Home > BZRK (BZRK #1)(6)

BZRK (BZRK #1)(6)
Michael Grant

The jet roared over her head, a sound like the end of the world, except that the next sound was louder still.

The impact buckled her knees as it earthquaked the stands.

Then, a beat. Not silence, just a little dip in the sound storm.

Then a new sound as tons of jet fuel ignited. A clap of thunder from a cloud not fifty feet away.

Fire.

Things flying through the air. Big foam fingers and the hands that had been waving them. Paper cups and popcorn and hot dogs and body parts, so many of those, tumbling missiles of gore flying through the air.

The blast wave so overwhelming, so irresistible, that she wouldn’t even realize for several minutes that she had been thrown thirty feet, tossed like a leaf before a leaf blower, to land on her back against a seat, the impact softened by the body of a little girl. Thrown away like a doll God was tired of playing with.

She felt the heat, like someone had opened a pizza oven inches from her face. And set off a hand grenade amid the cheese and pepperoni. The first inch of hair caught fire but was quickly extinguished as air rushed back to the vacuum of the explosion.

The next minutes passed in a sort of loud silence. She heard none of the cries. Could no longer hear the sounds of falling debris all around her. Could hear only the world’s loudest car alarm screaming in her brain, a siren that came not from outside her head but from inside.

Sadie rolled off the crushed form of the girl. On hands and knees between rows of seats. Something sticky squishing up through her fingers. Something red and white: bloody fat. Just a chunk of it, the size of a ham.

Should do something, should do something, her brain kept saying. But what? Run away? Scream?

Now she noticed that her left arm was turned in a direction arms didn’t turn. There was no pain, just the sight of bones—her own bones—sticking through the skin of her forearm. Thin white sticks jutting from a gash filled with raw hamburger.

She screamed. Probably. She couldn’t hear, but she felt her mouth stretch wide.

She stood up.

The fire was uphill from her in the stands, maybe thirty rows up. A tail fin was intact but being swiftly consumed by the oily fire. A pillar of thick, greasy smoke swirled and filled her nostrils with the stench of gas stations and barbecued meat before finding its upward path.

The main fire burned without much color to the flame.

Bodies burned yellow and orange.

Unless he had been blown clear, Tony’s would be one of them.

A fat man crawled away, pulling himself along on his elbows as fire crawled up his legs.

A boy, maybe ten, squatted beside his mother’s head.

Sadie realized a different scene of madness was going on behind her. She turned and saw a panicked crowd shoving and pushing like a herd of buffalo on the run from a lion.

But others weren’t running away but walking warily toward the carnage.

A man reached her and mouthed words at her. She touched her ear, and he seemed to get it. He looked at her broken arm and did an odd thing. He kissed his fingertips and touched them to her shoulder and moved along. Later it would seem strange. At that moment, no.

The tail of the plane was collapsing into the fire. Through the smoke Sadie just made out the registration number. She’d already known, somewhere down in her shocked brain. The number just confirmed it.

She wanted to believe something different. She wanted to believe her father and brother were not in that hell of fire and smoke. She wanted to believe that she was breathing something that was not the smoke of their roasted bodies. But it was hard to pretend. That took an effort she couldn’t muster, not just yet.

Right now she could believe that everyone, everywhere was dead. She could believe she was dead.

She looked down then and saw blood all down one trouser leg. Saturated denim. She stared at this, stupid, something going very wrong with her brain.

And then the stadium spun like a top and she fell.

“Good twitch,” the Bug Man whispered to himself, a quiet congratulations. Satisfaction at a victory. Not that it was much of one. However dramatic the end result might be in the macro, in the nano it had just been a long wire job. There’d been no bug-on-bug fighting. Just wiring, connecting image to action.

Anyone could have done it. But could they have done it as fast? Could they have wired the pilot’s brain in three days? And set her up to have a switch thrown as dramatically as this?

Hell, no.

He pulled his left hand from the glove. Then his right hand. They came free with a slight sucking sound. And with his hands freed he reached up and worked the tight helmet off his head.

Had to get that back strap adjusted right. It was still digging into the back of his head where the flesh of his neck met the close-cropped skull.

He was alone. There were larger rooms here on the fifty-ninth floor, and other twitcher stations with as many as four consoles. But the Bug Man rated a private space. Had he pressed the button for the motorized shade, he’d have seen the spire of the Chrysler Building a block to the west. No other twitcher had that view—not that he looked at it much. It wasn’t about the view, it was about having the right to it.

The room was simple, scarcely furnished aside from the console. The light was low, just a glow coming from the Peace Pearl aromatherapy candles in their elegant crystal dish. And the gray light of static on the monitor.

The Bug Man breathed.

A win. Take it, rack it, add it to the total.

He had known it was done when all eighteen nanobots—two fighters and sixteen frantic spinners—in the pilot had gone dark at the same instant.

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