Reboots streamed down the stairs, running and jumping and laughing. They all had on their helmets and field gear and I didn’t see a single guard among the crowd.
I stepped into the crowd and let them carry me along down the stairs. Explosions and gunshots rocked the building but the cheers and excitement didn’t fade in the least. I couldn’t help grinning.
We were almost free.
As we poured through the door on the ground floor, I saw the lobby was full of smoke and dead or unconscious HARC officers. I clutched the cases of vials close to my chest as we burst through the back door. The early morning sun burned my eyes and I squinted as I sprinted across the grass to the trees where I’d left Callum.
Two big HARC shuttles were parked immediately to my left. Addie stood in front of one, directing Reboots. She beamed at the sight of me. The blood was gone from her forehead, and I felt a tiny burst of relief that she was okay.
“I’ll take those!” she called, rushing over. I dumped the cases in her outstretched arms and plucked out one vial for Callum. “Get him quick. We’ve got to go!”
Addie turned back to the shuttles and I raced to the fence, wrapping my fingers around the metal and hurling my body over. My momentum carried me into the trees, where I vaulted a fallen log, clutching the antidote. The hole was just ahead of me and I quickly tossed the leaves and branches covering it aside.
Callum was curled up in a ball in the dirt, his eyes half-open. He didn’t move or make any indication he’d heard me approach.
I lowered myself down in the hole and tugged him up to a sitting position. He was limp, an empty shell.
I jabbed the needle into his arm and pushed the liquid in.
It would take a minute. That was all it was. I balked at the alternatives as I untied his legs and arms and plopped down in his lap. I put my hands on his cheeks, my panicked attempts at breathing filling the silence. His head swung back and forth as he looked beyond me at nothing in the distance.
“Callum,” I whispered, my fingers inching up into his hair.
What if it was too late? What if it wasn’t the right one? My throat closed and I pressed my lips together to keep in the scream. What if that human had given me something else? What if—
Callum took in a sharp breath and his head jerked up. He blinked a few times and color bled back into his face.
The laugh escaped my chest as a strange sort of gasp and I wrapped my arms around his neck and pressed my lips to his. I trailed kisses across his cheeks until he laughed, too.
I ran my hands up to his neck and stared into his eyes. “You feel okay? You feel normal again?”
A smile spread across his face. The big, happy, hopeful smile I loved. He nodded, leaning forward until his lips brushed my cheek. “You’re shockingly good sometimes, you know that?”
I laughed and gave him another quick kiss and hopped up. “We’ve got to get out of here.” I dug my fingers into the dirt and scrambled up from the hole, turning to help Callum. He’d already climbed out behind me and was on his feet, staring at the scene in front of him with wide eyes.
Reboots ran across the lawn and officers lay unconscious on the ground. The back of the HARC building was riddled with bullet holes. Smoke poured from several windows on the upper levels.
I reached for Callum’s hand we ran out of the trees and launched ourselves over the fence and across the grass. “In! In!” Addie yelled. “Everyone, now!”
I didn’t see Tony or any of the other rebels anywhere, and I paused near Addie on my way to the second shuttle. “Tony?” I yelled.
“Gone. They made it out.” She slammed shut the back door to her shuttle and tossed me the tracker locator. “I got another one inside for my shuttle.”
“Thanks.” I passed the locator to Callum as I threw open the driver’s door to the second shuttle. I gestured for him to get in, and he raised his eyebrow.
“Just get in,” I said with a laugh. He climbed into the passenger’s seat and I followed, clicking the door shut behind me. The dash in front of me looked very much like the diagram Tony had drawn. The lever in the center took us up or down; the buttons on either side were for landing gear and communications. Someone had already started the shuttle, so everything in front of me was lit up, ready for takeoff.
Bullets pinged the door and I squinted out the window to see a few straggler HARC officers staggering across the lawn. I quickly grasped the center lever, like Tony had taught me, and pushed it up.
We were off the ground. I pushed it higher and we lurched. I could hear people in the back yelling and crashing into one another, and Callum was gripping the dashboard in front of him, but I focused on flying, pushing the lever forward to increase our speed.
“Here,” I said, pulling out my knife. “Give them the locator. They all need to get their trackers out as fast as possible.”
He nodded and disappeared into the back of the shuttle. I pushed the lever to the right until I could see the other shuttle hovering not far from us. I followed its lead as it swung north.
A hand brushed under my chin and I jumped, turning to see Callum. He grinned as he unhooked my helmet and kissed my cheek.
“I’m driving here,” I said with a laugh as he kissed me again.
“I noticed. What a show-off,” he said with a chuckle. “Saving just me wasn’t enough for you?”
I grinned as he kissed me again. He plopped down in the seat next to me, both our helmets in his lap. Behind me, I could hear the clinks as trackers hit the floor of the shuttle and the Reboots celebrated.
“Do we know where we’re going?” Callum asked, leaning forward to look out the window. The slums were below us, and a few humans were beginning to mill around.
“Addie has the map; we’re following her,” I said. “But I know the general direction if we get separated.”
As we watched, the side door of Addie’s shuttle opened a crack and tiny pieces of silver caught the sunlight as they rained down. Trackers.
“Hey!” I called, twisting around in my seat. “Toss your trackers out the door!” A few Reboots nodded, and I turned to face forward.
We passed over the HARC fence at the edge of Austin and I leaned sideways to look out the window to my right. The sky was clear behind me, the HARC building growing smaller and smaller in the distance.
I let out a long sigh as I turned to look at Callum, a smile spreading across my face at his excited expression. I focused on the sky in front of me again, gripping the lever and pushing it forward just a little. We were a few shuttle lengths behind Addie, and I pushed the button marked cruise. The shuttle continued forward as I let go of the lever.