Home > BZRK: Reloaded (BZRK #2)(9)

BZRK: Reloaded (BZRK #2)(9)
Michael Grant

He was intruding on AFGC because other hackers had made their way into the systems of the cult Nexus Humanus, and there had found a surprising number of connections—personnel and finances—between Nexus Humanus and AFGC.

Why would a weird cult be so closely involved with a maker of snow globes slash missile guidance systems?

Farid had expected AFGC’s system security to be tight. It was beyond tight. It was paranoid. It was not a surprise that no one had made it through before. Even drawing on the skills of half a dozen of the best hackers in the world, Farid had not made it past the bland public face of AFGC. Until he began looking at subsidiaries of AFGC.

AmericaStrong, a division of AFGC, was a security company run by ex-CIA, ex-Special Forces types. It should have been the best-protected element in the system, and they were good, but they had grown a new problem: a link to a U.S. government agency, the Emerging Technologies Agency, ETA.

And ETA? Well, they tried to safeguard their system, but U.S. government networks had been Anonymous’s doormats for a generation now.

So it went like this: ETA to AmericaStrong, AmericaStrong to AFGC, and pow, kiss my ass, and he was in.

And now Farid almost wished he wasn’t.

He typed into the dialog box open on the left third of his screen.

LeVnteen34: You guys seeing this?

Of course they were seeing it. He knew they were seeing it. But did they know what it meant?

86TheChickenSteak: That’s the SecState.

They were seeing video. Remarkably bad video, distorted, gray scale with sudden flares of unnatural color. But that was indeed the secretary of state.

JoeyBo316: That’s the Oval.

86TheChickenSteak: Oval?

LeVnteen34: The Oval Office.

There was a pause at that before Chicken typed,

86TheChickenSteak: Thefuckwhat?

The video ended in static and jerky images. Farid opened a second video file. Papers on a desk. Some kind of briefing book, but the resolution was way too weak to make out individual words.

A third video was from the point of view of someone standing at a podium speaking to a room full of people. The fourth seemed to be nothing but a blank wall.

JoeyBo316: Like someone’s wearing a camera.

Farid disagreed but didn’t want to embarrass Joey. The aspect ratio was all wrong for any kind of camera. But he didn’t want to prejudice their opinions, better to let them see what they saw, and react.

It was the fifth video, more desk, only this time something happened.

JoeyBo316: Replay.

Farid replayed. He did it more than once. There was no getting around it: they were watching someone put on glasses. Not from outside, but from inside.

From inside the person putting on glasses.

86TheChickenSteak: Jesustitty. We’re looking out someone’s eyeballs.

It wasn’t until they had dredged through many, many more videos—walls, desks, something that was probably a pillow, lots and lots of images so jumbled and low-res they were indecipherable—that they reached one of the most recent videos, the one Farid had saved for the end.

It showed the recognizable face of Monte Morales, the first gentleman.

Recognizable at least until two hands, a woman’s hands, pushed that face under the water.

FOUR

They did not have Vincent in restraints. The sedatives they’d obtained were working for now, and Nijinsky couldn’t bear having Vincent tied up.

Nijinsky stood looking down at Vincent as Vincent stared at the butcher-wrapped sandwich on the paper plate beside the snack pack of corn chips.

“You have to eat something,” Nijinsky said.

Vincent sat in a plastic chair. It was one of those molded things with spindly chrome legs. The chair was beside a bed in a narrow room that held little else unless you counted cockroaches.

Not a place to rescue your sanity, Nijinsky thought.

“Come on, Vincent, have a couple bites. The alternative is a feeding tube, and no one wants that.”

Vincent stuck out one finger. He slid it into the gash formed by cutting the sandwich in half. He stuck his finger into that gap and seemed to be feeling the edges of the ham and cheese and lettuce and tomato. It was almost obscene.

“Here, let me unwrap—” Nijinsky leaned forward to pull back the paper.

The growl from Vincent was like something that might come from a leopard defending its kill.

Nijinsky backed up.

For a moment regret found a way to show itself in Vincent’s eyes. He had serious eyes, Vincent, deeply shadowed by a thoughtful brow. He wasn’t a large guy—Nijinsky was taller—but Vincent always seemed older than his twentysomething years, more serious, more impressive. Vincent was a young man who tried hard to blend into the background but never would.

Nijinsky—his real name was Shane Hwang—was a completely different creature. He was Chinese American, elegant, manicured, model handsome —in fact, actually a successful model.

Vincent lost focus, blinked, looked back at the sandwich.

“Don’t go too far away,” Nijinsky said softly. “We need you. We are in trouble, Vincent. We need you. I sure as hell need you. Lear knows it;, they all know it. You’re you. I’m not. And, so, listen, just try to eat.”

He didn’t say, but thought: And I don’t want to be you, Vincent.

He let himself out of the room and winced at the sound of the key as he locked the door behind him.

The others were waiting in the shabby, depressing common room that Nijinsky hated. They all looked up at him. Plath. Keats. Wilkes. All that was left for now of the New York cell of BZRK.

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