Home > BZRK: Reloaded (BZRK #2)(3)

BZRK: Reloaded (BZRK #2)(3)
Michael Grant

“Yeah,” he whispered into his phone.

“Oh, Anthony.” The voice was not the ranting fury of the Armstrong Twins. It was Burnofsky. “Anthony, Anthony: what have you done?”

“Jesus Christ!” Bug Man wailed. “I didn’t know the crazy bitch would—”

Burnofsky laughed his parchment-dry laugh. “Watch what you say. Washington is full of big ears.”

“What am I …What do . . .” He couldn’t even frame the question. His breathing was short and harsh. “The Twins . . .”

“Past their bedtime, fortunately. The only one watching the video feed was me.”

It was a sign of how frightened Bug Man was that he welcomed this news. He despised Burnofsky, but he was terrified of Charles and especially Benjamin Armstrong.

“But there will be no hiding this, of course,” Burnofsky went on.

Bug Man cursed, but there was no anger left in him. All was cold knife-steel fear now. The Twins—Charles and Benjamin Armstrong, those freaks—were not patient with underlings who screwed up.

The things they could do to him …An earlier error had been punished with a beating delivered by AmericaStrong thugs against Bug Man’s legs and buttocks. He still couldn’t sit in a chair without a handful of Advil. Now he had endangered everything.

“I’m a twitcher; I’m a fighter, not a goddamned spinner,” Bug Man pleaded with the phone. “I took down Vincent himself. I took down Kerouac before him. I’m the best. I’m important. They can’t kill me! This is—”

“Mmmm,” Burnofsky said, amused, gloating, already seeing in his opium-addled brain the price the Twins might demand. “You’re screwed, Anthony my young friend. There’s only one person on this green Earth who can save you. Do you know who that is, Anthony?”

Bug Man was trembling. Even now, no anger. Anger would come later, along with self-justification, but right now, with his face inches from the floor and his whole body feeling sick, Bug Man could only moan.

“Who, Anthony? Who can save you now, you arrogant little Limey shit? Say the word.”

“You,” Bug Man whispered.

Silence stretched as Burnofsky absorbed his rival’s defeat. Then the older man said, “Go limp. Power down. Go to your hotel, screw your girlfriend, but do nothing else until I tell you.”

The phone went dead. Bug Man rolled onto his side and cried.

TWO

Keats, whose real name was Noah, had not intended to go to Plath’s room, but there he was. He knocked.

“Yes,” she said. Not “Come in,” just “Yes.” Knowing it was him.

He stood framed by the doorway.

“You look like hell,” she said.

“So do you.”

And then they simply went for each other. They clutched and tore at each other, bruised each other’s lips.

Noah’s fingers dug into a handful of Sadie’s dark hair, and Sadie’s hands fumbled to push his shirt over his head, and his tongue was in her mouth, and her breasts were pressed almost violently against his hard chest.

They were alive when they should be dead, and sane when they could be mad.

So afraid. So lonely.

Vincent’s lunatic howl was fresh in Keats’s mind, still echoed in his ears, and the sight of Nijinsky breaking down in tears, and the awful memory of his big brother, of Alex, shrieking like an animal, chained to a cot in a hellish mental ward screaming, “Berserk! Berserk! BERSERK!”

Keats had imagined that their first time making love would be a study in tenderness. But this was not tender. They could hardly keep from hurting each other. They needed something that was not horror. They needed something that was not drenched in despair.

They needed not to hear Vincent howling like a dog.

Noah gasped and pulled back suddenly. He pushed Plath’s greedy hands down against the pillow.

Her eyes were confused, wary. “Don’t stop,” she said and her voice was not pleading, it was a snapped order. She expected to be obeyed. She could do that voice when motivated.

“You’re leaking,” Keats said.

“What?”

“It’s not bad, not yet.”

She understood him, then sat up, put a hand to her head. As if she could feel it. “Damn it.”

“Yeah,” he agreed.

Keats looked at her. She closed her eyes, absorbing the frustration, then snapped her gaze up at him, blazing.

But as he looked at her face he also saw deep inside her. Not in some metaphorical way. He had eyes inside her, all the way down inside her brain.

Down in the meat.

Plath had an aneurysm, which had been serviced first by her father’s biots—before he had been murdered—and were now served by Keats’s own biots. Two tiny, nightmarish creatures, neither as large as a dust mite, neither visible to the unaided eye. Each had six legs, a tail that could deliver a venomous sting or drip acid. A spear for puncturing the metal shells of nanobots.

There was a rack of pins only a few molecules thick slung on the biot’s back. A spinneret at the rear oozed with webbing wire.

Biots were built of several different DNA strands: scorpion, spider, cobra, jellyfish, and human. The DNA of a specific human, in this case one Noah Cotton: Keats.

That DNA connection tied the biot to its creator, like a finger was tied to a brain, like a sort of detached limb, a body part controlled by his own mind. Move left. Move right. Jump. Strike. Run away.

Live.

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