The lobby was dark and deserted, the round desk in the center of the room empty. I’d never seen a HARC lobby before. Reboots were always dropped off on the roof by shuttle.
They had posters on the walls. Signs advertising their brilliance.
Count on HARC for the cure! The woman in the poster smiled, apparently completely cured of whatever had ailed her.
HARC protects! That poster had a picture of Reboots on it, although they were in the distance and blurry next to a shuttle.
Addie turned and gave the posters a baffled look as we passed.
“Are they serious?” she muttered.
The black tile looked like a dark river as we hurried across it to the stairwell. We stepped aside and let the humans go up first, since they were headed to the top floors with the food storage, human meds, and the armory. I was almost sad as I watched them lumber up the stairs. It was a suicide mission for at least half of them, if not all, and they knew it.
I let the door close softly behind me. We sped up the pitch-black stairs, taking them two at a time until we reached the fourth floor. Dim lights clicked on in the stairwell. The generators were on.
Addie looked back at me as she gripped the door handle. I nodded.
She opened it just enough to peek through. “Two guards at the end of the hallway,” she whispered. “At least two in the room, as far as I can tell.” She inched the door open a bit wider. “See where we’re going?”
The white hallway stretched out in front of me. The guards at the end were bored, leaning against the wall and talking quietly to each other, despite the momentary blackout.
To the left was the control room. The doors were open, and one officer sat in front of a large computer as another peered over his shoulder. Judging from their relaxed expressions (and the fact that neither of them had their guns out), they hadn’t spotted us on the camera feeds yet.
I nodded to Addie. “I’ll take the two in the room.”
She threw open the door. I crouched down and darted around her toward the control room as gunfire exploded from the end of the hall. The guards whirled from the computer, reaching for their guns. But they were too slow.
I fired twice, hitting the chest of one and the neck of the other. They hit the ground in seconds, just before I heard the thuds of the two humans in the hall.
I let out a slow breath. Step one down.
I turned to give Addie a victorious smile, but it faltered at her dazed expression. She blinked and raised her fingers to her temple.
There was blood.
I jumped over one of the officers and pushed her helmet back. The blood soaked her hair, covering my fingers as I searched for the bullet hole.
“No, it’s okay,” she said. She trembled as she nudged my hand away and pulled her helmet back into place. “It just grazed me.”
I nodded, even though my stomach had twisted into knots. It looked like it had more than grazed her.
Addie swiped her fingers across her bloody forehead and stepped past me into the control room, shoving the closest human away with her foot. She sat down at the computer. She tapped the screen a few times as I paced behind her, nervously glancing out into the hallway as I waited for more guards to barrel through the doors.
I was incredibly lucky that bullet hadn’t hit her more directly. I didn’t think I could get to medical and free the Reboots. I would be stuck in here without her, and Callum would be stuck in that hole until HARC found him.
I gripped the edge of the doorframe, watching as Addie touched the screen again. She stopped suddenly, leaning back, and I opened my mouth to ask what was wrong.
Doors Unlocked flashed across the screen in bright red letters.
“Got it,” she said, jumping up from the chair.
We ran through the hallway and back into the stairwell, a burst of energy exploding in my body as my brain realized we might actually make it.
“How long do you want me to wait?” Addie called as we flew up the stairs. “I’ll probably make it to the shuttles first.”
“As long as you can,” I said as I passed the sixth floor. “But if HARC starts closing in, just take off. Find someone else to fly the second shuttle.”
I stopped in front of the seventh-floor door and glanced at Addie as she continued up to eight. She gave me an encouraging smile, but I could see the blood still trickling out of her helmet. She had to wipe it away again as she darted up the steps.
“Good luck,” I called.
She laughed. “I think you need it more than me. I’m about to get backup from a hundred Reboots.”
She disappeared around the corner and I tightened my grip on the tranq gun as I turned to face the door again. This was it. If I didn’t get to the medical lab there was no hope for Callum.
I reached for the handle and wrapped my fingers around the cool metal.
The door swung open from the other side and I leaped back, grabbing on to the railing before I tumbled down the stairs.
Three officers poured into the stairwell, guns raised.
I ducked as the first officer pulled his trigger. I aimed my gun at his leg and sunk a dart into it, leaping back as he fell headfirst for the stairs.
I got off another shot, hitting the second officer in the stomach as a bullet from the third guard rocketed into my shoulder. I grabbed his arm as he tried to fire again and twisted it behind his back, pressing the tranq gun directly into his back. I let him go as he slumped forward.
The excitement of a fight crept in over my fear, and I almost smiled as I jumped over the officers’ bodies and reached for the door. I threw it open to see a long, white hallway, deserted except for one lone human running away from me. A human in a white lab coat.
My eyes widened as I reached for the real gun at my hip. I needed that human.
“Stop!” I yelled, purposefully angling the gun too far to the left as I fired.
But he kept running. His shoes squeaked on the tile as he headed for the exit door at the other end of the hallway. I took off after him, aiming my gun at his right shoulder. I pulled the trigger.
He let out a scream and stumbled, grunting as his knees hit the floor. He whipped his head around and his eyes widened when he saw me coming.
He pressed a bloody hand to the floor as he tried to get to his feet, but I was there first. I hauled him up by the back of his lab coat and wrapped my arm around his neck. I glanced down at the name on his coat. Bishop.
“Bishop,” I said, squeezing my arm tighter to his neck as he squirmed. “I’ll make you a deal. You help me into that room”—I pointed to the medical lab, behind clear glass to our left—“and I won’t kill you.”