Returning from an early lunch at an Indian restaurant just a five-minute walk away from E-Branch HQ in the heart of London, Ben Trask sweated inside and out. Inside from the curry which was still searing his mouth and throat, outside from the unusually warm May weather. The noonday sun blazed down on him from a sky as vast and blue as the Ionian which he hoped his visitor from another world was enjoying, because Trask sure as hell was not! In fact, ever since Zek Föener and Nathan Kiklu (or Nathan "Keogh," as the Necroscope preferred to be called now) had gone off to the Greek islands a few days ago, Trask had been right out of sorts with himself, and with everyone else in his top-secret ESPionage organization.
He thought about the two, worried about them equally ... but for different reasons. About Nathan, because he was probably the most valuable and certainly the most--what, unique?--man in the world; even in two worlds. And about Zek because he loved her. At his age (Trask snorted), finally to have fallen in love! Not that he was ancient, and he certainly wasn't "past it," but ... it complicated matters. And with Zek in the Greek Islands, things seemed even more complicated. That silly old saw that has it "out of sight, out of mind" had it backwards as far as Trask was concerned. She was out of sight, all right, but she'd never been more in his mind than right now ...
And even as he thought it, the thought itself was like an invocation:
Deep water ... the salt sea ... weeds and sediment obscuring Trask's vision--no, Zek's vision!--and the pain in his/her chest ... heart hammering, vision blurring, lungs screaming for air! Sweet Jesus, she was drowning! And she was letting him know about it in the only way she could ... for Zek was one of the world's finest telepaths.
BEN! The word exploded into his mind like a bomb. TRY NOT TO FEEL ... TOO ... BAD ... ABOUT ... IT.
"Zek!" he yelled out loud, and could actually taste the water flooding into his/ her mouth.
GOOD ... ... BYE ... ... BEN ... ... !
Trask staggered, whirled, fell, and felt his knees slam down hard on the dusty pavement. But it didn't hurt. Nothing hurt except the fact that Zek's telepathic voice was dead in his mind. And that Zek herself--?
Across the road, people were staring. A car's horn blared, and its astonished driver gazed down at Trask where he kneeled half on, half off the road. Then the car swept on by and people came running, questioning. Someone asked if Trask had been hit. He shook his head, got to his feet and staggered again. A young couple grabbed him, held him upright, and the girl asked:
"Are you all right?"
Numb, he nodded. He was all right, yes. But Zek--?
It was mid-May 2006, and under the hot sun Trask was cold. Sweat rivered his face and stuck his shirt to his back, yet he was cold. Cold in his mind, from the feel and the taste of the deep salt water, but far colder from the memory of Zek's telepathic voice, crying there and dying there, in his mind. Cold from the sudden emptiness of ... everything. "Zek!"
He shook the young couple off, shouldered people aside, started to walk along the pavement and ended up running, and ran sweating and shivering down the side street to the back of the hotel whose top floor housed E-Branch HQ. He found the private door; after the sunlight it was like night in there; there was only the darkness until he used his pass-card to enter the elevator with its electric ceiling light. And even then it was dark; but that was in his mind, and he knew that the darkness was only the absence of Zek. In which case it might last forever.
Then the elevator shuddered to a halt, the doors hissed open and Trask stumbled out into the main corridor ...
... Which was--flooded?
An inch of water went sluicing into the elevator! Now what the holy ...?
There were espers in the corridor. Trask recognized faces without considering the amazement--the relief, the ... what? triumph, jubilation?--written on every one of them. There was a smell of ocean, seaweed, salt. The smell matched the taste of Zek in Trask's mind. So that once again he asked himself: Now what the holy ... ?
The tall, cadaverous, usually melancholy figure of the precog, Ian Goodly, loomed into view; but now his eyes were alight with elation. He grabbed Trask's arm, husked: "Ben--he's done it! Nathan's done it!"
