Home > Firefight (Reckoners #2)(9)

Firefight (Reckoners #2)(9)
Brandon Sanderson

He shrugged. “I’ve told you before that I don’t seem to have one.”

And we suspected he was lying. Prof hadn’t pushed the issue; Edmund complied with us in every other way.

“Edmund, it might be important,” I said softly. “For stopping the Epics. All of them.” There were so few Epics people had actually had a conversation with, particularly about their powers.

“Sorry,” Edmund said. “I thought I knew it for a while—but I was wrong. Now I’m as baffled as anyone.”

“Well, what did you think it was?”

“Being near a dog,” he said. “But it really doesn’t affect me like I thought it did.”

I frowned, making a mental note to tell Prof about this. It was more than we’d gotten from him before. “Thanks anyway,” I said. “And thanks for what you do for Newcago.”

Edmund walked back to his chair, picking up his book. “Some other Epic will always control me, whether it be Steelheart or Limelight. It doesn’t really matter. I don’t care to be in charge anyway.” He sat down and continued reading.

I sighed and made my way back out into the main room. There, Prof slung a pack onto his shoulder, and I joined him as the last one out, entering the catacombs under Newcago.

We made little conversation as we hiked a half hour or so to one of the hidden garages near a road leading up out of the understreets and into the city. There, Abraham and Cody packed our gear into a jeep for us. I’d been hoping we’d take one of the copters, but that was apparently too showy.

“Watch out for púcas as you travel, lad,” Cody said, shaking my hand. “Could be imitating anything out there.”

“Once again,” Tia said as she settled into the seat in front of me, “those are from Irish mythology, you nitwit.”

Cody just winked at me and tossed me his camouflage baseball cap. “Y’all stay safe.” He gave us a thumbs-up, then he and Abraham retreated back into the understreets.

So it was that—a short time later—I found myself sitting in the back of the jeep, wind blowing my hair, holding a new gun and watching my home for all nineteen years of my life retreat behind me. The dark skyline was something I’d rarely seen. Even before Calamity I’d almost always been among, or beneath, the city’s buildings.

Who was I, if I wasn’t in Newcago? It was similar to the hollowness I felt inside some nights when I wondered what I was supposed to do with my life now that he was gone. Now that I’d won, and my father was avenged.

The answer was beginning to settle on me like a dinosaur upon its nest. My life wasn’t just about one city, or one Epic, anymore. It was about a war. It was about finding a way to stop the Epics.

Permanently.

PART TWO

8

PAPERS flapped in my hands as we sped down the highway. We’d hit a relatively unbroken patch of asphalt, though we still thumped across a rough section of road now and then. I hadn’t imagined that a roadway like this could decay so quickly. Less than thirteen years had passed since Calamity, but already the highway was torn up with potholes and plants peeking up out of cracks like zombie fingers out of graves.

Many cities we passed were decayed, windows shattered, buildings crumbling. I spotted some cities that were in better repair, lit by bonfires in the distance, but these seemed more like little bunkers, surrounded by walls with fields outside—fiefdoms ruled by one Epic or another.

We traveled at night, and though I saw the occasional fire, I didn’t spot a single glimmer of electric lights. Newcago really was an anomaly. Not only had the steel preserved the tall skyscrapers and elegant skyline, but Steelheart’s reign had also maintained basic services.

Prof drove with goggles on, the jeep’s headlights replaced with UV floodlights that would be invisible to anyone without the proper headgear. I sat in the jeep’s back seat and spent my time reading through the notes and essays Tia had given me. I held the sheets inside a small box in my lap that had a flashlight inside of it, and this mostly masked the light.

The car slowed, then thumped up and down as Prof carefully navigated a bad patch of rubbled asphalt. Cars lay like the husks of enormous beetles along the sides of the road; they’d first been drained of their gasoline, then gutted for parts. Our vehicle, fortunately, had been converted to run on one of Edmund’s power cells.

As we drove slowly over the rubble, I heard something out in the night, like a snapping branch. The jeep’s back seat wasn’t enormous, but it didn’t have a roof, so I could easily set my box aside and maneuver my new rifle. I raised it to my shoulder and tapped a button that folded out the automatic scope. It worked very well, I was forced to admit, switching to night vision on its own and letting me zoom in on the source of the noise.

Through the holosights I picked out a few scavengers in ragged clothing squatting behind one of the broken cars in the darkness. They seemed like wild people, with long beards and sloppily stitched clothing. I watched them with the safety off, looking for weapons, until another head bobbed up. A little girl, maybe five years old. One of the men hushed her, pushing her down, then continued watching our jeep until we crossed the patch of broken street and sped up, leaving them behind.

I lowered the gun. “It really is bad out here.”

“Anytime a town starts to band together,” Tia said from the front passenger seat, “an Epic decides to either rule the place or lay waste to it.”

“It’s worse,” Prof said softly, “when one of their own develops powers.”

New Epics were rare, but they did happen. In a city like Newcago, we’d get maybe a single new one every four or five years. But they were dangerous, as an Epic who first manifested powers almost always went a little mad in the beginning, using their abilities wildly, destroying. Steelheart had quickly rounded up such individuals and subjugated them. Out here, there would be nobody to stop their initial rampage.

I settled back, disturbed, but eventually returned to my reading. This was our third night on the road. When dawn had broken after the first night, Prof had driven us into a hidden safe house. Apparently, the Reckoners had many of them along major roadways. Usually they were hollows sheared into rock with tensors, then secured with hidden doors.

I hadn’t pushed Prof too much about the tensors. Even with me, he talked about them as if they were technology—and not secretly just a cover for his powers. He only allowed the Reckoners in his personal team to use them, which made sense. Most Epic powers had a distinct range. From what I’d been able to determine, you had to be within a dozen miles or so of Prof for the gifted tensors or energy shields to work.

What made it even more confusing was that the Reckoners did have technology that emulated Epic powers. Such as the gauss gun I’d used in fighting Steelheart, and the dowser, which was a device they used to test if someone was an Epic or not. I’d been suspicious that these things had also secretly been from Prof’s powers, but he’d promised me they weren’t. It was possible to kill an Epic, then use something about their DNA to reverse engineer machines that mimicked their powers. That’s what made Prof’s deception so believable. Why assume that your team leader is an Epic when there’s a perfectly good technological explanation for the things the team can do?

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