Chapter One Hundred Seventeen

Aghajari Oil Refinery

Iran

June 16, 6:21 a.m.

I bellowed my pain as I tried to wrench my flesh from the teeth of that shattered crate, but I wasn’t going anywhere. Grigor bent low, his body language becoming like some animalistic and predatory thing, vulpine, unnatural. His mouth was a wide, red slash in his pale face. He flashed out a hand and knotted my hair in his fist. Blood ran down my face, blinding my right eye, snaking hot lines inside my clothes. My arms were pinned by the jagged wood and I couldn’t reach my back-up knife clipped inside my pocket. He could have killed me right there and then. I knew it, he knew it. My life was nothing to him, an inconvenience at worst or an amusement at best. But he paused before going for the kill.

“Your world is going to die,” he snarled.

It was the kind of grandiose threat that might have sounded corny in pretty much any other circumstance. Not now. Vampires with nukes. Yeah, they get to mouth off any way they want.

The best reply I could manage was a wheezy, “Yeah… well fuck you.”

Not original, but effective. The effect was, however, that he pulled me halfway out of the nest of splinters and then slammed me back in, deeper.

“When the bombs go off,” whispered Grigor, “your own stupidity and paranoia will drive the nations together into a war that will devastate the earth. When the skies darken with ash, your kind will cower. When the fallout spreads, they will sicken and die. In the coldness of nuclear winter, the Upierczi will rise up and claim dominance.”

“Not a chance,” I said, but that was defiant bullshit.

His plan was a pretty good one. The war would probably start as soon as the bomb in Pakistan detonated. That government was conflicted and paranoid, and ever since SEAL Team Six popped a cap in Bin Laden on Pakistani soil, political tensions have been high and hostile. They would never believe that the bomb was triggered by vampires. I mean… who would believe that? Sure, I was a true believer right now, but I wasn’t going to be there to testify to the existence of monsters. No, the bomb there, the bombs in Iran and Saudi Arabia, the bomb in Louisiana, these were going to be seen as acts of war, and war would be the result. By the time anyone ever figured out what the hell was going on, the whole world would have become a hell.

And the Upierczi could live in a radioactive world. They were perfectly adapted-and genetically modified-to live in the world they were making.

The fact that this was all becoming crystal clear to me right now was a pain in the ass. Would have been nice to have put this all together back at the Arklight camp, and then sipped a beer while Church called in a multinational airstrike on Grigor.

As Church said, “If wishes were horses.”

“I thought you believed in God,” I said, fumbling for something to use as a lever. “How does this serve Him?”

“Read the Old Testament,” he said. “Our God is the God of vengeance and warfare. We are the new chosen people. We were chosen by Father Nicodemus and blessed by him in God’s name. Your kind should worship us.”

I had no answer to that. I’m not a theologian. So I again fell back on my old favorite. “Fuck you.”

Another pull and slam. Hard enough to rattle the whole stack of crates. A whole new array of burning points of pain blossomed where my body was pressed into the splinters. He leaned in close-not close enough for me to bite his nose, though-and snarled at me to worship him, emphasizing it with another shake. I was getting chewed up pretty bad by the splinters and blood was pouring down my body. I could feel it running out of my hair and down my cheeks.

“The Red Order thought they were working to maintain the faith,” said Grigor, his tone full of mockery, “but they polluted their own mission. When the bombs go off, every human who survives will be on his knees. Not the first bombs-no, that will merely start the war-but the three we have placed on the altars of faith.”

“What… are you talking about? Where are those other bombs?”

Grigor leered at me and the other vampires laughed. This was the heart of their plan, and the delight they took in it crackled through the air like electricity.

“We will strike the very heart of the faiths whose stupidity and superstitions have made monsters of my people, and whose pointless holy wars have done nothing but drive people away from faith. When I have drunk your life, Captain Ledger, I will send the activation codes that will detonate high-yield nuclear devices that we have placed in tunnels beneath Jerusalem and Mecca and the Vatican.” He leaned close. “Do you think that will bring the faithful to their knees?”

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