"Done it?" Trask found it hard to gather his thoughts, concentrate his mind. Goodly was wet, splotched; he smelled of sea water just like the entire corridor smelled of it. His trousers were drenched from the knees down and clung to his thin calves. And now David Chung, Branch locator, had arrived on the scene; he, too, was soaked from head to toe, and grinning like an Oriental lunatic. "Done what?" Trask demanded, looking from one to the other of them. "What has Nathan done? And anyway, he's somewhere in the Ionian with ... with Zek." And finally losing it: "Why doesn't someone tell me what the fuck--is--going--on--here!?"
"They were in the Greek Islands, Ben." Goodly suddenly saw how close Trask was to shock. But he also knew how difficult it would be to shock a man who always knew the truth, a human lie detector like the current Head of E-Branch. And looking at him, Goodly thought to himself: He's improved, hardened with age and time. Oh, Ben has soft, human edges, too, but the man inside--the mind, soul, and personality, the id--is diamond-hard.
Trask was about five-ten, just a pound or two overweight, mousey-haired and green-eyed. His broad shoulders sloped just a little, his arms dangled somewhat, and his expression was--what, lugubrious? Or maybe that was as a direct result of his talent; for in a world where the simple truth was increasingly hard to come by, it was no easy thing to possess a mind that could not accept a lie. This was an election year, and Trask's current gripe was with politicians. Watching party political broadcasts, he would frequently burst out: "The trouble with these people is that they never lie! But they never tell the truth, either!"
And now he was staring hard at Goodly, asking: "What was that you said? They were in the Ionian? What the hell do you mean?"
Goodly knew there was only one way to tell it, and so answered: "They were there, yes, Ben. But just a few minutes ago, Nathan brought them back!"
Trask's jaw fell open. Not without an effort, he closed it and said: "He brought them--?"
"--Brought them back here, yes." Goodly nodded. "Through the Möbius Continuum."
And now Trask's jaw dropped open all the way, so that once again he had to close it before gasping: "The ... Continuum?" At which the truth finally dawned on him; if not in regard to Nathan, certainly in respect of Zek. The fact that she was alive! He'd known it was the truth, of course, even as Goodly said the words, but it seemed so far beyond his wildest hopes and dreams that even Trask had held back from letting it register. Just a moment ago he'd known that Zek Föener was dead--he had literally heard and felt her die--and yet now ...
As Trask's feet touched earth again, he snapped out of it and demanded to know: "Where are they? Are they okay? And Zek--is she okay?"
David Chung answered him. "They're sedated. We've fixed up a couple of beds in the Ops Room. But it was a close thing. They were in the sea. And when they came through ... I thought half of the Mediterranean was coming through with them!"
Trask grabbed him, said: "But how did it happen? Don't we know anything about it? Christ, I take an hour off for lunch, everything goes mad!"
"Nathan said a few words before we put him under," Chung answered. "But we had to put them out of it for a while. They were exhausted and in shock--especially Zek--and it might easily have developed into something worse."
"So what exactly did Nathan say?" Trask headed for the Ops Room with the others in tow.
"It seems it was a party of Tzonov's thugs," Goodly took up the story. "Nathan's Special Branch minders were taken by surprise--and murdered! Nathan and Zek ran for it, into the sea. More of Tzonov's people were waiting for them; they had wet suits and spearguns and were already in the water; for all we know at this stage, the entire operation was launched from the sea. But when the chips were down and there was no other way out, Nathan did his thing. Except ... there was probably a lot more to it than that."
"Oh?" Trask glanced at him, and pressed on into the Ops Room, where a small knot of espers was gathered around a pair of six-foot tables.
Goodly followed on behind, nodding. "There had been some pretty weird stuff going on here. Stuff that told us these two were in trouble." He gave a shrug. "So we did what we could for them." Goodly was wont to understate things: his British phlegmatism. But the precog's "pretty weird stuff" statement told Trask a lot: namely, that there was still a lot he hadn't been told.
"All of this in an hour?" he said, as the espers around the tables moved aside to make room for their Head of Branch, and Trask came to a halt between a pair of prone figures apparently asleep in hastily made-up beds.
