Home > Calamity (Reckoners #3)(10)

Calamity (Reckoners #3)(10)
Brandon Sanderson

“I hadn’t realized,” she said dryly. “What are you getting at?”

“You were going to sacrifice yourself,” Knighthawk said. “You stayed behind so the others could escape.”

“Yeah?” Megan said. “It’s not a big deal. I can survive a lot of things.”

“Ah…so a High Epic?” Knighthawk said, his mannequin sitting up straighter. “I might have guessed as much.”

Megan drew her lips to a line.

“Get to the point, Knighthawk,” I said.

“The point is this,” he replied, his mannequin waving to us. “This conversation. Such an explosive use of that woman’s powers should have driven her to isolation, rage, and a supreme annoyance at anyone near to her. Jonathan is one of the few Epics I know who could control the darkness—and following the use of his powers, he would often stay away from people for days before he was under control again. Yet this young lady used her powers but wasn’t consumed by darkness at all—as proven by the fact that she subsequently selflessly risked her life for her team.”

The mannequin leaned forward.

“So,” Knighthawk continued, “what’s the secret?”

I looked toward Abraham, who shrugged almost imperceptibly. He didn’t know if we should share the information or not. So far, we had been careful about when, and with whom, we talked about how to drive back the darkness in Epics. With this knowledge, we could accidentally tip the power structure in the Fractured States—as the secret of overcoming the darkness also gave away the secret to discovering Epic weaknesses.

I had half a mind to broadcast these things far and wide. If the Epics discovered one another’s weaknesses, maybe they’d kill each other off. Unfortunately, the truth would probably be more brutal. Power would shift, and some Epics would rise while others fell. We might end up with one group of Epics ruling the entire continent, and be forced to deal with an organized, powerful regime instead of a network of city-states fighting one another and remaining weak because of it.

We’d want to let this knowledge out sooner or later—spread it to the lorists of the world and see if they could start turning Epics from the darkness. But first we needed to test what we’d discovered and find out if we could even make it work on other Epics.

I had big plans, plans to change the world, and they all started with one trap. One important hit, perhaps the hardest ever pulled by the Reckoners.

“I’ll tell you the secret to turning Epics away from their madness, Knighthawk,” I decided, “but I want you to promise to keep it quiet for now. And I want you to equip us. Give us what we need.”

“You’re going to bring him down, aren’t you?” Knighthawk said. “Jonathan Phaedrus. Limelight, as they call him now. You’re going to kill Prof.”

“No,” I said softly, meeting his eyes. “We’re going to do something far, far more difficult. We’re going to bring him back.”

KNIGHTHAWK had the mannequin carry him.

I got a better look at the thing, walking beside it. It wasn’t your average, everyday store mannequin. It had articulated wooden fingers and a more solid body than I had expected. It was really more of a large marionette, only without the strings.

And it was strong. It carried Knighthawk with ease, sliding its arms through straps in some kind of harness Knighthawk wore. The whole arrangement made the mannequin look like it was hugging him from behind, its arms across his stomach and chest, with Knighthawk remaining upright and strapped in place, his feet dangling a few inches off the ground.

It didn’t look comfortable or normal. Still, Knighthawk chatted conversationally while we walked, as if it were perfectly natural for a quadriplegic to be carted around by a tall wooden golem.

“So that’s basically it,” I said to him as we made our way down the nondescript corridor, heading toward Knighthawk’s armory. “The weaknesses are tied to fears. If an Epic confronts the fear, banishes it, then they can drive back the darkness.”

“Mostly,” Megan said from behind us. Abraham had gone up above to fetch Mizzy and Cody, as we’d decided that—one way or another—we were going to have to trust Knighthawk. We didn’t have any other option.

Knighthawk grunted. “Fear. Seems so simple.”

“Yes and no,” I said. “I don’t think a lot of Epics, consumed by their powers, like to think about being weak. They don’t confront these things; that’s basically the problem.”

“I still wonder why no one else has made the connection,” Knighthawk said, sounding skeptical.

“We’ve made it,” Megan said softly. “Every Epic thinks about this, I guarantee it. It’s just that we think about it all the wrong way—we connect fears and our weakness, but we connect them in reverse of the truth.

“It’s the nightmares. They’re maddening. They drive you from your bed, gasping, sweating, and smelling blood. The nightmares are about your weakness. The loss of power, the return to mortality, the return to being crassly common, so a simple accident could end you. It makes sense that we’d be afraid of the thing that could kill us, so the nightmares seem normal in a way. But we never realized that weaknesses grew out of our fears—the fears came first, and then the weaknesses. Not the other way around.”

Knighthawk and I both stopped in the hallway, looking back at her. Megan met our gaze, defiant as ever, but I could see the cracks. Sparks…the things this woman had been forced to live with. What we’d discovered was helping her, but in some ways it was also prying those cracks wider. Exposing things inside her that she’d worked hard to cover up.

She’d done terrible things in the past, serving Steelheart. We didn’t talk about it. She’d escaped that by being forced to not use her powers while infiltrating the Reckoners.

“We can do this, Knighthawk,” I said. “We can discover Prof’s weakness, then use it against him. Only instead of killing him, we’ll lay a trap that makes him confront his fears. We’ll bring him back and prove that there’s another solution to the Epic problem.”

“It won’t work,” Knighthawk said. “He knows you, and he knows Reckoner protocol. Calamity—he wrote Reckoner protocol. He’ll be ready for you.”

“See, that’s the thing,” I said. “He knows us, yes. But we also know him. We’ll be able to figure out his weakness far more easily than with other Epics. And beyond that, we know something important.”

“Which is?” he demanded.

“Deep down,” I said, “Prof wants us to win. He’ll be ready to die, so he’ll be surprised when what we actually do is save him.”

Knighthawk regarded me. “You have a strangely persuasive way about you, young man.”

“You have no idea,” Megan muttered.

“We’re going to need technology to beat him though,” I said. “So I’m eager to see what you have.”

“Well, I’ve got a few things I could lend you,” Knighthawk said, starting down the corridor again. “But contrary to what people assume, this place isn’t some kind of massive repository for hidden technology. Pretty much every time I get something working, I immediately sell it. All those drones aren’t cheap, you know. I have to order them out of Germany, and they’re a pain to unpack. Speaking of which, I’m going to bill you for the ones you destroyed.”

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