Home > BZRK: Reloaded (BZRK #2)(8)

BZRK: Reloaded (BZRK #2)(8)
Michael Grant

She took her shower. It was an awful little bathroom; no one ever cleaned up, and the mildew was eating the tile grout.

She could imagine it at the nano level. That was the start of the madness, the thing that softened you up and prepared you to lose it entirely. Like Vincent. Like Ophelia, probably, poor girl, wherever she was. Like Keats’s brother, Kerouac. It began with that terrible parallel view. Down there. Down where human eyes were only supposed to squint through a microscope’s lens, not walk among the alien flora and fauna.

Mildew. The bacteria on her own hands. The colored footballs of pollen. The mites. The soap and pounding hot water slicking it away, but not all, never all. The beasties were with us always.

I don’t want to end up like Vincent.

Keats’s biots were inside her head. So was one of her own. He was repairing her aneurysm, and she had one biot on board, as the jaunty semi-nautical phrase went, and another in a petri dish soaking up nutrients

She could have gone off to find Keats’s biots, down there, down in the meat. Her biot—P2 as it happened—was resting comfortably on the back side of her left eyeball. Occasionally she would move her biot as a dutiful lymphocyte came oozing along to clean up whatever this alien monstrosity was.

Had she wanted to, she could have had her own biot help Keats. But a biot face …Well, it was bad enough to know precisely, exactly, what vermin crawled the surface of Keats’s skin. She didn’t need to see the bizarro-world distortion that was his biot’s face.

She liked his face quite a lot. The too-blue eyes had at first seemed almost feminine, but a gentle face did not signal weakness, at least not in Keats.

As for his mouth, well, she had always liked that, the quirky little dip in the middle made him look wryly amused. How would he look when he was where Vincent was now?

Not madness. Not that. Death is better.

A lousy, filthy, depressing, badly lit bathroom. But a good water heater at least.

She closed her eyes and aimed them up into the spray. Take that, my demodex. Hah, I bet a few of you lost your grips and are now sliding down my cheeks. Hah! How will you like it if you go swirling down the drain?

Soap, soap, soap, everywhere. Shampoo and soap and Purell. No one showers like a twitcher, she thought, and realized that was an aphorism that very few people would understand.

A voice made her jump.

“Showering off the shame?”

Wilkes. She was using the toilet.

Definitely: when she got her inheritance, it would be time to generously agree to pay for a higher-class rental somewhere. Anywhere. Just because they were crazy didn’t mean they had to live like animals.

“Oh, that’s a loooong silence,” Wilkes said. “You didn’t do it, did you?”

“Not your business, Wilkes,” Plath snapped.

Wilkes had an odd laugh. Heh-heh-heh. “That’s confirmation. I can’t believe after all the looks and the Bella Swan lip biting—and poor Keats awkwardly adjusting his jeans any time he sees you bend over—that nothing happened. Jeez, Plath, what are you holding out for?”

Suddenly, the shower curtain was pulled back and there stood Wilkes in a faded High School Musical T-shirt. Her spiky hair was less spiky, her strange tattoos almost green in the light of the cheap fluorescent bulb.

“You have a nice body,” Wilkes said. “He’s going to like that. You know, if you ever actually …Turn around, let’s see the butt.”

“Wilkes, I say this with affection: drop dead.” Plath pulled the shower curtain closed again and heard Wilkes’s laugh. Heh-heh-heh.

“If you don’t want him can I borrow him?”

Plath was about to yell a heated “No!” But that would just egg Wilkes on. And anyway, it’s not as if Plath had the right to say no. And not as if Keats would ever say yes to Wilkes.

“Don’t stay in there too long,” Wilkes said on her way out. “Scrub all you want: you can’t get them all.”

Something you HAVE to see. That was the message Farid sent, using all-caps for HAVE, not his usual style, that.

Farid Berbera was not a member of BZRK. Farid Berbera was a member—if you could even use that inaccurate term—of an older organization. Anonymous had been around since Farid was a kid. He was no longer a kid, although at seventeen he wasn’t quite a grown-up, either. Not in the eyes of his father, the acting Lebanese ambassador to the United States. Not in the eyes of his mother, the public relations assistant at that same Washington, DC, embassy.

And truthfully, not in is own eyes, either.

Farid Berbera, tall, thin, amazing black hair, unfortunate nose, and eyes like Sal Mineo—he’d had to look that up, Mineo was way before his time—was scared.

Farid had once hacked the computers of the Food and Drug Administration because the FDA was stalling a pot-based therapeutic drug. That was not why he was scared.

“Have to see?” ChickenSteak had written back. “If this is some dumb LOLcat . . .”

Farid had hacked the computers of the American Cancer Society because they had supported the FDA decision. Also not terribly scary.

He had hacked the computers of an online dating company that was selling confidential customer data, and the Randall–Georgia Institute for being anti-gay, and he’d hacked the system at Safeway’s corporate headquarters because …well, he forgot why, exactly.

Safeway had not frightened him.

But today, for the third time in as many days, he had hacked the Armstrong Fancy Gifts Corporation. AFGC, best known for operating gift shops in airports. Also, however, known to be much more involved with weapons technology than with collectible figurines.

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