"In a lot less than an hour," David Chung put in. "Let me tell you about it ...
"Myself, Ian, Geoff Smart, we all got the message at the same time: that something was wrong. With me it was Nathan's earring: the thing came alive in my hand! I can't say what it was for Smart, but he's an empath and he's done a lot of work with Nathan; maybe he sensed the trouble they were in even at that range. And of course Ian reads the future, and apparently he'd 'seen' me plugging in the computer in Harry's room. So we went there, and I plugged it in. Then--
"--It was the same as before: the numbers, equations, whatever; I'm no mathematician, so you tell me! But it was all on the screen. Except it wasn't quite the same. For this time the numbers came together, fused, formed into something else. Something that was ... I don't know, solid? Well, almost solid."
Trask had taken Zek's wrist; feeling the steady pulse, he issued a sigh of relief. Zek, you spoke to me. When you thought it was all over, I was the one you spoke to! It meant an awful lot to him. Then, as if it were his first breath in a week, he filled his lungs to bursting; and finally, frowning, he looked at Chung. "Something solid, you say? On the computer screen?"
Goodly took up the story again. "Do you remember those golden darts, Ben? I mean, when Harry died?"
"Of course I remember them."
"And the one we saw entering into the computer? In fact, the computer showed it to us, right?"
Trask nodded, stepped away from the tables and beckoned the others back. "Let them breathe, for Christ's sake!" And to Goodly: "What about it?"
"The way I see it," Goodly answered, "that dart or whatever it was, it's been waiting in there. Before, the computer seemed to be running off its own power; you'll remember, it wasn't plugged in? Well, whatever it was that powered the display that time--call it a 'ghost,' if you like, or an 'echo' of Harry Keogh--it must have just about burned itself out. But this time it was tapping a legitimate power source, which boosted what was left of it. So ... this is what we saw:
"The numbers stopped dead on the screen and, like David said, formed into something solid: a golden dart! Oh, it was faint as a wisp of yellow smoke--pretty insubstantial stuff--but it was real. And then ... it left the screen!"
"It what?" Trask's frown knotted his forehead.
"It left the screen," Goodly repeated. "And it passed out through the wall of the room and was gone."
"Gone? Gone where?"
Geoff Smart the empath had arrived from somewhere. Having heard what had been said, he now put in: "I think that's something you'll have to ask Nathan, when he comes out of it."
Trask glanced at the speaker. Smart was something less than six feet tall; sturdily built, red-haired, crew-cut, he looked like a boxer, aggressive, but was in fact mild-mannered. What he lacked in looks found compensation in what Trask called his "withness": his intense ability to relate. His talent was empathy, in which capacity he had worked very closely with Nathan. It was odds on that Smart would be correct in his as yet unspoken estimate of what had occurred. But unspoken or not, Trask read the truth in it anyway.
"You're telling me that this dart--went looking for him?"
Smart nodded. "And found him! That's my bet. I think it's been in there--in the computer--just waiting for him. Which is why none of you ever messed with Harry's room all this time, because you could sense it in there. Why not? You're all espers after all. But when Nathan got here, the thing revealed itself. And given a power source at last, when Chung plugged it in ..."
" ... The dart went home." Trask finished it for him. "Went home to Nathan."
Again Smart nodded. "That's how I see it, yes."
"It finished the job that we had started on him," Trask continued almost to himself, staring in something approaching awe at the young man on the second bed. "It gave him the Mobius Continuum and made him complete. But ... this was his first time ever? And still he was able to find his way back here--and bring Zek with him?"
David Chung spoke up. "He wasn't entirely on his own. I mean, I think maybe I had something to do with it. Or rather, that this had something to do with it." He held up Nathan's golden earring in the warped shape of a Mobius loop. "A vampire Lord called Maglore gave this to Nathan before he escaped from Turgosheim. I think Maglore was using it to spy on him. But as a locating device the earring works both ways. Nathan must have homed in on it, and that's how he found his way back here ..."
