Home > BZRK: Apocalypse (BZRK #3)(10)

BZRK: Apocalypse (BZRK #3)(10)
Michael Grant

The Chinese government had not been able to conceal the extent of the disaster. It was visible from satellites and from the decks of passing ferries and cruise ships. This was Hong Kong, not some provincial outpost. The whole world passed through Hong Kong.

The government had kept a faithful account of the dead and presumed dead. Now over a thousand. The “presumed dead” included those so badly burned that no more than a few bones with the marrow boiled away had survived and could not be identified.

Divers were still pulling bodies out of the blistered and twisted hulk of the liquid natural gas carrier—the ship dubbed the Doll Ship—that lay at the bottom of Hong Kong harbor. The Chinese government was nowhere near as forthcoming on this part. The official story was that it had been simple error on the part of the ship’s captain. He was dead: he wasn’t going to argue.

No one spoke openly of the bodies of children found blown apart. No one spoke of the fact that one of the ship’s spheres, and possibly a second one as well (it was hard to tell), had never contained LNG but had instead been something very much like a human zoo.

Crewmen who had managed to jump ship were picked up and spirited away to a camp in far-off Qinghai Province. A small number of British Royal Marines were held there as well. And twenty-four civilians, neither crew nor soldiers—inmates on the Doll Ship—were being held at a small local hospital that had been taken over by the Ministry of State Security. The MSS had drafted a dozen radiologists, neurosurgeons, and pathologists, snatched them up from cities all over China and bundled them off to Qinghai.

Interrogations were under way.

Medical investigations were under way.

Neither was terribly gentle.

Chinese premier Ts’ai attempted to shut down the camp, ordered all survivors to be executed and their bodies cremated. Which would have worked had not the governor of Qinghai Province slow-walked that order. He smelled a rat.

Two weeks after the Hong Kong disaster, the MSS briefed certain members of the Central Committee on their findings from the survivors. And on Ts’ai’s unusual and very out-of-channels effort to shut down the investigation.

Twenty-four hours later the Chinese official news agency reported that Premier Ts’ai had suffered a stroke. He was getting the best care available, but doctors were not hopeful.

In fact, the top of the premier’s head had already been sawed off. His brain had been carefully scooped out of his skull, flattened and stretched, frozen, cut into handy one-centimeter sections, and was now being examined minutely under a scanning electron microscope.

They found numerous strands of extremely fine wire—nanowire—in segments as long as three centimeters, and a dozen tiny pins.

Similar wire had been found in the brains of survivors of the Doll Ship.

A careful—but less drastic—autopsy of President Helen Falkenhym Morales found no evidence of brain abnormality. Then again, the single nine-millimeter bullet she had fired into her own head had bounced around a bit inside her skull and made a mess of the soft tissue.

The FBI director, a man who would not have fared well himself if his brain had been carefully examined under an electron microscope, pushed for the conclusion that the suicide was a result of depression following the death of her husband.

FBI forensic experts produced a report stating that the videotape purported to have been taken (by means unknown) directly through the president’s eye—the videotape that seemed to suggest that President Morales had beaten her husband to death—was a clever fake.

There was obviously no way for the images to be real. Presidents did not commit murder.

Then again, they didn’t make a habit of committing suicide, either. But that undeniably happened.

In a bit of historic irony, the authoritarian state of China discovered the truth, while the American democracy had thus far missed it.

But there were other investigations under way. A joint committee of Congress. An independent blue-ribbon panel featuring a former secretary of defense, a former senator from Maine, and the chairman, a former president of the United States.

Only one of them had thus far been compromised by busy little creatures laying wire.

Minako McGrath, who had been kidnapped and taken aboard the Doll Ship, was one of the few to escape entirely. With the help of an ex-marine, former gunnery sergeant Silver, who’d been aboard that floating horror show, she made her way back from Hong Kong to Toguchi, Okinawa, one step ahead of the Hong Kong authorities.

But she found some changes when she finally reached her home. Her Facebook and Twitter accounts were closed. Her Internet access—in fact her whole family’s Internet access—was blocked.

Then her mother was called in to see the commander of the local base where Minako’s father—himself a U.S. marine—had been stationed before he was sent to Afghanistan and killed. She was told quite simply that if she could keep her daughter quiet, her family would be safe and her late husband’s official military service record would remain unblemished.

There was no direct threat. Just that promise. Just the carrot. The stick was only implied. The general looked sick to his stomach going even that far, but marines obey orders, and it was clear that he was passing on an order that came from very high up the chain of command.

Having been saved by one marine, and honoring the memory of her father, upon hearing the ultimatum Minako nodded solemnly and raised a hand in salute.

“Semper fi,” she said.

A week later Minako’s mother, the police chief of their little town, was offered a civilian contract to work in security on the base, at a seven-hundred-dollar-a-month increase in pay.

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