The words come spilling out of my mouth in a rage. “Yeah, is that what you told Metias?”
Not much time before backup power kicks in. I don’t wait around to hear Thomas’s reply. I reach the stairs and jump up three at a time, counting the seconds since the electro-bomb went off. (Eleven seconds so far. One hundred and nine seconds left before guns are functional again.)
I burst through the first-floor door into a sea of chaos. Soldiers rushing out to the square. Footsteps thundering everywhere. I make my way straight back toward the firing squad yard. Details zip around me like a highway of thoughts. (Ninety-seven seconds left. Thirty-three soldiers heading opposite me—twelve heading in my direction—some flat screens have gone dark—must be the power cut—others show pandemonium in the crowd outside—something’s falling from the sky into the square—money! The Patriots are raining money down from the roofs. Half the crowd’s fighting to get out of the square while the other half’s scrambling for the Notes.)
Seventy-two seconds. I reach the firing squad hall and take in the scene in an instant: three unconscious soldiers. John and Day (with a blindfold loose around his neck, which the guards must’ve put over his eyes right before the bomb went off) are fighting with a fourth. The others must’ve been called to help contain the square—but they won’t be long now. They’ll come back in no time. I run up behind them and kick the soldier’s feet out from under him. He tumbles to the ground. John punches him in the jaw. The soldier goes limp.
Sixty seconds. Day looks unsteady, as if he might pass out. A soldier must’ve hit him across the head, or maybe his leg is giving him trouble. John and I support him between us—I guide us into a narrower hall branching away from the firing squad corridors and we start making our way toward the exits. Commander Jameson’s voice blares out from the intercoms a second later. She sounds furious.
“Execute him! Kill him now! Make sure the square broadcasts it!”
“Damn it,” Day says under his breath. His head sways to one side—his bright blue eyes look dull and unfocused. I exchange a look with John and keep going. Soldiers will be on their way back now. Back to drag Day out into the yard.
We’re a good 250 feet from the exits. (We’re covering about 5 feet a second; 27 times 5 equals 135 feet. In 135 feet, guns will be reactivated. I can already hear soldiers’ boots in the corridors adjacent to ours, pounding on the floor. Probably searching for us. We need at least 23 more seconds to get to the doors before they catch us in this hall. They’ll shoot us dead long before we can get out.)
I hate my calculations.
John glances at me. “We’re not going to make it.” Between us, Day has faded into a semiconscious state. If the brothers continue on and I run back to fight the soldiers, I’ll probably only take down a few before they overwhelm me. They’ll still reach John and Day.
John stops walking, and I feel Day’s weight shift over to me. “What—” I begin to say, until I see John pull the blindfold off of Day’s neck. Then he turns around. My eyes widen. I know what he’s going to do. “No, stay with us!”
“You need more time,” John says. “They want an execution? They’ll get one.” He starts running away from us. Back down the hall.
Back toward the firing squad yard.
No. No, no, John. Where are you going! I waste a second looking back at him, torn in that instant, wondering if I should chase after him.
John’s going to do it.
Then Day’s head lolls against my shoulder. Six seconds. I have no choice. Even as I hear the shouts of soldiers behind us, in the hall leading to the firing squad, I force myself to turn around and keep going.
Guns are reactivated. We keep going. More seconds pass. I hear a commotion in the halls somewhere behind us. I tell myself not to look back.
Then we reach the exits, burst out into the street, and a pair of soldiers is upon us. I have no more strength to fight. But I try. Then someone’s wrestling with me, and the soldiers go down, and Kaede runs past my line of vision. “They’re here!” she shouts. “Move out!”
They were lurking near the back exits. Just like we agreed. The Patriots came for us. I want to tell them to wait for John, but I know it’s no use. They grab us and lead us toward their motorcycles. I take the gun out from my belt and fling it to the ground. I can’t have its tracker follow me now. Day goes on one motorcycle—I go on another. Wait for John, I want to say.
But then we’re off. Batalla Hall moves away from us.
A CRACK OF LIGHTNING, AN EXPLOSION OF THUNDER, the sound of pounding rain. Somewhere far away, the wailing of flood sirens.
I open my eyes, then squint at the water falling into them. For an instant I can’t remember anything—not even my name. Where am I? What happened? I’m sitting right next to a chimney, soaking wet. I’m on the rooftop of a high-rise tower. Rain blankets the world around me and wind whistles through my drenched shirt, threatening to lift me off my feet. I huddle against the chimney. When I look up at the sky, I see an endless field of churning clouds, jet-black and furious, illuminated by lightning.
Suddenly I remember. The firing squad, the hallway, the flat screens. John. The explosion. Soldiers everywhere. June. I should be dead right now, filled with bullets.
Slouched next to me, almost invisible against the night in a black outfit, is June. She’s sitting awkwardly against the wall of the chimney, oblivious to the rain that runs down her face. I shift to turn toward her. A spasm of pain shoots up my injured leg. Words stick to my tongue and refuse to come out.