Home > Steelheart (Reckoners #1)(10)

Steelheart (Reckoners #1)(10)
Brandon Sanderson

I tried to open the back door—but, of course, the walls of the alleyway were too close. The back window shattered and puffs of stuffing flew from the seats as they were shredded by Uzi fire.

“Calamity!” I said. “Glad it’s not my car.”

Megan rolled her eyes at me, then pulled something out of her top. A small cylinder, like a lipstick case. She twisted the bottom, waited for a lull in the bullets, then lobbed it out the front window.

“What was that?” I yelled over the shots.

I was answered by an explosion that shook the car, blowing scraps of trash from the alleyway across us. The bullets stopped for a moment, and I could hear men crying out in pain. Megan—still toting my rifle—hopped over the torn-up seat and lithely slipped through the broken back window, then ran for it.

“Hey!” I said, crawling out after her, bits of safety glass falling from my clothing. I jumped to the ground and dashed to the end of the alleyway, cutting to the side just as the survivors from the explosion started firing again.

She can shoot like a dream and she carries tiny grenades in her top, a bit of my addled mind thought. I think I might be in love.

I heard a low rumbling over the gunfire, and an armored truck pulled around the corner ahead, roaring toward Megan. It was huge and green, imposing, with enormous headlights. And it looked an awful lot like …

“A garbage truck?” I asked, running up to join Megan.

A tough-looking black man rode in the passenger seat. He pushed open the door for Megan. “Who’s that?” the man asked, nodding to me. He spoke with a faint French accent.

“A slontze,” she said, tossing my rifle back to me. “But a useful one. He knows about us, but I don’t think he’s a threat.”

Not exactly a glowing recommendation, but good enough. I smiled as she climbed into the cab, pushing the man to the middle seat.

“Do we leave him?” asked the man with the French accent.

“No,” said the driver. I couldn’t make him out; he was just a shadow, but his voice was solid and resonant. “He comes with us.”

I smiled, eagerly stepping up into the truck. Could the driver be Hardman, the sniper? He’d seen how helpful I’d been. The people inside reluctantly made room for me. Megan slipped into the back seat of the crew cab beside a wiry man wearing a leather camouflage jacket and holding a very nice-looking sniper rifle. He was probably Hardman. To his other side was a middle-aged woman with shoulder-length red hair. She wore spectacles and business attire.

The garbage truck pulled away, moving faster than I’d have thought possible. Behind us a group of the thugs came out of the alley, firing on the truck. It didn’t do much good, though we weren’t out of danger quite yet. Overhead I heard the distinctive sound of Enforcement copters. There would probably be a few high-level Epics on the way too.

“Fortuity?” the driver asked. He was an older man, perhaps in his fifties, and wore a long, thin black coat. Oddly, he had a pair of goggles tucked into the breast pocket of the coat.

“Dead,” Megan said from behind.

“What went wrong?” the driver asked.

“Hidden power,” she said. “Super reflexes. I got him cuffed, but he slipped away.”

“There was also that one,” the guy in the camo jacket—I was pretty sure that was Hardman—said. “He came up in the middle of it all, caused a wee bit of trouble.” He had a distinctive Southern accent.

“We’ll talk about him later,” the driver said, taking a corner at high speed.

My heart started to beat more quickly, and I glanced out the window, searching the sky for copters. It wouldn’t be long before Enforcement was told what to look for, and the truck was rather conspicuous.

“We should have just shot Fortuity in the first place,” said the man with the French accent. “Derringer to the chest.”

“Wouldn’t have worked, Abraham,” the driver said. “His abilities were too strong—even attraction could only do so much. We needed to do something nonlethal first—trap him, then shoot him. Precogs are tough.”

He had that part right, probably. Fortuity had possessed a very strong danger sense. Likely the plan had been for Megan to cuff him and maybe lock him to the lamppost. Then, when he was partially immobilized, she could have rammed her derringer into his chest and fired. If she’d tried that first, his power might have warned him. It would have depended on how attracted he was to her.

“I wasn’t expecting him to be so strong,” Megan said, sounding disappointed with herself as she pulled on a brown leather jacket and a pair of cargo pants. “I’m sorry, Prof. I shouldn’t have let him get away from me.”

Prof. Something about that name struck me.

“It’s done,” the driver—Prof—said, pulling the garbage truck to a jarring halt. “We ditch the machine. It’s been compromised.”

Prof opened the door and we piled out.

“I—” I began to say, planning to introduce myself. The older man they called Prof, however, shot me a menacing glare over the hood of the garbage truck. I cut myself short, choking on my words. Standing in the shadows, with his long jacket and that grizzled face, hair peppered with grey, that man looked dangerous.

The Reckoners pulled a few packs of equipment out of the back of the garbage truck, including a massive machine gun that Abraham now toted. They led me down a set of steps into the understreets. From there the team hustled through a set of twists and turns. I did a pretty good job keeping track of where we were going until they led me down a long flight of stairs, several levels deep, into the steel catacombs.

Smart people stayed away from the catacombs. The Diggers had gone mad before the tunnels were finished. The ceiling lights rarely worked, and the square-shaped tunnels through the steel changed size as you progressed.

The team was silent as they continued down the passages, turning up the lights on their mobiles, which most wore strapped to the fronts of their jackets. I’d wondered if the Reckoners would carry mobiles, and the fact that they wore them made me feel better about mine. I mean, everyone knew that the Knighthawk Foundry was neutral, and that mobile connections were completely secure. The Reckoners’ using the network was just another indication that Knighthawk was reliable.

We walked for a time, the Reckoners moving quietly, carefully. Several times Hardman went ahead to scout; Abraham watched our rear with that wicked-looking machine gun of his. It was hard to keep my bearings—down in the steel catacombs it felt like a subway system that halfway through development had turned into a rat’s maze.

There were choke points, tunnels that went nowhere, and unnatural angles. In some places electrical cords jutted from the walls like those creepy arteries you find in the middle of a chunk of chicken. In other places the steel walls weren’t solid, but instead had patches of paneling that had been ripped into by people searching for something worth selling. Scrap metal, however, was worthless in Newcago. There was more than enough of that lying around.

We passed groups of teenagers with dark expressions standing beside burning trash cans. They seemed displeased to have their solace invaded, but nobody interfered with us. Perhaps it was due to Abraham’s enormous gun. The thing had gravatonics glowing blue on the bottom to help him lift it.

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