ReDawn (Skyward, #2.2)

ReDawn (Skyward, #2.2)

Brandon Sanderson

       For Kenton Olds,

   who makes me laugh every day



I stood at the edge of a balcony on one of the branches of the Stadium tree, watching the games play out in the enormous hollow below. This particular tree had been chosen for its shape—branches reaching out horizontally and then curving up and inward like the sides of a massive vase, large enough that the spectators on the far side appeared to be nothing more than rows of rippling dots. Twelve ships soared across the widest part of the hollow, six painted Independence blue and the remaining in Unity yellow.

Dim light filtered through the red and purple miasma in the sky above the canopy, and enormous spotlights hung on cables from the branches above, illuminating the ships jetting about. Above the spotlights, just beneath the huge sweeping branches, a hologram enlarged the skirmish, and I watched as one of the Independence ships broke away from the pack, dodging a barrage of laser fire, and slipped through the hoop marking the goal.

Cheers rang through the stadium, and the mining corps that sponsored this match lit off a round of fireworks in Independence blue. With three goals so far, the Independence team was winning.

At least we were winning at something.

Beside me, Rinakin—my advisor in the cytonic training program—half-heartedly waved an Independence pennant: a twig with a blue fabric leaf attached at the top. While most in the stadium wore garments of yellow or blue, Rinakin dressed entirely in black, though at least his jacket had a blueish sheen. He was taller than me, and his skin had a slightly rosier tint to it, both traits that indicated his ancestors came from Reaching tree. In the days before ship travel, the denizens of each tree only intermixed when the trees bumped into each other across the miasma.

    Now that Rinakin had lost his Council seat in the wave of Unity appointments, we were more or less equals—him as the leader of the Independence Party and me as a cytonic. That felt strange; he was many seasons older than me and much wiser, yet here we were, now essentially the same status even if I didn’t have his experience.

“It is good to have you home, Alanik,” Rinakin said. “I was worried about you.”

“It is good to be home,” I said. “Even if it means I failed.”

“Many of our people have failed between these branches,” Rinakin said.

That was true. I remembered a time when failing in the games had felt like a tragedy. The stakes here were personal—members of the winning teams of even the junior league championships could expect to secure top spots as transit and cargo pilots or appointments to the air force, not that ReDawn had seen actual combat for generations.

I’d skipped over all that when my cytonic powers had manifested—I’d jumped from the junior leagues straight to the upper echelons of the fighting corps. As one of only five living UrDail cytonics and the only capable teleporter, I was theoretically invaluable to my people’s survival.

Not that I’d done them much good during my last mission.

I sighed, leaning back against the wooden seat carved into the branch of the tree. The island trees floated in the miasma of ReDawn, their roots planted in large chunks of naturally occurring acclivity stone. The trees grew thick layers of bark, deep enough that entire rooms could be excavated beneath its surface without reaching the living parts of the tree near the base of the branches. Here, higher in the branches, one might be able to reach new wood by digging in six feet or so—plenty of room to carve smaller structures without harming the tree. This balcony and all of its seating had been meticulously carved into the bark, making it a part of the huge living stadium. It was good to be back beneath the familiar branches, but…

    “I was supposed to bring back the secret to hyperdrive technology,” I said. “Instead, I gave the opportunity to the humans. They’ll try to make peace with the Superiority—make the same mistakes we have made.”

“Perhaps,” Rinakin said. “I’m more concerned that we will make the same mistakes we have made.”

Given the number of yellow pennants flying in the stadium, the fear was reasonable.

“Besides, we have information now,” Rinakin said. “Not the information you left to retrieve, but important information all the same.”

Much less important, in my mind, but Rinakin had a point. Many of my people believed the humans had been exterminated for their refusal to capitulate, for their stubborn insistence on fighting for freedom instead of assimilating into the Superiority. Humans were a cautionary tale, a justification for the appeasement policies that gave the Superiority more and more control over ReDawn.

    If it became known that the humans were alive, that they had somehow managed to resist all this time—indeed, that they were beginning to break free from the Superiority’s forced imprisonment—it would be a huge blow to the Unity movement. A weakness I hoped we could exploit to drag some kind of success from my failure.

Which was why I wanted to keep the information from Unity for as long as possible. We needed to figure out how to use it before they did.

Below, the teams lined up for another bout. As per the rules, the Unity team would now appoint a new stringer—the ship whose job it was to cut across the battlefield and make it to the opposing team’s hoop without getting tagged by the lasers. Each pilot had to take a turn as a stringer until everyone had had a turn, or until the other team could no longer catch up in points. A team couldn’t rely on one strong player—the tree was only as healthy as its weakest branch.

Brandon Sanderson's Books