She cast an amused glance at me. “I liked it.”
“I’m sure your family wouldn’t mind,” I said. “Leb went to a lot of trouble to get you out. I assume he did that because he was hoping to see you again.”
One side of her mouth turned up. “Yeah.”
A familiar noise made my head whip around, and Addie froze in her tracks.
I darted behind a tree, and Addie did the same. I slowly pulled my gun from my pants and clicked off the safety.
The shuttle made a banging sound as it hit the ground, and I let out a slow breath. It wasn’t that far away. Not much more than fifty yards.
I glanced at Addie to see her face tight with fear, her fingers wrapped around her gun. I gestured for her to stay put and she nodded. The ground was littered with leaves and crunchy brown grass. If we ran now, they’d definitely hear us.
Silence followed the shuttle landing, and I wondered if they’d gone in a totally different direction. What were the odds they were searching for us anyway? It had been less than twenty-four hours since I’d killed those HARC guys.
Footsteps dashed my hopes. Several different footsteps. Coming toward us.
Addie met my eyes as we listened. As the footsteps got even closer, I peeked around the tree to see the corner of a black-clad shoulder. Then another.
I lifted my gun and nodded at Addie.
I ducked out from behind the trunk just in time to see HARC officers step off the road and head straight in our direction. I lifted my gun, my finger beginning to pull the trigger.
They’d come prepared for us. They were in helmets with hard plastic covering. Each of them held a long black shield in front of them.
One of the officers darted forward when he spotted us, and I fired off two shots in his direction. They bounced off his shield.
I whirled around, grabbing Addie by the wrist. We took off as the officers began to fire, and bullets bit at my shoulders and legs.
Something wrapped around my ankles and I gasped as I went down. I kicked my legs, but the wire circled tight around them, digging into my skin.
Addie skidded to a stop and reached for me, but a blast rocked the earth and I only saw the outline of her as she hit the ground.
Someone snatched the gun out of my hand and I grasped his arm so loudly he yelled. But there was another officer there, holding my neck down.
Both my guns were gone. I managed to squirm from the officer’s grasp, breaking a few of his fingers in the process. Addie was a few feet away, throwing punches at a HARC officer, and I caught him by the ankle and knocked him to the ground.
She leaped over him and grabbed me under the arms, but the wire was attached to something in the distance.
Two humans hit her at the same time and she fell with a grunt. I crawled for her, but humans had me by the arms and then the waist. There were four of them holding me, and all the twisting in the world didn’t loosen their grip.
Defeat began to creep in as I watched two officers haul Addie to her feet.
“Radio in that we got One-seventy-eight,” one of the officers said.
They didn’t mention Addie. Of course they didn’t. I was the one they wanted. And they wanted me alive, given the fact that I still didn’t have a bullet in the brain.
My eyes met Addie’s. I looked over her shoulder, at the empty space. The steep incline leading to the river.
Using the officers for leverage, I lifted my legs off the ground and slammed them into Addie’s chest. She yelped as she flew backward.
One officer let her go, but the other dove for her arm, screaming as he started to fall down the incline. He quickly dropped her, scrambling to find his footing on the rocks. The other officer grabbed his jacket and yanked him back.
Addie disappeared over the side.
“ALL HUMANS EVACUATE IMMEDIATELY. PLEASE HEAD TO THE nearest HARC gate and exit now. A shuttle will be there shortly. I repeat. All humans—”
“Yeah, yeah,” Isaac muttered as the announcement blasted from every HARC tower around Austin for the hundredth time. “We get it.”
“I could shoot out the speakers in all the towers,” Beth said, shotgun swung over her shoulder.
I shook my head, brushing dirt off my pants as I stood. “Don’t. Let the humans leave who want to leave.” I glanced at the humans milling around the area. The schoolhouse was still standing, but many of the homes were destroyed.
A family of three ran through the street, bags swinging, and I did a double take. Not my family. Would they be one of the groups sprinting for the nearest exit, or would they stay?
It appeared that most humans were staying. Many weren’t talking to us, they were congregating in their homes or just outside. But they weren’t running, and they weren’t fighting us.
A few Reboots lifted their hands in a wave, bags slung over their shoulders, and I swallowed as I watched them go. That made almost fifty who had decided they didn’t want to remain in Austin. Many who didn’t have families couldn’t be convinced to stay and help after we lost a few more Reboots last night, and our numbers would be maybe a hundred after they were gone. Riley was still working on getting an accurate count. Whatever it was, it was far less than I’d hoped.
Tony and Desmond stood at the end of the street, past a mess of shuttle parts, and I stepped over the debris as I headed in their direction. The humans around them stopped talking as I neared, but Gabe smiled at me.
“This is Callum,” Tony said, clapping me on the back. “Twenty-two. He’s the one who arranged everything.” Tony’s attitude toward me had improved tremendously when HARC retreated before sunrise and the humans reclaimed the city. Desmond still mostly scowled.
The humans visibly relaxed at the mention of my number. I didn’t know whether I liked that reaction. If Wren were here, it would have been the opposite. They might even have run away in fear.
“I’ve been asking around, but I’ve got nothing on the bounty hunters yet,” Tony said before I could ask. “And my connection to HARC is gone now, obviously.”
“I just checked, the gates aren’t live anymore,” Gabe said. “If she wants to get in, she won’t have much trouble.”
I swallowed, trying to push back my fear. It was midmorning and still no sign of her. I wanted to hop in a shuttle and start circling the perimeter, but it was too dangerous. We’d run HARC out of Austin but they were setting up shop elsewhere, preparing for a fight. One shuttle on its own beyond Austin was sure to be shot down. Not to mention the fact that Wren would hide at the first sight of a HARC vehicle.