Home > Calamity (Reckoners #3)(8)

Calamity (Reckoners #3)(8)
Brandon Sanderson

The robots, on the other hand, acted like a bunch of youthful dreams and got thoroughly crushed.

Megan was at my side in an instant, handgun pulled from her thigh holster, firing at the remaining drones. I managed to pull the knife out of my calf sheath and I held it up, drawing a glance from Megan that said, “Seriously?”

“At least it’s not a stupid samurai sword,” I muttered, putting my back to the debris. As the falling dust cleared, Megan picked off one final drone, sending it spinning to the ground.

I pushed myself to my feet—well, foot—and hobbled along the wreckage of the tunnel toward my gun.

“Where did that come from?” Megan asked, gesturing toward the broken ceiling. Mizzy’s charges hadn’t completely collapsed the tunnel—in fact, so far as I could tell, the fallen wreckage was identical to the illusory debris that Megan had created.

“Mizzy said she could blow the place after our escape.”

“And you had her drop it on top of us instead?” Megan said, fetching my gun and handing it to me, then grabbing her rifle.

“I was thinking, your illusions pull from alternate realities, right? And the closer the reality is to ours, the easier it is to pull? You were really tired—”

“Still am.”

“—and I figured you used a reality very like our own. Explosion from above. Mizzy had placed charges. So I guessed it would happen the same way.”

Megan got under my arm again and helped me limp around the wreckage. She shot a drone that was trying to extricate itself from some fallen stone. “That might not have worked,” she said softly. “Things don’t always turn out like they do in the other realities. You could have crushed yourself, David.”

“Well, I didn’t,” I said, “so for now we’re safe….”

I trailed off as sounds echoed up the corridor, coming from far behind us. Metallic sounds. The whirring of copters. Treads on metal.

Megan looked at me, then at the exit to the forest ahead, still a hundred feet away.

“Let’s hurry,” I said, hobbling forward.

Instead, Megan took my arm from around her shoulders and placed it against the wall so I could hold myself up. “You’re going to need some time to extract,” she said.

“So we should hurry.”

Megan shouldered her rifle, then faced back down the corridor.

“Megan!”

“That spot beside the rubble is defensible,” she said. “I can hold them off for a good long while. Get going.”

“But—”

“David, please. Just go.”

I took her by the shoulder, then pulled her to me and kissed her. That twisted my leg, causing pain to flare up my side, but whatever. A kiss from Megan was worth it.

I released her. And then I left, as she had said.

I felt cowardly, but part of being in a team was about recognizing when someone else could do a job better than you. And part of being a man was learning to let your immortal girlfriend take a turn being the heroic one.

I’d be back for her though, dead or not. And soon. No way was I going to leave her body to end up like those in the tubs I’d found. I stumbled up the slope, trying not to dwell on what might happen to Megan. She’d have to shoot herself once the drones overwhelmed her, as she couldn’t risk getting captured.

Behind me, Megan started firing, the rifle shots echoing in the steel hallway. The drones scuttled and clacked. Automatic weapons fire followed.

I had almost reached the exit, but I saw shadows in the sunlight outside. I was getting sick of drones. I winced as I pulled out my handgun. Fortunately, the shadows resolved into a stout black man in tight, dark clothing, night-vision goggles on his brow and a very, very large gun in his hands. Abraham cursed as he saw me, voice softly laced with his French accent.

“How are you?” he said, hurrying down the short slope. “And Megan?”

“She’s covering our escape,” I said. “She wants us to go without her.”

He met my eyes, then nodded, turning to walk with me the last couple of feet. “Drones outside pulled back into the complex once you were spotted,” he said. “Everyone else is at the jeeps.”

We had a chance then.

“She is an Epic.”

I jumped, looking around. It was that voice from before. Had a drone found us?

No. A panel on the wall had turned into a display. The same shadowed figure as before was on-screen, facing us.

“David?” Abraham said, standing in the sunlight of the open roof of the exit. “Let’s go.”

“She is an Epic,” I said instead, facing the screen. That figure…was it familiar?

A light suddenly switched on, banishing the shadows and revealing a stocky older man with a round head, bald save for some wisps of white hair that stuck up almost like a crown. I had seen him before. One time. In a picture of Prof’s, taken years ago.

“I have seen something unbelievable today,” the man said, “and it leaves me curious. You’re the one they call Steelslayer, aren’t you. Yes…the kid from Newcago. Don’t you kill Epics?”

“Just the ones that deserve it,” I replied.

“And Jonathan Phaedrus?”

“Jonathan Phaedrus is gone,” Abraham said softly. “Only the Epic Limelight remains. We will do what needs to be done.”

I didn’t say anything. It wasn’t that I disagreed with Abraham, but saying the words was hard for me.

The man studied us. Suddenly, the gunfire behind us fell silent. “I have recalled my machines. We need to talk.”

In reply, I fainted.

“WE wouldn’t have had this problem if you’d been willing to deal with us.”

Megan’s voice. Mmm…I lay in darkness, enjoying that sound, and was annoyed when the next speaker wasn’t her.

“What was I supposed to do?” It was the voice of that man, the one from Knighthawk. “First I get word that Phaedrus has turned, then you immediately contact me and demand weapons? I wanted nothing to do with it.”

“You could have guessed that we would resist him,” Abraham said. “The Reckoners would not simply join with a tyrant because he was once our leader.”

“You’re missing my point,” the man said. “I didn’t turn you away because I thought you were working with him; I turned you away because I’m not a sparking idiot. Phaedrus knows too much about me. I’m not going to cross him or sell to him. I wanted nothing to do with you people.”

“Then why did you invite us in here?” Megan demanded.

I groaned, forcing my eyes open. My leg ached, but it didn’t hurt like I expected it to. When I shifted it, I felt only a superficial pain. But sparks. I was exhausted.

I blinked, my eyes struggling to focus, and a moment later Megan’s head appeared above me, golden hair hanging down around her face. “David?” she asked. “How do you feel?”

“Like a piece of bread at a rock party.”

She relaxed visibly and turned around. “He’s all right.”

“A piece of what?” the Knighthawk man’s voice asked.

“Piece of bread,” I said, sitting up with difficulty. “At a rock party. You know, because nobody wants bread at a rock party. They’ve come to see the cool rocks. So they toss the bread on the floor and it gets stomped on.”

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