Home > BZRK: Apocalypse (BZRK #3)(4)

BZRK: Apocalypse (BZRK #3)(4)
Michael Grant

It took a few seconds for the flat crump! of the explosion to reach them. It took a bit longer for the debris to splash into the water.

And just like that Sadie and Noah were Plath and Keats once again, running now, food and blanket forgotten. McLure security men were tearing along the beach from north and south, assault rifles in their hands, yelling, “Get under cover, get under cover!”

The boat burned for a while—there was no possibility of anyone having survived—and then it slipped beneath gentle waves that were a very similar color to Noah’s eyes. The pillar of black smoke was smothered. A black smudge rose until it was caught by a breeze and blown away over the island.

Vacation was over. The war for the human race was back on.

THREE

The roll that had begun was accelerating. The ship’s ballast had shifted decisively. It rolled onto its side, sending the flames shooting hundreds of feet into the air.

The inside of Benjaminia was a slaughterhouse—dead Marines, many more dead residents hung from bloody catwalks. The sphere turned on its axis, and floors became walls. Bodies fell through the air.

Like the turning drum of a dryer, the sphere rolled on, and now people clinging to desperate handholds fell screaming and crashed into the painted mural of the Great Souls.

Water rushed in through the opened segments.

The blowtorch submerged but burned on and turned the water to steam as the Doll Ship sank, and settled on the harbor floor.

When the Doll Ship sank, the Armstrong Twins had found themselves in Hong Kong’s Victoria harbor.

They could not swim. With some effort, and if they felt in a cooperative mood, they could manage to walk, dragging the useless third leg. But swim?

It was Ling who had saved their lives. Tiny, ancient, birdlike Ling. She had cupped her hand beneath their chin and churned the filthy water with her legs. She’d sunk beneath the waves repeatedly, rising each time to gasp in a single breath mixed with salt water, to cough and gag, and yet to keep her legs churning, until a fishing boat had come to the rescue.

They would find a way to reward Ling. They vowed that. She had saved their lives and very nearly died herself.

The Armstrong Twins had made their way from Victoria harbor to Vietnam, where they had financial interests and owned a small but useful number of local government officials. From there they’d made their way to Malaysia, to the Sarawak state on the island of Borneo.

The Armstrong facility there was involved in mining rare earths. And it did a bit of logging, as well, all very eco-friendly, with careful replanting programs and all of that. Whatever it took to avoid too much scrutiny. The Armstrongs were good corporate citizens out of self-interest.

But this facility was not strictly about mining or logging. It was built of three elements: there were two identical buildings, each a crescent, facing each other across an elongated oval that formed an enchanting tropical garden, a sort of tamed version of the surrounding rain forest.

There were trees and flowers, streams full of fish and waterfowl, pink gravel pathways leading to benches, and seating areas where the white-collar employees could take their lunches alfresco.

At the top of the oval, connecting the two crescents, was a stumpy tower topped by a domed observatory. There was an impressive optical telescope that profited from the profound darkness of the surrounding countryside.

No one was using the telescope at the moment because it was pouring rain. It often poured rain here. And when it poured it was unlike anything Charles Armstrong had ever known in New York. It came down not in drops but in sheets. The heavens did not sprinkle on Sarawak, they emptied buckets and bathtubs and swimming pools.

Charles watched a lizard climbing up the glass side of the dome, pushing against the stream of water. Sarawak had lizards. It had lizards and snakes and birds in abundance.

“I would have thought the rain would wash it off,” Charles said.

His brother, Benjamin, was less interested by the lizard or the rain, but of course could see both since it was impossible for the twins not to face in the same direction. Their individual eyes could roam this way or that, focus independently under the direction of their separate brains, but they did not have separate heads, rather two heads melded together.

This gave them two mouths, one nose, and three eyes. The middle eye was a bit smaller than the other two and often had an unfocused, glazed quality. It could see, but its focus was not consciously directed by either Charles or Benjamin. Rather it often seemed to have a mind of its own and would focus where it willed, suddenly granting depth perception to one or the other twin, but never both at once.

They were large, the twins were, tall but even more broad, with shoulders capable of carrying the unusual weight of their doubled head. Two arms, neither muscular; two fully developed legs; and a third, stunted leg.

At the moment they were sitting in a modified electric wheelchair. It was far more capable than the usual motorized wheelchairs and had been given an almost dashing, exotic look with burgundy velvet trim, two side panels that likely concealed weapons, and wheels that looked more racetrack than hospital, but it remained, in the end, a wheelchair.

The observatory was their haunt for now. There was a bedroom down a ramp, and a specially outfitted bathroom. But the bedroom had only conventional windows. All their lives had been spent indoors, and they craved the openness of the observatory, even when all they could see was water sheeting down the glass and a lizard struggling against that tide.

“Looking at lizards,” Benjamin said, disgusted.

They had both been depressed since the sinking of the Doll Ship. The Doll Ship had been their happy place, the place they could think about when life became too gloomy or the pressure too intense. Now it was gone. All those poor people, the people who worshipped them, who saw beauty in their deformity, all of them gone.

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