Home > BZRK: Apocalypse (BZRK #3)(9)

BZRK: Apocalypse (BZRK #3)(9)
Michael Grant

Bug Man moved a step sideways, edging along the oranges. He spotted the onions. The white ones.

“Met police will pick you up tomorrow, but of course it’s not really for themselves. They’ll turn you over to the Security Service, to MI5, for questioning.”

The man moved closer so he could speak more quietly. He smelled of sandalwood and spearmint. Bug Man liked the cologne, didn’t like the man belonging to it. He had a ridiculous urge to ask him whether it was available for sale here at Tesco.

“They will detain you on a secret warrant, and in all likelihood you will be given a chance to plead guilty so as to avoid a public trial. They’ll put out a statement accusing you of something like embezzlement. Something safe for public consumption. They’ll promise to let you out in a few years, and they would, really they would. Except that you’ll have been gutted by some hardened lifer in your cell long before that. They’ll make sure of that. If they don’t, their cousins will—the Americans.”

Bug Man licked his lips. This was a threat, but not just a threat. This was the beginning of an offer.

“Whatever they want, the Twins, whatever they want, I’m still the best; I’m still fucking Bug Man.”

“The Twins?” The man made a crestfallen face, an act, a little show that he was putting on. Bug Man wanted to punch him. “Oh, yes, the Twins. Well, Anthony, this is not really about them. I’m not able to tell you anything, really, but I can tell you that I don’t work for the Twins.”

Bug Man took a breath. He’d forgotten to do that. “Who are you, then?”

“My name is George. George William Frederick.”

He said it as if it should mean something to Bug Man. And it did ping some distant, dusty strand of memory. But nothing meaningful. It was a name out of a different time, Bug Man felt.

“You slept through history, didn’t you?” George William Frederick said. “That’s a shame. History is everything important, really. In any case, I’m here because the surveillance team that has been on you for every minute of the last month is outside, in the parking lot, drinking coffee in paper cups and eating HobNobs, confident that you will soon emerge with your groceries. They’ll follow you home, as per their orders, log your movements, and go off shift at eight p.m. They won’t bother with physical surveillance after that; they’ll be watching on the cameras they have in your home. Yes. So, as it happens, this would actually be an opportune time for you to follow me, out of the back of the store, to a waiting car.”

Bug Man immediately ran through some of the more embarrassing things that would have been observed by cameras in his home. But he was mostly over the concept of privacy. The Twins had had cameras on him from the start of his employment by them.

“And then?” Bug Man asked.

George-With-Three-Names shrugged. “All I can tell you is that an Armstrong hit team is also looking for the right moment to shoot you, and tomorrow MI5 will bundle you off to prison where they or the Americans will do for you, and the third alternative, the one I’m offering you, is preferable.”

Bug Man knew the man was speaking the truth. Or at least believed himself to be telling the truth.

George-With-Three-Names. George William Frederick. The penny dropped.

George III.

The mad king.

“You’re BZRK.”

“Think what you like,” George said with a self-satisfied smile. “I’m your way out.”

“You are going to kill me.” Bug Man was proud that he managed to get the words out with only a minor tremor in his voice.

George tapped his waist. There was something there that was no belt buckle. “If that were my instruction, you’d never know about it. By the way, you’re not Roman Catholic, are you?”

“What? Church of England, I guess. But—”

“Good.”

Bug Man let it go. The point was, this wasn’t an assassination. “Will I have time to say good-bye to my mother?”

George shook his head.

“Good,” Bug Man said. He nodded, smiled for himself alone, and thought, Okay then: back in the game.

[ARTIFACT]

An exchange of texts

Plath: Back in NYC. What is our mission?

Lear: Destroy AFGC.

Plath: What does that mean?

Lear: Find and kill the Twins. Destroy all AFGC records. Kill or wire all AFGC scientists and engineers. Their technology must be obliterated.

Plath: I’m to do this with 7 people?

Lear: You had your vacation. Besides there is an 8th.

Plath: Caligula?

Lear: I’ve always found him very useful.

[Long pause]

Lear: Time is short, Plath.

Plath: Short why?

Lear: AFGC very close to developing remote biot killer. Nature unspecified. Days not weeks until it is weaponized. You must strike before then. Ticktock. Death or madness.

ELAPSED TIME

The Gateway Hotel could not be repaired or rebuilt. The blowtorch heat of the burning LNG carrier ship had burned everything capable of burning. Natural gas burns at temperatures ranging from 3,000 to 3,6000 degrees Fahrenheit, and that’s enough to incinerate furniture, carpet, and paint. It’s also enough to melt glass and soften structural steel. A human body is a marshmallow.

The Gateway was a black, bent, crumpled horror that reminded some observers of a very old woman, bent by arthritis, in the act of falling to her knees.

Buildings on either side had burned as well. Buildings farther back in Kowloon, where the gas had rolled through the streets before catching fire, were burned. Some had exploded, simply popped open like rotting fruit. Kowloon Park was a field of ash.

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