Home > Firefight (Reckoners #2)(10)

Firefight (Reckoners #2)(10)
Brandon Sanderson

I flipped through to the back of the stapled series of notes that Tia had given me. There, I found the profile for Sourcefield, which we’d gathered soon after she’d come to Newcago. Emiline Bask, it read. Former hotel desk clerk. Fan of Asian pulp cinema. Gained Epic powers two years after Calamity.

I scanned through her history. She’d spent some time in Detroit, Madison, and Little Blackstone. She’d allied with Static and his band of Epics for a few years, then she’d vanished for a while before turning up in Newcago to kill the lot of us. This was interesting, but it wasn’t what I was looking for. I wanted to know her pre-Epic history, in particular her personality before she became one of them. Had she been a troublemaker, like Steelheart?

For that, I only had a few paragraphs. She’d been raised by an aunt after her mother committed suicide, but the pages said nothing about her personality. There was a note at the end. Mother’s trauma related to grandparents, obviously.

I leaned forward as the jeep picked up a little speed. “Tia?”

“Hmm?” she asked, looking up from her datapad, which she hid in a box like mine to shield the light.

“What does this mean—it references Sourcefield’s mother’s trauma being related somehow to her grandparents?”

“Not sure,” she said. “What I gave you was part of a larger file that Jori had compiled; he sent us only the relevant information.”

My own files didn’t have much on Sourcefield. I looked at that paragraph again, lit inside my shoebox. “Would you mind asking him for the rest of the information?”

“What is it about dead Epics that fascinates you so?” Tia asked.

Prof kept his eyes forward, but he seemed to perk up.

“You remember Mitosis?” I asked. “That Epic who tried to take Newcago a few months back?”

“Of course.”

“His weakness was rock music,” I said. “Specifically his own music.” He’d been a minor rock star before gaining his Epic powers.


“So … it’s a mighty coincidence, isn’t it? That his own music should negate his powers? Tia, what if there’s a pattern to the weaknesses? One we haven’t cracked yet?”

“Someone would have spotted it,” Prof said.

“Would they?” I asked. “Early on, nobody even knew about the weaknesses. The Epics weren’t quick to tell people about them. Besides, there was mass chaos.”

“Unlike now?” Tia asked.

“Now … there’s institutionalized chaos,” I said. “Look, how long ago did the Reckoners start working? How long ago did the lorists start gathering data on weaknesses? It’s only been a few years, right? And by then, it was just common knowledge that Epic weaknesses are bizarre and random. Only, what if they’re not?”

Tia tapped her datapad. “Worth looking into, I suppose. I’ll get you more about Sourcefield’s past.”

I nodded, gazing between them, eastward along the road. I couldn’t see much in the darkness, though a haze on the horizon took me by surprise. Was that light?

“Dawn already?” I asked, checking my mobile.

“No,” Prof said. “It’s the city.”

Babylon Restored. “So soon?”

“David, we’ve been traveling for over two days,” Tia said.

“Yeah, but Babilar is on the other side of the country! I figured … I don’t know, like it would take at least a week. Or two.”

Prof snorted. “When the roads were good, you could make this drive in one day, easy.”

I settled back in my seat, bracing myself against the bumps as Prof sped up. He obviously wanted to reach the city well before daybreak. We passed a growing number of suburbs, but even still, things out here were just so … empty. I’d imagined buildings everywhere, maybe farms squeezed between them. The truth was that the landscape outside Newcago just seemed to be filled with … well, a lot of nothing at all.

The world was both a larger place and a smaller place than I’d imagined.

“Prof, how do you know Regalia?” I blurted out.

Tia glanced at me. Prof kept driving.

“What do you remember about Regalia, David?” Tia asked, perhaps to break the silence. “From your notes.”

“I’ve been scanning,” I said, getting excited. “She’s one of the most powerful Epics around, and one of the most mysterious. Water manipulation, remote projection, hints of at least one other major power.”

Tia snorted.

“What?” I asked.

“Your tone,” she said. “You sound like a fan talking about his favorite movie.”

I blushed.

“I thought you hated the Epics,” Tia said.

“I do.” Well, you know, all except for the one I’d kind of fallen for. And Prof. And I guess Edmund. “It’s complicated. I hated Steelheart. Really hated Steelheart—and all of them because of it, I guess. But I’ve also spent my life studying them, learning about them.…”

“You can’t immerse yourself in something,” Prof said softly, “without coming to respect it.”

“Yeah,” I agreed.

When I’d been a kid, I was enthralled by sharks. I’d read every book I could find about them, including the most gruesome accounts of shark-related deaths. I’d loved reading about them precisely because they were so dangerous, so deadly, so weird. Epics were the same way, only so much more. Creatures like Regalia—mysterious, dynamic, powerful—were fascinating.

“You didn’t answer my question,” I noted, “about how you know Regalia.”

“No,” Prof said. “I didn’t.”

I knew better than to prod further. We soon reached the ruins of a larger city, but we didn’t seem to have reached Babilar yet—at least, we hadn’t reached the haze of light. This place was pitch-black, no fires, let alone any electricity. What I’d spotted earlier was beyond it, out a distance—and even that wasn’t really “lights.” More a faint glow in the air, like might be caused by a lot of lit areas, though I couldn’t make out any distinct lights. We were still too far, and the buildings blocked my view.

I took out my rifle and watched the passing landscape through the night-vision scope. Most everything was rusted and crumbling here—though this city was bigger than the others we’d passed on our way. It also looked wrong to me for some reason. So grey, so decayed. So … fake?

Because it looks like the movies, I realized, thinking back to the films I’d watched with the other kids at the Factory. We’d all lived in Newcago, a city of pure steel. Faded signs, brick walls, woodpiles—these were things from another world. The only place I’d seen them before was in the films.

This was what the rest of the world thought was normal. How bizarre.

We drove through this dead city for a long while, still on the expressway, but going at a slow speed. I assumed that Prof didn’t want to make any noise. Eventually he pulled onto an off-ramp and drove down into the dark city itself.

“Is this Babilar?” I asked softly.

“No,” Prof said. “This is … was … New Jersey. Fort Lee, specifically.”

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