BZRK: Apocalypse Page 2

The drop landed. It swept around the two bugs, engulfing them. And instantly it began to eat away those insect legs. It chewed burning holes into those insect carapaces. It burned away those distorted reflections of her own face like an old-time filmstrip jammed in a projector that bubbles and caramelizes and is gone.

The picture frames in her head blinked out.

They were gone as fast as they had come.

Sandra stood now, seeing only through her own eyes, seeing only what was real.

She laughed. “Hah-hah-hah-hah. Hahahahahahahah!”

And then she screamed. “Ahhhh! Aaaaaahhhh! You’re devils! Devils!”

Nolan moved to grab her because she was climbing awkwardly onto the table. She slipped, skinned her knee against the edge, stared down at the blood, and shrieked, shrieked like a mad thing.

She snatched up a knife. Not a very big knife, just a dinner knife with a point and modest serrations. She stabbed it into Nolan’s thick bicep.

The strong man screamed, a more feminine sound than one might have expected.

“Hah! Hah, devil!” Sandra yelled, happy at the sight of his blood, fascinated.

Wade and Quentin backpedaled, making sure to keep the table between themselves and the long shot for Best Actress.

In Sandra’s eyes they were not backing away, they were coming for her, with their fangs out, and claws for fingers, and liquid fire dripping from their eyeballs—it was all about the eyeballs, it was there, in the eyes, the demons.

Sandra Piper turned the knife around and stabbed it into her belly. It didn’t go far. It drew blood, but just a stain the size of a quarter.

“Hey, hey, hey!” Quentin yelled.

“No, no, stop that, stop that this instant,” Wade said.

Nolan made another move—this time wary—to take the knife from her.

Sandra spit at him. “Hah!” she yelled, and stabbed the knife into her own eye. Her left eye. Pulled it out bloody and clotted with viscous goo.

Cries of horror, and now even she could see that they were backing away, the devils. It was working. Hah! Run, devils, run!

She then stabbed the knife into her other eye and pushed it through cracking bone, pushed it until the hilt was stopped. Then she twisted the knife around as if she was trying to churn her own brain.

Her knees gave way. The knife dropped from her hand.

“Stupid Mission project,” she said. Then fell onto her back, laughing and howling, laughing and howling. “Devils! Dev—”

It was Lystra Reid who took the knife from her. And Lystra who placed a napkin over the bloody craters in her face.

Not that Sandra Piper could see that.

TWO

Her name was Sadie McLure. She had indifferently styled brown hair and smart, skeptical brown eyes that could take on golden highlights and even suggestions of green in certain lights. She had freckles on her cheeks and across the bridge of her nose. She’d never liked the freckles—they seemed to be accompanied by the word cute and she didn’t like people thinking of her as cute. Cute was a belittling word.

The cute freckles had a second outpost on her chest, and a lesser presence on her shoulders. But all her freckles were now almost hidden by a rich, deep tan.

Her name was Sadie McLure, but in certain company she called herself Plath, after the great and tragically suicidal poet.

It was her nom de guerre. Her BZRK name. The name that defiantly acknowledged that there were only two possible fates in her future as a member of BZRK: death or madness.

She had a net worth expressed in billions of dollars. She had a small but effective private army in the form of McLure Labs security under a Mr. Stern. (She must have heard his first name at some point, but what had stuck was the Mr. and the Stern.)

She had seen terrible things, Sadie had. As Plath she had done terrible things, too, and had terrible things done to her.

She was sixteen years old.

A month had passed since that bizarre and fateful day when the Doll Ship had burned down much of the Hong Kong harbor waterfront. A month since the president of the United States had blown her own brains out on nationwide TV after being (correctly) suspected of murdering her husband.

A month since Sadie as Plath had sent her biots into Vincent’s brain, one armed with acid to burn the biot-death madness from him. The great advantage of biots over their mechanical competitors, the nanobots, was the closeness of the connection between twitcher and biot. That was also the greatest disadvantage because that same connection meant that the loss of a biot sent its creator on a downward spiral into madness.

Vincent had spiraled following the loss of one biot and serious injury to a second.

From a desperate desire to save Vincent, Sadie had undertaken a grim mission to cauterize parts of his brain. But at this moment that terrible day was compartmentalized if not forgotten, and Sadie was doing something that was not at all terrible. She was on a white-sand beach beneath palm trees. A picnic was laid out on a woven mat of the kind the locals used. There was cold fried chicken, cold lobster, and a bowl of vanilla-spiked fruit in the local Madagascar style.

There was also a bottle of white wine, now empty, and a bottle of vodka, now partly empty.

And there was a boy.

He was naked as Sadie. His name was Noah, though like Sadie he sometimes used a nom de guerre: Keats.

Whether they were Plath and Keats or Sadie and Noah, she was on top and he was inside her. They were both smiling because the ash from the joint in Sadie’s mouth had landed on the very tip of Noah’s nose, and when she blew it away it made him sneeze. Which struck them both as funny, so they laughed, and that physical convulsion had interesting side effects.

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