BZRK: Apocalypse Page 1

Author: Michael Grant

Series: BZRK #3

Genres: Science Fiction , Young Adult

ONE

Sandra Piper was having dinner with friends when it started.

She was eating chilled lobster on the teak deck of a producer friend’s Malibu home, along with a former costar named Wade Talon (a ridiculous screen name in Sandra’s opinion), her current director (Quentin—no last name necessary), a very rich and rather magnificently tattooed woman named Lystra Reid who had an odd vocal tic that added “Yeah” to random sentences, and an extraordinarily fit, tall, and broad-shouldered man whose name she kept forgetting but who might have been named Noble, or something very close to that.

The Noble creature was listening, rapt, while the more famous folk discussed work and mutual friends and more work. In fact, in one way or another it was all work.

Sandra had been nominated: Best Actress. Very tough competition. The oddsmakers called her a long shot at six to one. Long but not impossible. And despite the fact that Sandra Piper was a mother of two, a down-to-earth thirtyish woman with a masters in economics who had smoked pot exactly twice in her life and never drank more than two glasses of wine, she was thinking of seducing young Mr. Shoulders. Mr. Shy Grin. Mr. Large-But-Sensitive Hands.

Because he was definitely interested, and she had been divorced for two years and had dated no one in that time. And she was exhausted from long days on the current shoot, plus her son, Quarle (three years old), had just gotten over a two-week-long bout of the flu.

And really, what the hell was the point of being America’s Sweetheart if you couldn’t even get laid? Would a male actor in the same situation even hesitate? Well, some, sure. But lots wouldn’t. So why should she? Wasn’t that why Quentin had invited Noble …? No, wait, now she remembered. His name was Nolan. Whatever. Wasn’t he there for her, um … amusement?

Unless. Oh, had he come with the Lystra person? Was he here for her? She would be closer to his age, not a beauty but attractive enough, given that she was not Hollywood at all but some sort of health-care billionaire.

No. No, young Mr. Body of Steel was not eyeing Lystra. He was eyeing the next winner of the Academy Award for Best Actress. Uh-huh.

But the idea sighed inside her and deflated like a balloon with a slow leak. She shook her head, a tiny movement not intended for anyone else, and took a deep breath. She had to help Quinn (seven years old) with her stupid California Mission project, due tomorrow.

God, she was boring. Boring and responsible and definitely America’s Sweetheart, except that when it came right down to it, she was Mommy.

Suddenly her hand jerked and she tipped her wineglass over. The last ounce of white wine drained onto the wood surface, alarming no one.

“Sorry. I just—”

Sandra frowned. Shook her head.

“What’s the matter, Sandy?” Wade asked.

“I’m just …” She shook her head again. Frowned, despite the fact that frowning would crease her ageless forehead. “Oh my God, is there something in the wine? I’m … I’m seeing something.”

Nolan looked at her from beneath lashes that would probably have tickled her cheeks (and other places, too, if she’d just said the word) and asked, “Are you feeling ill?”

“It’s …” She laughed. “This is going to sound crazy. It’s like I can see something that isn’t there. I’m …” She looked away from them, stared out toward the black Pacific Ocean, wondering if somehow what she was seeing was a reflection off the wineglasses.

But no. It was still there. It was as if she had a second set of eyes, and they opened onto a small TV screen in a corner of her own eyes.

“I’m seeing, like, like … just flat, but weird.” Then, a sudden, sharp gasp. “Oh my God, a second one. Like another window in my head.”

“Maybe you should lie down,” Nolan suggested.

“Or have another glass of wine,” Quentin said, and laughed. But now he, too, was staring at her sideways, with concern on his face.

“There’s two … Oh! Oh! Oh! There’s a giant insect. I’m going nuts. Maybe I’m having a stroke.”

“I’m calling nine one one,” Nolan said, and pulled out his phone.

“Jesus Christ! It’s a huge bug. I can see it! It’s turning, it’s coming toward me.… Oh, oh God, I think I’m moving it! I think I’m making it move!”

She pushed back hard from the table. Glassware clattered and toppled. Wade leapt to his feet and caught her arm as she lurched away from the table.

“It has eyes! It has eyes! Oh, God. Oh, God. My face! My eyes! Those are my eyes!”

She pushed Wade aside violently, then, abashed, shocked by her own behavior, she tried on a fleeting smile, reached out a reassuring hand and said, “I think I need help. I think I’d better see a doctor.”

“That would be best,” Lystra Reid said coolly, then added, as if an afterthought, “Yeah.” She had moved to place her back against the railing and was watching with detached interest. At least she wasn’t taking a picture to tweet later.

“Ambulance is on the way,” Nolan reported.

And Sandra thought, Well, he certainly won’t sleep with me now. But that thought came and left in a heartbeat, because something else was happening on that eerie picture-in-picture view in her head. She was seeing a falling drop of liquid that must have been a million gallons. It was far bigger than the terrifying bugs with her face smeared across them, her eyes; those nightmare insects with her own damned eyes.

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