Trask looked at them all standing around him. Looked from face to face, and then at Zek Föener and the Necroscope Nathan Keogh, lying tranquilized in their makeshift beds. Finally he grinned and shook his head in wonder. And to Smart, Goodly, and Chung he said, "So, all three of you had a hand in it, right? God, what would we do without you? What would any of us anywhere do without you?" His steady gaze spread to encompass the rest of his espers. "And I do mean all of you."
It was the finest compliment he had ever paid them ...
The plan was simple:
Nathan had revisited Sir Keenan Gormley's resting place to "fix" its coordinates in his mind, and also to tell the ex-Head of Branch that he was experimenting with the Möbius Continuum. Now, having returned to E-Branch HQ, he wouldattempt a Möbius jump to Gormley's Garden of Repose. In the event that something went wrong, David Chung would be ready with Nathan's sigil earring to guide him home. And so that it would be more in keeping as a genuine scientific experiment, other Branch members would be in situ at Gormley's memorial, to time any lapse between Nathan's jump from HQ and his arrival in the Kensington cemetery.
All was now in place; it was 9:00 A.M., and the mid-city temperature was already climbing; Nathan, Trask, and a majority of E-Branch agents were in the Ops Room, every single man of them with a film of sweat on his brow despite the fact that the air-conditioning was up full. Finally Trask said, "Well, son, and now it's all yours."
Nathan smiled nervously, looked at them each in his turn, and last but not least at Zek. She smiled reassuringly, reminding him: "You've done it once."
He nodded. "When I had to, yes."
Trask was anxious and said, "Look, if you want to postpone this ..."
"No," Nathan cut him off. "Let it be now. There's no time left. If I can do it, it will give me the edge I'll need back on Sunside."
David Chung stepped forward, grinned self-consciously, and said: "Nathan, I ..." and stuck out his hand. They clasped forearms in the Szgany fashion, and Chung stepped back again. Then, as if at a signal, the espers backed away from Nathan where he stood in the center of the room.
And it was time.
Utter silence fell, and the expressions on all faces grew tense, expectant. Nathan felt the force of their minds concentrated upon him from where they stood in a circle but at a safe distance. And feeling their eyes--their minds--on him like that, and concerned that they might in some way interfere with the process, he closed his own eyes to shut them out. But he couldn't close his mind. Indeed, he must open his mind--
--Open it, and conjure the numbers vortex!
And at once--instantaneously, so rapidly that the effect almost unnerved him--Möbius equations commenced to mutate on the sceen of his metaphysical mind. It was the vortex, and yet it was not the vortex. The numbers, characters, and symbols were the same but the pattern was not. There was no actual whirlpool of numbers as such but an ordered march of evolving calculi and ever-changing equations, like the emerging answer to a question of immense complexity unravelling onto the screen of some gigantic computer.
But the big difference was this: that Nathan was no longer ignorant, no longer innumerate. He now knew what he was looking for, and how to control and use it. And suddenly it was there, and he froze it: the Big Equation, framed on the screen of his mind like a page of printout.
Frozen there, yes, for a single moment, before it dissolved and warped ... and formed a door.
A Mobius door!
And Nathan sensed that it was here, that it was real. His eyes snapped open and he saw it; there in the room with him, a single pace away. And he knew he was the only one--the only man in the world--who could see it.
The next scene would be remembered forever, by everyone who witnessed it. They were intent upon Nathan; they drank in every aspect of him, his looks, dress, stance, even something of his feelings, perhaps, until the picture of the man entire was etched into their extra-mundane minds:
Standing erect, head high, staring a little to one side and with his bottom jaw falling open a fraction as he became aware of something far beyond the sensory range of the rest, Nathan Keogh was an imposing young man of twenty, twenty-one years. His simple clothes, of this world, were nothing special, but the man inside them was. He was the Necroscope, who talked to dead men in their graves and so had access to all the secrets of the past--perhaps even of the future--and yet had no real time to explore or use such knowledge to his own best advantage. Not yet, anyway.
