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Literature / Firefight

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WARNING: Late Arrival Spoilers abound for Steelheart.

Second book in The Reckoners Trilogy.

After the death of Steelheart, Newcago is almost at peace. The Reckoners have protected the city from further Epic assaults, often with David's direct help. The city isn't quite safe, but it's getting there, and people are slowly beginning to live normal lives something like before the war. But it's getting more dangerous, as more and more Epics keep attacking the city to find David.


But the Reckoners slowly realize that some of the recent Epics have been sent to fight them deliberately by Regalia, the Epic who rules over what used to be Manhattan, now Babylon Restored. Despite knowing that she is drawing them out intentionally, Prof, David, and Tia set out to fight her, joining a Reckoner cell that has been observing the city. Then things get complicated...

Firefight contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Action Prologue: The book opens on the Newcago Reckoners, with David as the point man, taking down Sourcelight with the help of Enforcement. Afterwards, it calms down for more non-action based planning.
  • After the End: Not that The Reckoners Trilogy was ever light on that, but it's made brutally clear in chapter 8. The country's full of abandoned cities, and tellingly, on the drive up to Babylon Restored, David barely sees any habitation. Most of it's lit by bonfires in little fiefdoms, and what few people live outside Epic control barely live in groups bigger than small families, as whenever a group crops up, an Epic wants to either destroy it or rule it.
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  • Alas, Poor Villain: David is a lot more sympathetic to Epics in this book after learning what their powers do to them. That said, he's only sympathetic to some, and not to those who deliberately manipulate or murder with no remorse.
  • Badass Boast:
    • Though it's actually meant in a negative light in context, David's introduction counts.
      David: My name is David Charleston. I kill people with superpowers.
    • Later on in a similar vein, he says that he's heading off to kill his second High Epic in a day.
  • Bait-and-Switch Comment: In narration. When David is choosing his new gun, Abraham ends up calling him "as picky as a woman with her shoes". David is offended... because he knows women who are pickier with their guns than their shoes.
  • Batman Gambit: It becomes clear early on that Regalia has something planned for Prof, specifically. He thinks that she's fighting her sociopathy and wants him to kill her, but David feels like there's something more to it. There is. Regalia is dying of cancer and only has a few weeks left. She wants to trick Prof into using so much of his power that he is consumed by Calamity's corruption and becomes her successor.
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  • Better to Die than Be Killed: A Justified Trope. Megan shoots herself in the head (which she does reincarnate from) rather than be burnt to death (which she doesn't).
  • Blessed with Suck: The way many Epics view their powers which is brought into more depth. Aside from Prof, there is also Megan who is prominently believing her powers are a "burden". Although Regalia embraces her powers, she attempts to have Calamity turn David into an Epic, which she views as Laser-Guided Karma, and therefore viewing the powers in this light anyway.
  • Cargo Ship: Played for Laughs In-Universe. When supporting David from a rooftop with his new rifle, Megan gushes about it over their comms, which leads David to have pangs of jealousy for his own rifle. He quickly admits this is completely ridiculous.
  • Character Development: A large part of the book encompasses David's turn from "only a dead Epic is a good Epic" attitude he showed in the previous book to a more idealistic approach akin to the Faithful. Eventually he even realizes it, especially in comparison to the still-fully prejudiced other Reckoners.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Literally. The remote-fire mechanism on David's Gottschalk rifle is what saves Megan's life by allowing her to shoot herself remotely rather than die in fire.
  • The Corruption: Epic powers are gifted by Calamity, and are tied strongly to a person's fear. Using the power will make you feel strong and invincible, but boosts all the darker parts of your nature, making it easier to use powers for evil, and snowballing from there. The core fear becomes an Epic's weakness that neutralizes their powers. If the Epic faces that fear themselves though, they neutralize their own madness instead.
  • Defiant Stone Throw: Some Babilarans throw fruit at the Epic gang leader Newton after she burns down an occupied building. She kills all of them.
