Home > Steelheart (Reckoners #1)

Steelheart (Reckoners #1)
Brandon Sanderson

Prologue

I’VE seen Steelheart bleed.

It happened ten years ago; I was eight. My father and I were at the First Union Bank on Adams Street. We used the old street names back then, before the Annexation.

The bank was enormous. A single open chamber with white pillars surrounding a tile mosaic floor, broad doors that led deeper into the building. Two large revolving doors opened onto the street, with a set of conventional doors to the sides. Men and women streamed in and out, as if the room were the heart of some enormous beast, pulsing with a lifeblood of people and cash.

I knelt backward on a chair that was too big for me, watching the flow of people. I liked to watch people. The different shapes of faces, the hairstyles, the clothing, the expressions. Everyone showed so much variety back then. It was exciting.

“David, turn around, please,” my father said. He had a soft voice. I’d never heard it raised, save for that one time at my mother’s funeral. Thinking of his agony on that day still makes me shiver.

I turned around, sullen. We were to the side of the main bank chamber in one of the cubicles where the mortgage men worked. Our cubicle had glass sides, which made it less confining, but it still felt fake. There were little wood-framed pictures of family members on the walls, a cup of cheap candy with a glass lid on the desk, and a vase with faded plastic flowers on the filing cabinet.

It was an imitation of a comfortable home. Much like the man in front of us wore an imitation of a smile.

“If we had more collateral …,” the mortgage man said, showing teeth.

“Everything I own is on there,” my father said, indicating the paper on the desk in front of us. His hands were thick with calluses, his skin tan from days spent working in the sun. My mother would have winced if she’d seen him go to a fancy appointment like this wearing his work jeans and an old T-shirt with a comic book character on it.

At least he’d combed his hair, though it was starting to thin. He didn’t care about that as much as other men seemed to. “Just means fewer haircuts, Dave,” he’d tell me, laughing as he ran his fingers through his wispy hair. I didn’t point out that he was wrong. He would still have to get the same number of haircuts, at least until all of his hair fell out.

“I just don’t think I can do anything about this,” the mortgage man said. “You’ve been told before.”

“The other man said it would be enough,” my father replied, his large hands clasped before him. He looked concerned. Very concerned.

The mortgage man just continued to smile. He tapped the stack of papers on his desk. “The world is a much more dangerous place now, Mr. Charleston. The bank has decided against taking risks.”

“Dangerous?” my father asked.

“Well, you know, the Epics …”

“But they aren’t dangerous,” my father said passionately. “The Epics are here to help.”

Not this again, I thought.

The mortgage man’s smile finally broke, as if he was taken aback by my father’s tone.

“Don’t you see?” my father said, leaning forward. “This isn’t a dangerous time. It’s a wonderful time!”

The mortgage man cocked his head. “Didn’t your previous home get destroyed by an Epic?”

“Where there are villains, there will be heroes,” my father said. “Just wait. They will come.”

I believed him. A lot of people thought like he did, back then. It had only been two years since Calamity appeared in the sky. One year since ordinary men started changing. Turning into Epics—almost like superheroes from the stories.

We were still hopeful then. And ignorant.

“Well,” the mortgage man said, clasping his hands on the table right beside a picture frame displaying a stock photo of smiling ethnic children. “Unfortunately, our underwriters don’t agree with your assessment. You’ll have to …”

They kept talking, but I stopped paying attention. I let my eyes wander back toward the crowds, then turned around again, kneeling on the chair. My father was too engrossed in the conversation to scold me.

So I was actually watching when the Epic strolled into the bank. I noticed him immediately, though nobody else seemed to pay him much heed. Most people say you can’t tell an Epic from an ordinary man unless he starts using his powers, but they’re wrong. Epics carry themselves differently. That sense of confidence, that subtle self-satisfaction. I’ve always been able to spot them.

Even as a kid I knew there was something different about that man. He wore a relaxed-fitting black business suit with a light tan shirt underneath, no tie. He was tall and lean, but solid, like a lot of Epics are. Muscled and toned in a way that you could see even through the loose clothing.

He strode to the center of the room. Sunglasses hung from his breast pocket, and he smiled as he put them on. Then he raised a finger and pointed with a casual tapping motion at a passing woman.

She vaporized to dust, clothing burning away, skeleton falling forward and clattering to the floor. Her earrings and wedding ring didn’t dissolve, though. They hit the floor with distinct pings I could hear even over the noise in the room.

The room fell still. People froze, horrified. Conversations stopped, though the mortgage man kept right on rambling, lecturing my father.

He finally choked off as the screaming began.

I don’t remember how I felt. Isn’t that odd? I can remember the lighting—those magnificent chandeliers up above, sprinkling the room with bits of refracted light. I can remember the lemon-ammonia scent of the recently cleaned floor. I can remember all too well the piercing shouts of terror, the mad cacophony as people scrambled for doors.

Most clearly, I remember the Epic smiling broadly—almost leering—as he pointed at people passing, reducing them to ash and bones with a mere gesture.

I was transfixed. Perhaps I was in shock. I clung to the back of my chair, watching the slaughter with wide eyes.

Some people near the doors escaped. Anyone who got too close to the Epic died. Several employees and customers huddled together on the ground or hid behind desks. Strangely, the room grew still. The Epic stood as if he were alone, bits of paper floating down through the air, bones and black ash scattered on the floor about him.

“I am called Deathpoint,” he said. “It’s not the cleverest of names, I’ll admit. But I find it memorable.” His voice was eerily conversational, as if he were chatting with friends over drinks.

He began to stroll through the room. “A thought occurred to me this morning,” he said. The room was large enough that his voice echoed. “I was showering, and it struck me. It asked … Deathpoint, why are you going to rob a bank today?”

He pointed lazily at a pair of security guards who had edged out of a side hallway just beside the mortgage cubicles. The guards turned to dust, their badges, belt buckles, guns, and bones hitting the floor. I could hear their bones knock against one another as they dropped. There are a lot of bones in a man’s body, more than I’d realized, and they made a big mess when they scattered. An odd detail to notice about the horrible scene. But I remember it distinctly.

A hand clasped my shoulder. My father had crouched low before his chair and was trying to pull me down, to keep the Epic from seeing me. But I wouldn’t move, and my father couldn’t force me without making a scene.

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