Nathan was something more than six feet tall. He had an athlete's body: broad shoulders, narrow waist, powerful arms and legs. His eyes might be very slightly slanted, or perhaps it was only his frown, the look of rapt attention on his face as he gazed at the mainly Unknown, which to the rest with the exception of Zek was completely unknown. His nose was straight and seemed small under a broad forehead flanked by high cheekbones. And over a square chin which jutted a little, his mouth was full and tended to slant downwards a fraction to the left. In others this might suggest cynicism, but not in him. Rather the opposite.
For looking at Nathan, Ben Trask knew the "truth" of him, which had to be revenant of his father, Harry Keogh: a natural innocence and compassion, the soulfulness of the mind behind the face. So that without being Keogh's spitting image, still the visitor "felt" like him. These had been Trask's thoughts the first time he'd laid eyes on Nathan, and nothing had occurred to change them. As for what was happening here: that could only confirm them beyond any further doubt.
Nathan viewed the Mobius door and stepped forward. The act was almost robotic, automatic, instinctive; as if he were drawn to the door, as if the place beyond it lured him irresistibly, which of course it did. Then, glancing just once at Trask and the others--
--He took a final, unsteady, but resolute pace ... right out of this world.
He was there--and he was gone! They saw his right foot, calf, thigh, half of his body and face disappear, and the rest of him follow into nothingness. The Necroscope Nathan Keogh was no longer in the room. Just motes of dust drifting in the sunlight through the window blinds, flowing into the vacuum where he had been.
Easily stated, but astonishing to the witnesses. An agent on the briefing podium almost forgot to say his magic word into his handset, and only just remembered in time: "Now!"
And the answer came back at once from the Kensington crematorium: "Now!"
The man on the podium frowned at his handset. "Yes, now, for Christ's sake! Why are you repeating me? He's just done it. He's just gone in."
And again the answer, in a brief burst of static: "Who's repeating you? I'm telling you! He's just come out! He's here, now!"
No time lapse at all, not to them. But to Nathan:
He stepped in through the metaphysical Möbius door, and entered a place beyond all places, beyond all times, yet encompassed by and encompassing space-time itself. It was not the same as--could not be likened to--any experience he'd ever known before. Even the first time he'd been ... here, with Zek, less than twenty-four hours ago, it had been different. At the very least there had been water then, a great spout of Ionian Sea water that had entered the Continuum under its own pressure, dispersing to ... wherever. Now there wasn't even that.
There was nothing!
It was a place of utter darkness: perhaps even the Primal Darkness itself, which existed before this universe or any parallel universe such as Nathan's began. Except there wasn't only an absence of light but an absence of everything. Nathan might well be at the entirely conjectural core of a black hole (his E-Branch tutors had dealt with certain of the basic theories of cosmology, at least); except a black hole has enormous gravity, and this place had none. No gravity, no time (and therefore no space), no light. Not a place obeying one single Law of Nature or Science, and therefore a place outside the Universe we know. And yet existing within the Universe we know, for it had twice been conjured by a common--or an uncommon--human being; by the Necroscope Nathan Keogh. As for Nathan's father: Harry had been a habitual user, almost an inhabitant, of "the place."
Both central and external, the Möbius Continuum was nowhere and it was everywhere; from such a starting point one might go anywhere, or go nowhere forever. And it would be for ever, for in this timeless--environment?--nothing would ever age or change except by force of will ... which was a fact that Nathan knew without knowing how he knew it. But then, how does a moorhen chick know how to swim? It was in his mind, his blood, his genes.
A "place," then, this Mobius Continuum: which might well be its best, indeed its only description. But Nathan's tutors had also touched upon theology, especially that of the Christian religion. And Nathan sensed that in some way this might even be a "holy" place. If so, then little wonder he'd been put to such pains to discover it. For it must be a very private holy place, in which no God as yet had uttered those wonderful words of evocation, "Let there be light!" Or if such words had been spoken ... then this was the source of everything, the initial singularity from which THE ALL had shone out in a great and glorious beginning!
