Home > Calamity (Reckoners #3)(2)

Calamity (Reckoners #3)(2)
Brandon Sanderson

I watched Abraham nervously through my scope—pulling the aim point to the right so an accidental discharge wouldn’t hit him—to make sure no drones spotted him.

They didn’t. He used a retractable line to get to the top of the short wall, then another to reach the castle’s roof. He hid beside one of the crenellations while he prepared his next step.

“There’s an opening to your right, Abraham,” I said into the line. “One of the drones popped out of a hole beneath the window on that tower.”

“Groovy,” Abraham said, though the word sounded particularly odd coming from him, with his smooth French accent.

“Please tell me that’s not a real word,” I said, then raised my gun to follow him along as he made for the opening.

“Why wouldn’t it be?” Mizzy asked.

“It just sounds weird.”

“And things we say today don’t? ‘Sparks’? ‘Slontze’?”

“Those are normal,” I said. “Not weird at all.” A flying drone passed by, but fortunately my suit was masking my heat signature. That was good, since the wetsuitlike clothing was pretty darn uncomfortable. Though mine wasn’t as bad as Abraham’s; his had a face mask and everything. To a drone I’d have a tiny heat signature, like a squirrel or something. A secretly very, very deadly squirrel.

Abraham reached the alcove I’d pointed out. Sparks, that man was good at sneaking. In the moment since I’d looked away, I’d lost him, and had trouble locating him again. He had to have some kind of special forces training.

“There’s a door in here, unfortunately,” Abraham said from his alcove. “It must close after the machines exit. I will try to hot-wire my way in.”

“Great,” I said. “Megan, you good?”

“Alive,” she said, puffing. “For now.”

“How many drones can you see?” I asked. “Have they rolled out the larger ones on you yet? Can—”

“Little busy, Knees,” she snapped.

I settled back, anxiously listening to the gunfire and explosions. I wanted to be out there in the mess, firing and fighting, but that wouldn’t make sense. I wasn’t stealthy like Abraham or…well, immortal like Megan. Having an Epic such as her on the team was certainly an advantage. They could handle this. My job as leader was to hang back and make judgment calls.

It sucked.

Was this how Prof had felt during missions he supervised? He had usually waited it out, leading from behind the scenes. I hadn’t realized how tough that would be. Well, if there was one thing I’d learned in Babilar, it was that I needed to rein in my hotheadedness. I needed to be like…half a hothead instead. A hot chin?

So I waited as Abraham worked. If he couldn’t get in soon, I’d have to call off the mission. The longer this took, the greater the chances that the mysterious people who ran the Foundry would discover that our “army” was only five people.

“Status, Abraham?” I said.

“I think I can get this open,” he said. “Just a little longer.”

“I don’t…” I trailed off. “Wait a sec, what was that?”

A low rumbling was coming from nearby. I scanned below me and was surprised to see the mulchy forest floor buckling. Leaves and moss folded back, revealing a metal doorway. Another group of drones flew out of it, zipping past my tree.

“Mizzy,” I hissed into my headset. “Other drones are trying to flank your position.”

“Bummer,” Mizzy said. She hesitated a moment. “Do you—”

“Yes, I know that word. You might need to institute the next phase.” I glanced down at the opening, which was rumbling closed. “Be prepared; it looks like the Foundry has tunnels leading out to the forest. They’ll be able to deploy drones from unexpected positions.”

The door below stopped, half shut. I frowned, leaning down to get a better look. It appeared that some dirt and rocks had fallen into one of the door’s gears. Guess that was the problem with hiding your entrance in the middle of a forest.

“Abraham,” I said into my headset, excited, “the opening out here jammed open. You could get in this way.”

“I think that might be difficult,” he said, and I looked back up to note that a couple of drones had retreated after a barrage of explosions from Mizzy’s side. They hovered near Abraham’s position.

“Sparks,” I whispered, then raised my rifle and picked the two machines off with a pair of shots. They fell; we’d come prepared with bullets that fried electronics when they hit. I didn’t know how they worked, but they’d cost basically everything we could scrounge up in trade, including the copter that Cody and Abraham had escaped Newcago in. It was too conspicuous anyway.

“Thanks for the assist,” Abraham said as the drones dropped.

Beneath me, the gears on the opening scraped against one another, trying to force their way closed. The door moved another inch.

“This entrance is going to close any second,” I said. “Get here fast.”

“Stealthy is not fast, David,” Abraham said.

I glanced at that opening. Newcago was lost to us; Prof had already attacked and ransacked all of our safehouses there. We’d barely gotten Edmund—another of our Epic allies—out to a safe hiding spot.

The people of Newcago were terrified. Babilar was little better: few resources to be had, and old minions of Regalia’s were keeping an eye on the place, serving Prof now.

If this robbery went bust, we’d be broke. We’d have to set up somewhere off the map and try to rebuild over the next year, which would leave Prof with free rein to rampage. I wasn’t sure what he was up to, why he’d left Babilar so quickly, but it bespoke some kind of plot or plan. Jonathan Phaedrus, now consumed by his powers, wouldn’t be content to sit in a city and rule. He had ambitions.

He could be the most dangerous Epic this world had ever known. My stomach twisted at that thought. I couldn’t justify any more delays.

“Cody,” I said. “Can you see and cover Abraham?”

“Just a sec,” he said. “Yeah, I got ’im.”

“Good,” I said. “Because I’m going in. You have ops.”

I slid down my rope and hit the forest floor, crunching dried leaves. Ahead of me, the door to the hole finally started moving again. With a yelp, I dashed toward the opening in the ground and jumped in, skidding a short distance down a shallow ramp as the door closed with a final grinding sound behind me.

I was in. Also, likely trapped.

So…yay?

Faint emergency lights running along the walls revealed a sloping tunnel that was rounded at the top like a giant’s throat. The incline wasn’t very steep, so I climbed to my feet and started inching down the slope, gun at my shoulder. I switched my radio, carried at my hip, to a different frequency—protocol for whoever made it into the Foundry, to let me focus. The others would know how to reach me.

The dimness made me want to flip on my mobile, which could double as a flashlight, but I restrained myself. Who knew what kind of backdoors the Knighthawk Foundry might have built into the things? In fact, who knew what the phones were truly capable of? They had to be some kind of Epic-derived technology. Phones that worked under any circumstances with signals that couldn’t be intercepted? I’d grown up in a pit underneath Newcago, but even I realized how fantastical that was.

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