Home > Mitosis (Reckoners #1.5)

Mitosis (Reckoners #1.5)
Brandon Sanderson

1

The day had finally arrived, a day I’d been awaiting for ten years. A glorious day, a momentous day, a day of import and distinction.

It was time to buy a hot dog.

Someone was in line when we arrived, but I didn’t cut in front of her. She would have let me. I was one of the Reckoners—leaders of the rebellion, defenders of the city of Newcago, slayers of Steelheart himself. But standing in line was part of the experience, and I didn’t want to skip a moment.

Newcago extended around me, a city of skyscrapers, underpasses, shops, and streets all frozen permanently in steel. Recently, Tia had started an initiative to paint some of those surfaces. Now that the city’s perpetual gloom had been dispelled, it turned out all those reflective surfaces could make things really bright. With some work, instead of looking the same everywhere, the city would eventually become a patchwork of reds, oranges, greens, whites, and purples.

Abraham—my companion for this hot dog excursion—followed my gaze, then grimaced. “It would be nice if when we painted a wall, we would take a little more concern for colors that matched those of their neighbors.”

Tall and dark-skinned, Abraham spoke with a light French accent. As he talked, he scanned the people walking nearby, studying each one in his trademark relaxed yet discerning way. The butt of a handgun poked from his hip holster. We Reckoners weren’t technically police. I wasn’t sure what we were. But whatever it was, it involved weapons, and I had my rifle over my shoulder. Newcago was almost kind of peaceful, now that we’d dealt with the rioters, but you couldn’t count on peace lasting long. Not with Epics out there.

“We have to use the paint we can find,” I said.

“It’s garish.”

I shrugged. “I like it. The colors are different. Not like the city was before Calamity, but also a big change from how it was under Steelheart. They make the city look like a big … chessboard. Um, one painted a lot of colors.”

“Or perhaps a quilt?” Abraham asked, sounding amused.

“Sure, I suppose. If you want to use a boring metaphor.”

A quilt. Why hadn’t I thought of that?

The woman in front of us wandered off with her hot dog, and I stepped up to the stand—a small metal cart with a transformed steel umbrella permanently frozen open. The vendor, Sam, was an elderly, bearded man who wore a small red-and-white hat. He grinned at us. “For you, half price,” he said, whipping up two hot dogs. Chicago style, of course.

“Half price?” Abraham said. “Saving the world does not inspire the gratitude it once did.”

“A man has to make a living,” Sam said, slathering on the condiments. Like … a lot of them.

Yellow mustard, onions, chunked tomatoes, sweet pickle relish, peppers—whole, of course, and pickled—a dill pickle slice, and a pinch of celery salt. Just like I remembered. A true Chicago dog looks like someone fired a bazooka at a vegetable stand, then scraped the remnants off the wall and slathered it on a tube of meat.

I took mine greedily. Abraham was more skeptical.

“Ketchup?” Abraham asked.

The vendor’s eyes opened wide.

“He’s not from around here,” I said quickly. “No ketchup, Abraham. Aren’t you French? You people are supposed to have good taste in food.”

“French Canadians do have good taste in food,” Abraham said, inspecting the hot dog. “But I am not convinced that this is actually food.”

“Just try it.” I bit into my dog.

Bliss.

For a moment, it was as if no time had passed. I was back with my father, before everything went bad. I could hear him laughing, could smell the city as it had been back then—rank at times, yes, but also alive. Full of people talking and laughing and yelling. Asphalt streets, hot in the summer as we walked together. People in hockey jerseys. The Blackhawks had just won the Cup.… It faded around me, and I was back in Newcago, a steel city. But that moment of tasting it all again … sparks, that was wonderful. I looked up at Sam, and he grinned at me. We couldn’t recapture it all. The world was a different place now.

But damn it, we could have proper hot dogs again.

I turned to look around the city. Nobody else had gotten in line, and people passed with eyes cast down. We were at First Union Square, a holy place where a certain bank had once stood. It was also the center of the new city’s crossroads. It was a busy location, a prime spot for a hot dog vendor.

I set my jaw, then slapped some coins down on Sam’s cart. “Free hot dogs for the first ten who want them!” I shouted.

People looked at us, but nobody came over. When some of them saw me watching, they lowered their eyes and continued on.

Sam sighed, crossing his arms on top of his cart. “Sorry, Steelslayer. They’re too afraid.”

“Afraid of hot dogs?” I said.

“Afraid to get comfortable with freedom,” Sam said, watching a woman rush past and head into the understreets, where most people still lived. Even with sunlight up here now, and no Epics to torment them … even with painted walls and colors … they still hid below.

“They think the Epics will return,” Abraham said with a nod. “They are waiting for the other shoe to drop, so to speak.”

“They’ll change,” I said, stubbornly stuffing more of my hot dog into my mouth. I talked around the bite. “They’ll see.”

That was what this had all been about, right? Killing Steelheart? It had been to show that we could fight back. Everyone else would understand, eventually. They had to. The Reckoners couldn’t fight every Epic in the country on our own.

I nodded to Sam. “Thanks. For what you do.”

He nodded. It might seem silly, but Sam opening his hot dog stand was one of the most important events this city had seen in ten years. Some of us fought back with guns and assassinations. Others fought back with a little hot dog stand on the corner.

“We’ll see,” Sam said, pushing away the coins I’d set down, all but two nickels to pay for our hot dogs. We’d gone back to using American money, though only the coins, and we valued them much higher. The city government backed them with food stores, at Tia’s suggestion.

“Keep it all,” I said. “Give free hot dogs to the first ten who come today. We’ll change them, Sam. One bite at a time.”

He smiled, but pocketed the money. As Abraham and I walked off, Tia’s voice, terse and distracted, came in over my earpiece. “Do you two have a report?”

“The dogs are awesome,” I said.

“Dogs?” she said. “Watchdogs? You’ve been checking on the city kennels?”

“Young David,” Abraham said around a mouthful, “has been instructing me on the local cuisine. They are called ‘hot dogs’ because they’re only good for feeding to animals, yes?”

“You took him to that hot dog stand?” Tia asked. “Weren’t you two supposed to be doing greetings?”

“Philistines, both of you,” I said, cramming the rest of my hot dog into my mouth.

“We are on our way, Tia,” Abraham said.

Abraham and I hiked toward the city gates. The new city government had decided to section off the downtown, and had done so by creating barricades out of steel furniture to block some of the streets. It created a decent perimeter of control that helped us keep tabs on who was entering our city.

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