Home > Steelheart (Reckoners #1)(2)

Steelheart (Reckoners #1)(2)
Brandon Sanderson

“I’ve been planning this for weeks, you see,” the Epic said. “But the thought only struck me this morning. Why? Why rob the bank? I can take anything I want anyway! It’s ridiculous!” He leaped around the side of a counter, causing the teller cowering there to scream. I could just barely make her out, huddled on the floor.

“Money is worthless to me, you see,” the Epic said. “Completely worthless.” He pointed. The woman shriveled to ash and bone.

The Epic pivoted, pointing at several places around the room, killing people who were trying to flee. Last of all, he pointed directly at me.

Finally I felt an emotion. A spike of terror.

A skull hit the desk behind us, bouncing off and spraying ash as it clattered to the floor. The Epic had pointed not at me but at the mortgage man, who had been hiding by his desk behind me. Had the man tried to run?

The Epic turned back toward the tellers behind the counter. My father’s hand still gripped my shoulder, tense. I could feel his worry for me almost as if it were a physical thing, running up his arm and into my own.

I felt terror then. Pure, immobilizing terror. I curled up on the chair, whimpering, shaking, trying to banish from my mind the images of the terrible deaths I’d just seen.

My father pulled his hand away. “Don’t move,” he mouthed.

I nodded, too scared to do anything else. My father glanced around his chair. Deathpoint was chatting with one of the tellers. Though I couldn’t see them, I could hear when the bones fell. He was executing them one at a time.

My father’s expression grew dark. Then he glanced toward a side hallway. Escape?

No. That was where the guards had fallen. I could see through the glass side of the cubicle to where a handgun lay on the ground, barrel buried in ash, part of the grip lying atop a rib bone. My father eyed it. He’d been in the National Guard when he was younger.

Don’t do it! I thought, panicked. Father, no! I couldn’t voice the words, though. My chin quivered as I tried to speak, like I was cold, and my teeth chattered. What if the Epic heard me?

I couldn’t let my father do such a foolish thing! He was all I had. No home, no family, no mother. As he moved to go, I forced myself to reach out and grab his arm. I shook my head at him, trying to think of anything that would stop him. “Please,” I managed to whisper. “The heroes. You said they’ll come. Let them stop him!”

“Sometimes, son,” my father said, prying my fingers free, “you have to help the heroes along.”

He glanced at Deathpoint, then scrambled into the next cubicle. I held my breath and peeked very carefully around the side of the chair. I had to know. Even cowering and trembling, I had to see.

Deathpoint hopped over the counter and landed on the other side, our side. “And so, it doesn’t matter,” he said, still speaking in a conversational tone, strolling across the floor. “Robbing a bank would give me money, but I don’t need to buy things.” He raised a murderous finger. “A conundrum. Fortunately, while showering, I realized something else: killing people every time you want something can be extremely inconvenient. What I needed to do was frighten everyone, show them my power. That way, in the future, nobody would deny me the things I wanted to take.”

He leaped around a pillar on the other side of the bank, surprising a woman holding her child. “Yes,” he continued, “robbing a bank for the money would be pointless—but showing what I can do … that is still important. So I continued with my plan.” He pointed, killing the child, leaving the horrified woman holding a pile of bones and ash. “Aren’t you glad?”

I gaped at the sight, the terrified woman trying to hold the blanket tight, the infant’s bones shifting and slipping free. In that moment it all became so much more real to me. Horribly real. I felt a sudden nausea.

Deathpoint’s back was toward us.

My father scrambled out of the cubicle and grabbed the fallen gun. Two people hiding behind a nearby pillar made for the closest doorway and pushed past my father in their haste, nearly knocking him down.

Deathpoint turned. My father was still kneeling there, trying to get the pistol raised, fingers slipping on the ash-covered metal.

The Epic raised his hand.

“What are you doing here?” a voice boomed.

The Epic spun. So did I. I think everyone must have turned toward that deep, powerful voice.

A figure stood in the doorway to the street. He was backlit, little more than a silhouette because of the bright sunlight shining in behind him. An amazing, herculean, awe-inspiring silhouette.

You’ve probably seen pictures of Steelheart, but let me tell you that pictures are completely inadequate. No photograph, video, or painting could ever capture that man. He wore black. A shirt, tight across an inhumanly large and strong chest. Pants, loose but not baggy. He didn’t wear a mask, like some of the early Epics did, but a magnificent silver cape fluttered out behind him.

He didn’t need a mask. This man had no reason to hide. He spread his arms out from his sides, and wind blew the doors open around him. Ash scattered across the floor and papers fluttered. Steelheart rose into the air a few inches, cape flaring out. He began to glide forward into the room. Arms like steel girders, legs like mountains, neck like a tree stump. He wasn’t bulky or awkward, though. He was majestic, with that jet-black hair, that square jaw, an impossible physique, and a frame of nearly seven feet.

And those eyes. Intense, demanding, uncompromising eyes.

As Steelheart flew gracefully into the room, Deathpoint hastily raised a finger and pointed at him. Steelheart’s shirt sizzled in one little section, like a cigarette had been put out on the cloth, but he showed no reaction. He floated down the steps and landed gently on the floor a short distance from Deathpoint, his enormous cape settling around him.

Deathpoint pointed again, looking frantic. Another meager sizzle. Steelheart stepped up to the smaller Epic, towering over him.

I knew in that moment that this was what my father had been waiting for. This was the hero everyone had been hoping would come, the one who would compensate for the other Epics and their evil ways. This man was here to save us.

Steelheart reached out, grabbing Deathpoint as he belatedly tried to dash away. Deathpoint jerked to a halt, his sunglasses clattering to the ground, and gasped in pain.

“I asked you a question,” Steelheart said in a voice like rumbling thunder. He spun Deathpoint around to look him in the eyes. “What are you doing here?”

Deathpoint twitched. He looked panicked. “I … I …”

Steelheart raised his other hand, lifting a finger. “I have claimed this city, little Epic. It is mine.” He paused. “And it is my right to dominate the people here, not yours.”

Deathpoint cocked his head.

What? I thought.

“You seem to have strength, little Epic,” Steelheart said, glancing at the bones scattered around the room. “I will accept your subservience. Give me your loyalty or die.”

I couldn’t believe Steelheart’s words. They stunned me as soundly as Deathpoint’s murders had.

That concept—serve me or die—would become the foundation of his rule. He looked around the room and spoke in a booming voice. “I am emperor of this city now. You will obey me. I own this land. I own these buildings. When you pay taxes, they come to me. If you disobey, you will die.”

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