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Authors: Brandon Sanderson

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Legion (6 page)

BOOK: Legion
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“Quiet!” I said to them. I raised my hands to my head. “Quiet!”

Salic frowned at me. Only then did he notice what his soldiers had done to Razon.

He shouted something in Tagalog, or perhaps one of the other Filipino languages—perhaps I should have studied those instead of Hebrew. The soldiers backed away, and Salic knelt to roll over the fallen Razon.

Razon snapped his good hand into Salic’s jacket, reaching for the gun. Salic jumped back, and one of the soldiers cried out. A single quiet
click
followed.

Everyone in the room grew still. One of the soldiers had taken out a handgun with a suppressor on it and shot Razon in a panic. The scientist lay back, dead eyes staring open, Salic’s handgun slipping from his fingers.

“Oh, that poor man,” Kalyani said, moving over to kneel beside him.

At that moment, someone tackled one of the soldiers by the door, pulling him down from behind.

Shouting began immediately. I jumped out of my chair, reaching for the camera. Salic got it first, slamming one hand down on it, then reached toward his gun on the floor.

I cursed, scrambling away, throwing myself behind the stack of crates where Kalyani had taken cover a few moments before. Gunfire erupted in the room, and one of the crates near me threw up chips as a shot hit it.

“It’s Monica!” Ivy said, taking cover beside the desk. “She got out, and she’s attacking them.”

I dared peek around, in time to see one of the Abu Sayyaf suits fall to gunfire, toppling in the center of the room near Razon’s body. The others fired at Monica, who’d taken cover in the stairwell that led down to where we’d been captive.

“Holy hell!” J.C. said, crouching beside me. “She escaped on her own. I think I might have to start liking that woman!”

Salic yelled in Tagalog. He hadn’t come after me, but had taken cover near his guards. He clutched the camera close, and was joined by two other soldiers as they ran down the stairs from above.

This gunfire would draw attention soon, I guessed. Not soon enough. They had Monica pinned. I could barely see her, hiding in her stairwell, trying to find a way to get out and fire on the men with the weapon she’d stolen from the guard she’d tackled. His feet stuck out of the doorway near her.

“Okay, skinny,” J.C. said. “This is your chance. Something has to be done. They’ll get her before help comes, and we lose the camera. It’s hero time.”

“I . . .”

“You could run, Stephen,” Tobias said. “There’s a room right behind us. There will be windows. I’m not saying you should do it; I’m giving you the options.”

Kalyani whimpered, huddled down in the corner. Ivy lay under a table, fingers in her ears, watching the firefight with calculating eyes.

Monica tried to duck out and fire, but bullets tore into the wall beside her, forcing her back. Salic was still yelling something. Several of the soldiers started firing on me, driving me back under cover.

Bullets popped against the wall above me, chips of stone dropping on my head. I breathed in and out. “I can’t do this, J.C.”

“You can,” he said. “Look, they’re carrying grenades. Did you see those on the belts of the soldiers? One will get smart, toss one of those down the stairwell, and Monica’s gone. Dead.”

If I let them keep the camera—that kind of power, in the hands of men like this . . .

Monica yelled.

“She’s hit!” Ivy called.

I scrambled out from behind the crates and ran for the fallen soldier at the center of the room. He’d dropped a handgun. Salic noticed me as I grabbed the weapon and raised it. My hands shook, quivering.

This is never going to work. I can’t do this. It’s impossible.

I’m going to die.

“Don’t worry, kid,” J.C. said, taking my wrist in his own. “I’ve got this.”

He pulled my arm to the side and I fired, barely looking, then he moved the gun in a series of motions, pausing just briefly for me to pull the trigger each time. It was over in moments.

Each of the armed men dropped. The room went completely still. J.C. released my wrist, and my arm fell leaden at my side.

“Did
we
do that?” I asked, looking at the fallen men.

“Damn,” Ivy said, unplugging her ears. “I
knew
there was a reason we kept you around, J.C.”

“Language, Ivy,” he said, grinning.

I dropped the pistol—probably not the smartest thing I’ve ever done, but then again, I wasn’t exactly in my right mind. I hurried to Razon’s side. He had no pulse. I closed his eyes, but left the smile on his lips.

