I have to do something. From my pocket, I pull the three silver bullets Tess had given me, the three bullets from my hospital break-in. I fit one of them into my makeshift slingshot. A memory of my seven-year-old self launching the flaming snowball into the police headquarters flickers through my mind. Then I point the slingshot at one of the soldiers holding John, pull back as far as I can, and fire.
It scrapes his neck so hard that I see blood spray from the impact. The soldier crumples, clutching frantically at his mask. Instantly other soldiers point their guns up toward the roof. I’m crouched, motionless, behind the chimney.
The Girl steps forward. “Day.” Her voice echoes down the street. I must be delirious because I think I hear sympathy in her voice. “I know you’re here, and I know why.” She points toward John and my mother. Eden has already disappeared inside the medic truck.
Now my mother knows I’m the criminal she sees on all the JumboTron warnings. But I say nothing. I fit another bullet to my slingshot and point it in the Girl’s direction.
“You want your family to be safe. I understand that,” she continues. “I wanted my family to be safe too.”
I pull back my arm.
The Girl’s voice becomes more pleading, even urgent. “Now I’m giving you a chance to save yours. Turn yourself in. Please. No one will get hurt.”
One of the soldiers standing near her lifts his gun higher. On instinct, I swing the slingshot toward him and fire. It hits him right in the knee and sends him tumbling forward.
The soldiers fire a volley of bullets at me. I huddle behind the chimney. Sparks fly. I grit my teeth and close my eyes—I can do nothing in this situation. I’m helpless.
Once the gunfire stops, I look out from the chimney and see the Girl still standing there. Her commander crosses her arms. The Girl doesn’t flinch.
Then I see the commander step forward. When the Girl starts to protest, she pushes her aside. “You can’t stay there forever,” the commander shouts up at me. Her voice is much colder than the Girl’s. “And I know you won’t leave your family to die.”
I fit the last bullet into my slingshot and point it straight at her.
The commander shakes her head at my silence. “Okay, Iparis,” she says to the Girl. “We’ve tried your tactic. Now let’s try mine.” She turns to the dark-haired captain and nods once. “Cop her.”
I have no time to stop what happens next.
The captain lifts his gun and points it at my mother. Then he shoots her in the head.
THE WOMAN THOMAS SHOOTS HASN’T EVEN CRUMPLED TO the ground yet when I see the boy launch himself from the rooftop. I freeze. This is all wrong. No one’s supposed to get hurt. Commander Jameson did not tell me that she intended to kill anyone from the house—we were supposed to take them all back to Batalla Hall for arrest and questioning. My eyes dart to Thomas, wondering if he feels the same horror I do. But he remains expressionless, his gun still drawn.
“Get him!” Commander Jameson yells out. The boy lands on one of the soldiers and knocks him to the ground in a shower of dirt. “We’re taking him alive!”
The boy who I now know is Day lets out a wrenching scream and charges at the nearest soldier even as they close in around him. Somehow he manages to get a hold of the soldier’s gun, although another soldier instantly knocks it from his hands.
Commander Jameson looks at me and pulls the pistol from her belt.
“Commander, don’t!” I blurt out, but she ignores me. Metias flashes through my mind.
“I’m not going to wait for him to kill off my soldiers,” she snaps back at me. Then she aims at Day’s left leg and fires. I wince. The bullet misses its mark (she was aiming for his kneecap)—but it hits the flesh of his outer thigh. Day lets out a scream of agony, then goes down amid a circle of soldiers. The cap flips off his head. His blond hair spills out from beneath it. One soldier kicks him hard enough to knock him out. Then they cuff him, blindfold and gag him, and drag him into one of the waiting jeeps. It takes me a moment to turn my attention to the other prisoner we pulled from the house, a young man who’s probably Day’s brother or cousin. He’s screaming something unintelligible at us. The soldiers shove him into the second jeep.
Thomas gives me an approving look over his mask, but Commander Jameson just frowns at me. “I can see why Drake labeled you a troublemaker,” she says. “This isn’t college. You don’t question my actions.”
A part of me wants to apologize, but I’m too overwhelmed by what just happened, too angry or anxious or relieved. “What about our plan? Commander, with all due respect, we didn’t discuss killing civilians.”
Commander Jameson lets out a sharp laugh. “Oh, Iparis,” she replies. “We’d be here all night if we kept negotiating. See how much faster that was? Much more persuasive to our target.” She looks away. “No matter. Time for you to get in a jeep. Back to headquarters.” She makes a quick motion with her hand, and Thomas barks out an order. The other soldiers hurry back into their formations. She climbs into the first jeep.
Thomas approaches, then tips his hat at me. “Congratulations, June.” He smiles. “I think you really did it. What a run! Did you see the look on Day’s face?”
You just murdered someone. I can’t bring myself to look at Thomas. Can’t bring myself to ask him how he can bear to follow orders so blindly. My eyes wander to where the woman’s body lies on the pavement. Medics have already surrounded the three wounded soldiers, and I know they’ll be placed carefully in the medic truck and taken back to headquarters. But the woman’s body lies unattended and abandoned. A few heads peek out at us from the other houses along the street. Some of them see the body and quickly turn away, while others keep a timid gaze on Thomas and me. Some small part of me wants to smile at the sight, to feel the joy of avenging my brother’s death. I pause, but the feeling doesn’t come. My hands clench and unclench. The pool of blood underneath the woman is starting to make me feel sick.