Home > BZRK: Apocalypse (BZRK #3)(6)

BZRK: Apocalypse (BZRK #3)(6)
Michael Grant

“Nexus Humanus,” Benjamin snorted. It was a cult they had financed as a way to recruit twitchers to control nanobots, and other useful folk. But it had lost steam, like bargain-basement Scientology. “We had it, the world we seek. The Doll Ship.” A tear welled in Benjamin’s eye, swelled, and went rushing down his cheek.

“Nonsense, brother, it was only a model of the world we seek.”

“A world united,” Benjamin said, bitterly wondering at his own naivety. Weeping, figuratively at least, for the benighted human race that was being deprived of the utopia he saw so clearly. “One vast interconnectedness, with us at the nexus.”

“It can still be. It can. But not if we unleash the SRNs. Not the gray goo, not that final act of Götterdämmerung. The lesser tack, though …” Charles was offering a sacrifice to the god of Benjamin’s rage. A step short of apocalypse.

“Massed preprogrammed attack,” Benjamin said, accenting the final word. Nanobots could be programmed to carry out simple commands autonomously. Large numbers of them, so long as the task was simple. Millions of them if necessary. They could be programmed to destroy all in their reach for a certain period of time and then turned off, a sort of localized, small-scale gray goo.

“If it’s true that the intelligence agencies either know or will soon, then we won’t be safe, even here. But if we disrupt … If we launch mass releases. Washington. London. Beijing. Give them something to keep them very busy. And at the same time use the Floor Thirty-Four weapon to take out BZRK …”

“There he goes. Burnofsky. He’s doing it again.” Benjamin had spotted it. He gave the voice command to expand the screen. Burnofsky’s image pushed all the others aside.

In the image—high-def, no grainy monochrome—Burnofsky had lit a cigarette. He took a few puffs. Sat, staring at nothing. Took another drag on the cigarette.

“Here it comes,” Benjamin said.

Burnofsky slid a desk drawer open. He drew out a framed photograph of a young girl.

“The daughter,” Charles said. “He’s never gotten over it.”

Burnofsky looked at the picture and puffed his cigarette so that now the smoke partially obscured the image, swirling up around the hidden camera. They could see only the side of the man’s face, but the smile was huge, ear to ear. The smile and a silent laugh.

“Volume up,” Charles ordered.

Burnofsky was making a chortling sound, a private, gleeful, somehow greedy sound. Like a miser counting his money.

“Bugs in your brain, baby,” he said, laughing happily. “Bugs in your brain.”

“System: zoom in on Burnofsky’s face,” Benjamin ordered. The camera zoomed. “He’s crying as he laughs. Crying and laughing. Here it comes.”

Burnofsky lifted his shirt up off his corpse-white concave belly. They had a poor angle on this, just barely able to see.

Burnofsky sucked hard on the cigarette, and holding the smoke in his lungs, stabbed the lit end of it against his belly.

They heard the sizzle.

He held it there; held it, held it, held it … and then, with a cry of pain that caused smoke to explode from his mouth, Burnofsky at last pulled the cigarette away.

“Karl, Karl, Karl,” Charles said.

“Exercising, eating well, no more drugs, far less alcohol.” Benjamin recited the relevant facts. “Seemingly less depressed. And this self-mutilation is the price, somehow. You know it’s BZRK, brother. You must know that. He’s wired. They’ve taken our genius from us.”

Charles sipped his wine. He had to take it slow if Benjamin was going to be swigging brandy. “I don’t know it. But, do I suspect it?”

He let the question hang.

“We must return home. Home to the Tulip.”

“Back to the Tulip?” Charles’s voice was troubled. “Even now that will be dangerous.”

“I’ve spent—we’ve spent—our lives skulking and hiding, brother. Is there not, finally, a time to stand up and be seen and counted?”

Charles didn’t argue. He knew it would be pointless. Benjamin would have his own Götterdämmerung. Charles felt sick inside. He did not want this to end in apocalypse. He had never wanted anything, really, but for all the world to be happy. And to accept him for what he was. And if only he could be allowed to wire the entire human race with his nanobot forces that beautiful vision would be realized. A world of peace. A world free from want and hate and fear and pain because every human being would be brother, sister, father, mother to every other human being. One vast interconnectedness.

“We hit back,” Benjamin was saying. Over and over. “We hit back!”

Charles closed his eye and heard the voice of his brother, so many years ago, so long ago, before they understood. Before they came to accept their isolation and loneliness. The voice of the child Benjamin was the voice of the grown man now.

Hit back, hit back, hit back.

On the screen Burnofsky was giggling and crying.

FOUR

Sadie and Noah were bundled into a Land Rover and driven straight, without packing, without ceremony, without time to breathe, to a privately owned airstrip and practically shoved aboard a Gulfstream.

The pilot filed a flight plan for the relatively short hop to Sambava Airport on the main island of Madagascar. But that would be the expected route, and if the enemy had gone to the trouble of blowing up a boat, would they hesitate at an airport assassination?

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