Home > Steelheart (Reckoners #1)(7)

Steelheart (Reckoners #1)(7)
Brandon Sanderson

Curveball frowned at me, eyeing my rifle. He reached under his jacket for his gun, but didn’t pull it out. Fortuity, in his red suit and deep red cape, raised an eyebrow at me. If I’d been a danger, his powers would have warned him. I wasn’t planning to do anything to him in the next few minutes, though, so he got no warning.

“Who are you?” Curveball demanded.

I stopped. “Who am I? Sparks, Donny! I’ve worked for Spritzer for three years now. Would it kill you to try remembering people’s names once in a while?”

My heart was thumping, but I tried not to show it. Spritzer was the guy who ran the Reeve Playhouse. Spritz wasn’t an Epic, but he was in Steelheart’s pay—pretty much anyone with any influence in the city was.

Curveball studied me suspiciously, but I knew he didn’t give much mind to the lowlife thugs around him. In fact, he probably would have been shocked by how much I knew about him, along with most of the Epics in Newcago.

“Well?” I demanded. “You coming?”

“You don’t give lip to me, boy. What are you, a door guard?”

“I went on the Idolin raid last summer,” I said, crossing my arms. “I’m moving up, Donny.”

“You call me sir, idiot,” Curveball snapped, lowering his hand from his jacket. “If you were ‘moving up,’ you wouldn’t be running messages. What’s this nonsense about going back? He said he needed Fortuity to run some odds for him.”

I shrugged. “He didn’t tell me why; he just sent me to get you. Said to say that he’d been wrong, and you weren’t to bother Fortuity.” I looked to Fortuity. “I don’t think the Spritz knew about … er … that you had plans, sir.” I nodded to the woman.

There was a long, uncomfortable pause. I was so nervous, you could have scratched off a lottery ticket by holding it against my knuckles. Finally, Fortuity sniffed. “Tell Spritz that he’s forgiven, this time. He should know better—I’m not his personal calculator.” He turned, sticking out his elbow to the woman and walking away, obviously assuming that she’d jump at his whim.

As she turned to follow, she glanced at me, long lashes fluttering above deep blue eyes. I found myself smiling.

Then I realized that if I’d fooled Fortuity, I’d probably fooled her too. That meant she—and the Reckoners—now thought I was one of Steelheart’s lackeys. They were always careful not to endanger civilians, but they had nothing at all against taking out a few hit men or thugs.

Aw, sparks, I thought. I should have winked at her! Why didn’t I wink at her?

Would that have looked stupid? I’d never really practiced winking. Could you do it the wrong way, though? It was a simple thing.

“Something wrong with your eye?” Curveball asked.

“Er, got a lash in it,” I said. “Sir. Sorry. Um, we should get back.” The thought of the Reckoners setting off their trap in time to take out Curveball—and me—as a nice side effect suddenly made me very, very nervous.

I hurried down the sidewalk, splashing through some puddles. Rain didn’t evaporate quickly in the darkness, and with the steel ground, there wasn’t anywhere for it to go. The Diggers had created some drainage, along with pipes to circulate air in the understreets, but their eventual madness had disrupted those plans and they’d never finished.

Curveball followed me at a moderate speed. I slowed down, matching his pace, worried he might come up with a reason to go back for Fortuity.

“What’s your hurry, kid?” he growled.

In the distance, the woman and Fortuity had stopped beneath a streetlight, where they had taken to searching one another’s mouths with their tongues.

“Stop staring,” Curveball said, walking past. “He could gun us down without even looking and nobody would care.”

It was true. Fortuity was a powerful enough Epic that—so long as he didn’t interfere with one of Steelheart’s plans—he could do whatever he pleased. Curveball himself didn’t have that kind of immunity. You still had to be careful when you were at his level. Steelheart wouldn’t care if a minor Epic like Curveball got himself stabbed in the back.

I tore my eyes away and joined Curveball. He lit up a cigarette as he walked, a flash of light in the dark, followed by the coal-red sizzle of the tip hanging in the air before him. “Sparks, Spritz,” he said. “Could have sent one of you lackeys out after Fortuity in the first place. I hate looking like a slontze.”

“You know how Spritz is,” I said absently. “He figured that sending you would be less offensive to Fortuity, since you’re an Epic.”

“Suppose that’s right.” Curveball took a pull on his cigarette. “Whose team are you in?”

“Eddie Macano’s,” I said, naming one of the underlings in Spritz’s organization. I glanced over my shoulder. They were still going at it. “He was the one who made me run after you. Didn’t want to do it himself. Too busy trying to pick up one of those girls Fortuity left behind. Whatta slontze, eh?”

“Eddie Macano?” Curveball said, turning toward me. The red tip of his cigarette lit his perplexed face a scarlet orange. “He died in that skirmish with the underbloods two days back. I was there.…”

I froze. Whoops.

Curveball reached for his gun.

3

HANDGUNS have one distinct advantage over rifles—they’re fast. I didn’t even try to beat him to the draw. I ducked to the side, running as fast as I could toward an alleyway.

In the near distance, somebody screamed. Fortuity, I thought. Did he see me run? But I’m not standing in the light, and he wasn’t watching. This is something else. The trap must have—

Curveball opened fire on me.

The thing about handguns is that they’re blasted difficult to aim. Even trained, practiced professionals miss more often than they hit. And if you level the gun out in front of you sideways—like you think you’re in some stupid action movie—you’ll hit even less often.

That was exactly what Curveball did, flashes from the front of his gun lighting the darkness. A bullet hit the ground near me, spraying sparks as it ricocheted off the steel pavement. I skidded into an alleyway and pressed myself back against the wall, out of Curveball’s direct line of sight.

Bullets continued to spray against the wall. I didn’t dare look out, but I could hear Curveball cursing and yelling. I was too panicked to count shots. A magazine like his couldn’t hold more than a dozen or so bullets—

Oh, right, I thought. His Epic power. The man could keep blasting away and never run out of bullets. Eventually he’d round the corner and get a direct shot.

Only one thing to do. I took a deep breath, letting my rifle slide off my shoulder and catching it with my hand. I dropped to one knee in the mouth of the alleyway, putting myself at risk, and raised the rifle. The burning cigarette gave me a sight on Curveball’s face.

A bullet hit the wall above me. I prepared to squeeze the trigger.

“Stop it, you slontze!” a voice called, interrupting Curveball. A figure moved between us in the dim light just as I fired. The shot missed. That was Fortuity.

I lowered my gun as another shot rang out from high above. The sniper. A bullet struck the ground nearby, almost hitting Fortuity—but he jerked sideways at just the right moment. His danger sense.

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