Home > Firefight (Reckoners #2)(11)

Firefight (Reckoners #2)(11)
Brandon Sanderson

I found myself on edge. Anything could be watching from among those broken husks of buildings. This place was abandoned, an enormous grave for the time that had come before Calamity.

“So empty,” I whispered as Prof drove us down a street.

“A lot of people died fighting the Epics,” Tia whispered back. “And a lot more died once the Epics started fighting back in earnest. But the most died in the chaos that followed, when civilization just … surrendered.”

“A lot of people avoid the cities,” Prof said. “Hard to grow anything here, and they attract the worst kind of scavengers. However, the land isn’t as empty as you think.” He rolled us around a corner. I didn’t miss that Tia had a handgun out in her lap, though I’d never seen her fire a weapon before. “Besides,” Prof added, “most everyone in this area has made their way to the island by now.”

“Life’s better there?” I asked.

“Depends.” He stopped the jeep in the middle of a darkened road, then turned back toward me. “How well do you trust the Epics?”

It seemed a loaded question, considering the source. He climbed out of the jeep, boots scraping on asphalt. Tia got out the other side, and they started walking toward a looming building.

“What’s this?” I asked them, standing up in the back of the jeep. “Where’s the road into Babilar?”

“Can’t drive into Babilar,” Prof said, stopping by the door of the building.

“Too noticeable?” I asked, hopping down and joining them.

“Well, there’s that,” Prof said. “But mostly it’s because the city doesn’t have any streets. Come on. It’s time to meet your new team.”

He pushed open the door.

9

I followed Prof and Tia into the building. It looked like an old mechanic’s garage, with large bay doors on the front. And it smelled … too clean. Not musty, like the forgotten chambers of Newcago’s understreets. It was pitch-black, though, and creepy. I couldn’t make out much besides some large dark shapes that might have been vehicles.

I unslung my rifle, feeling the hair on the back of my neck rising. What if this was some kind of trap? Had Prof prepared for that? I—

Lights came on in a sudden flare. Blinded, I cursed and jumped to the side, slamming my back against something large. I raised my rifle.

“Oops!” a feminine voice said. “Oh, sorry, sorry, sorry! Too bright.”

Prof grunted nearby. Rifle stock firmly against my shoulder, I blinked until I could make out that we were in some kind of workshop. We were surrounded by tool-covered benches and a few half-disassembled cars, including one jeep just like our own.

The door clicked closed behind me, and I pointed my rifle that direction. A tall Hispanic woman in her early thirties had shut the door. She had angular features and dark hair with one lock in the front dyed purple. She wore a red shirt and a blazer, with a black necktie.

“Mizzy,” the woman snapped, “the point of dimming the lights until they were in was to avoid alerting the entire neighborhood that this building has power. That doesn’t work if you turn the lights back on while the door is still wide open.”

“Sorry!” called the voice from before, the sound echoing in the large room.

The Hispanic woman glanced at me. “Put that gun down before you hurt someone, kid.” She strode past me and gave Prof a sloppy salute.

He extended a hand. “Val.”

“Jon,” Val said, taking his hand. “I was surprised to get your message. I didn’t expect you back so soon.”

“Considering what happened,” Prof said, “I figured you’d be planning to do something brash.”

“Here to stop me, sir?” Val asked, voice cold.

“Sparks no,” Prof said. “I’m here to help.”

Val’s expression cracked, a hint of a smile tugging at her lips. She nodded to me. “That’s Steelslayer?”

“Yes,” Prof said as I finally stepped out of my cover.

“Excellent reflexes,” Val said, looking me up and down. “Terrible fashion sense. Mizzy, where the hell are you?”

“Sorry!” that voice from before came again, followed by clanks. “Coming!”

I stepped up beside Tia as I spotted a young black woman climbing down from a catwalk above, a sniper rifle slung over her shoulder. She hit the ground and jogged toward us, a bounce in her step. She wore jeans and a short jacket, with a tight white shirt underneath. She had her hair braided in cornrows on the top, and it exploded into a frizzy puff behind her head.

Tia and Prof looked at Val; Tia cocked an eyebrow.

“Mizzy is quite capable,” Val said. “She’s just a little …”

As Mizzy scuttled toward us, she tried to duck under the front of a half-assembled jeep that was up on risers. However, the rifle over her shoulder stuck up too high, and it clanged against the front of the jeep, pushing her backward. She gasped, grabbing the jeep as if to steady it—though it hadn’t budged. Then she patted it as if in apology.

She was maybe seventeen years old or so, and had a cute face with round features and creamy brown skin. She smiles too wide to be a refugee, I thought as she ran over and saluted Prof. Where has she been living that hasn’t beaten that bubbly nature out of her? I wondered.

“Where’s Exel?” Tia asked.

“Watching the boat,” Val said.

Prof nodded, then pointed at Val. “David, meet Valentine, leader of this cell of the Reckoners. She and hers have been living in Babylon Restored for the last two years, doing reconnaissance on Regalia. You obey orders from her as if they came from me. Understand?”

“Got it. Val, are you point?”

Val’s expression darkened. “Operations,” she said, giving no indication why my words had bothered her. “Though if Tia is going to be joining this crew …”

“I am,” Tia said.

“Then,” Val said, “she’ll probably run operations. I’d rather be in the field anyway. But I don’t run point. I do heavy weapons and vehicle support.”

Prof nodded, gesturing toward Mizzy. “And this is Missouri Williams, I assume?”

“Excited to meet you, sir!” Mizzy said. She seemed the type to be excited about pretty much everything. “I’m the team’s new sniper. Before, I did repairs and equipment, and I have experience with demolitions. I’m training to run point, sir!”

“Like hell you are,” Val said. “She’s good with a rifle, Prof. Sam had kind of taken her under his wing.…”

Probably the person they lost recently, I thought, reading Prof’s stiff expression, Tia’s look of sorrow. Sam. I guessed he’d been their point man, the one who shouldered the most danger—interacting with Epics and drawing them into the traps.

It was the job I did in our team. The job Megan had done before she left. I didn’t know Sam, but it was hard not to feel a surge of empathy for the fallen man. He’d died fighting back.

But Megan had not been responsible, no matter what Prof claimed.

“Glad to have you, Mizzy,” Prof said, voice even. I sensed a healthy dose of skepticism in that tone, but that was only because I knew him pretty well. “Go pull our jeep into the garage. David, go with her, scope out just in case.”

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