Home > Firefight (Reckoners #2)(5)

Firefight (Reckoners #2)(5)
Brandon Sanderson

“But …?” I asked, recognizing the catch in Prof’s tone.

“But now we have to make good on what we’ve promised these people. Safety. A good life.” He turned to me. “First Mitosis, then Instabam, now Sourcefield. There’s a pattern to their attacks, and I feel that someone is trying to get my attention. Someone who knows about what I am, and who is sending Epics to target my team instead of me.”

“Who?” Who could possibly know what Prof was? Even most members of the Reckoners didn’t know about him. Just the team here in Newcago was in on his secret.

“I have suspicions,” Prof said. “But this isn’t the time to talk about it.”

I nodded, knowing that pushing him on the topic wouldn’t get me any further at the moment. Instead I looked down at the crowd, and the dead Epic. “Sourcefield trapped you, Prof. How did it happen?”

He shook his head. “She caught me straight-out with that electricity-bubble thing. Did you know she could make one of those?”

I shook my head. I’d had no idea.

Prof grunted. “To get free, I’d have needed to use my powers.”

“Oh,” I said. “Well … maybe you should use them. Maybe we could practice, and see if there’s a way you can be an Epic without … you know. I mean, you can gift them without the corruption happening, so maybe there’s some secret to using them yourself. Megan—”

“Megan is not your friend, son,” Prof said, interrupting quietly but firmly. “She’s one of them. She always has been.”

“But—”

“No.” Prof squeezed my shoulder. “You have to understand this, David. When an Epic lets their powers corrupt them, they choose to become the enemy. That’s how we have to think of it. Any other way leads to madness.”

“But you used your powers,” I said, “to save me. To fight Steelheart.”

“And both times, it almost destroyed me. I have to be firm with myself, be more careful. I can’t let the exceptions become the reality.”

I swallowed and nodded.

“I know that to you this has always been about revenge,” Prof said. “That’s a strong motivation, and I’m glad you’ve channeled it, son. But I don’t kill them for vengeance, not anymore. This thing we do … for me, it’s like putting down a rabid dog. It’s a mercy.”

The way he said it made me feel sick. Not because I didn’t believe him or disliked what he said—sparks, his motives were probably more altruistic than mine. It was just that I knew he was thinking about Megan. He felt betrayed by her, and honestly, he probably had every right to feel that way.

But Megan wasn’t a traitor. I didn’t know what she was, though I intended to find out.

Down below, a car pulled up to the crowd. Prof glanced at it. “Go deal with them,” he said. “I’ll meet you back at the hideout.”

I turned as the mayor climbed out of the car, along with a few members of the city council.

Great, I thought.

Honestly, I’d rather have faced another Epic.

5

I left the building as soldiers cleared a path for Mayor Briggs. She wore a white pantsuit and a matching fedora, similar to the other members of the city council. Unique clothing, well styled. That contrasted with the everyday people, who wore … well, basically anything.

During the early days in Newcago, clothing had been shockingly hard to come by. Everything that hadn’t been on a person’s back had been transformed to steel during the Great Transfersion. Over the years¸ however, Steelheart’s foraging crews had scoured the suburbs, emptying warehouses, old malls, and abandoned houses. These days we had enough to wear—but it was a strange mix of different styles.

The upper class, though, wanted to stand out. They avoided practical clothing like jeans, which lasted surprisingly long with a few patches here and there. During Steelheart’s reign they’d had their clothing made, and had chosen archaic designs. Things from a classier time, or so they said. It wasn’t the sort of clothing you could merely find lying about.

We’d decided that I would be our liaison with Briggs and the rest. I was the only Newcago native in the Reckoners, and we wanted to limit access to Prof. The Reckoners did not rule Newcago—we protected it. It was a division we all thought was important.

I stepped up through the crowd, ignoring those who whispered my name. The attention was embarrassing, honestly. All of these people worshipped me, but they barely remembered men like my father who had died fighting the Epics.

“Looks like your handiwork, Charleston,” Mayor Briggs said, nudging the corpse on the ground with her foot. “Steelslayer puts another notch in his rifle.”

“My rifle’s broken,” I said. Too harshly. The mayor was an important woman, and had done wonders helping to organize the city. It was just that she was one of them—Steelheart’s upper class. I’d expected them all to end up out on their ears, but somehow—through a series of political maneuvers I couldn’t follow—Briggs had ended up in charge of the city instead of being exiled.

“I’m sure we can get you a new gun.” She looked me over, not smiling. She liked to convey a “no-nonsense” attitude. To me, it seemed more like a “no-personality” attitude.

“Walk with me a pace, David,” Briggs said, turning to stroll away. “You don’t mind, do you?”

I did mind, but I figured this was one of those questions you weren’t supposed to answer. I wasn’t completely sure, though. I wasn’t a nerd, mind you, but I’d spent a lot of my youth studying Epics, so I’d had limited experience with social interaction. I mixed with ordinary people about the same way that a bucket of paint mixed with a bag of gerbils.

“Your leader,” Briggs said as we walked off a little ways from the crowd. “I haven’t seen him in a while.”

“Prof is busy.”

“I imagine that is so. And I must say, we truly appreciate the protection you and yours offer this city.” She looked over her shoulder at the corpse, then cocked an eyebrow. “However, I can’t say that I understand your entire game plan.”

“Mayor?” I asked.

“Your leader allowed the wheels of politics to put me in charge of Newcago, but I know next to nothing of the Reckoners’ goals for this city—indeed this country. It would be nice to know what you are planning.”

“That’s easy,” I said. “Kill Epics.”

“And if a band of Epics joins together and comes to attack the city at once?”

Yeah. That would be a problem.

“Sourcefield,” she said, “terrorized us for five days while you furiously planned. Five days is a long time for a city to be under the thumb of another tyrant. If five or six powerful Epics got together and came with the intent to exterminate, I fail to see how you’d protect us. Certainly you might end up picking them off one at a time, but Newcago would turn into a wasteland before you were done.”

Briggs stopped walking and turned to me, now that the others couldn’t hear. She looked me in the eyes, and I saw something in her expression. Was that … fear?

“So I ask,” she said softly, “what is your plan? After years of hiding and only attacking Epics of middling importance, the Reckoners revealed themselves and brought down Steelheart himself. That means you have a greater goal, right? You’ve started a war. You know a secret to winning it, don’t you?”

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