Authors: Michael Grant
First published in the United Kingdom by Egmont UK Limited, 2013
First published in the United States of America by Egmont USA, 2013
443 Park Avenue South, Suite 806
New York, NY 10016
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
BZRK 2 / Michael Grant.
Summary: “A continuation of the events exposed in BZRK”-- Provided by
ISBN 978-1-60684-394-9 (hardback) -- ISBN 978-1-60684-395-6 (electronic
book) [1. Utopias--Fiction. 2. Nanotechnology--Fiction. 3. Conjoined twins-Fiction. 4. Twins--Fiction. 5. Science fiction.] I. Title. II. Title: BZRK two.
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Wilkes is alive and back with us.
Ophelia is alive despite the loss of both legs below the knee.
Keats and Plath are both well and performed magnificently.
Vincent is suffering from a deep depression following the loss of one
We await instructions.
During Vincent’s incapacity you are in charge of NYC cell, Nijinsky. You’re
the wrong person for the job. Become the right person.
Central Intelligence Agency—Office of Technology Threat assessment
Transcript of interview with Professor Edwin H. Grossman, February 28, 2012
(Page 7 of 9)
Q: In your opinion then, this is a serious threat but not an urgent one?
Grossman: I don’t know your definition of urgent. Look, the gray goo
scenario is not science fiction, not any longer. Nanotech is advancing by
leaps and bounds. There is some very important research going on at
MIT, and at UC Irvine, as well as in my own department at Texas.
But anyone researching nanotech is aware of the danger.
Grossman: Fermi was aware of the danger of nuclear fission. Watson
and Crick were aware of the danger of DNA. Alfred Nobel was aware of
the danger of dynamite when he invented it. No doubt the first cave man
to swing a club was aware—
Q: I take your point, Doctor, but you aren’t seriously comparing nanotechnology to nuclear weapons.
Grossman: Actually, yes, I am. You see, in either case, we are talking
about enormous, catastrophic power in the hands of human beings.
Q: Only a madman—
Grossman: Only a madman? (Laughs.) Has there been a shortage of
madmen in human history?
Vincent felt the laugh building inside him. It was like a buildup
of steam in a covered pot. Like a volcano whose time to erupt has
come at last.
He was being torn apart.
His arms were handcuffed to two parked diesel locomotives, and
they were huffing and puffing, and smoke was coming up out of their
undercarriages, and the locomotives were so hot that the steel side
panels were melting.
He stood there between the tracks.
The chains were long. The engines would be able to build up
He laughed, because it would be funny when his arms were ripped
from his body, when the flesh tore and the bones popped out of their
sockets like pulling the wings off a barbecued chicken and . . .
“Come on, man, lie down, lie down, lie down.”
Choo choo. Choo chooooooo!
“You’re going to be okay, Vincent.”
Who was Vincent? His name was not Vincent. His name was …
What was his name?
A dragon, one of those Chinese dragons, loomed over him, a
giant face, and there was smoke coming out of its nostrils and it was
the same as the smoke from the trains that were starting to move now,
starting to pick up speed, now.
“Uh. Uh-uh-uh! Uh! Uhhhh! UUHHH!”
The chains clanked as the trains pulled away.
“Take this pill. Take the pill, Vincent.”
Vincent thrashed, had to free his arms, they would rip his arms
off, his arms would be dragged off behind the trains!
“Goddamn it, take the pill!”
The dragon was ripping his mouth open; he was going to split
Vincent’s head open so that brains came gushing out of his mouth,
vomiting his own brains and . . .
The Chinese dragon was a nurse now, no, a dragon, no, no, no.
A vice closed around his head. He smelled a masculine perfume.
Vincent felt muscles like pythons around his head and something was
in his mouth, and the dragon/nurse held his jaw shut even as he tried
to scream and beg for help.
“Keats. Help me! Get water.”
From the sky came a bottle.
Fiji water. Oh yes, that was the one with a square bottle, sure he
would drink some water, yes, dragon, I’ll drink some water like a
“Get his mouth open.”
