Home > Mitosis (Reckoners #1.5)(4)

Mitosis (Reckoners #1.5)(4)
Brandon Sanderson

Me. He’d come for me.

All my life, I’d been nobody. I didn’t mind that. I’d worked hard, actually, to be precisely mediocre in all my classes. I’d joined the Reckoners in part because nobody knew who they were. I didn’t want fame. I wanted revenge against the Epics. The more of them dead, the better. Sweat trickled down the sides of my face.

“One minute has passed!” Mitosis yelled. “Where are you? I would see you with my own eyes, Steelslayer.”

“Damn,” Tia said in my ear. “Don’t panic, David. Music … music … There has to be a clue to his weakness here. What was his band again?”

“Weaponized Cupcake,” I said.

“Charming,” Tia said. “Their music should be on the lore archive; we’ve got copies of most everything in the Library of Congress.”

“Two minutes!” Mitosis shouted. “Your people run from me, Steelslayer, but I am like God himself. I am everywhere. Do not think I won’t be able to find someone to kill.”

Images flashed in my mind. A busy bank lobby. Bones falling to the ground. A woman clutching a baby. I hadn’t been able to do anything back then.

“This is what we get,” Abraham said, “for coming out into the open. It is why Jon always wanted to remain hidden.”

“We can’t stand for something if we only move in shadows, Abraham,” I said.

“Three minutes!” Mitosis shouted. “I know you have this city under surveillance. I know you can hear me.”

“David …” Tia said.

“It appears you are a coward!” Mitosis said. “Perhaps if I shoot someone, you—”

I stepped out, lined up a shot, and delivered a bullet into Mitosis’s forehead.

Tia sighed. “I’ve got reports of at least thirty-seven distinct copies of him yelling in the city. What good does it do to kill one of them?”

“Yes,” Abraham said, “and now he knows where you are.”

“I’m counting on it,” I said, dashing away. “Tia?”

“Sparks,” she said. “I’m pulling up camera feeds all over the city. David, they’re all running for you. Dozens of them.”

“Good,” I said. “As long as they’re chasing me, they aren’t shooting anyone else.”

“You can’t fight them all, you slontze,” Tia said.

“Don’t intend to,” I said, grunting as I turned a corner. “You’re going to work out his weakness and figure out how to beat him, Tia. I’m just going to distract him.”

“I’ve arrived,” Abraham said. “They’re already on alert at the government office. I’ll get the mayor and council to safety. But if I might suggest, this is probably a good time to activate the emergency message system.”

“Yeah,” Tia said, “on it.”

The mobiles of everyone in the city were connected, and Tia could dial them all up collectively to send instructions—in this case, an order to empty the streets and get indoors.

I dodged around another corner and came almost face to face with one of Mitosis’s clones. We surprised each other. He got his gun out first and fired, a deafening crack, like he was shooting a sparking cannon.

He also missed me. He wasn’t even close. Big handguns look impressive, and they have excellent knockdown force. Assuming you can hit your target.

I lined up my rifle sights, ignored his next shot, and squeezed the trigger. Just as I did, he thrashed, and a duplicate of him stepped away. It was like he was suddenly made of dough and the other self pushed out of his side.

It was nauseating. My shot took the first Mitosis, dropping him with a hole in the chest. He tried to duplicate again as he died, but the duplicate came out with a hole in its chest too, and fell forward, dying almost immediately.

The other clone, though, was also duplicating. I cursed, shooting it, but not before another version came out, and that one was already trying to clone itself again. I brought this one down just before it split.

I breathed in and out, my hands trembling as I lowered the rifle. Five corpses lay slumped on the ground. My rifle magazine held thirty rounds. I’d never considered that insufficient, but a minute of Mitosis cloning himself could run me out with ease.

“David?” Tia asked in my ear. “You all right?” She’d have me on camera, using Steelheart’s surveillance network.

“I’m all right,” I said, still shaking. “I just haven’t gotten used to people shooting at me.”

I took a few deep breaths, forced down my anxiety, and walked up to the Mitosis clones. They’d begun to melt.

I watched with disturbed fascination as the corpses decomposed, flesh turning to a pale tan goo. The bones melted after, and then the clothing. In seconds, each corpse was just a pile of colored gunk, and even that seemed to be evaporating.

Where did the mass for each of these new bodies come from? It seemed impossible. But then, Epics have this habit of treating physics like something that happens to other people, like acne and debt.

“David?” Tia said in my ear. “Why are you still standing there? Sparks, boy! The others are coming.”

Right. Dozens of evil Epic clones. On a mission to kill me.

I took off in a random direction; where I was going didn’t matter so much as staying ahead of the clones. “Do you have that music yet?” I asked Tia.

“Working on it.”

I dashed up onto the bridge, crossing the river. That river would have made a great natural barrier for sectioning off the downtown, except for the fact that Steelheart had turned the thing into steel—effectively making it into an enormous highway, though one with a rippled surface. The river that had once flowed here had diverted to the Calumet River channel.

I reached the other side of the bridge and glanced over my shoulder. A scattering of figures in identical clothing had broken out of side streets and were running toward me, some pulling handguns from the small of their backs. They seemed to recognize me, and a few took shots.

I cursed, ducking to the side, heading past an old hotel with steel windows and a trio of flagpoles extending into the sky, flags frozen mid-flap. I almost passed it, then hesitated. One of the main doors had been frozen open.

I made a split-second decision and ran for that opening. I squeezed between door and doorway and entered the hotel lobby.

It wasn’t as dark inside as I’d anticipated. I inched through a lobby with furniture like statues. Once-plush seats were now hard metal. A sofa had a depression in it where someone had been sitting when the transfersion took place.

The light came from a series of fist-size holes cut into the front windows, which were also steel now. Though empty, the lobby didn’t seem dusty or derelict. I quickly realized what this was—one of the buildings that Steelheart’s favored people had inhabited during the years of his rule.

I stepped on a bench by a window, leaning against it and peering through one of the holes. Outside, on the daylit street, the clones slowed in their chase, lowering weapons, looking about. It appeared that I’d managed to lose them.

“I would have the truth!” the clones suddenly shouted in unison. The effect was even eerier than seeing them all together. “You did not kill Steelheart. You did not slay a god. What really happened?”

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