And as that thought dawned, at a stroke, so Nathan hit upon the greatest secret of all, which had taken his father a veritable lifetime to discover. But it was only a thought, which he hadn't recognized as the truth ...
What he did recognize was this: that empty as this "place" was--and as far removed from man's laws as could be--still it had laws and forces of its own. For even now he could feel one such force working on him, trying to move, remove, or dislodge him from this unreal place back into the real. But Nathan had a will of his own and wasn't about to be moved except in the direction he desired.
"Behind" Nathan, if mundane directions had any meaning in such a place, the Mobius door closed. And remembering his purpose here he pictured the Garden of Repose in Kensington which was his target destination. It had been his plan to "picture" Sir Keenan Gormley's memorial marker, to focus upon the plaque and use it as a different kind of marker, but he now saw that this wasn't necessary.
For no sooner had the crematorium in Kensington entered his thoughts than he found himself in motion and knew that he was headed in that "direction." It was as if he were drawn along a route, though whether in a straight line, a curve, up or down ... it was impossible to say or even guess. But definitely he felt the first tentative tugging of some force other than the Mobius Continuum's rejection forces. Not even a tugging, as such, but more a gentle pressure that seemed to want to guide him. He'd known something like it before when tracking the Möbius loop symbol from Zakynthos in the Ionian back to E-Branch HQ. Then it had been his lifeline--Zek's, too--and remembering that, he felt in no way threatened.
He simply went with the motion, the feeling, following it to its source: the coordinates of Keenan Gormley's Garden of Repose in Kensington. And like seeing a light at the end of a tunnel, so Nathan sensed the way ahead and accelerated his metaphysical motion by willing himself ... that way, towards it. And as if he'd been walking and had suddenly broken into a run, he sensed that he was moving that much faster. So incredibly fast indeed that he was there!
And going from the incalculable "velocity" of thought to stationary in less than a second--yet feeling no discomfort whatsoever--Nathan conjured another Möbius door and stepped across the threshold.
Light! Such brilliant light that he gasped and screwed his eyes tight shut. And gravity! Nathan staggered a moment as his feet touched solid earth and his legs trembled where they took his weight. Then someone said, "Now!" And eager hands reached out to steady him.
And despite the fact that time had seemed to pass during Nathan's trip from E-Branch HQ to Kensington, this was that same moment when the voice of the esper on the podium made his all-important mistake, and asked his all-important question: "Yes, now, for Christ's sake! Why are you repeating me?" Which sounded now from a handset in the Kensington crematorium where Nathan stood. Important for this reason: it was the first proof positive that "time" in the Mobius Continuum is nonexistent.
"Well done, Nathan!" Someone gasped his amazement, his congratulations. While in the Necroscope's deadspeak mind:
Well done, son! Sir Keenan Gormley applauded his efforts. And now ... more than ever you feel like your father.
In answer to which Nathan was quick to inquire: As he was in the beginning, or at the end?
For a moment the other was silent, but Nathan sensed his shudder. Then: It's true, Harry made mistakes. Sir Keenan gave a deadspeak nod. But don't forget, mistakes are what make us human.
And almost as if his experience in the Möbius Continuum had soured his mind, making it caustic and cynical (though in fact it was simply nerves), again Nathan's rapid riposte: Oh? But surely, Harry's mistake made him inhuman! It's what cost him his humanity! But he knew that the other wasn't going to let him get away with that.
A clever man learns by his mistakes, Sir Keenan answered in a little while. By his own mistakes, and by those of others. In your case, by your father's. You have a long way to go yet, son, but Godspeed. And take care along the way, Nathan. Take care along the way ...
After that, and during the next twenty-four hours, which was all the time he had left:
Nathan used the Mobius Continuum and the markers or coordinates which were his ever-growing coterie of dead friends constantly, until the geography of this strange world was no longer just a series of contour lines, trigonometrical points, watercolour oceans or bland white ice caps in the pages of an atlas, but a living, breathing source of constant wonder, astonishment, even awe. For the difference between this world and his own was like that between garlic and honey; and not simply in the sense that one was sour and the other sweet (not necessarily, for Sunside had its sweetness, too), but that in almost every other instance they were poles apart. Indeed, they were parallel dimensions apart!