This was what he’d wanted. He’d wanted them to kill him so that he couldn’t be forced to give up his secrets. I sighed. Then, checking a theory, I shoved my hand into his pocket.

Something pricked my fingers, and I brought them out bloodied. “What . . . ?”

I hadn’t expected
that
.

“Leeds?” Monica’s voice said.

I looked up. She was standing in the doorway to the room, holding her shoulder, which was bloodied. “Did
you
do this?”

“J.C. did it,” I said.

“Your hallucination? Shot these men?”

“Yes. No. I . . .” I wasn’t sure. I stood up and walked over to Salic, who had been hit square in the forehead. I leaned down and picked up the camera, then twisted one piece of it, my back to Monica.

“Uh . . . Mister Steve?” Kalyani said, pointing. “I do not think that one is dead. Oh my.”

I looked. One of the guards I’d shot was turning over. He held something in a bloodied hand.

A grenade.

“Out!” I yelled at Monica, grabbing her by the arm as I charged out of the room.

The detonation hit me from behind like a crashing wave.

Exactly one month
later, I sat in my mansion, drinking a cup of lemonade. My back ached, but the shrapnel wounds were healing. It hadn’t been that bad.

Monica did not give the cast on her arm much notice. She held her own cup, seated in the room where I’d first met her.

Her offer today had not been unexpected.

“I’m afraid,” I said, “you’ve come to the wrong person. I must refuse.”

“I see,” Monica said.

“She’s been working on her scowl,” J.C. said appreciatively from where he leaned against the wall. “It’s getting better.”

“If you would
look
at the camera . . .” Monica said.

“When I saw it last, it was in at least sixteen pieces,” I said. “There’s just not anything to work with.”

She narrowed her eyes at me. She still suspected I’d dropped it on purpose as the explosion hit. It didn’t help that Razon’s body had been burned to near unrecognizability in the subsequent explosions and fire that had consumed the building. Any items he’d had on him—secrets that explained how the camera
really
worked—had been destroyed.

“I’ll admit,” I said, leaning forward, “that I’m not terribly sorry to discover you can’t fix the thing. I’m not certain the world is prepared for the information it could provide.”
Or, at least, I’m not certain the world is prepared for people like you controlling that information.

“But—”

“Monica, I don’t know what I could do that your engineers haven’t. We’re simply going to have to accept the fact that this technology died with Razon. If what he did was anything other than a hoax. To be honest, I’m increasingly certain it was one. Razon was tortured beyond what a simple scientist could have endured, yet did not give the terrorists what they wanted. It was because he couldn’t. It was all a sham.”

She sighed and stood up. “You are passing up on greatness, Mister Leeds.”

“My dear,” I said, standing, “you should know by now that I’ve already
had
greatness. I traded it for mediocrity and some measure of sanity.”

“You should ask for a refund,” she said. “Because I’m not certain I have found either in you.” She took something from her pocket and dropped it on the table. A large envelope.

“And this is?” I asked, taking it.

“We found film in the camera,” she said. “Only one image was recoverable.”

I hesitated, then slipped the picture out. It was in black and white, like the others. It depicted a man, bearded and robed, sitting—though on what, I couldn’t see. His face was striking. Not because of its shape, but because it was looking
directly
at the camera. A camera that wouldn’t be there for two thousand years.

“We think it comes from the Triumphal Entry,” she said. “The background, at least, looks to be the Beautiful Gate. It’s hard to tell.”

“My God,” Ivy whispered, stepping up beside me.

Those eyes . . . I stared at the photo. Those
eyes
.

“Hey, I thought we weren’t supposed to swear around you,” J.C. called to Ivy.

“It wasn’t a curse,” she said, resting her fingers reverently on the photo. “It was an identification.”

“It’s meaningless, unfortunately,” Monica said. “There’s no way to prove who that is. Even if we could, it wouldn’t do anything toward proving or disproving Christianity. This was before the man was killed. Of all the shots for Razon to get . . .” She shook her head.

“It doesn’t change my mind,” I said, slipping the photo back into the envelope.

“I didn’t think it would,” Monica said. “Consider it as payment.”

