Several of the Reboots stopped in their tracks as they encountered a wall of guns. Humans.
Tony was at the front of the crowd, and he lowered his gun slightly as he jerked his head. “Come on! Get out of there!”
I grabbed Callum’s hand and rushed for the exit. The other Reboots followed, and Callum turned to grin at me as the cool air hit our faces.
A familiar sound overhead made me turn. A massive HARC shuttle was headed right for us. And on the ground, coming around the corner, at least a hundred heavily armed HARC officers.
They swarmed toward us and I positioned myself in front of the line of humans.
“All Reboots without a helmet back with the humans!” I yelled.
A hand yanked on my arm and I swung around, crushing my fist into an officer’s face. He grabbed for me again and I fired a quick shot into his chest.
Riley was fighting off an officer right next to me, and I took a frantic glance around for Callum. He’d disappeared.
I whirled around at the sound of my name, but saw nothing but a sea of bodies.
Someone behind me grunted, and I turned in time to see a HARC officer grab Addie’s helmet and try to rip it off her head. I lifted my foot and kicked him as hard as I could. His hands flew off of Addie and he collapsed in a heap a few feet away.
I pulled Addie to her feet and ducked at the sound of a blast. Flames were coming out of the HARC building, as well as from a bunch of buildings in the slums.
Two big bodies slammed into me and I hit the ground, almost losing my grip on my gun. I held it tightly as one of the HARC officers who’d hit me scrambled across the dirt, pointing his gun in my face.
I kicked both my feet into his face and shot to my knees, grabbing the other HARC officer by the collar.
“No, no, no! It’s me, One-seventy-eight!” Leb’s eyes were wide as he stared at me, his hands up in surrender near his face.
I let go of his collar and jumped to my feet, offering him my hand.
“Thank you,” he said with a long exhale, straightening the helmet on his head. Like all the other HARC officers, he was in full gear.
His face changed as his eyes found something behind me, and I turned to see Addie with her back to us, gun poised for the next attack.
“Addie!” I grabbed her arm and she whirled around, her panicked expression changing to surprise when she spotted her dad. She raced forward and threw her arms around his neck.
I suppressed a smile as I jumped in front to block them from the HARC assault. “This isn’t really the time for hugging!”
“Yes! Right!” Addie pulled away, pointing. “Get back there with the rebels! You’re going to get shot up here. Take that HARC shirt off or something!”
He laughed but did as she said, embracing her quickly before running for Tony and Desmond.
I pushed through the crowd, whipping my head around as I searched for Callum. I found Riley instead, who had one HARC officer on his back and was trying to wrestle a gun from the hand of another. Screams echoed around me as I dove for him, wrapping my arms around the waist of the officer on his back and hauling him off. He darted into the crowd as soon as he recognized me, casting a horrified glance over his shoulder.
Riley stood over the other dead officer, breathing heavily. “Thanks.”
I started to say “You’re welcome” when Riley blinked, putting a hand to his neck. Blood seeped through his fingers, and I whirled to look for the source of the bullet.
A shuttle officer I’d only encountered once stood a few yards away. He’d made me take my shirt off to search for weapons, then was disgusted by my scars.
I dove for him, a bullet clipping my hand. His eyes lit up like he’d succeeded at something.
My heart stopped as I turned around. Riley was already on the ground, a bullet hole in his forehead.
I pressed a hand to my mouth as I choked back a cry. The world was blurry as I started to lift my gun again, but two Reboots were already there, wrestling the shuttle officer to the ground.
I ducked as a barrage of bullets raced over my head and hit my knees next to Riley.
“Up. Get up now!” Riley’s voice was loud in my head, drowning out the sounds around me.
But I was glued to the ground, my fingers wrapped around his lifeless wrist. I couldn’t move, even as his yells grew louder in my head. His bright eyes stared vacantly at the sky.
A Reboot slammed against my back as she shoved a HARC officer to the ground, and I closed my eyes and took in a deep breath. I slid my hand into Riley’s and gave it a squeeze, saying a silent thank-you I should have said a hundred times over before now.
I forced myself to stand and wiped a hand across my eyes. I had to find Callum. I had to at least see if he was okay.
Spinning around, I finally spotted him over the sea of faces. He’d been pushed back closer to the HARC building, and he was helping a young Reboot who’d lost a leg over the pile of rubble and bodies. There were no immediate threats nearby and I breathed a sigh of relief.
A door at the other end of the HARC building opened, and I squinted through the smoke at a chubby figure who emerged.
He had a large gun in his hand, and I pushed past the Reboots and officers as I ran for him.
He stood at the front of the building, breathing heavily as he observed the scene. He turned to the Reboots making their way out of the building. To Callum.
“Callum!” I screamed, but he made no sign he’d heard me. I fired several bullets in Officer Mayer’s direction, but he didn’t even flinch. I was too far away.
Officer Mayer raised his gun. He hit the young Reboot right in the head, an easy shot without a helmet.
Callum whirled around, his hand going to his gun.
The officer fired. Callum’s head flew back. His body was still for a split second and I held my breath as I waited for him to move. He crumpled to the ground, motionless.
BLACK TINGED THE EDGES OF MY VISION AND I COULDN’T BREATHE. I couldn’t move.
It had been several seconds and Callum was completely still on the ground. I couldn’t go over there. If I went to look I would know he was dead. He couldn’t be dead.
Desmond appeared, horror on his face as he knelt down next to Callum. He turned to me. Back to Callum.
Panic began to spread through my limbs and I choked back a sob as Desmond gave me a shocked look.
I charged for Officer Mayer.
He took off running, pumping his arms as fast as he could. He turned around and fired a wild shot in my direction, which missed me by at least a foot.