Home > Calamity (Reckoners #3)

Calamity (Reckoners #3)
Brandon Sanderson

I’VE witnessed the fearsome depths.

I was in Babilar, Babylon Restored. Formerly New York City. I stared into the burning red star known as Calamity, and knew—with no uncertainty—that something inside me had changed.

The depths had claimed me as one of their own. And though I’ve pushed them back, I still bear their hidden scar.

They insist that they will have me again.

THE sun peeked over the horizon like the head of a giant radioactive manatee. I crouched, hidden in a tree of all places. I’d forgotten how weird the things smell.

“We good?” I whispered over the line. Instead of using mobiles, we were relying on old radios we’d rigged to work with headsets. The audio snapped and popped as I spoke. Primitive technology, but essential for this job.

“Wait a sec,” Megan said. “Cody, you in position?”

“Sure am,” crackled the reply, laced with a calm Southern drawl. “If anyone tries to sneak up on you, lass, I’ll put a bullet up his nose.”

“Ew,” Mizzy said over the line.

“We’ll move in five,” I said from my perch. Cody had called the contraption I was using a “tree stand,” which was really a glorified camp chair strapped some thirty feet up the trunk of an elm. Hunters had used them back in the day for hiding from game.

I put my Gottschalk—a sleek, military-style assault rifle—to my shoulder and sighted through the trees. Normally, in this sort of situation I’d be sighting on an Epic: one of the super-powered individuals who terrorized the world. I was a Reckoner, same as my team, dedicated to bringing down dangerous Epics.

Unfortunately, life for the Reckoners had stopped making sense about two months ago. Our leader, Prof, was an Epic himself—and had been caught in a rival’s intricate plot to find a successor. Consumed by his powers, he had left Regalia’s empire in Babilar, but had taken with him her hard drives, complete with notes and secrets. We intended to stop him. And that led me here.

To a large castle.

Seriously. A castle. I’d figured those were just in old movies and foreign countries, yet here one was hidden in the woods of West Virginia. And despite the modern metal gates and high-tech security system, this place looked like it had been around since long before Calamity appeared in the sky—lichen covered the stonework, and vines twisted up one of the weathered walls.

Pre-Calamity people had been weird. Awesome too—evidence: castle—but still pretty weird.

I looked away from my scope and glanced at Abraham, who was hiding in a nearby tree. I could pick him out only because I knew exactly what to look for. His dark outfit blended well into the dappled shades of morning, which was—our informant said—the best time to assault this particular location: Shewbrent Castle, also known as the Knighthawk Foundry. The world’s primary source of Epic-derived technology. We’d used their weapons and tech to fight Steelheart, then Regalia.

Now we were going to rob them.

“Everyone have their mobiles off?” I asked over the line. “Batteries out?”

“You’ve asked that three times already, David,” Megan replied.

“Check anyway.”

They all gave the affirmative, and I took a deep breath. So far as we knew, we were the last cell of Reckoners. Two months in and we still had no sign of Tia, which meant she was probably dead. That left me in charge—though I’d gotten the job by default. Abraham and Cody had laughed when I’d asked if they wanted it, while Mizzy had gone stiff as a board and almost started hyperventilating.

Now we were putting my plan in motion. My crazy, foolhardy, incredible plan. Honestly, I was terrified.

My watch buzzed. Go time.

“Megan,” I said into my radio, “you’re up.”

“On it.”

I shouldered my rifle again, peering through the trees toward where Megan would launch her assault. I felt blind. With my mobile, I could have tapped into Megan’s view to follow her attack, or I could have at least brought up a local map and watched my team represented as blips. Our mobiles, however, had been built and distributed by Knighthawk—who also maintained the secure network they ran on. Using those to coordinate an attack on Knighthawk’s own installation seemed about as smart as using toothpaste for salad dressing.

“Engaging,” Megan said, and soon a pair of explosions shook the air. I scanned through my scope and picked out the smoke trails rising in the sky, but couldn’t see Megan; she was on the other side of the castle. Her job was to make a frontal assault, and those blasts had been grenades she’d thrown at the front gate.

Attacking the Knighthawk Foundry was, of course, absolutely suicidal. We all knew this, but we were also desperate, low on resources, and being hunted by Jonathan Phaedrus himself. Knighthawk refused to deal with us, and had gone completely silent to our requests.

Our choices had been to try to take on Prof unequipped, or to come here and see what we could steal. This seemed the better of two bad options.

“Cody?” I asked.

“She’s doing fine, lad,” he said over the crackling radio line. “It looks just like that video. The place released drones right after the explosions happened.”

“Pick off what you can,” I said.

“Roger.”

“Mizzy?” I said. “You’re up.”

“Groovy.”

I hesitated. “Groovy? Is that some kind of code word?”

“You don’t know…Sparks, David, you can be a real square sometimes.” Her words were punctuated by another series of explosions, larger this time. My tree shook from the shock waves.

I didn’t need my scope to see the smoke rising from my right, along the castle’s flank. Soon after the blast, a group of basketball-sized drones—sleek and metallic, with propellers on top—popped from windows and flew toward the smoke. Larger machines rolled out of shadowed alcoves; spindly and about as tall as a person, each had a gun arm on the top and moved on tracks instead of wheels.

I followed these with my scope as they started firing into the woods where Mizzy had planted flares in buckets to give off heat signatures. Remotely firing machine guns enhanced the illusion that a large squad of soldiers was out there hiding. We kept all the shots aimed high. We didn’t want Abraham in the crossfire when it was his turn to move.

The Knighthawk defense played out exactly as we’d been shown on the video from our informant. Nobody had ever successfully breached the place, but many had tried. One group, a reckless paramilitary force out of Nashville, had taken videos, and we’d managed to get copies. Best we could guess, most of the time all of those drones were inside patrolling the hallways. Now, however, they were out fighting.

Hopefully that would give us an opening.

“All right, Abraham,” I said into the line, “your turn. I’ll cover.”

“And off I go,” Abraham said softly. The careful, dark-skinned man rode a thin cable down from his tree, then slipped silently across the forest floor. Though he was thick of arm and neck, Abraham moved with surprising nimbleness as he reached the wall, which was still shadowed in the early-morning light. His tight infiltration outfit would mask his heat signature, at least as long as the heat sinks on his belt were functional.

His job was to sneak into the Foundry, steal whatever weapons or technology he could find, and get out in under fifteen minutes. We had basic maps from our informant claiming that the labs and factories on the bottom floor of the castle were stuffed with goodies ripe for the plucking.

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