was as successful as that suit, the incidence of divorce would be reduced to zero.

Gesar spoke to the tailor about his coat again. They had a long, heated argument about the buttons, until the Most Lucent Magician finally capitulated. And I stood by the window, looking out at the evening street and the small blinking light of the alarm system in "my" car.

I hoped no one would steal my ride ... I couldn't set up any magical defenses to frighten away petty thieves. That would give me away more surely than the parachute trailing behind the Russian spy Stirlitz, as the old joke goes.

That night I was due to sleep in the new apartment. And I had to pretend it wasn't the first time I'd been there. At least there

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