Home > Calamity (Reckoners #3)(6)

Calamity (Reckoners #3)(6)
Brandon Sanderson

“Who are you?” I asked.

“The man you’re trying to rob. How did you divert my drones?”

I bit my lip, trying to judge the response time of that gun as I inched to the side and watched it follow me. Sparks. The tracking apparatus was excellent; the gun stayed right on me. The robot’s speakers even made a little cocking noise by way of warning, and I froze in place.

But did it have full range of movement? Maybe not…

“So this is what has become of the mighty Jonathan Phaedrus,” the voice said. “Sending a hit team in to try to steal from me.”

Phaedrus? Of course. The Knighthawk Foundry worker thought we were still with Prof. We hadn’t exactly trumpeted it out that he’d fallen to his powers; most people didn’t even know he was an Epic in the first place.

“We only had to come,” I said, “because you refused to trade with us.”

“Yes, very honorable of you. ‘Trade us what we want, or we’ll take it by force.’ I expected more of one of Jonathan’s special teams. You barely…” The voice trailed off, then continued, fainter. “What do you mean there’s another one? They stole what? How did they even know where those were, dammit?”

Something muffled responded. I tried to step away, but the drone made the cocking sound again, this time louder.

“You,” the voice said, turning his attention back to me. “Call your friends. Tell them to return what the other man stole, or I will kill you. You have three seconds.”

“Uh…”

“Two seconds.”

“Guys!”

The wall to my right melted in a burst of heat, revealing a shadowy form beyond.

I dove and—against my instincts—rolled toward the robot drone. It got off an initial round at me, but—as I’d hoped—when I got too close, its gun couldn’t angle down far enough to hit me.

That meant I only got shot once.

It hit me in the leg as I was rolling. Not sure how that managed to happen, but sparks, it hurt.

The robot tried to back away, but I seized it, ignoring the searing pain in my leg. Last time I’d been shot, I hadn’t felt it at first, but this time I had trouble fighting through the sheer agony. Still, I managed to keep the robot from firing at me again as I reached up and unlocked the device that held the gun to the machine. It dropped free.

Unfortunately, as I’d been struggling, a good two dozen drones had unclipped from the ceiling—where they’d been disguised as panels—and hovered down on propellers. I hadn’t been nearly as safe in here as I’d assumed, though for now their attention was focused on a figure that stepped through the slag of the wall: a man made entirely of flames, his figure the deep red of molten rock. Firefight had arrived. Too bad he wasn’t real.

I grabbed my wounded thigh and scanned the room for Megan. She was hiding near the corner in the corridor leading back to the laboratory. Firefight wasn’t real, not completely, but neither was he an illusion. He was a shadow from another place, another version of our world. It wasn’t that he had actually come to save me; Megan was just overlaying our world with a ripple from that world, making it seem like he was here.

It fooled the drones—indeed, I could feel the heat coming from the melted wall, and could smell smoke in the air. As the drones frantically started firing, I reached into the open freezer and grabbed a handful of vials. Then I limped across the room, joining Megan, who came to me as soon as she was aware that I’d been hit.

“Slontze,” she said with a grunt, getting under my arm and hauling me toward cover, then shoved the vials I’d taken into her pocket. “I leave you alone for five minutes, and you go and get shot.”

“At least I got you a present,” I said, pushing my back against the wall inside the curve as she quickly bound my wound.

“Present? The vials?”

“I got you a new gun,” I said, gritting my teeth at the pain as she pulled the bandage tight.

“You mean the FAMAS you left on the floor over there?”

“Yup.”

“You realize that every one of the, like, a hundred drones I fought outside had one of those. We could build a fort out of them at this point.”

“Well, once you finish using all those for a fort, you’ll need one for shooting. So you’re welcome! Even comes…” I winced at the pain. “Even comes with its own room full of death robots. And maybe some steaks. Don’t know if he was lying about those or not.”

Behind her, Firefight looked unconcerned, bullets melting before they reached him. It wasn’t as hot as it should have been—it was as if the fire were distant, and we felt a breeze that blew out from it.

We barely understood how her powers worked. Those drones that Firefight melted weren’t actually dead, and that wall hadn’t actually been opened. The other world’s ability to affect this one was fleeting. For a minute, we were all caught in the warping of reality as the two worlds mixed, but in moments it would all fade back to normal.

“I’m fine,” I said. “We’ve got to move.”

Megan said nothing, getting under my arm again. The fact that she gave no reply—and that she’d stopped us in the middle of a fight to look at the wound—told me what I needed to know. I was hit bad, and bleeding a lot.

We shuffled away down the corridor toward the laboratory. As we did, I glanced over my shoulder to make sure no drones were following. None were, but I did catch an unnerving sight: Firefight was looking at me, again. Through the flames of distortion, two black eyes met my own. Megan swore he couldn’t see our world, and yet he raised a hand toward me.

We were soon out of his sight. The loud pops of gunfire chased us as we staggered into the laboratory room with all the organs. We stepped to the side, anxious, as another group of drones scuttled past. They didn’t even glance at us. There was an Epic to fight.

We crossed the room, then moved into the bright hallway outside. I left a real blood trail on the floor.

“What was that place?” Megan said. “Were those hearts in those jars?”

“Yeah,” I said. “Man, my leg hurts….”

“Cody,” Megan said, sounding alarmed, “is Abraham out?…Okay, good. Prime the jeeps, and have the first-aid kit ready. David’s been shot.”

Silence.

“I don’t know how we’re going to do that, Mizzy. Hopefully we can use the distraction like we planned. Be ready.”

I focused on keeping myself moving through the pain. We turned up the tunnel leading to the hidden entrance I’d used to sneak into the place. Behind us, the shooting suddenly stopped.

Bad sign. Firefight had vanished.

“You couldn’t make him follow us?” I asked.

“I need a breather,” she said, eyes forward, jaw set. “This was hard enough in the old days, when I didn’t care what it did to me.”

“You mean—” I said.

“It’s just a headache,” she replied. “Like yesterday, but worse. It’s as if…well, as if something were pounding on my skull, trying to get in. Creating such a large distortion in reality is pushing me to the edge. So let’s hope that—”

She stopped. A group of drones was gathered in the access tunnel before us, blocking our path to the exit into the forest. That exit teased me; it was several hundred feet away, but I could see that it had been blown open by an explosion, letting in filtered sunlight. It was likely how Megan had entered, but with those drones between it and us, the exit might as well have been in Australia.

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