Home > Mitosis (Reckoners #1.5)(7)

Mitosis (Reckoners #1.5)(7)
Brandon Sanderson

Each clone got closer. I moved back farther in the tunnel until I felt a ledge behind me. The pipe turned down toward the understreets—and an assuredly fatal drop.

“I could shoot you, I suppose,” the next Mitosis said. “Well, shoot you again. But then I wouldn’t get the pleasure of cutting off pieces of you as you scream out the truth to me.”

I screamed out the next lyric, which proved to be a bad idea, because once I’d melted that Mitosis, I found myself slumping against the rounded wall of the small tunnel. I was close to blacking out.

The next Mitosis plucked the knife from the goo, holding it up and letting bits of his other self run down the blade and drip to the floor.

He shook his head. “I was trained classically, you know,” he said.

I frowned. This was a change from the talk of torture, murder, and other sunny topics. “What?”

“Trained classically,” Mitosis said. “I was the only one in that band who knew his way around an instrument. I wrote song after song, and what did we play? Those stupid, stupid riffs. The same chords. Every damn song.”

Something about this tweaked a part of my brain, like a piece of popcorn on fire because it cooked too long. But I couldn’t focus on it now; his talking had almost let him reach me. I sang. Weakly.

I didn’t have a lot of energy left. How long had it been? How much blood had I lost?

This Mitosis wavered, but as my voice faltered, he came back.

“I am beyond you, little human,” Mitosis said, and I could hear the smirk in his voice. “Now, let’s get on with my questions.”

He reached me, took me by the arm, and yanked.

That hurt. Somehow, during all the running and scrambling, I’d never noticed the pain. Shock.

I’d been in shock.

Now that pain came crashing down on me, an entire detonated building of agony. I found my voice and screamed.

“How did Steelheart die?” Mitosis asked.

“He died at the hands of an Epic,” I said, groaning.

“I thought so. Who did it?”

“He did it himself,” I whispered. “After I tricked him. He killed himself, but I caused it. He was brought down by a common man, Lawrence.”

“Lies!”

“Common people,” I whispered, “will bring you all down.”

He yanked my arm again, delivering pain in a spike of agony. What did it matter what I said? He wasn’t going to believe me. I closed my eyes and started to feel numb. It felt nice. Too nice.

Distantly, I heard music.

Singing?

A hundred voices. No, more. Singing in unison, the song that had blared earlier from my mobile. Their singing was far from perfect, but there was a force to it.

“No. What are you doing? Stay back!” Mitosis roared.

All those voices, singing. I could barely make out the words, but I could hear the progression of chords. It actually sounded pretty, since I could ignore the awful lyrics.

“I am an army unto myself! Stay back! I am the new emperor of this city! You are mine!”

I forced my eyes open. Mitosis, in front of me, shook and vibrated, though the song was distant.

The clones were all connected—and if enough of them were hearing the song, the effect transferred even to the ones who weren’t.

In a moment, the line of clones in the pipe screamed, holding their heads.

“Common people,” I whispered. “Who have had enough.”

Mitosis exploded, each clone popping in a sudden burst. Their deaths opened up a passage to the light outside. I blinked against the abrupt sunshine, and despite the confines, I could see what was out there. People, standing on the frozen steel river, in a mass. Thousands of them, dressed in suits, work clothing, uniforms. They sang together, almost more of a chant.

The people of Newcago had come.

5

“You’re unreasonably lucky, son,” Prof said, settling onto the stool beside my hospital bed. He was a solid man with greying hair, goggles tucked into the pocket of his shirt.

I flexed my hand. Prof’s healing powers—gifted to me under the guise of a piece of technology—had mended my wounds. I didn’t remember much about the last few hours. I’d lain in a daze, several city doctors working to keep me alive long enough for Prof to arrive.

I sat back against the headboard, breathing deeply, remembering the final moments with Mitosis.

They came to me clearly, though the time after that was muddy.

“How did she get them all there?” I asked. “The people?”

“The Emergency Message System,” Prof said. “Tia sent out a plea to everyone near the river, begging them to go to you and to sing along to the music she sent through their mobiles. They could easily have remained in hiding. Ordinary people have no business fighting Epics.”

“I’m an ordinary person.”

“Hardly. But it doesn’t matter.”

“It does, Prof.” I looked at him. “This will never work if they don’t start fighting.”

“Last time the people fought,” Prof said, “the Epics slaughtered millions and the country collapsed.”

“That’s because we didn’t know how to defeat them,” I said. “Now we do.”

Prof sighed and stood up. “I’ve been told not to antagonize you, to let you rest. We’ll talk about this later. You did well against Mitosis. He …” He hesitated.

“What?” I asked.

“Recently, Mitosis has been staying in Babylon Restored. Manhattan, as it used to be called.”

“That’s where you just visited.”

Prof nodded. “That he should come here when I went to scout Babiar … it smacks of him coming intentionally while I was gone. That couldn’t have happened, unless …”

“What?”

Prof shook his head. “We’ll talk later. Rest now. I need to think. And son, as well as you did, I want you to do some thinking too. What you did was risky. You can’t just keep rushing in, making snap decisions. You are not the leader of this team.”

“Yes sir.”

“We have an entire city’s worth of people to worry about now,” he said, walking toward the door to the small room, which was warmed by sunlight through an open window. “Sparks. That’s the one thing I never wanted.” His face seemed shadowed in that moment. Grim, along with something else. Something … darker.

“Prof,” I said, “how do Epics get their weaknesses?”

“It’s random,” he said immediately. “Epics’ weaknesses can be anything. They make about as much sense as the powers themselves—which is to say, none.” He frowned, looking at me. “You know that better than anyone, son. You’re the one who has studied them.”

“Yeah,” I said, looking out the window. “Mitosis’s weakness was his own music.”

“Coincidence.”

“Hell of a coincidence.”

“Well, maybe the weakness wasn’t really the music,” Prof said. “Maybe it was performance anxiety, or insecurity or the like. The music just reminded him of that.”

That was probably right. Still …

“He loathed the music,” I said. “His own art. There’s something here, Prof. Something we haven’t noticed yet.”

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