Home > Steelheart (Reckoners #1)(8)

Steelheart (Reckoners #1)(8)
Brandon Sanderson

Fortuity ran awkwardly, and as he got closer to a lantern, I saw why. He was handcuffed. Still, he was escaping; whatever the Reckoners’ plan was, it looked like it had fallen apart.

Curveball and I glanced at each other, then he took off following Fortuity, firing a few stray shots in my direction. Having infinite bullets didn’t make him any better a shot, however, and they all went wide.

I climbed to my feet and looked the other direction, toward where the woman had been. Was she all right?

A loud crack sounded in the air, and Curveball screamed, dropping to the ground. I smiled, right until a second shot fired and a spray of sparks exploded from the wall beside me. I cursed, ducking back into my alleyway. A second later the woman in the sleek red dress spun into the alleyway, holding a tiny derringer pistol and pointing it directly at my face.

People firing handguns missed, on average, from over ten paces—but I wasn’t sure of the statistics when the pistol was fifteen inches from your face. Probably not so good for the target.

“Wait!” I said, holding up my hands, letting my rifle fall in its strap on my shoulder. “I’m trying to help! Didn’t you see Curveball firing at me?”

“Who do you work for?” the woman demanded.

“Havendark Factory,” I said. “I used to drive a cab, though I—”

“Slontze,” she said. Gun still trained on me, she raised her hand to her head, touching one finger to her ear. I could see an earring there that was probably tethered to her mobile. “Megan here. Tia. Blow it.”

An explosion sounded nearby and I jumped. “What was that!”

“The Reeve Playhouse.”

“You blew up the Reeve?” I said. “I thought the Reckoners didn’t hurt innocents!”

That froze her, gun still pointed at me. “How do you know who we are?”

“You’re hunting Epics. Who else would you be?”

“But—” She cut off, cursing softly, raising her finger again. “No time. Abraham. Where is the mark?”

I couldn’t hear the reply, but it obviously satisfied her. A few more explosions sounded in the distance.

She eyed me, but my hands were still raised, and she must have seen Curveball firing on me. She apparently decided I wasn’t a threat. She lowered her gun and hurriedly reached down, breaking the stiletto heels off her shoes. Then she grabbed the side of her dress and ripped it off.

I gaped.

I normally consider myself somewhat levelheaded, but it’s not every day that you find yourself in a darkened alleyway with a gorgeous woman who rips off most of her clothing. Underneath she wore a low-cut tank top and a pair of spandex biker shorts. I was pleased to note that the gun holster was, indeed, strapped to her right thigh. Her mobile was hooked to the outside of the sheath.

She tossed the dress aside—it had been designed to come off easily. Her arms were lean and firm, and the wide-eyed naivety she’d shown earlier was completely gone, replaced with a hard edge and a determined expression.

I took a step, and in a heartbeat her pistol was trained on my forehead again. I froze.

“Out of the alleyway,” she said, gesturing.

I nervously did as asked, walking back onto the street.

“On your knees, hands on head.”

“I don’t really—”

“Down!”

I got down on my knees, feeling stupid, raising my hands to my head.

“Hardman,” she said, finger to her ear. “If Knees here so much as sneezes, put a slug through his neck.”

“But—” I began.

She took off at a run down the street, moving much more quickly now that she’d removed the heels and the dress. That left me alone. I felt like an idiot kneeling there, hairs on my neck prickling as I thought of the sniper who had his weapon trained on me.

How many agents did the Reckoners have here? I couldn’t imagine them trying anything like this without at least two dozen. Another explosion shook the ground. Why the blasts? They’d alert Enforcement, Steelheart’s soldiers. Lackeys and thugs were bad enough; Enforcement wielded advanced guns and the occasional armor unit—twelve-foot-tall robotic suits of power armor.

The next explosion was closer, just down the block. Something must have gone wrong in their original plan, otherwise Fortuity wouldn’t have gotten away from the woman in red. Megan? Was that what she’d said her name was?

This was one of their contingency plans. But what were they trying to do?

A figure burst out of an alleyway nearby, almost making me jump. I held still, cursing that sniper, but I did turn my head slightly to look. The figure wore red, and still had handcuffs on. Fortuity.

The explosions, I realized. They were to scare him back this way!

He crossed the street, then turned to run in my direction. Megan—if that was really her name—burst from the same road he’d appeared out of. She turned this way, trying to chase him down, but behind her—in the distance—another group of figures rushed out from a different street.

They were four of Spritz’s thugs, in suits and carrying submachine guns. They pointed at Megan.

I watched from the other side of the street as Megan and Fortuity passed me. The thugs were approaching from my right, and Megan and Fortuity were running to my left, all of us on the same darkened street.

Come on! I thought at the sniper up above. She doesn’t see them! They’ll gun her down. Take them out!

Nothing. The thugs leveled their guns. I felt sweat trickle down the back of my neck. Then, teeth clenched, I rolled to the side, whipping my rifle out and drawing a bead on one of them.

I took a deep breath, concentrated, and squeezed the trigger, fully expecting to be shot in the head from above.

4

A handgun is like a firecracker—unpredictable. Light a firecracker, toss it, and you never really know where it’s going to land or the damage it’s going to do. The same’s true when you shoot a handgun.

An Uzi is even worse—it’s like a string of firecrackers. Much more likely to hurt something, but still awkward and unruly.

A rifle is elegant. It’s an extension of your will. Take aim, squeeze the trigger, make things happen. In the hands of an expert with stillness inside of him, there’s nothing more deadly than a good rifle.

The first thug fell to my shot. I inched the gun to the side, then squeezed again. The second went down. The other two lowered their weapons, dodging.

Look. Squeeze. Three down. The last one was full-out running by the time I focused on him, and he managed to get behind cover. I hesitated, spine itching—waiting to feel the bullet from the sniper hit my back. It didn’t come. Hardman, it appeared, had realized that I was a good guy.

I stood up hesitantly. It wasn’t the first time I’d killed, unfortunately. It didn’t happen often, but once or twice, I’d had to protect myself in the understreets. This was different, but I didn’t have time to think about it.

I shoved those emotions aside, and not knowing what else to do, I turned to the left and took off at a dead run down the street after Fortuity and the Reckoner woman. The Epic cursed and weaved toward a side street. The streets were all empty. Our explosions and gunfire had caused anyone nearby to clear out—this sort of thing wasn’t uncommon in Newcago.

Megan dashed after Fortuity, and I was able to cut to the side and meet up with her. She glared at me as we barreled down the cross street, shoulder to shoulder, after the Epic.

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