Only in the mountainous regions was there any real similarity, of flora and fauna if nothing else; but even the mountains were different in a world where the sun shone on both sides of the range! For this Earth was one world--a complete, continuous system; one system, like a living creature in its own right--while Sunside/Starside, as its name might suggest, had often seemed like two. Sunside was a place of light, warmth, love, and life; while Starside was cold and gloomy, full of obscene black hatreds, bitter feuds, and loathsome undeath. How could it possibly be otherwise? The one housed the Szgany, Nathan's people, while the other was home to the Wamphyri.
But Earth--this parallel Earth--was wholly beautiful, notwithstanding the fact that certain of its people were not. So Nathan thought at first, anyway, before he'd seen the industrial wastelands of Eastern Europe, and those regions closed off to men forever because of their seething nuclear pollution ...
Harry Keogh had had a great many friends among the dead, and now they all wanted to speak to Nathan. In one way it was new to him: the Szgany dead of his homeworld had wanted nothing to do with him, despite that he had often heard them whispering to each other in their graves. But on the other hand it seemed very familiar, for the ostensibly "primitive" Thyre of Sunside's furnace deserts had been eager to know him from the first, when he had gone out into the sweltering desert to die only to find the will to live and a goal or worthwhile direction in which to aim his life.
The realization of his deadspeak had supplied the will to live, while his goal had been the Möbius Continuum (though at that time he'd had no knowledge of it, except that it was some great secret that hid itself in the mathematical mazeof the numbers vortex). Well, and now that he had tamed the vortex, the Möbius Continuum was his to explore at will.
So the two talents went hand in hand, while Nathan's telepathy was a bonus that his father had not known; or at least, not until the last of his days. But as for other esoteric talents: Harry Keogh had not gone wanting. Indeed he had explored and practised one such "art" (namely, the resurrection of men out of their immemorial dust) which, in the light of what Nathan had learned of Earth's religions, might only be considered blasphemous. For it was one thing that rotting cadavers should feel empowered to will themselves up from their graves for the love of others, but another entirely that the long dead should be called back into life against their will, and raised up out of their very salts, dust, and ashes by a sorcerer for his own dark purposes.
Yes, a monstrous talent, this necromancy. And yet without it ...
... In a town called Bonnyrig not far from Edinburgh, there had lived a small boy who lost his puppy under the wheels of a speeding car. But for Harry Keogh's "skill" the pup would have stayed lost. Who could gauge the enduring pleasure that a mongrel dog's life had brought into the world of a boy, a youth, a man, even a family? For Paddy was alive still--the dog and his master both, grown up now--and Nathan had been to visit them.
But while on the one hand Paddy was only a mongrel dog, Harry Keogh's first experiment with necromancy, on the other there had been men, too, called back into life by his "art"; even a pretty young girl called Penny. All of whom had known the hell of dying twice, needlessly, because of Harry. And yet, not all of the people he'd touched in this way had been victims.
In the Zarandului mountains of Romania, Nathan talked to a Thracian warlord called Bodrogk, and to his wife, Sofia; or rather, to what remained of them. For they were no more of the flesh but a few handfuls of dust blown away on the winds of the world. But because they'd died here, they remained here still, to tell Nathan of his father's works. And none of the dead that he had spoken to or would speak to had more praise for Harry than Bodrogk the Thracian and his wife Sofia.
In the dark of night, in the ruins of an old castle under a waxing moon, their deadspeak voices thin as air apprised him of Harry Keogh's works: how the Necroscope had gone up against the last of the fabled Ferenczys here--Janos, the bloodson of Faethor--and won! And Nathan knew the story must be true, not only because the dead were telling it but because the very name Ferenc was a curse in his own world, too. As were all the names of the Wamphyri!
