Home > BZRK: Reloaded (BZRK #2)(5)

BZRK: Reloaded (BZRK #2)(5)
Michael Grant

“Me, too.”

“I told you before: I’m not the kind of girl who falls in love.”

He shrugged. “I’m the kind of boy who does.”

“It will make it so much worse,” she whispered. “Aren’t you afraid of that pain?”

“Yes,” he said.

“Then let’s not. We can make love without being in love, Keats. We can be …We can be fighters together. Side by side. We can be friends. We can do, whatever, we don’t have to be in love.”

He said nothing, half his focus already gone, trudging dutifully with his titanium fibers as platelets swirled around him.

“You don’t need me here,” she said, frustration turning her voice cold. Actually angry at him for focusing on saving her life, angry at him, she supposed, for being able to resist. Or just angry at life in general.

“I’m going to take a shower,” she said.

“Yeah,” he said flatly.

It took Keats closer to two hours to squeeze off the flow of blood. Then another twenty minutes to carefully check his work.

He fell asleep fully clothed, and though he would have loved to dream of her, exhaustion shut him down.

“Difficult news,” Burnofsky said.

Burnofsky brought that news to the Twins right away, middle of the night. There could be no concealing it. The best he could hope for was to save Bug Man’s life and leave his own plans intact. That above all: his own plans.

To that end he’d hoped to convince the Twins to take a victory lap, to take a tour of foreign facilities or even a vacation aboard their floating house of horrors, the Doll Ship.

Bug Man had forced his hand and disrupted Burnofsky’s timetable. In a few hours, by morning at latest, the news of the first gentleman’s death would be out. It would be seen as a tragic accident by the general public—but the Twins would know better.

If he was going to keep things running, he, Burnofsky, would have to get the Twins under control. Not easy. Never easy and harder now. Charles still saw reason. But Benjamin . . .

Burnofsky took the elevator up to the Tulip. The Tulip was the pinnacle, floors sixty-three through sixty-seven, of the Armstrong Building, headquarters of the Armstrong Fancy Gifts Corporation. It was the pink polymer, one-way transparent, nanocomposite-walled home and office of the Armstrong Twins.

AFGC still made fancy gifts at factories in China, Malaysia, and Turkey. They still owned and operated the ubiquitous gift stores seen in every American airport and in European and Japanese train stations. But gifts had long since ceased to be their main focus.

Weapons technology, surveillance, and communications technology, and above all, nanotechnology, now occupied the denizens of the Tulip and most of the sixty-two floors below. The gift stores were run out of an office park in Naperville, Illinois. In the Tulip they had bigger fish to fry.

Burnofsky had called ahead to Jindal so he could get the Twins up and alert. Jindal met him outside the private elevator, down on sixty-two.

“What is it?” Jindal asked, suppressing a yawn but intensely concerned despite his sleepiness.

“Why don’t I just tell the story once?” Burnofsky said and pushed past Jindal to the elevator. It was a short ride.

“What in hell?” Benjamin asked the moment Burnofsky appeared.

The Armstrong Twins wore a robe, dark red silk, specially tailored for them, of course: Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s did not carry clothing in their size or shape.

Their legs, all three of them, were bare. Their feet—only the two useful ones—were in shearling-lined slippers, the third, deformed and three-quarter-size, was bare.

“Difficult news,” Burnofsky said.

“Well, spit it out, it’s the middle of the night!” Charles snapped.

Burnofsky tapped his pad for a few seconds, and the touch screen embedded in the twins’ massive desk lit up.

It was the video from Bug Man’s feed. Like all nanobot video, it failed to achieve the high standards of Hollywood; it was grainy, jerky gray scale one moment and awash in unnatural computer-enhanced colors the next. This video was worse still because it was the result of tapping directly into the president’s optic nerve, pulling up the raw feed, so to speak, of rods and cones, uninterpreted by the visual cortex.

There was no sound, just a series of jerky images—a window, a wall, Monte Morales, a rumpled bed, the floor, Monte Morales again, a shower knob, a shoulder, an eye, a stream of water and then . . . “Jesus!” It was Jindal. “Did she …Is that . . .”

It was fascinating to watch the reactions of the Twins. Charles’s eye stared hard—at the screen, at Burnofsky, at the screen. His mouth was a straight line, set, twitching in growing fury.

Benjamin seemed almost distracted. He looked left and right. His mouth—well, it was hard, really, to judge his face fairly; it had been bashed and battered by the bottom of a glass bottle. There was a tooth missing altogether and another one chipped. Benjamin’s eye was a clenched purple fist with the pupil barely showing. He looked like someone who had been on the losing end of a bar fight.

Within the raw liver that was Benjamin’s eye socket, the cruel eye seemed far less interested than it should.

The third eye, the one between the usual two, seemed to agree with Charles that this was important. It focused its soulless stare on the video.

The file ended.

“It will be covered up,” Charles said. He tugged at the collar of his bathrobe and, as well as he could, tugged the belt tighter. “Bug Man must be replaced at once. And punished. Punished most severely. It’s that woman he has with him. She distracts him. Take her from him, get rid of her. Kill her in front of him! Bug Man will refocus. A beating for him, yes, a severe lesson, yes, that’s it, a beating! And kill his woman.”

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