Home > BZRK: Apocalypse (BZRK #3)(5)

BZRK: Apocalypse (BZRK #3)(5)
Michael Grant

“Fish food,” Charles said, knowing where his brother’s thoughts had wandered. “And we still don’t know how it happened.”

“A Swedish intelligence officer and a British admiral.”

“But how?”

“Many questions, brother.”

They turned the wheelchair to face the large monitor that hung above a touch-screen desktop. The monitor was divided into twenty-four smaller frames. Three were tuned to various news outlets. The rest were clearly surveillance cameras. An empty room with desks. A break room with one woman making coffee. A lab with two people in white coats moving to some unheard music while they tapped on keyboards. A puzzling view of what might be a warehouse.

One by one the video tiles flipped to be replaced by different views. Every corner of the Armstrong empire.

They could see everything, but what could they control? They weren’t even sure they could return to New York. London, too, might be out of bounds.

“We are hiding like rats from a cat,” Benjamin said.

“We’re foxes at the very least,” Charles said, trying to make it sound like a good thing, trying not to think about the way fox hunts usually ended with dogs tearing at the cornered animal. “System: locate Burnofsky.”

A larger picture appeared, in the center of the monitor. The object of their search had his back to them. He was hunched over a terminal.

“There’s our Karl,” Charles said, steel in his voice.

“Ours?”

Charles sighed. “Either he hit bottom on some grand, final bender and decided to turn his life around. Or—”

“Or BZRK wired him,” Benjamin said.

“Ling!” Charles yelled. “It’s dinnertime, and I find I would enjoy a drink.”

They shared a digestive tract, despite having two mouths. It took consent from both for either to drink alcohol. Or to eat, though they tried to be tolerant on that. Benjamin liked to snack on a bowl of Chex Mix sometimes, and Charles preferred fresh fruit. Apricots. He loved a perfect apricot, though a really good one was hard to find.

“A drink, yes,” Benjamin said. “And maybe more than one apiece.”

Ling appeared, moving with a gliding speed that belied her advanced years.

“Ah, our friend and hero, Ling. I shall have a glass of wine,” Charles told her. “A Cabernet, I think.”

“I’ll have a Cognac,” Benjamin said. “You know what I like.”

They sat glumly watching the video frames opening and closing around Burnofsky as the system cycled randomly through the hundreds of surveillance cameras. Here was a woman making copies. There a man staring blankly into space. A couple putting on coats ready to go home. Jet-lag-dulled shoppers at the Twins’ O’Hare Airport store. Two men debating something, both pointing at tablets.

At the bottom of each window was a small tag giving the location. Athens. Newport News. Tierra del Fuego. Johnson City. AFGC—the Armstrong Fancy Gifts Corporation—had locations all over the world, even without counting the shops in virtually every airport.

“We have not lost, brother,” Charles said softly, with what he hoped was an undertone of iron resolve.

“Yet we’re in hiding.”

“We have not lost. We are not beaten. We have the Hounds. We can rebuild the twitcher corps. We can start again. And we have Floor Thirty-Four.”

“Floor Thirty-Four’s a losing tactic,” Benjamin snorted. “Defensive. It takes down BZRK. But it does not give us back the president we lost, or the premier we lost, goddammit! God damn it!” He slammed his fist down on the desk, making Charles’s glass of wine jump. “Or Bug Man. Or the Doll Ship.” He moaned. “What we have lost! What we have lost!” He drained the snifter of Cognac in a single long swallow.

“When Floor Thirty-Four is ready, we take down BZRK and all they have within weeks. It spreads, brother; it will find them in all their hiding places. And when it has done its work, we will be without enemies, we—”

“Without enemies? You think BZRK is our only enemy? Don’t you know the Chinese are dissecting every body they fish out of Hong Kong harbor? They know. They know! And if the Americans and Europeans don’t know yet, they will soon.”

“What is it you want, Benjamin? To unleash the gray goo?”

The gray goo, a ridiculous name for a deadly threat: self-replicating nanobots. Nanobots building more nanobots with whatever material they found at hand. Going from thousands to millions and billions and trillions in mere days, consuming every last atom of carbon and a good many other elements as well. Everything that lived or had lived on the surface of planet Earth. Everything that made life possible.

Nanobots were the mechanical answer to biots. Just as small, but without the eerie and inexplicable link that connected a biot to its maker. Nanobots had to be run through a game controller. They were somewhat less capable, but they had a huge advantage: it was nothing to lose a nanobot. But to lose a biot? Well, that way madness lay.

Benjamin gestured at the screen. He happened to be focused on a family at one of the AFGC shops, this one at Airport Schiphol in the Netherlands. A family. Man, woman, blond child, poring over souvenirs. “I hate them sometimes. I hate them enough to do it.”

Charles intuited which frame his brother was focusing on. “Yes, but imagine them as ours, brother. Imagine them united with us. Imagine them happy to look at us. Imagine what we can make them into with our nanotechnology and our friends from Nexus Humanus.”

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