Truthfully “helpful bunch” might have been an understatement. I wouldn’t have made it into the Austin facility to get the antidote for Callum if it weren’t for them. I certainly wouldn’t have been able to free all the Reboots and escape without them. I probably owed them something now. That was unfortunate.
Micah paced as we waited for the shuttles, occasionally speaking to one of the towers on his com. I almost wanted to pace back and forth with him. I wanted this to be over. I wanted to crawl into Callum’s arms and sleep until spring.
The shuttles we’d stolen appeared in the distance a short time later and landed softly on the ground not far from us. The one I’d piloted was dented on both sides and there was a long crack across the front window, but it seemed to fly fine.
The door to the other shuttle opened and Addie jumped out, cocking her head in confusion at something behind me. I turned to see two guys jogging in our direction, holding something that looked like a giant gun in each hand. Two more Reboots were close behind them, carrying the same things.
“What are those?” I asked as they stopped next to Micah.
“Grenade launchers.” He pointed to the Reboots at the gate. “They’ve got some launchers over there, too. It’s our best antiaircraft defense.”
Where did they get all this?
“Nice job,” Micah said to Addie. “Go on inside and they’ll get you a weapon. Under-sixties are with the third wave at the back.”
She walked past us, barely nodding at me. She looked about as thrilled as I was to be thrust into this fight.
Micah ordered everyone onto shuttles and I piled into the one Addie had piloted. Two of the guys holding grenade launchers followed me inside.
“I’ve never shot these from the air before, but I’m pumped to try,” Micah said, handing me one of the launchers. It was heavier than a gun, maybe ten pounds or so, but not unmanageable. It was like a really giant revolver with a much longer barrel.
“It goes on your shoulder,” Micah said. “One hand at the back, one in the front.”
I grabbed a spot under the barrel and another behind the revolver. I leaned forward to look through the black tube thing mounted on top and saw a smaller circle inside a bigger circle, to help aim.
“That’s your sight,” Micah said. “I know you’ve never used one before, but just aim best you can and pull the trigger. You have six rounds, then hand it off to one of these guys and they’ll give you a new one and reload for you. I have a feeling you’ll be awesome at it.” He punched me lightly on the shoulder with a grin.
He had a lot of faith in me based solely on my number. Riley must have told him about me, and I guess he approved of me freeing the Austin Reboots, but still, he seemed just as obsessed with my One-seventy-eight as HARC was. I didn’t know whether to be relieved or disappointed.
“Take her up!” Micah yelled to the man sitting in the pilot’s seat. He pointed at me. “Scoot back. We’re leaving the door open so we can shoot.”
I edged back until I hit the corner of one of the seats. The shuttle lifted into the air with a jerk and I tucked my chin into my chest as a strong wind swept over me. I watched the shuttle Reboot pilot, who seemed calm and comfortable steering us into the air, even in this weather.
“Has he done this before?” I called over the wind.
Micah nodded, taking a quick glance back at him. “We have a couple old HARC shuttles we repaired after shooting them down. Only one still works, though. And we’re out of fuel.”
“We have visual on four shuttles.” The voice came from Micah’s com and I gripped my launcher tighter.
Micah pointed, getting on one knee as he rested the launcher on his shoulder. “There they are!”
I took my place beside him as four black HARC shuttles dotted the clear blue sky and soared straight for us.
“Wait until they get closer,” Micah ordered. “Wait . . . wait . . . now!”
One of the shuttles roared past us, and another hung back. The two remaining raced in our direction, and I aimed the launcher at the wide pilot’s window of the nearest shuttle.
I squeezed the trigger. I missed.
A loud bang ripped through the air as Micah’s shot made contact with the side of one shuttle, and the two boys beside us promptly let out a “whoop!”
“Faster!” Micah yelled at me. “Aim for the pilot window!”
I had been, but it wasn’t exactly easy with the wind and new equipment. I decided now wasn’t the time to mention that.
The shuttle I’d missed shot past me and I jumped as an explosion rocked the ground. One of the towers burst into flames and I took in a slow breath.
Our pilot whipped us around and I tightened my fingers around the launcher as I peered at the shuttles that had just taken out the tower. I aimed for the window. I took a breath. I fired.
The shuttle lurched as the windshield exploded and I ignored the “whoop whoop!” as I took aim again. The second grenade soared through the open window and what was left of the shuttle hit the ground so hard I’d swear I felt it.
Micah took out the straggler shuttle but three more roared in, one making it past me as it headed for the Reboot shuttle hovering over the reservation. Smoke rose from inside the walls and the gunfire was constant. I felt a twinge of fear for Callum as I discharged my last rounds at a shuttle. Maybe I should have brought him with me.
A blast rocked our shuttle and I was suddenly glad he was on the ground. A large piece of the back end of our shuttle was missing, the metal above a row of seats breaking off and tumbling through the air.
I turned my attention back outside to see even more shuttles. At least ten whizzed around me.
Ten HARC shuttles. And we had two.
I glanced at Micah to see his brow furrowed in concentration, his finger pressing down on the trigger. Another shuttle fell from the sky.
“You gonna watch me, or are you going to do something?” he asked as he handed off his launcher and took a loaded one. Some of his excitement was gone, replaced by intense concentration and maybe even a hint of fear.
I tightened my grip on my launcher as I aimed. I wasn’t going to escape from HARC only to be killed by them a few hours later.
I fired. Again and again, until two more shuttles fell from the sky. I handed off my launcher as our shuttle took another hit and the pilot swung us around so hard I had to grip the door frame to keep from falling out.
“Having a hard time holding them off, guys!” the pilot called.