But the trains!
A voice he heard very, very clearly but through his head not his
ears said, “They’ll kill you, they’ll have no choice, they’ll kill you, kill
you, the mad king will send the mad emperor. Kill. You.”
But then his arms were ripped from their sockets—Snap! Pop!—
by the trains and he laughed and laughed.
And he felt sick.
He wanted to throw up.
“Like my brother,” a voice said.
The dragon, who was really just a man who smelled like perfume,
had an arm around Vincent’s head. The man was crying. So Vincent
felt like crying, too.
The other one, Vincent thought maybe he was a devil, he wasn’t
sure, he might have devil skin, and he had devil blue eyes.
“I don’t have arms anymore, Jin,” Vincent whispered.
“Jesus,” the possible devil with blue eyes said.
Jin—Nijinsky, the dragon, the nurse—didn’t say anything.
The drug came for Vincent. It called him to unconsciousness. As
he tumbled, armless, down the long, long black well, Vincent had a
moment of clarity.
So, he thought, this is madness.
Ready to help. Her heart was beating as if it was made out of lead.
That beat, that unnatural beat squeezed the air out of her lungs;, it
clamped her throat.
Sadie McLure—Plath—had been just a little bit in love with Vincent. He had that effect on people. Not love love, not even attraction
in the usual sense of the word—that feeling was reserved for Keats,
who was working silently, quickly, to tie Vincent down. Keats looked
as shell-shocked as Plath felt.
So, not love love and not attraction for Vincent, but some weird
amalgam of protectiveness and trust. Strange to feel that way about
someone as cold-blooded as Vincent, someone so utterly in control.
Well, formerly in control.
Her fists clenched so tight that her neglected fingernails cut new
and too-short lifelines into her palms. She had taken too many hits,
too many losses: her mother, her father and brother. What was left to
Plath had been recruited by Vincent. She had trusted Vincent,
trusted him even with her life. And at the same time there had always
been the feeling that she should take care of him, not out of reciprocity, not because it was owed, but just because there was something in
that impassive face, in those dark eyes that spoke to her and said, Yes,
But that Vincent, the cool, calm, relentless one whom you nevertheless wanted to shelter, that Vincent was not here any longer.
It had been an abstraction, but now she saw it. Now she felt it, and
brave Plath was no longer quite so brave.
She turned away, unable to watch any longer.
Ophelia would have laughed at the idea that what didn’t kill you
made you stronger. Her legs were gone, one at the knee, one six
inches higher. She was not stronger.
But worse, like Vincent she had lost her biots. Had Ophelia been
capable of rational thought she might have contemplated the comparison between legs, actual, physical legs, and the biots, which were
not, after all, exactly original equipment for any human.
Her legs had burned like candles, melted like wax, down to the
bone. They’d amputated the barbecued stumps in the OR there at
Bellevue Hospital. But her biots were dead long before that, incinerated in the terrible disaster at the United Nations. By the time doctors
had taken what was left of her legs, what was left of her mind wasn’t
Ophelia was guarded by FBI agents who labeled her a terrorist
suspect. There was one just outside the door to her hospital room, and
one at each end of the hallway, and one at the nurse’s station. So, had
Ophelia been sane, she probably would have been surprised to see a
man standing at the foot of her bed who was obviously not a doctor
despite his white coat. Underneath the white coat was a faded, lilac
velour blazer. His usual jaunty top hat had been set aside somewhere,
but he still had Danny Trejo’s face.
Caligula—he had no other known name—came close to her,
stood beside her. Ophelia gazed up at him and in a moment of clarity,
a brief gap between the painkillers and the mental anguish, seemed
almost to recognize him.
“Did? Are, uh …Did?” she asked. It was not a coherent question,
but Caligula answered as though it was, as though she could understand, even though her eyes had rolled up into her head and a manic
grin had distorted her lips.
