Home > Firefight (Reckoners #2)(6)

Firefight (Reckoners #2)(6)
Brandon Sanderson

“I …” What could I say? This woman, who had weathered the reign of one of the most powerful Epics in the world—and who had seized control following his fall—looked to me with a plea on her lips and terror in her eyes.

“Yes,” I said. “We have a plan.”

“And …?”

“And we might have found a way to stop them all, Mayor,” I said. “Any Epic.”

“How?”

I smiled in what I hoped was a confident way. “Reckoner secret, Mayor. Trust me, though. We know what we’re doing. We’d never start a war we expected to lose.”

She nodded, looking placated. She went back into businesslike mode, and now that she had my ear she had a dozen things she wanted me to ask Prof about—most of which seemed attempts on her part to position him and the Reckoners politically. Her influence among the elite of Newcago would grow a great deal if she could parade Prof around as a friend. That was part of why we kept our distance.

I listened, but was distracted by what I’d told her. Did the Reckoners have a plan? Not really.

But I did.

We eventually returned to where Sourcefield’s body lay. More people had gathered, including some members of the city’s fledgling press, who took pictures. They got a few shots of me, unfortunately.

I passed through the crowd and knelt beside the corpse. She’d been a rabid dog, as Prof had put it. Killing her had been a mercy.

She came for us, I thought. And this is the third one who avoided engaging Prof. Mitosis had come to the city while Prof had been away. Instabam had tried to lose Prof in the chase, gunning for Abraham. Now Sourcefield had captured Prof, then left him behind to chase me.

Prof was right. Something was going on.

“David?” Roy asked. He knelt, wearing his black and grey Enforcement armor.

“Yeah.”

Roy held out something in a black-gloved hand. Flower petals in a vibrant rainbow of hues—each petal bleeding between three or four colors, like mixed paint.

“These were in her pocket,” Roy said. “We didn’t find anything else on her.”

I waved Abraham over, then showed him the petals.

“Those are from Babilar,” he said. “What used to be known as New York City.”

“That’s where Mitosis had been working before he came here,” I said softly. “Coincidence?”

“Hardly,” Abraham said. “I think we need to go show these to Prof.”

6

WE still kept a secret base hidden within the bowels of Newcago. Though I visited an apartment up above to shower each day, I slept down here, as did the others. Prof didn’t want people to know where to find us. Considering that the latest Epics to visit had all specifically tried to kill us, it seemed a good decision.

Abraham and I hiked in through a long hidden passage that was cut directly into the metallic ground. The tunnel’s sides bore the distinctive smooth look created by tensors. When one of us held Prof’s disintegration powers, we could reduce sections of solid metal, rock, or wood to dust. This gave the tunnel a sculpted feel, as if the steel were mud that we’d hollowed out with our hands.

Cody guarded the way into the hideout. We always set a watch after an operation. Prof kept expecting one of the Epics who showed up to be a decoy—someone for us to kill while a more powerful Epic watched and tried to discover how to follow us.

It was all too possible.

What will we do if a group of Epics decides to bring down the city? I thought, shivering as Abraham and I entered the hideout.

Lit by yellow lightbulbs screwed directly into the walls, the hideout was a medium-sized complex of steel rooms. Tia sat at a desk at the far side; red-haired and middle-aged, she wore spectacles, a white blouse, and jeans. Her desk was a lavish wooden one that she’d set up a few weeks back. It had seemed a strange sign to me, a symbol of permanence.

Abraham walked up to her and dropped the flower petals onto her desk. Tia raised an eyebrow at them. “Where?” she asked.

“Sourcefield’s pocket,” I said.

Tia gathered up the petals.

“That’s the third Epic in a row who’s come here and tried to destroy us,” I said. “And each had a connection to Babylon Restored. Tia, what’s going on?”

“I’m not sure,” she said.

“Prof seems to know,” I said. “He said as much to me earlier, but he wouldn’t give me an explanation.”

“Then I’ll let him tell you when he’s ready,” she said. “For now, there’s a file here on the table for you. The thing you asked about.”

She was trying to distract me. I dropped my backpack—the pieces of my rifle stuck out the top—and crossed my arms, but found myself glancing toward the table, which held a folder with my name written on the top.

Tia slipped away, entering Prof’s room and leaving Abraham and me alone in the main chamber. He settled down in a seat at the workbench, placing his gun on it with a thump. The gravatonics glowed green at the bottom, but one of them appeared to have cracked. Abraham took some tools off the wall and began to work on disassembling the gun.

“What aren’t they telling us?” I asked, taking the file off Tia’s desk.

“Many things,” Abraham said. His light French accent made him sound thoughtful. “It is the proper way. If one of us gets taken, we cannot reveal what we know.”

I grunted, leaning back against the steel wall beside Abraham. “Babilar … Babylon Restored. Have you been there?”

“No.”

“Even before?” I asked, flipping through the pages Tia had left me. “When it was called Manhattan?”

“I never visited,” Abraham said. “Sorry.”

I glanced at Tia’s desk. A stack of folders there looked familiar. My old Epic files, the ones I’d made for every Epic I knew about. I leaned over, opening a folder.

Regalia, the first file read. Formerly Abigail Reed. The Epic who currently ruled Babilar. I slipped out a photo of an older, distinguished-looking African American woman. She looked familiar. Hadn’t she been a judge, long ago? Yes … and after that, she’d starred in her own reality television show. Judge Regalia. I flipped through the pages, refreshing my memory.

“David …,” Abraham warned as I flipped a page.

“They’re my notes,” I said.

“On Tia’s desk.” He continued to work on his gun without looking at me.

I sighed, closing the folder. Instead I began reading the file that Tia had left for me. There was only one page inside; it was addressed to Tia from one of her contacts, a lorist—Reckoner talk for a person who studied Epics.

It is often hard to delve into who Epics were before their transformations, particularly the early ones, the file said. Steelheart is an excellent example of this. Not only did we lose much of what was once recorded on the internet, but he actively worked to suppress anyone who knew him before Calamity. Now that we know his weakness—thanks to your young friend—we can surmise that he wanted to remove anyone who knew him before, in case they did not fear him.

Still, I have been able to recover some little information. Named Paul Jackson, Steelheart was a track star in his local high school. He was also reputed to be a bully of some stature, to the point that—despite his winning record—he was not offered any major scholarships. There were incidents. I can’t find the specifics, but I think he might have left some fellow teammates with broken bones.

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