Home > Calamity (Reckoners #3)(7)

Calamity (Reckoners #3)(7)
Brandon Sanderson

Then, without warning, the ceiling caved in. Huge chunks of metal fell around us, and the tunnel shook as if in a blast. I knew enough by now though to recognize something off about the explosion. Perhaps the steel chunks didn’t scrape as loudly as they should have, or perhaps it was the way the corridor shook. Or perhaps it was how those steel chunks fell directly in front of us, blocking the drones—which started firing, but missed hitting both Megan and me with any debris.

This was another dimensional illusion, though it was still violent enough to knock me from my feet. I hit with a grunt, trying to roll to my side to protect my wounded leg. The room spun, and for a moment I felt like a grasshopper stapled to a Frisbee.

When my vision wobbled back to a semblance of stability, I found myself huddled beside one of the fallen hunks of metal. It felt real to me, for the moment. Here, in the blending of two worlds Megan had created, the “illusion” was real.

My blood, which had soaked through the impromptu bandage, stained the floor like someone had wiped it with a dirty cloth. Megan knelt beside me, her head bowed, her breath coming in hisses.

“Megan?” I asked over the sounds of the firing drones. Sparks…they’d be on us soon, blockade or no blockade.

Megan’s eyes were open wide, and her lips parted, exposing clenched teeth. Sweat trickled down her temples.

Whatever she’d been fighting off when using her powers recently, it was coming for her in force.

THIS wasn’t supposed to happen.

We’d found the secret, the way to make Epics immune to the corrupting effects of their powers: if you faced your deepest fears, it caused the darkness to retreat.

It was supposed to be over; Megan had run into a burning building to save me, facing her fears head-on. She should have been free. And yet there was no denying the frantic cast to her expression—her clenched teeth, her tense brow. She turned toward me, not blinking. “I can feel him, David,” she whispered. “He’s trying to get in.”

“Who?”

She didn’t answer, but I knew who she meant. Calamity. Calamity, the red spot in the sky, the new star that had heralded the arrival of the Epics…was itself an Epic. I somehow knew Calamity was supremely angry that in learning that Epics’ fears were connected to their weaknesses, we’d figured out how to overcome its influence on Megan.

The gunfire of the drones stopped.

“That cave-in is an illusion of some sort, isn’t it?” the voice from before called, echoing in the corridor. “Which Epic did you kill to gain this technology? Who told you how to build the motivators?”

At least he was talking instead of shooting.

“Megan,” I said, taking her arm. “Megan, look at me.”

She focused on me, and that seemed to help, though the wildness was still there in her eyes. I was tempted to step back and let her unleash it. Maybe that would save us.

But it would doom her. When Prof had succumbed to the darkness brought by his powers, he’d killed friends without so much as flinching. That man, who had spent his life defending others, was now entirely subject to his powers.

I wouldn’t have the same happen to Megan. I reached to my thigh pocket and—wincing as I shifted my wounded leg—pulled out my lighter. I held it up before Megan and flicked on the flame.

She shied back briefly, then hissed and seized the flame in her fist, burning her hand. The fallen metal chunks we’d been using as cover wavered, then faded out of existence. The ceiling repaired itself. Fire was still Megan’s weakness—and even having faced her fears, the weakness negated her powers. And probably always would.

Fortunately, so long as she remained willing to face that weakness, she could apparently drive the darkness away. The tension left her, and she sank to the ground with a sigh. “Great,” she muttered. “Now my head and my hand hurt.”

I smiled wanly and slid my gun away across the ground, then did the same with Megan’s. I raised my hands as the drones surrounded us. Most of them were the tracks-and-assault-rifle type, though there were also a few that flew. I was in luck—they held their fire.

One of the machines rolled closer. It had raised a small screen from its base, which projected a backlit shadowy figure. “That image was of Firefight, from Newcago, right? It fooled my sensors completely,” the voice said. “No ordinary illusion could have done that. What technology are you using?”

“I’ll tell you,” Megan said. “Just don’t shoot. Please.” She stood up, and as she did so, she kicked something backward with her heel.

Her headset. Still lying on my side, I caught it under my hand and rolled onto it, masking the motion by holding my bleeding leg. I didn’t think any drones spotted what we’d done.

“Well?” the voice said. “I’m waiting.”

“Dimensional shadows,” Megan said. “They aren’t illusions, but ripples from another state of reality.” She’d stood to face the robot army, putting herself between the robots and me. Most focused their weapons on her—and if they killed her, she’d reincarnate.

I appreciated her protective gesture, but sparks, reincarnating could do unpredictable things to her—particularly with how her powers had been acting lately. She hadn’t died since we were in Babilar, and I hoped to keep it that way.

I needed to do something. I curled up, still holding my leg. The pain was real. I could only hope the way I trembled and bled would make the drones dismiss me as I laid my head on the headset and covertly whispered into the microphone.

“Mizzy? You there? Cody? Abraham?”

No reply came.

“Impossible,” the man said to Megan. “I’ve tried numerous times to capture that type of power in a motivator, and I doubt anyone has the knowledge to do what I could not. Dimensional rifting is too complex, too strong to…”

I glanced up at Megan, who stood tall and proud before the arrayed army, even though I knew her head must be splitting with pain. She’d spoken earlier in humility, as if beaten—but her posture told another story. Of a refusal to back down, to bend a knee, or to bow to anyone or anything.

“You’re an Epic, aren’t you?” the voice said, tone growing hard. “There is no technology, no motivator. Jonathan is recruiting, then? Now that he’s turned?”

I couldn’t stifle my gasp. How did he know about Prof? I wanted to demand answers, but I was in no position to do so. I rested my head against the floor, suddenly drowsy. Sparks. How much blood had I lost?

As my head touched the headset, it crackled and Mizzy’s voice cut in. “Megan? Sparks, talk to me! Are you—”

“I’m here, Mizzy,” I whispered.

“David? Finally! Look, I’ve placed charges to collapse the tunnel. Can you get out that way? I can blow it after you pass.”

Charges. I glanced at the drones surrounding us.

Megan’s illusions…

“Do it now, Mizzy,” I whispered.

“You sure?”

“Yes.”

Then I braced myself.

The explosion blew above, and it somehow seemed louder because I’d been expecting it. The chunks of metal fell exactly where they had before, slamming to the ground inches from where I crouched—but I was left unharmed, as was Megan.

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