  • Demoted to Extra: Abraham and Cody barely have an impact on the plot at all, since they stay in Newcago while the rest of the team goes off to Babilar.
  • Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: David rejects the power of Calamity and remains a normal human by refusing to be controlled by his fear of open water. This sends Regalia into a minor Villainous Breakdown.
  • Distinction Without a Difference:
    I hadn't been a nerd, mind you. I'd just been the type of guy who spent a lot of time by himself, focused entirely on a single consuming interest.
  • Don't Ask, Just Run: The doctor tending to both Regalia and Dawnslight wisely decides not to ask and to just get her gear and run when she sees David, covered in Regalia's blood, run for the exit.
  • Expy: Bizarrely, Dawnslight appears to be an inverted expy of Cthulhu. A sleeping dreamer who lives in a city sunken beneath the waves, with a cult-like following who worships him, and an incomprehensible mindset, at least among Epics, where he gives light, life and food instead of death, destruction and fear.
  • Face Your Fears: Turns out David is terrified of open water; he was completely unaware of this before he he went to Babylon Restored, aka Manhattan. In the climax, he has to shoot out an underwater window to escape in the desperate hope that he'll be able to swim to the surface. It doesn't work (the glass was built to survive a bomb), but the intent is enough to give him immunity to Calamity's influence. Megan braves fire (her weakness) to save David, and is reborn completely sane.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Prof pushes himself far too hard and loses control, turning into a High Epic.
  • Fire Keeps It Dead: Megan's weakness is fire, so if she dies by being burnt to death, she won't reincarnate.
  • Former Friends Photo: David spots a photo of Prof and Regalia posing together during their Super Team days in Prof's hideaway. The photo also includes Dean Knighthawk, foreshadowing his role in Calamity.
  • Genki Girl: Mizzy is...oddly cheerful for someone who grew up in a post-apocalyptic world.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Megan, after overcoming her fear of fire, reincarnates free of the madness and saves David.
  • Honey Trap: Megan is sent to seduce David, on behalf of Regalia, to get information on the Reckoners. Unfortunately, Regalia underestimates the actual feelings Megan has for David, and Megan gives it away on her own.
  • Knew It All Along: Prof and Tia already knew that David was keeping in contact with Megan, due to bugging his mobile.
  • Let Me Get This Straight...: When David leads Regalia to the then-abandoned Reckoners Underwater Base.
    Regalia: You mean to tell me that all this time I had my agents searching along the northern coast, when he had a sparking underwater base?
  • Limp and Livid: Prof takes on this posture as he gives in to the corruption.
  • Mauve Shirt: Val, and especially Exel, fit this. Both of their roles are supplemented by already-known Reckoners in Newcago or on the Babilar team, and they both die before the end of the book, within the same chapter and by the powers of the same person.
  • Meaningful Echo: David echoes the last words his father said to him when describing to Mizzy why Prof isn't an evil Epic.
  • Mercy Kill: Early on, Prof explains to David that he sees assassinating Epics more as an act of mercy than as retribution. He later incorrectly suspects that Regalia in particular wants him to do this to her.
  • Mid-Season Upgrade: When his rifle is destroyed in the fight with Sourcelight, David is forced to pick a new one by Abraham, which has many functions. Megan approves heartily.
  • Moment Killer: When Megan infiltrates the Reckoner Underwater Base to see David, he ends up kissing her. As they are making out, the door opens due to Tia going in to get something, forcing Megan to dive under the bed to hide. However, seeing as Tia knew he was keeping in contact with Megan, that may have been on purpose.
  • Neck Lift: David is subjected to this twice in the course of the book: first by Obliteration during the Reckoners' first failed attempt to kill him, demonstrating that Obliteration has powers beyond what David's notes predicted; then by Prof during his and David's final argument, a disturbing sign that Prof is already losing his struggle against the Epic corruption.
  • Noodle Incident: The fight with Instabam is between Mitosis and this book, so it's only known that he came from Babilar, tried to kill Abraham, and was defeated. The rest isn't stated.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Prof often admonishes David for being reckless. Although he never expresses it to Prof directly, David firmly believes that deep down, the two of them share the same bold, ambitious spirit and Prof's caution is more learned than innate. There's some evidence that he's right; Prof himself admits that he has conflicting feelings about David's approach to things, he was the first of the book 1 Reckoners to fully embrace David's game-changing scheme to kill Steelheart, and he's been known to indulge in a little "reckless heroism" (his characterization of David's tendencies) himself from time to time.
