Home > BZRK (BZRK #1)(7)

BZRK (BZRK #1)(7)
Michael Grant

Could anyone else have run eighteen bugs at once, with sixteen actively laying wire? Even platooned? No. No one. Let them try.

Still, just a wire job. Now if Vincent had been coming at him, yeah, then it would have been mythic. Could he have pulled that off? Maybe. No good would come from underestimating Vincent. Vincent had twitch.

The Bug Man glanced at the display panel, checking a readout from the telemetry off the lone “sneaker” nanobot on Sadie McLure’s date, hiding out up in his hair where no one would look. The readout showed a sudden spike from ambient temperature of twelve Celsius to sixty-three Celsius.

Fireball.

But not enough to kill the kid. Not enough to kill Sadie unless she was a lot closer to the explosion or else took some shrapnel.

Success. But not total. In all likelihood there was still a McLure.

Bug Man knew they’d all be waiting outside his room to congratulate him. He dreaded it because they would have the TV on and they’d be watching it all in lurid color, hanging on the tension-pitched voices of reporters in helicopters.

Bug Man didn’t like postmortems. It was enough to succeed. There was no point in wallowing in it and high-fiving and all the rest.

He wished he didn’t have to go out at all. But he needed to pee in the worst way.

He fumbled for his phone and stuffed the earbuds in. He found the music he was looking for.

When enemies start posing as friends,

To keep you even closer in the end,

The rooms turn to black.

A kitchen knife is twisting in my back.

Bug Man had no friends. Not in this life. Not in this job. And plenty of people would put a knife in his back. Paranoia? Hah. Paranoia was common sense.

He pulled the hood of his sweatshirt over his head and, with a deep, bracing breath, opened the door.

Sure enough, Jindal was waiting with a high five. Jindal was … well, what was he, exactly? A sort of office manager for twitchers? He saw himself as being in some kind of position of authority. The twitchers saw him as the guy who made sure the fridge had plenty of Red Bull.

Thirty-five years old, grinning ingratiatingly at a sixteen-year-old kid in a hoodie. Sucking up. Even doing a little dance move, like he was trying to impress the Bug Man with a flash of ghetto. Bug Man was from Knightsbridge, a pricey neighborhood in London. He was not from the Bronx. But what did Jindal know? Any black face had to be ghetto.

“The damn signal repeater on the blimp went weak on me, Jindal,” Bug Man said, a little too loud over the music in his ears. “I was down to eighty percent.”

Let’s see if Jindal wanted to dance about a glitchy repeater. Bug Man pushed past him.

But Burnofsky was a different thing. Couldn’t really just blow off Burnofsky. He might be a sixty-year-old burnout with a six-day growth of white whiskers and a drunk’s chewed-up nose, but Burnofsky had game. No one was a better twitcher than Anthony Elder aka Bug Man, but if there was a close number two it was Burnofsky.

After all, he had created the game.

Bug Man pulled out one earbud. The band was going on about watching the company that you keep. Burnofsky was making that twisted, sneering face that was his most pleasant expression.

“S’matter, Bug? You don’t want to see the video?”

“Bugger off, Burnofsky. I need a slash.”

Burnofsky must have already been hitting the Thermos where he kept his chilled vodka. He grabbed Bug Man’s shoulder and spun him around. “Come on, kid. Don’t you want to see the macro? This is an accomplishment. A great moment for all of us.”

Bug Man knocked the old drunk’s hand away, but not before being exposed to a high-def visual of devastation. Looked like a camera angle from that same blimp, too steady to be a helicopter. Smoke and bodies.

Bug Man turned away. Not because it was too terrible to see, but because it was irrelevant. “I just play the game, old man.”

“The Twins will want to thank you,” Burnofsky taunted. “You going to tell them to ‘bugger off,’ too? I mean, you struck a major blow today, kid. Grey McLure and his kid are charcoal briquettes. You’ve stepped up to the big times, Anthony: you’re a mass murderer now, up in the macro, not just shooting spiders down in the meat. And we’re all one step closer to a world of perfect peace, happiness, and universal brotherhood.”

“I just want to be one step closer to the loo, man,” Bug Man said.

“It’s called the restroom in this country, you little British bastard.”

He started to move away, but Burnofsky stepped suddenly closer, put his bloodless, papery-fleshed hands on Bug Man’s neck, pulled him close, and breathed eighty-proof fumes into his ear. “You’ll grow up someday, Anthony. You’ll know what you did.” He lowered his voice to a whisper. “And it will eat you alive.”

Bug Man shoved him back, but not so hard as to knock him down. “How stupid are you, Burnofsky?” Bug Man grinned and shook his head. He pointed a finger at his own temple. “I just rewired that pilot’s brain. You think I won’t rewire my own? You know, if I ever feel the need?”

That shut Burnofsky up. The old man took a step back, frowned, and waved his hand like he was trying to block the sight of Bug Man’s smooth face.

“The macro is all micro, old man. You drown your conscience in booze or whatever it is you smoke that makes you smell like roadkill …” He saw Burnofsky glance nervously back at Jindal. So: Burnofsky thought that was a secret, did he? Old fool. “You do what you have to do, Burnofsky. It’s not my business, is it? But I have a better way. Snip snip, wire wire. I mean, you know, if I ever get old and soft in the head like you. Now: I either go to the toilet or pee on your leg.”

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