BZRK: Reloaded Page 1

Author: Michael Grant

Series: BZRK #2

Genres: Science Fiction , Young Adult

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ONE

“Oh, I needed that.”

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?”

“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.”

“What?”

“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.

She blinked.

“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.”

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