“I didn’t end up accomplishing much for you.”

“Nor we for you,” she said, walking from the room. “Good evening, Mister Leeds.”

I rubbed my finger on the envelope, listening as Wilson showed Monica to the door, then shut it. I left Ivy and J.C. having a conversation about his cursing, then walked into the entryway and up the stairs. I wound around them, hand on the banister, before reaching the upper hallway.

My study was at the end. The room was lit by a single lamp on the desk, the shades drawn against the night. I walked to my desk and sat down. Tobias sat in one of the two other chairs beside it.

I picked up a book—the last in what had been a huge stack—and began leafing through. The picture of Sandra, the one recovered from the train station, hung tacked to the wall beside me.

“Have they figured it out?” Tobias asked.

“No,” I said. “Have you?”

“It was never the camera, was it?”

I smiled, turning a page. “I searched his pockets right after he died. Something cut my fingers. Broken glass.”

Tobias frowned. Then, after a moment’s thought, he smiled. “Shattered lightbulbs?”

I nodded. “It wasn’t the camera, it was the
flash
. When Razon took pictures at the church, he used the flash even outside in the sunlight. Even when his subject was well lit, even when he was trying to capture something that happened during the day, such as Jesus’ appearance outside the tomb following his resurrection. That’s a mistake a good photographer wouldn’t make. And he was a good photographer, judging by the pictures hung in his apartment. He had a good eye for lighting.”

I turned a page, then reached into my pocket and took something out, setting it on the table. A detachable flash, the one I’d taken off the camera just before the explosion. “I’m not sure if it’s something about the flash mechanism or the bulbs, but I do know he was swapping out the bulbs in order to stop the thing from working when he didn’t want it to.”

“Beautiful,” Tobias said.

“We’ll see,” I replied. “This flash doesn’t work; I’ve tried. I don’t know what’s wrong with it. You know how the cameras would work for Monica’s people for a while? Well, many camera flashes have multiple bulbs like this one. I suspect that only one of these had anything to do with the temporal effects. The special bulbs burned out quickly, after maybe ten shots.”

I turned a few pages.

“You’re changing, Stephen,” Tobias finally said. “You noticed this without Ivy. Without any of us. How long before you don’t need us any longer?”

“I hope that never happens,” I said. “I don’t want to be that man.”

“And yet you chase
her
.”

“And yet I do,” I whispered.

One step closer. I knew what train Sandra had taken. A ticket peeked out of her coat pocket. I could make out the numbers, just barely.

She’d gone to New York. For ten years, I’d been hunting this answer—which was only a tiny fraction of a much larger hunt. The trail was a decade old, but it was
something
.

For the first time in years, I was making progress. I closed the book and sat back, looking up at Sandra’s picture. She was beautiful. So very beautiful.

Something rustled in the dark room. Neither Tobias nor I stirred as a short, balding man sat down at the desk’s empty chair. “My name is Arnaud,” he said. “I’m a physicist specializing in temporal mechanics, causality, and quantum theories. I believe you have a job for me?”

I set the final book on the stack of those I’d read during the last month. “Yes, Arnaud,” I said. “I do.”

Acknowledgments

As always, my
wonderful wife Emily gets a big thumbs-up for dealing with the sometimes erratic life of a professional writer. The incumbent Peter Ahlstrom did quite a bit of special work on this project. Another person of note is Moshe Feder, who gave me one of my very early reads on this book—and who discussed thoughts, possibilities, and conjectures regarding it from its earliest days.

My agent, Joshua Bilmes, has been his usual awesome self. Other early readers include Brian T. Hill, Dominique Nolan, Kaylynn ZoBell, Ben Olsen, Danielle Olsen, Karen Ahlstrom, Dan Wells, Alan Layton, and Ethan Skarstedt.

A special thanks to Subterranean Press for giving this work a place in print. Bill Schafer and Yanni Kuznia have been fantastic. I’m also very pleased that the print edition has another beautiful cover by Jon Foster, whose work also graced the original Mistborn hardcovers. The ebook features a cover design by Isaac Stewart. Thanks!

Brandon Sanderson

Also by Brandon Sanderson

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Firstborn

Defending Elysium

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