  • Power Misidentification: David learns that Megan, who he thought had the power to create illusions, actually has the power to summon images (and sometimes actual objects) from alternate universes.
  • The Power of Love: Megan finds it easier to control her sociopathy around David. She finds this trope a complete cliche, though, and is annoyed that the secret is something so simple, even mentioning the trope by name. Actually, it's not. While love might help, the real secret is bravery.
  • Precision F-Strike: Or rather, precision "spark" strike, from Regalia, as detailed in the above-mentioned Let Me Get This Straight....
  • Refusal of the Call: David rejects Calamity's influence, remaining a normal human. Considering who this is done to, it's also a form of Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?.
  • Relationship Upgrade: By the end of the novel, David and Megan go from Dating Catwoman Star-Crossed Lovers to an Official Couple.
  • The Reveal:
    • Calamity is an incredibly powerful Epic. He's still up there, watching the world and making new Epics when it amuses him.
    • Epic weaknesses are whatever scares them the most...and if they face that fear, they become highly resistant to Calamity's corruption.
    • Megan isn't an illusionist. She's a Reality Warper, able to pluck bits and pieces out of alternate timelines as shadows. She generally can't make things permanent, but is able to make physical objects unlike an illusionist.
    • The Black Box technology made from epics is just a result of motivating the cells or body parts of dead epics to simulate a certain effect.
  • Shout-Out: Prof, when mentioning one of his Epic former friends, says one of them called himself Murkwood after his favorite books.
  • Silent Antagonist: After giving in to the corruption, Prof doesn't say a word. Doubles as No-Nonsense Nemesis, given how he views David.
  • Super Team: Prof reveals that during the first years of Calamity, he, Regalia, and a couple of other Epics tried to form one of these. All of them except Prof quickly succumbed to the corruption. This experience is what led Prof to so adamantly believe that Epics (other than gifters) are irredeemable. It's also implied to be the reason Prof reacts poorly to being called a hero; it reminds him of his traumatic failed attempt at being a superhero.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Some members of the cast in Babilar are extremely similar to those in Newcago. Fittingly, two of them are killed off before the book is over.
    • Val is basically a Badass Normal Distaff Counterpart of Prof mixed with some elements of Tia (the Mission Control aspect, to be precise).
    • Exel combines Cody's nice joking with Abraham's stature (though the similarities end there).
    • Dawnslight is similar to Edmund Sense/Conflux, as a completely nice Epic.
  • That's No Moon!: Calamity isn't a satellite around Earth. He's an incredibly powerful Epic.
  • This Is Your Brain on Evil: The reason all Epics have turned out bad. Using their own powers unnaturally amplifies their own basic negative emotions, like anger, frustration, apathy, arrogance, etc., and the effect scales the more power is used. Trying to use powers for good quickly turns heroes into monsters. The few that keep their sanity largely do it by not using powers.
  • Traumatic Superpower Awakening: "The Rending", as Regalia describes it, is what happens when an Epic first awakens to their powers. In her words, it is "an overwhelming sensation driving you to destroy, to break", and drives the sociopathy of Epics. It is this reason why she wants to turn David into an Epic; karmic retribution for his reputation.
  • Underwater Base: The Babilar Reckoners' primary base is this.
  • Villainous Breakdown: A two-part one. Both Calamity and Regalia react with incredulity and shock as David manages to refuse Calamity's turning him into an Epic. A Justified Trope, since this had never happened before.
  • Voodoo Shark: Since the first book, it was assumed that Calamity is the reason behind the creation of Epics somehow. That is true, but Calamity is an Epic, leading to this trope.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: A twofer. The Reckoners all call out David for keeping in contact with Megan/Firefight, a known Epic who had killed a member of the Babilar team, rather than killing her or turning her in. In contrast, David calls out Prof and Tia for not even considering his side, spying on him, and using him as bait to trap Megan.