Home > Mitosis (Reckoners #1.5)(2)

Mitosis (Reckoners #1.5)(2)
Brandon Sanderson

We passed people scuttling about on their business, heads down. Sam was right. Most of the population seemed to think the Epics were going to descend upon the city any moment, exacting retribution. In fact, after we’d overthrown Steelheart, a shocking number of people had left the city.

That was unfortunate, as we now had a provisional government in place. We had farmers to work the fields outside, and Edmund using his Epic abilities to provide free power for the whole place. We even had a large number of former members of Steelheart’s Enforcement troops recruited to police the city.

Newcago was working as well now as it had under Steelheart. We’d tried to replicate his organization, only without that whole “indiscriminate murder of innocents” thing. Life was good here. Better than anything else in the remnants of the Fractured States, for certain.

Still, people hid, waited for a disaster. “They will see,” I muttered.

“Perhaps,” Abraham said, eyeing me.

“Just wait.”

He shrugged and chewed his last bit of hot dog. He grimaced. “I do not think I can forgive you for that, David. It was terrible. Tastes should complement one another, not hold all-out war with one another.”

“You finished it.”

“I did not wish to be impolite.” He grimaced again. “Truly awful.”

We walked in silence until we arrived at the first unbarricaded roadway. Here, members of Enforcement processed a line of people wanting to enter. People with Newcago passports—farmers or scavengers who worked outside of the downtown—went right through. Newcomers, however, were stopped and told to wait for orientation.

“Good crowd today,” I noted. Some forty or fifty people waited in the newcomer line. Abraham grunted. The two of us walked up to where a man in black Enforcement armor was explaining the city rules to a group in worn, dirty clothing. Most of these people would have spent the last years outside of civilization, dodging Epics, surviving as best they could in a land ruled by nested levels of tyrants, like Russian dolls with evil little faces painted on them.

Two families among the newcomers, I thought, noting the men and women with children. That encouraged me.

As several of the soldiers continued orientation, one of them—Roy—strolled over to me. Like the other soldiers, he wore black armor but no helmet. Enforcement members were intimidating enough without covering their faces.

“Hey,” Roy said. He was a lanky redhead I’d grown up with. I still hadn’t figured out whether he bore a grudge for that time I’d shot him in the leg.

“How’s this batch?” I asked softly.

“Better than yesterday,” Roy said with a grunt. “Fewer opportunists, more genuine immigrants. You can tell the difference when you explain the jobs we need done.”

“The opportunists refuse the work?”

“No,” Roy said. “They’re just too excited, all smiles and eagerness. It’s a sham. They plan to get put onto a work detail, then ditch it first chance to see what they can steal. We’ll weed them out.”

“Be careful,” I said. “Don’t blacklist someone just because they’re optimistic.”

Roy shrugged. Enforcement was on our side—we controlled the power that ran their weapons and armor—but they too seemed on edge. Steelheart had occasionally used them to fight lesser Epics. From what I’d heard, it hadn’t gone well for the ordinary humans on either side of such a conflict.

These men knew firsthand what it was like to face down Epics. If a powerful one decided to step into Steelheart’s place, the police force would be worth less than a bagful of snakes at a dance competition.

I gave Roy an encouraging slap on the shoulder. The officers finished their orientation, and I joined Abraham, who began introducing himself to the newcomers one at a time. We’d figured out that after Enforcement’s cheerful welcome of stern gazes, strict rules, and suspicious glances, a little friendly chatting with someone more normal went a long way.

I welcomed one of the families, telling them how wonderful Newcago was and how glad I was they’d come. I didn’t tell them specifically who I was, though I implied that I was a liaison between the city’s people and the Reckoners. I had the speech down pat by now.

As we talked, I saw someone pass to the side.

That hair. That figure.

I turned immediately, stuttering the last words of my greeting. My heart thundered inside my chest. But it wasn’t her.

Of course it wasn’t her. You’re a fool, David Charleston, I told myself, turning back to my duties. How long was I going to keep jumping every time I spotted someone who looked vaguely like Megan?

The answer seemed simple. I’d keep doing it until I found her.

This group took well to my introduction, relaxing visibly. A few even asked me questions.

Turned out that the family in my group had fled Newcago years before, deciding that the convenience wasn’t worth the tyranny. Now they were willing to give it another go.

I told the group about a few jobs in particular I thought they should consider, then suggested they get mobiles as soon as possible. A lot of our city administration happened through those, and the fact that we had electricity to power them was a highlight of Newcago. I wanted people to stop thinking of themselves as refugees. They belonged to a community now.

Introductions done, I stepped back and let the people enter the city. They started forward, trepidatious, looking at the towering buildings ahead. It seemed Roy had been right. This group was more promising than ones who had come before. We were accomplishing something. And …

I frowned.

“Did you talk to that one?” I asked Abraham, nodding to a man toward the rear of the departing group. He wore simple clothing, jeans and a faded T-shirt, and no socks with his sneakers.

Tattoos ringed his forearm, and he wore an earring in one ear. He was muscular, with distinctively knobbed features, and was perhaps in his late thirties. There was something about him.…

“He didn’t say much,” Abraham said. “Do you know him?”

“No.” I narrowed my eyes. “Wait here.”

I followed the group, pulling out my mobile and looking at it as I walked, feigning distraction. They continued on as we’d instructed them, making for the offices at First Union Square. Maybe I was jumping at nothing. I usually got a little paranoid when the Professor wasn’t in town. He and Cody had supposedly gone out east to check in with another cell of the Reckoners. Babiar or someplace.

Prof been acting weird lately—at least, that was how we phrased it. “Weird” was actually a euphemism for “Prof is secretly an Epic, and he’s trying hard not to go evil and kill us all, so sometimes he gets antisocial.”

I now knew three Epics. After a lifetime of hating them, of planning how to kill them, I knew three. I’d chatted with them, eaten meals with them, fought beside them. I was fond of them. Well, more than fond, in Megan’s case.

I checked on the walking group, then glanced at my mobile again. Life was annoyingly complicated now. Back when Steelheart had been around, I had only needed to worry about—Wait.

I stopped, looking back up at the group I was following. He wasn’t there. The man I’d been tailing.

Sparks! I pulled up against a steel wall, slapping my mobile into its place on the upper-left front of my jacket and unslinging my rifle. Where had the man gone?

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