He put a palm on her forehead, a gesture that was tender but not,
because he used the pressure to hold her head still as with a single
swift motion he buried the dagger to the hilt in her temple.
From his pocket he withdrew a small cylinder ending in a pointed
valve. He pulled the knife out and pushed the valve into the hole. He
opened the valve and let his own special mixture of white phosphorous flow into her brain.
An autopsy might just conceivably produce evidence of nanotechnology, and it was part of Caligula’s brief to stop that from happening.
That, and a mad Ophelia might eventually, in some disjointed rant,
have given up a deadly secret or two.
The only survivor of the UN massacre in custody was now no
longer available for questioning.
By the time Caligula left the room Ophelia’s eye sockets were
dripping liquid fire.
The president of the United States, Helen Falkenhym Morales,
was feeling gratified. She and her husband had just sat in bed and
watched Jon Stewart take apart the Senate majority leader, a Morales
foe. And for once the president had gone off-diet and actually eaten
most of a butterscotch sundae.
An enemy ridiculed, and a gooey sundae: a good end to an otherwise lousy day.
Monte Morales leaned across the bed and wiped a bit of whipped
cream from her chin, popped it in his mouth, and smiled.
She liked that smile; it was a very particular smile, and if it were
not for the fact that her life was lived according to a rigid schedule,
well …He was still sexy after all these years.
Her husband, Monte Morales, the first gentleman, or as most
people referred to him, MoMo, was ten years younger than she and
kept himself in good shape for a man of forty-five. It was one of the
things the American people liked about him. They liked his good
looks; they liked his obvious devotion to his wife; they liked the
stories about his genial weekly poker games with some of the other
spouses of important Washington players.
They didn’t approve of his smoking cigars in the White House,
but the American people were willing to forgive so long as he kept
on being the charming, easygoing counterbalance to his wife’s razoredged personality.
MoMo was the living proof that the president couldn’t be all
bad—even her enemies admitted that.
“What’s bothering you, babe?” MoMo asked.
She turned and frowned at him. It had sounded perilously close
to criticism. “What do you mean? It’s time for bed, that’s all.”
He sat up, swung his legs off the side of the bed, and said, “Not
now, I mean generally. You’ve been a little weird.”
“Weird?” The word was absurd applied to Helen Falkenhym
Morales. Difficult, cold, critical: those were the words applied to her
most frequently. No one thought she was weird.
MoMo shrugged his broad shoulders. “I mean …off. Just, sometimes. Little stuff. You were talking during the program.”
“So you never do, that’s all.”
“Really? You think ten minutes before we go to sleep is time to
start questioning me?” She pulled on a robe and glanced at her pad.
Nothing there that needed immediate attention. There was a coup
under way in Tajikistan. That could wait.
And there was a briefing book from Patrick Rios, the new director
of the ETA—the Emerging Technologies Agency. Rios, late of the FBI
and a real go-getter type, was pushing hard to go after McLure Industries. What Rios didn’t seem to understand was that Grey McLure and
his son had been murdered in what had been—until the UN terrorist
attack—the biggest headline event of the year. Go after McLure?
Well …why not, now that she thought of it. Rios was very smart,
very capable. He reminded the president of herself, somehow. When
she pictured Rios, she always seemed to see herself as a young, aggressive prosecutor.
She trusted him.
She needed to give him a free hand.
He was very like her, a good guy, reliable.
In fact, the two memories—of Rios and of herself at that age—
were wired together. The president’s brain could not think of Rios
without thinking of herself.
“Babe, that’s not what I’m saying,” MoMo said. He stood to wrap
his arms around her, but she moved away, heading toward the bathroom and a hot shower, her end-of-day relaxation ritual. He followed.
“It’s just I’m wondering if you’re okay.”
“Listen, MoMo, I’m tired. And until thirty seconds ago I was feeling like I had put a pleasant full period on this lousy day. So if you
have something to say, let’s get to it.”
She slid back the glass door on the shower and turned the water
on. It would take thirty seconds for the water to heat up.