But when Nathan learned of the things this Janos had done--of the men he'd called up from their sacred dust to torture them for their secrets, and of their long-dead women which he'd used for other purposes--then finally his mind was decided on the subject:
Necromancy was a talent he would not pursue. In any case, it was abhorred by the Thyre and the dead of the Szgany alike, which was why the latter had avoided Nathan: because he was the son of the hell-lander, Harry Keogh. It was the last legacy of his father, which in his own world at least Nathan still mustlive down; either live it down, or prove that Harry's reputation in this respect was unwarranted.
But in this world, now that the Great Majority had finally befriended him:
Nathan visited a graveyard outside of Ploiesti in Romania, whose dead had risen up on his father's behalf against Securitatea thugs in the days of Ceausescu. They were still there and they still remembered, and made him welcome. His father was a legend to them, and they swore that despite the timidity of the Great Majority in general, they had never turned their backs on Harry Keogh.
What? But Harry had been responsible for the removal of a great cancer out of their earth: the termination of Faethor Ferenczy himself, and his expulsion into the infinite abyss of future time--indeed, into Möbius time. For within the Mobius Continuum, Harry had sent the incorporeal spirit of the master vampire Faethor winging down future time-streams with only his mind intact and no possible hope of rescue. Such had been the Necroscope's loathing of vampires ... and such was his son's loathing of them.
He visited a cemetery not far from Newcastle in England's northeast, to talk to a prostitute Harry had known. Pamela's one regret was that she had never known his father "that" way ... but she had known and liked him enough to dig her way out of her grave for him when he was in trouble. It had happened at a time shortly before Harry had been driven out of (or had chosen to leave) this world for Starside, when the Necroscope had been up against a monster in human guise by the name of Johnny Found. With Pamela's help--and the help of others of the teeming dead, Found's victims all--Harry had destroyed him right there in that graveyard.
So Nathan learned of his father's works, from the living and the dead alike: from his friends in E-Branch and from the teeming dead in their graves across the world. And so he spanned the world in his efforts to track down any who had known Harry Keogh, in order to vindicate his father and reestablish his reputation.
In point of fact, it wasn't an absolute requirement that Nathan visit their last resting places in order to talk to the dead; it would be far easier to reach out a deadspeak probe, seek them out across all the miles, and do it that way. But that had not been his father's way; the first Necroscope had never been the one to "shout" at the Great Majority; when he had desired to speak to a dead man, then he had gone to "see" him. Except in matters of extreme urgency, it had seemed the polite thing to do; and so it seemed to Nathan.
In this respect, too, he must use extreme caution. A good many of Harry Keogh's dead friends lay in graves or other resting places within perimeters that had enclosed the once USSR. Even with the Mobius Continuum to command, Nathan knew enough to restrict his visits to places such as these. Just as there were espers in the West, so there were "talented" men in the East--and most of them belonged to Turkur Tzonov!
But so many dead people to visit, because this might be his last chance; so many of them whom he must talk to. And all to be seen to in little more thantwenty-four hours: a day, a night and a morning. Because that was all the time Nathan had left ...
... In this world, at least.
To most men his itinerary--the amount of work he packed into those few short hours--would have been exhausting; without the Möbius Continuum it would have been impossible. Nathan was Szgany, however, and accustomed to the seemingly interminable hours of day- and nighttime on Sunside/Starside, where each day/night cycle was equivalent to a week in the parallel world of Earth. In this respect he could and did drive himself to an almost insomniac extent.
But when all or as much as possible was done, and Nathan returned to E-Branch HQ after one last trip--to a graveyard in the northeast of England where he'd talked awhile and said a fond farewell to a personal friend, the revenant spirit of a small girl called Cynthia, dead before her time--then, even he was weary. It showed in his face as he stepped out of the Möbius Continuum into Harry's room, where David Chung was no longer required to act as a homing beacon, for Nathan had the coordinates now.
And it also showed when he reported to Ben Trask, as he had been instructed to do after each Mobius trip ...