“Oh.” I waited for more of an explanation, but he didn’t give one. He was holding something back and, given the way he was avoiding my eyes and frowning, it wasn’t good.
I took a quick look at the scene behind him. About ten Reboots milled around, picking up shuttle parts or working on the fence. Some of the somberness of yesterday was gone, but the reservation Reboots didn’t seem to be making much of an effort to talk to the new arrivals. In fact, no one except Isaac had approached me.
I returned my attention to the mess in front of me. I hadn’t approached any of them, either, so maybe we were all still adjusting. I picked out a button and tried to fit it in the hole on the dash. No luck.
“So, Austin,” Isaac said, crossing his arms over his chest. “It’s nice?”
I shrugged. “It’s okay.” When I thought of Austin all I could see were my parents slamming the door in my face. All I could hear was the gasp of that man I killed as I wrapped my fingers around his throat.
I closed my eyes, swallowing. Part of me was relieved the memories were returning from the time I’d lost. They’d started slipping back, little by little, last night. Jumping on top of that woman in the restaurant, the smell of her flesh overwhelming me. Waiting for Wren to grab Addie and getting distracted by movement in the next house over. Breaking the door in and pouncing on the man.
I opened my eyes with a sigh. Isaac was staring at me, his face scrunched in sympathy.
“You HARC people are seriously messed up, huh?”
“Probably,” I said with a hint of amusement.
“What’s it like there?”
“Being in the facility isn’t so bad. I got beat up a lot the first couple of days, but then that stopped and it was just Wren kicking the crap out of me and that was sort of fun.”
He gave me a baffled look. “Seriously messed up. All of you.”
“She was my trainer,” I said with a laugh. “She was nice about it.”
“Oh, well, if she was nice about it.”
“The assignments, where we had to go out and capture humans were kind of awful. I’d probably have died in less than a year if I’d stayed.” I sighed. “The humans really hate us.”
Isaac nodded as he took a step back. “Well, they sort of have a point sometimes, you know?”
I looked at him in surprise. “What do you mean?”
“I’d be scared of us, if I were them. We’re tougher and stronger and most of you can kick their asses, thanks to HARC.”
He did have a point. As a human I’d been more curious about Reboots, but I was definitely still scared of them. I never encountered a Reboot until I became one myself, but I might have run away, too.
Although I could say for sure that I never would have grabbed a baseball bat and tried to bash their heads in. I shivered at the memory of being attacked by humans in Rosa. I had understood Wren’s dislike of them, for a moment.
“Do you like it here?” I asked.
“Yeah.” He shrugged. “I mean, it could be worse, right? I could be at HARC.”
“It’s not so bad. By the time I got here, most of the kinks were ironed out. They’ve got stable crops and everyone is fed and clothed.”
“I used to work the fields in Austin, before I Rebooted,” I said. “I could help with that here.”
“Nice,” Isaac said, like he was genuinely impressed. “More useful skills. Micah might start liking you as much as he likes your girlfriend.”
I gave him an annoyed look and he snorted in amusement. It faded as he caught sight of something in the distance, and I leaned out the shuttle door to see Beth and Addie headed in my direction, their faces grim. I turned to Isaac again but he was already walking away.
I jumped from the shuttle, wiping my hands on my pants as they approached. Addie was pale and Beth was nervously tugging on her hair.
“Have you seen Wren?” Addie asked.
“She left with Micah.” I lowered my voice, stepping closer to her. “She’ll be back tonight. Is everything okay?”
Beth and Addie exchanged a horrified expression and a sick feeling started to build in my stomach.
“On the hunt?” Addie said, her voice barely above a whisper.
“Technically she went to find the Reboots who didn’t come back, but I think they were going to hunt if they could.” I swallowed. “Why? What’s wrong?”
“Did they tell her what the hunt was?” Addie’s eyes were big, worry mixing with fear.
“I . . . I don’t know.” I glanced from her to Beth. “What’s the hunt?”
I SETTLED INTO A SHUTTLE SEAT AS WE LIFTED OFF THE GROUND. Micah claimed the big seat usually occupied by a HARC officer, and a big pile of guns sat on the floor at our feet. Kyle One-forty-nine sat next to me, his wide shoulders taking up part of my seat. Jules sat on my other side and I avoided her gaze, worried she would start lecturing me about taking out my birth-control chip, too.
“Do we have enough fuel?” I asked. Last thing I wanted was to get stuck a hundred miles away from Callum.
“We do,” Micah replied, leaning back in his seat. “Although we may take a trip down to Austin soon to get more fuel from those helpful rebels. Seems like the kind of thing they’d be good for.” He smirked in a way I didn’t quite understand, like he was being sarcastic, and I shifted uncomfortably in my chair. I hated feeling indebted to those humans. I almost felt like I needed to stick up for them.
The shuttle flew through the air smoothly, like there was a HARC officer in the pilot’s chair. “How’d you guys learn to fly the shuttles?” I asked.
“We fixed the ones we shot down and taught ourselves,” he said, stretching his long legs in front of him. “It’s not hard, I teach all the younger Reboots how to do it. They’re made so HARC monkeys can drive them without any trouble.”
The Reboots laughed but an image of Addie’s father, Leb, popped into my head. Not all the HARC officers were bad.
I took a quick glance around. That wasn’t the sort of thing I could say here. I sat back in my seat and everyone quieted down. It was like being with the One-twenties at the HARC facility. The silence was comforting.
“You look better today,” Jules finally said, smiling at me as she pushed her long, red hair over her shoulder. “You seemed overwhelmed yesterday.”
“You did,” Micah said, his voice sympathetic. “I’m sorry. You must have had a hell of a few days, huh?”