Home > Calamity (Reckoners #3)(4)

Calamity (Reckoners #3)(4)
Brandon Sanderson

I knelt, touching the rag on the floor. That it was still wet might imply someone had been working in here overnight, and had been interrupted by our attack.

“Anything you can swipe?” Mizzy asked.

“Not unless you want to stitch yourself up a new boyfriend.”

“Ew. Look, just see what you can grab and get out. We’re already over time.”

“Right,” I said, opening another cabinet. Surgical utensils. “I’ll hurry. It— Wait a sec.”

I froze, listening. Had I heard something?

Yes, a kind of rattling. I tried not to imagine a corpse rising out of one of those tubs. The sound had come from near the door I’d entered through, and a tiny light flicked on suddenly near the floor in the same area.

I frowned, inching toward it. It was a small drone, flat and round, with whirring brushes along its bottom. It had come in through a little flap near the door—kind of like a cat door—and was buffing the floor.

I relaxed. “Only a cleaning bot,” I said over the line.

The bot immediately went silent. Mizzy started to reply, but I lost the words as the little cleaning bot reengaged and zipped back toward its door. Throwing myself to the ground, I stretched out a hand and barely managed to grab the little drone before it could scoot out through the small hinged flap.

“David?” Mizzy asked, anxious. “What was that?”

“Me being an idiot,” I said with a wince. I’d knocked my elbow on the ground as I dove. “The bot recognized something was wrong and made a break for it. I caught it before it got out though. It might have warned someone.”

“Might anyway,” Mizzy said. “It could have a link to the place’s security.”

“I’ll be quick,” I said, climbing to my feet. I set the cleaning bot upside down on a shelf near a rack of blood pouches hanging in a small cooler with a glass door. Several more were lying out in the open on the counter. Ick.

“Maybe some of these body parts are from Epics,” I said. “I could take them, and we’d have DNA samples. Could we use those?”

“How?”

“I dunno,” I said. “Make weapons out of them somehow?”

“Yeaaaah,” Mizzy said skeptically, “I’ll staple a foot to the front of my gun and hope it shoots lasers now or something.”

I blushed in the darkness, but I didn’t see the need for the ribbing. If I stole some valuable DNA, we could trade it for supplies, right? Though admittedly, these body parts probably wouldn’t do. The important parts of Epic DNA degraded quickly, so I’d need to find frozen tissue if I wanted something I could sell.

Freezers. Where would I find freezers? I checked one of the tubs, lifting the glass lid, but the water inside was chilly, not frozen. I let the top back down, scanning the room. There was a door at the rear, opposite the one that led out to the hallway.

“You know,” I said to Mizzy as I walked toward the door, “this place is exactly like I’d expect it to be.”

“You expected a room full of body parts?”

“Yeah, kinda,” I said. “I mean, crazy scientists making weapons from dead Epics? Why wouldn’t they have a room full of body parts?”

“Not sure what you’re driving at with this, David. Other than creeping me out.”

“Just a sec.” I reached the door, which was locked.

It took a few kicks, but I got it open. I wasn’t too worried about the noise—if someone nearby was listening, they’d already have heard me struggling with the little drone. The door swung back, revealing a dark corridor, smaller than the hallway outside and completely unlit. I listened, heard nothing, and decided to see where it went.

“Anyway,” I continued, “it makes me wonder. How do they make weapons out of Epics?”

“Dunno,” Mizzy said. “I can fix the stuff once we get it, but motivators are out of my league.”

“When an Epic dies, their cells immediately start to break down,” I said. “Everyone knows that part.”

“Everyone who is a nerd.”

“I’m not a—”

“It’s okay, dude,” Mizzy said. “Embrace your nature! Be yourself and stuff. We’re all basically nerds, only about different things. Except Cody. I think he’s a geek or something…can’t remember my terminology. Something about eating chicken heads?”

I sighed. “When an Epic dies, if you’re fast enough, you can take a sample of their cells. The mitochondria are supposed to be important. You freeze those cells, and you can sell them on the black market. Somehow, that becomes technology. Problem is, Obliteration let Regalia perform surgery on him. I saw the scars. They made a bomb using his powers.”

“So…”

“So why surgery?” I said. “He could have just given a blood sample, right? Why did Regalia call in some fancy surgeon?”

Mizzy went silent. “Huh,” she finally said.

“Yeah.” Honestly, I’d assumed that an Epic had to be dead to make technology from their powers. Regalia and Obliteration proved me wrong. But if you could create technology from living Epics, why hadn’t Steelheart made a legion of invincible soldiers? Maybe he was too paranoid for that, but surely he would have created hundreds of versions of Edmund, the Epic who powered his city.

I reached a corner in the dark hallway. Using the infrared on my scope, I peeked around it and scanned for danger. The night vision revealed a small room filled with several large freezer chests. I didn’t see any distinctive heat sources, though the timer on my scope’s overlay warned me I should turn back. Except if I left, and Abraham didn’t get anything either, we’d be ruined. I needed to find something.

I crouched there, worried I was running out of time—but also bothered by what I’d seen. Beyond the question of making motivators from living Epics, there was another problem with all of this. When people talked about Epic-derived technology, they implied that all the devices came from a similar process. But how could that be? Weapons were so different from the dowser, which let us detect who was an Epic. Both seemed hugely different from the spyril, the piece of Epic-derived technology that had let me fly on streams of water.

I was no nerd, but I knew enough to realize that these technologies were all in very different disciplines. You didn’t call a gerbil doctor to work on a horse—yet when it came to Epic technology, it seemed that one expertise was enough to create a variety of items.

I admitted the truth to myself: these questions were the real reason we were here at Knighthawk. Prof had kept secrets, even before succumbing to his powers. It felt like nobody had been straight with me about any of this, ever.

I wanted answers. They were probably here somewhere. Maybe I’d find them behind that group of robotic war drones that were extending their gun arms from behind the freezers in front of me.

Oh.

THE drones’ floodlights turned on as one, blinding me, and they opened fire. Fortunately I’d spotted them in time, and was able to pull back around the corner before any shots hit me.

I turned and took off at a run, retreating down the corridor. Gunfire drowned out Mizzy’s voice in my ear as the robot drones chased me. Each had a square bottom with multidirectional wheels, and a spindly body topped with an assault rifle. They’d be perfect for maneuvering around furniture and through hallways, but sparks, it felt humiliating to be running from them. They looked more like coatracks than machines of war.

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