Home > Mitosis (Reckoners #1.5)(5)

Mitosis (Reckoners #1.5)(5)
Brandon Sanderson

I didn’t reply, of course.

“Your rumors are spreading,” Mitosis continued. “People want to believe your fantasy. I will show them reality. Your head, David Charleston, and my empire in Newcago. I don’t know how Steelheart truly fell, but he was weak. He needed men to administrate for him, to act as his army.”

The clones continued to stroll, spreading out. Several shook, splitting into multiples.

“I am my own army,” Mitosis said. “And I shall reign.”

“You watching this?” I whispered.

“Yeah,” Tia said. “I’ve got the city cameras, and I’ve dialed into the video feed from your earpiece. Shouldn’t he be sounding dumber the more clones he makes?”

“I think something must be wrong in my notes,” I said. I’d been forced to burn many of my notebooks and keep only the most important ones. I’d lost many of my primary sources and speculations, and I could have easily gotten some details wrong.

Outside, Mitosis continued to duplicate himself. Twice, three times, a half dozen. Soon there were hundreds of him. They spaced themselves apart with careful steps, then, one by one, stopped in place. They closed their eyes, looking toward the sky.

What is he doing? I thought, clutching my rifle. I shifted on the bench, my foot scraping the wall. Outside, some of the clones nearest the hotel snapped their eyes open and turned toward me. Sparks! He’d created his own sensor network, using hundreds of copies of his own ears. It was clear to me now that the clones had more coordination to them than I had assumed. I slipped away from the wall, trying to step quietly. There might be a back way out of this building.

“Got it,” Tia said. “Archive of pre-Calamity alternative metal albums in digital format.”

Her voice through the earpiece was incredibly soft. Still, outside, there was a sudden scrambling of footsteps. They’d heard.

They were coming.

I cursed and ran, leaping over a couch and scrambling toward the back hallways of the hotel.

There had to be a way out somewhere.

I passed through streams of light, holes cut like spigots into the ceiling. The hotel had this flat building in the center and a tower to the side, many stories high. I didn’t want to get trapped in the tower, so instead I turned down another hallway, passing a door that had been destroyed long ago. That light ahead was probably an exit for—

Shadows moved in through the exit. Clones, around a dozen of them, one after another. One pulled out a gun and leveled it at me, but when he squeezed the trigger, the entire thing shattered and turned to dust. The clone cursed, charging.

Huh? I thought.

There wasn’t time for me to wonder. I threw myself to the side, entering another hallway. These were the administrative rooms of the hotel, behind the lobby.

“I’m trying to get you a map,” Tia said.

“No,” I said, sweating, “the music.”


More clones that way. I was cornered.

I ducked into a room. It had once been some kind of clerical office, judging by the desk and frozen chairs, but someone had turned the desk into a bed with cushions, and there was even a wooden door affixed by new hinges attached to the steel ones on the doorway. Impressive.

I grabbed that door and slammed it closed. An arm got in the way at the last moment.

The clone grunted on the other side as I shoved, but other hands scraped around the doorway, grabbing for me. Each had an old wristwatch on them, and those snapped and broke as they rubbed on the door or wall. When the watches hit the ground, they shattered to dust.

“They’re unstable,” Tia said—she was still watching via my video feed. “The more clones he makes, the worse their molecular structure holds together.”

The clones forced the door open, throwing me backward. I whipped my rifle from my shoulder and got off one shot as a dozen of them fought into the room, heedless of the danger. Their clothing ripped easily, and when fragments fell off, they disintegrated immediately.

“ ‘Albums by Weaponized Cupcake,’ ” Tia read.

The clones piled on top of me, hands gripping my throat, others pulling my gun away from me.

“Which one?” Tia asked. “Appetite for Tuberculosis? The Blacker Album? Ride the Lightrail?”

“Kind of getting murdered here, Tia!” I said, struggling to keep the hands from my neck.

There were too many. Hands pressed in closer, cutting off my air. Clones continued to clog the room, and those nearby began to split, making it difficult to move. They wanted to trap me in here. Even if I got these fingers off my neck, I wouldn’t be able to run.

Darkness grew at the edges of my vision, like a creeping mold. I struggled to pull the hands from my throat.

“David?” Tia’s voice in my ear. “David, you need to turn on your mobile speaker! I can’t do anything. David, can you hear me? David!”

I closed my eyes. Then I let go of the hands holding my neck and forced my fingers through the press of arms. Choking, feeling as if my windpipe would collapse at any moment, I strained and got my fingers to my shoulder, where my mobile was attached. I flipped the switch on the side. Music blared into the cramped, suffocating room.

The clone directly on top of me started to shake and vibrate, like he was going to split—but instead, he began to melt, the flesh coming off the bones. The others nearby backed away in a hurry, smashing identical versions of themselves up against the walls.

I gasped in air. For a moment, all I could do was lie there, clone flesh and bones melting to goo around me.

Air. Air is really, really awesome.

The music continued unabated, a thrashing metal riff moving from chord to chord with the quality, almost, of a beating heart. The clones near me vibrated in time with it, their skin shaking like ripples in water, but they did not melt.

“So awful,” one of them said, a sneer on his lips. “Jason couldn’t write a riff to save his life. The same four chords, over and over and over.”

I frowned, then scrambled for my gun. I sat in the middle of the group of clones. Some had moved out of the room.

“That’s odd,” Tia said.

I need a way out, I thought.

“Even the ones outside are vibrating a little bit, David. I can see it on the cameras. Surely they can’t hear the music.”

“They’re connected,” I said, coughing. I stumbled to my feet, holding my rifle in one hand, ripping the mobile from my shoulder with the other. I flashed it about, trying to ward the clones off. “We need more music,” I said. “A lot of it, loud as we can get it. That—”

The clones charged me. Ignoring the danger, they piled on top of me, reaching for my mobile, trying to rip it out of my fingers. Those nearest to me started to melt, but they still grabbed at my arm, fighting even as the flesh sloughed off their bones.

I backed into a corner, then noticed a sliver of light coming from above. A window, covered with a board.

To the sound of thumping rock music, I held the clones at bay, leaving a half dozen of them melting on the floor. Others gathered opposite me in the room, faces shadowed in the dim room. “How did it really happen?” they asked in unison. “Which Epic killed Steelheart, and how did you take the credit?”

“It’s not like Steelheart was immortal,” I said.

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