Home > Steelheart (Reckoners #1)(6)

Steelheart (Reckoners #1)(6)
Brandon Sanderson

Those lanterns left pools of light that the pair moved through, in and out. I held my breath, watching closely. Fortuity was packing a weapon for certain. The suit was tailored to hide the bulge under his arm, but I could still make out where his holster was.

Fortuity didn’t have any directly offensive powers, but that didn’t really matter. His precognition powers meant he never missed with a handgun, no matter how wild the shot seemed. If he decided to kill you, you had a couple of seconds to respond, or you’d be dead.

The woman didn’t appear to be carrying a weapon, though I couldn’t be certain. That dress showed plenty of curves. A gun strapped to her thigh, perhaps? I looked closer as she moved into another pool of light, though I found myself staring at her, rather than looking for weapons. She was gorgeous. Eyes that glittered, bright red lips, golden hair. And that low neckline …

I shook myself. Idiot, I thought. You have a purpose. Women interfere with things like a purpose.

But even a ninety-year-old blind priest would stop and stare at this woman. If he weren’t blind, that is. Dumb metaphor, I thought. I’ll have to work on that one. I have trouble with metaphors.

Focus. I raised my rifle, leaving on the safety and using the scope for its zoom. Where were they going to hit him? The street here ran through several blocks of gloomy darkness—broken only by the lanterns—before intersecting Burnley Street. That was a major hub of the local dance scene. Likely the woman had enticed Fortuity to join her at a club. The quickest route was through this dark, less-populated street.

The empty street was a very good sign. The Reckoners rarely struck at an Epic who was in too public an area. They didn’t like innocent casualties. I tilted the rifle up and scanned the skyrise windows with my scope. Some of the glass-turned-steel windows had been cut out and replaced with glass again. Was anyone up there watching?

I’d been hunting the Reckoners for years. They were the only ones who still fought back, a shadowy group that stalked, entrapped, and assassinated powerful Epics. The Reckoners, they were the heroes. Not what my father had imagined—no Epic powers, no flashy costumes. They didn’t stand for truth, the American ideal, or any such nonsense.

They just killed. One by one. Their goal was to eliminate each and every Epic who thought himself or herself above the law. And since that was pretty much every Epic, they had a lot of work to do.

I continued scanning windows. How would they try to kill Fortuity? There would only be a few ways to go about it. They might try to catch him in a situation impossible to escape. A precog’s powers would lead him down the safest path of self-preservation, but if you set up a situation where every path led to death, you could kill him.

We call that a checkmate, but they’re really hard to set up. More likely, the Reckoners knew Fortuity’s weakness. Every Epic has at least one—an object, a state of mind, an action of some sort—that allows you to void their powers.

There, I thought, heart leaping as—through the scope—I spotted a dark figure huddled in a window on the third floor of a building across the street. I couldn’t make out details, but he was probably tracking Fortuity with a rifle and scope of his own.

This was it. I smiled. I’d actually found them. After all of my practicing and searching, I’d found them.

I kept looking, even more eager. The sniper would just be one piece of the plot to kill the Epic. My hands began to sweat. Other people get excited by sporting events or action films, but I don’t have time for prefabricated thrills. This, however … getting the chance to watch the Reckoners in action, seeing one of their traps firsthand … Well, it was literally the fulfillment of one of my grandest dreams, even if it was only the first step in my plans. I hadn’t come just to watch an Epic be assassinated. Before the night’s end, I intended to find a way to make the Reckoners let me join them.

“Fortuity!” yelled a nearby voice.

I quickly lowered my rifle, pulling back against the side of the alleyway. A figure ran past the opening a moment later. He was a stout man in a smoking jacket and slacks.

“Fortuity!” he yelled again. “Wait up!” I raised my weapon again, using the scope to inspect the newcomer. Was this part of the Reckoners’ trap?

No. That was Donny “Curveball” Harrison, a minor Epic with only a single power, the ability to fire a handgun without ever running out of bullets. He was a bodyguard and hit man in Steelheart’s organization. There was no way he was part of the Reckoners’ plan—they didn’t work with Epics. Ever. The Reckoners hated the Epics. They only killed the worst of them, but they would never let one join their team.

Cursing softly to myself, I watched Curveball confront Fortuity and the woman. She looked concerned, full lips pursed, gorgeous eyes narrowed. Yes, she was worried. She was one of the Reckoners for certain.

Curveball started talking, explaining something, and Fortuity frowned. What was going on?

I turned my attention back to the woman. There’s something about her …, I thought, my eyes lingering. She was younger than I’d originally thought, probably eighteen or nineteen, but something in those eyes made her seem much older.

Her look of concern was gone in a moment, replaced by what I realized was intentional vapidity as she turned to Fortuity and gestured onward. Whatever the trap was, she needed him to be farther down the street. That made sense. Trapping a precog is tough. If his danger senses got even a faint whiff of a trap, he’d bolt. She had to know his weakness, but probably didn’t want to try to exploit it until they were more isolated.

Even then, it might not work. Fortuity would still be an armed man, and many Epic weaknesses were notoriously tricky to exploit.

I kept watching. Whatever Curveball’s problem was, it didn’t seem to have anything to do with the woman. He kept gesturing back toward the playhouse. If he convinced Fortuity to return …

The trap would never be sprung. The Reckoners would pull out, vanish, pick a new target. I could spend years searching for another chance like this one.

I couldn’t let that happen. Taking a deep breath, I lowered my rifle and slung it over my shoulder. Then I stepped out onto the street and took off toward Fortuity.

It was time to hand the Reckoners my résumé.

2

I hustled down the dark street on a steel sidewalk, passing in and out of pockets of light.

I might have just decided to do something very, very stupid. Like eating-meat-sold-by-shady-understreet-vendors stupid. Maybe even stupider. The Reckoners planned their assassinations with extreme care. It hadn’t been my intention to interfere—only to watch, then try to get them to take me on. By stepping out of that alleyway, I changed things. Interfered with the plan, whatever it was. There was a chance that everything was going just as it was supposed to—that Curveball was accounted for.

But maybe not. No plan was perfect, and even the Reckoners failed. Sometimes they pulled out, their target left alive. It was better to retreat than risk capture.

I didn’t know which situation this was, but I had to at least try to help. If I missed this opportunity, I’d curse myself for years.

All three people—Fortuity, Curveball, and the beauty with the dangerous air—turned toward me as I ran up. “Donny!” I said. “We need you back at the Reeve!”

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