The humans split off into the slums as we neared the facility, and I took a quick scan of our surroundings. The area around the facility was deserted, but the idea that they weren’t guarding the place was ludicrous, especially now.
I glanced up. They likely had guards on the roof. Probably snipers. There also had to be guards at every door. We’d had no direct guard or officer support in Austin—the HARC rebels who were inside steered clear of us—and it felt odd that the plan was to walk right straight to a HARC officer and ask to be let in.
We rounded the corner and everyone slowed as we came into full view of the facility. Nothing but a few yards of dirt between us and the entrance now.
I took a step forward.
A shot rang out.
I jumped, my eyes immediately going to the roof. But the shot came from the slums and was quickly followed by another one.
“Run?” Callum whispered.
I nodded and we took off, footsteps pounding the dirt. Two guards were standing at the door, faces turned in our direction. Neither had their weapons drawn.
I slowed, holding out my hand as Riley grabbed his gun. “Wait.” I came to a stop in front of the guards, their faces serious beneath the bright light above the door.
One of them was familiar, though I’d never known his name. Perhaps the other one had been around as well, but I’d never paid much attention to the HARC officers inside the Rosa facility, other than Leb. They mostly stood against the wall and tried not to make eye contact.
They were both staring at me now, though. The taller one pulled his access card away from his belt and swiped it across the pad next to the door.
“Move fast,” he said quietly, holding the door open. “Leb can only distract them from the cameras for a few minutes.”
I darted into the lobby, casting a glance over my shoulder. “Thank you.” If we failed they were going down, too. The camera had just recorded them letting a bunch of Reboots into the building.
The lights were still on in the lobby. It was dinnertime, and if we had timed it right, all the Reboots were in the cafeteria right now.
The man behind the desk looked casually in our direction. His eyes widened to saucers as he processed what we were, and he scrambled for the com on his desk.
“Hands up,” Riley ordered, drawing his gun as he strode forward.
The man paused, his finger poised over the button on his com.
“I will shoot you,” Riley said. “Drop the com on the desk.”
“Gently,” Callum quickly added, running past Riley.
The human scrambled away as Callum got closer, abandoning the com on the desk as he raised his hands.
“Sit on the floor,” Riley said, gesturing. “One sound and you’re dead.”
An alarm shrieked through the lobby and I winced. “Too late.”
Callum grabbed the com and twisted a button on it. He tossed it to me. “I’ll stay with the guard,” he said to Riley as he raised his gun. “You guys go.”
“All Reboots to your rooms immediately.” The voice over the speaker made Addie jump, and she gave me a worried look.
I lifted the com to my mouth as I ran for the stairwell. “Reboots. Stop. Don’t go to your rooms.” I took the stairs two at a time as I raced for seven, the cafeteria. Reboot rooms were above that, on the eighth floor, but hopefully they weren’t there yet.
“This is One-seventy-eight,” I continued. “HARC is losing control of the cities. They will kill all of you if you go to your rooms.”
I rounded a corner and burst onto the seventh floor to see Reboots crowding out of the cafeteria door. Their eyes were wide as they met mine, growing bigger as Riley and the other Reboots flowed in around me.
The guns in the cafeteria went off.
“Run!” I darted away from the door and gestured for them to go down the stairs. I raised the com again. “We have a lot of human allies. Confirm they’re hostile before you attack.”
That produced a few baffled looks. I gave them a stern expression in return and turned to the cafeteria as more shots rang out. I wrapped my fingers around my gun and pulled it from my pants, swallowing hard as memories of Ever began trickling in.
A hand roughly clapped down on my helmet, forcing me to duck as several bullets flew right over my head.
“Watch your head, newbie!” Riley said with a grin as he released me.
I shot him a grateful look before he turned and began shooting at the guards coming down the hallway.
Hugo ran out the cafeteria door, holding a smaller Reboot close to him. His face broke into a grin when he spotted me. “I knew you weren’t dead!”
A guard flew around the corner before I could respond, gun pointed at Hugo’s head. I fired off a quick shot and the guard crumpled to the ground.
“Get the gun,” I said to Hugo. “Did any Reboots make it to their rooms?”
“Maybe a few,” he said as he scooped up the gun.
“I’ve got it,” Riley said, gesturing for a few others to follow him.
“Lock down the building. All personnel to the lower level.”
I slipped the com into my pocket as the voice spoke and ran for the stairs. The sounds of screams and gunfire grew louder as I got closer to the bottom floor, and I tightened my hand around my gun.
Bullets immediately pelted my chest, as I passed through the door on the bottom level. Callum sprinted in my direction as soon as I stepped into the lobby, and I grabbed him and pulled him down to the floor with me as bullets raced over our heads.
The lobby was full of HARC officers. Dead bodies littered the ground, too many of them Reboots. There was gunfire everywhere, and bullets zipped all around me as I pushed my way to the building entrance.
HARC officers were lined up on the front lawn. They formed a solid wall around every exit, bullets exploding from their guns.
“Stand back! Reboots, stand back!”
Isaac’s voice barely carried over the chaos in the lobby, and the officers were all moving back from the building, arms over their heads.
Callum grabbed me around the waist as the blast shook the building, and we hit the ground together. His body covered mine as the front windows exploded and glass rocketed across the room.
Another blast shook the lobby and the screams around me faded, replaced by a high-pitched ringing in my ears. I squirmed against Callum and he sprang off me, pulling on my hand to help me up.
The lobby windows were completely gone and smoke partially obscured our view of outside. Bodies of HARC officers littered the ground, and Reboots jumped over them as they made a run for it.