“Keep trying!” Micah yelled.
We were losing altitude with that second hit, and I shot as fast as I could at the remaining shuttles. There were only four now and, as I watched, someone on the ground destroyed another one.
Micah managed to obliterate one more, but we were headed down so fast I abandoned my launcher and threw my arms over my helmet. We slammed into the ground and I flew through the door, rolling to a stop several yards away.
I coughed as I got to my hands and knees, wiping the dirt off my face with the back of my hand. There was some blood, too. My left arm was broken in several places, and it felt like most of my ribs were either cracked or bruised.
I scrambled to my feet just in time to be knocked down by another explosion. I curled up into a ball as pieces of metal crashed all around me.
When the smoke cleared I got to my feet again, shaking off the pain tickling me all over. There was only one HARC shuttle left in the air.
My eyes widened in surprise and I looked back at the reservation, half expecting it to be entirely gone. But the walls still stood (minus one tower). Smoke billowed from a few spots inside, but it wasn’t like total destruction.
These Reboots were good. Scary good, actually.
“Who’s got the last one?”
I turned at the sound of Micah’s shout to see the last shuttle hovering in the air not far away. Someone on the ground fired, hitting the very edge of it. It lurched and spun and Micah made a sound of approval as it crashed into the dirt.
“Whoop whoop!” Micah’s yell was followed by more cheers and whoops from a few Reboots in the area.
He turned to me, grenade launcher resting against his shoulder, a wide smile spreading across his face. “Not bad, huh?”
A trail of shuttle pieces littered the ground between us, and the Reboots around us were laughing, talking excitedly. They hadn’t just beaten HARC, they’d crushed them.
I met Micah’s eyes, returning his smile.
Not bad at all.
“SO, YEP, THAT’S THE GROSSEST THING I’VE EVER DONE.”
The boy in front of me snorted as he patted the arm I’d helped him sew back on. The skin was already starting to reattach, the blood and bone disappearing from sight. “You must not get out much.” He ran a hand over his dark hair as he hopped to his feet. “Thanks.”
“No problem. Be more careful with it next time.”
He chuckled, since we both knew there wasn’t much he could have done about a bomb exploding a few feet away from him. After I’d left Wren, I’d been lucky enough to stay away from most of the action, but the first and second waves had been hit pretty hard. Not all the Reboots made it.
I’d felt the beginnings of panic until Wren walked through the gates with Micah about an hour ago. He’d ushered her into one of the big tents with a few other One-twenties and I hadn’t seen them since.
“Isaac, by the way,” the boy said, sticking out his hand. There was no bar code on either wrist. He was about fifteen or perhaps a bit older. He was several inches shorter than me and had a slight build, which I thought probably made him look younger than he was.
“Callum,” I said, shaking it. I pointed at the dark skin of his arms, where he was missing a bar code. “Never at HARC?”
“How’d you get here?”
“Just lucky, I guess.” He stared past me, like he didn’t want to discuss that further, and shoved his hands in his pockets, his shoulders slumping forward. “What’s your number?”
He let out a short laugh. “Well, I’m sure you have other qualities.”
“Thanks,” I said dryly.
“I’m just messing with you,” he said with a grin. “I’m an Eighty-two. Not that impressive, either.”
“How do you know your number if you were never at HARC?” I asked.
“They have death timers here.”
“I don’t know what that is.”
“It takes your body temperature and determines how long you were dead. A Reboot’s temperature always stays the same, so we can use it even if it’s been a while since the Reboot happened.” Isaac gestured behind him, where Reboots were gathered around the fire pit, holding bowls. “Want to go eat?”
I nodded, brushing the dirt off my pants as I got to my feet. I squinted in the late afternoon sun at the big tent, but the flap was still closed. No sign of Wren.
“That’s Micah’s command tent,” Isaac said, following my gaze. “You can’t go in unless invited.”
“What do they do in there?”
“I dunno. Pat each other on the back for staying dead so long and being awesome?”
“I can’t really see Wren doing that,” I said.
“One-seventy-eight? They’re probably all fawning over her in there.”
I sighed, tempted to go in and save her. But Wren never needed saving. She’d come find me when she was ready.
I followed Isaac to the fire pit and grabbed a bowl of something that looked like oatmeal, glancing at the Reboots around the fire. The mood was mostly relief, with more than a few somber faces scattered through the crowd. They’d been excited and celebrating earlier, but now that it was over they looked exhausted and sad about the friends they’d lost.
I walked past unfamiliar faces and found a spot next to Addie. Isaac plopped down next to us.
“Addie, Isaac,” I said. “Addie helped Wren rescue all the Austin Reboots.”
Addie nodded at him. “Hey.” She passed off her empty bowl to a Reboot coming around to collect them. She turned and gave me a quick once-over. “I appreciate you not dying. I would have been pissed if we went to all that trouble to get you the antidote and then you just up and died a few hours later.” A smile twitched at the edges of her mouth.
“I tried my best,” I said with a laugh. “Did I say thank you? For helping Wren?”
She waved her hand. “Don’t thank me. I know what it’s like to be on those drugs.” Her eyes met mine briefly and I nodded, quickly dropping my gaze to my bowl. Addie was the only other person beside Wren who knew I’d killed an innocent man while on the HARC drugs, and I could see the sympathy in her eyes. I didn’t want any sympathy. I wasn’t sure what I wanted, but sympathy felt wrong, considering what I’d done.
“So do you guys usually rebuild after this?” Addie asked Isaac.
I glanced around to where she was gesturing. The tents lining the paths to my right were destroyed, fabric flapping in the strong winds. Plenty of the smaller tents had made it, especially those toward the back of the compound, but I’d estimate that fifty or so were in pieces on the ground.