“Yeah,” I said with a short laugh. I’d told them the story last night, an abbreviated version of our escape from Rosa and break into Austin to rescue Addie and get Callum the antidote. It felt like a million years ago, even though it was just early yesterday morning that I’d been running down the halls of the Austin HARC facility.
“You were at the Rosa facility how long?” Jules asked.
“Five years. Since I was twelve.”
“You were shot, weren’t you?” Micah asked. “Riley told me that’s how you died.”
“Who did it?”
I shrugged. “I don’t know.” It was a common question, but not one I could bring myself to care about. It was some drug dealer or shady friend of my parents’, and it didn’t matter now. Chances were good HARC had caught the human who killed me and my parents and executed him anyway.
“Humans,” Kyle said with a roll of his eyes. “Go around killing each other all the time.”
Micah shook his head, running his hand along the stubble on his chin. “It’s like they want to be extinct.”
Everyone was amused by this, but once again, I wasn’t sure I got the joke. I shifted in my chair uncomfortably.
I cleared my throat and pointed to the stack of guns in the corner. “Where’d you guys get all the weapons?”
“We took some from the HARC shuttles that attacked us,” Micah said. “We made some. But we scavenged most of them. Well, I shouldn’t say ‘we.’ They. The very smart Reboots who evaded HARC years ago immediately started scavenging weapons left over from the war. Even though they’d lost, they were still in battle mode.”
That made sense. HARC had rounded up all the Reboots and killed them after the war, before they figured out they could use the young ones to help clean up the cities. The Reboots who managed to escape would have needed to be well protected.
“HARC was busy with the new cities in Texas and building their facilities and by the time they sent crews out to the old military bases north of Texas, they were stripped bare.”
“Hank used to tell this story about driving a tank right past a HARC officer one day,” Kyle said with a laugh. “He just rolled right on by and the HARC guy never looked twice. They had no idea they’d missed so many Reboots, and they were out there, stealing stuff.”
“And back then, HARC still thought we had limited brainpower,” Micah said. “I actually think the Reboots’ organized plan to strip every military base from coast to coast is what prompted all the experiments HARC does on us now. They realized they didn’t know crap about us. Or what we were capable of.”
“But the Reboots didn’t attack back then, did they?” I asked. I’d never heard of a Reboot attack after the war.
“No, the numbers were too small. They just stockpiled the weapons for protection. When I moved everyone here out to the open, we brought them all with us.”
I opened my mouth to ask why he would move everyone into the open, leaving them vulnerable to HARC attacks, but the shuttle started to descend and Micah walked over to the pilot. He sat down in the passenger’s seat, pointing at something to the east as he murmured to the driver.
“They’re right in front of us,” he said with a smile, turning to us. “Looks like everyone is okay.”
I slid forward in my seat to see a few figures below us. The flat earth that surrounded the reservation was gone, replaced by huge stone structures, almost mountains. It was like someone had carved a random huge hole in the middle of Texas.
“You should see the one farther north,” Kyle said, catching my expression. “Makes this canyon look tiny.”
There was a river not far away, and the land was dotted with trees. This area seemed much nicer than the location Micah had picked for the reservation.
The shuttle landed softly on the ground. Kyle handed me two guns—a shotgun and a handgun—and extra ammo. These Reboots really didn’t take any chances. I had to admire them for that.
The door to the shuttle slid open and a burst of anticipation zipped through my chest. I didn’t know how to act around Riley outside of HARC. I might have counted him as a friend, but one who barely spoke to me.
I stepped out from behind Jules, scrunching my face up against the powerful wind that slammed against me. Less than a day, and I was already entirely annoyed by the wind here. I’d never felt anything like it.
Micah climbed out the door behind the short Reboot pilot and raised his hand at something in the distance. I squinted, lifting my hand to block the sunlight.
Four, no five, Reboots were walking toward us. Two bikes were behind them, one of them toppled over in the dirt with a busted tire.
A guy at the front of the group was walking a bit faster than the rest: the leader. His hair was longer than last time I’d seen him, almost a year ago. The thick, dark blond strands tickled at his neck. His eyes were a light, piercing blue. It was Riley One-fifty-seven.
“Hey, Micah,” he called as he got closer. “Sorry, we—”
He stopped short, his eyes widening as they met mine. “Wren?”
Micah chuckled, turning to glance at me. “Surprise.”
“Wren?” Riley said again, with a hint of laughter. I lifted my hand to wave but he was running toward me and I froze, unsure what he intended to do. He scooped me up in his arms, my feet almost leaving the ground. I stiffened. How odd. Riley never touched me. His blank, emotionless demeanor had been my favorite thing about him. We’d been the same that way.
He released me, his face more excited than I’d ever seen. He was almost as tall as Callum but wider, although he was slightly less muscular than last time I’d seen him. Working out had been the only thing Riley enjoyed at HARC.
“How are you here? What happened? Did Leb help you?” His words came in a rush, and by the time he got to the last question I wasn’t sure he wanted me to answer the first anymore.
“Yes,” I said slowly. “Leb helped me. I . . . uh, escaped.”
Riley laughed like that was the funniest thing he’d ever heard and pulled me into another hug. What was happening? Since when did Riley hug? Since when did Riley laugh?
“She forgot the part where she rescued every Reboot in the Austin facility and brought them with her!” Micah called over his shoulder as he headed toward the other Reboots.
Riley frowned in confusion. “Austin? What were you doing in Austin?”