“Okay,” he said, suddenly very serious. “It’s a bunch of little
things. You’ve developed a nervous tic in your eye.”
“It’s the pollen—it’s been terrible.”
“You call me MoMo. You never used to. I don’t mind it from other
people, but that’s not what you call me.”
She hesitated. “Okay.”
“You ate raw tomatoes.”
“You ate raw tomatoes. You hate them. You dropped the f-bomb
in the Cabinet meeting. You never do that. The last couple days I see
you staring in the mirror, and it’s like you just go blank. The other day
you snapped at the photographer. When do you ever do that?”
“I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’ve been under some pressure
lately,” she said, her voice dripping sarcasm.
“You’ve been under pressure since I’ve known you, Helen, you
don’t snap at people who work for you, not people who can’t defend
themselves. It’s just . . .” He shrugged helplessly. “I just wonder if
maybe we should take a few days up at Camp David.”
“I can’t do that,” she said icily. “I’m not the first lady, I’m the goddamned president. I have actual work to do.”
The insult was like a knife in his ribs. He gulped, shocked by it.
“See, that’s not the kind of thing you say,” he said finally.
“Sorry, Mo—, sorry, sweetheart. I’m . . .” She forced a helpless
smile. “Yeah, maybe I need some time off.”
“Maybe more than that. That twitch, all this little stuff, more than
I can remember right now …maybe you should call the White House
physician. Just have him check. You know …could be …I don’t know.”
The president nodded solemnly. “Okay. Now I’m taking a shower.
Want to join me?”
“You know I’m a bath man,” he said, his tone half reproach, half
She put her arms around him. “But I’m lonely in that big shower
When they were under the spray she considered her options.
MoMo wouldn’t let it drop. He was nothing if not persistent. He
loved her and he would keep pushing. And pushing.
Something was wrong with her—that was the hell of it. She had
felt it. She knew it was true. Something wrong.
But she had a year until the election. This was no time to look
weak. This was no time for doctors to be finding a tumor or a stroke
or even just too much stress.
But what could she do? How could she stop MoMo from loving
her right out of the White House?
Later she would recall that question.
Later she would ask herself how she had decided on the terrible
But at this moment all she saw was that it would have to be a
single swift blow. No second chances.
She pressed close to her husband. She kissed him. She ran her
fingers through his wet hair, held both sides of his head tight, and
with every muscle in her body smashed the back of his head against
the tile wall.
MoMo sagged to the floor. Blood came with surprising force,
more than she would have imagined.
She left the water running, stepped from the shower, crossed to
the bathtub, and began filling it with hot water.
It took a couple of minutes before there was enough water in the
MoMo groaned in the shower. Nonsense sounds, not words, but
still she had to hurry.
She slid back the shower door, knelt down, put her hands under
his arms, and dragged him the five feet to the tub. That much was
easy: he was wet and soapy, and the floor was tile.
The harder part was pushing him up over the side of the tub.
For the scenario to work it would have to seem as if he’d slipped and
smashed his head against the side of the tub. It would be a long night
of making sure that bloodstains were in only the exactly right places.
The president would be scrubbing.
She manhandled MoMo into the rising water in the tub. Now
he was moaning and moving feebly, like a sleepwalker, like a drunk,
He splashed into the tub.
His eyes fluttered open as she ground the bloody wound against
the back of the tub.
“Mwuh?” he managed to say.
Mustn’t leave handprints. Had to do this right. She pressed her
palms against his chest and leaned her weight on him until his head
was completely submerged.
His dark eyes blinked, seemed to gain awareness for just a
moment, and his arms came up out of the water to push back . . .
Too late. His lungs filled.
He vomited into the water.
And then she no longer had to hold him down. MoMo wasn’t
It would be a tragedy. The nation would mourn. She would get a
ten-point sympathy bounce in the polls.
Her secrets would be safe.
A sob heaved up from inside her. She loved him. She loved him
with all her heart.
And she had just murdered him.