My gaze turned to the two kids. Were we waiting for them to Reboot? Then what? They were going to join us after what we’d done to them?
I cleared my throat. “Are there a lot of humans out here?” I asked.
Micah smirked. “There used to be.”
“I thought HARC got all the humans together and took them to Texas. Do they escape?”
“Rarely. HARC couldn’t possibly get them all after the war. Especially those people from that country way up north.” He glanced back at Jules and Kyle. “What was that one called?”
“Canada,” Jules said.
“Right. Canada. The humans left in Canada mostly evaded HARC and started migrating south for better weather when they thought it was safe.” Micah grinned. “It wasn’t.”
“And the ones who Reboot just come with you willingly?” I asked. “After you killed them and their families?”
“Where else are they going to go?” Micah said, shoving an animal hide under his arm. “They can either stay out here alone, go to the cities and become a slave, or join us. Not exactly a difficult decision.”
I would have picked staying out here alone, actually. Hands down.
“But, yes, there’s a transition period.” He gestured to the dead teenagers. “Grab one. It’s best we get them on the shuttle before they Reboot.”
Apparently they did not come willingly.
Kyle reached for the boy, yanking him to a standing position by one of his arms. The blood had soaked through the boy’s T-shirt and I sighed.
“Did they have a medical kit?” I asked, rubbing my fingers across my forehead.
“Yeah,” Jules said, holding out the bag she’d packed. “Why?”
“Give it to me. You should stitch them up now.”
“Why?” Micah asked with a frown. “There’s no guarantee they’ll Reboot.”
“But they might,” I said, walking closer to Jules. “If you stitch it now the wound will heal better. Especially if they’re over One-twenty.”
“Oh yeah, that’s true,” Kyle said. “The skin doesn’t always grow back together right if it’s left open too long.”
Micah’s gaze briefly moved down to my chest, a flash of sympathy crossing his face. My wounds were worse than these kids, I’d been younger and the bullet holes had been much bigger, but still, I knew what I was talking about.
“Quickly,” he said, a hint of softness in his voice. “Jules, do one of them.”
Jules handed me a needle and a length of thread. “Give me whatever you have leftover. There isn’t much in here.”
I nodded as I took it and walked to the girl. Her long, dark hair covered part of her face and I left it there, glad I wasn’t able to see her eyes. I took a swift glance behind me as I grabbed the bottom of her shirt, but no one was watching us. Micah was deep in conversation with Kyle and Jules was hovering over the other dead human.
I yanked up the shirt and stitched the two bullet holes back together as best I could. I used the bottom of my own shirt to wipe away some of the blood, but there was too much to get it all. I pulled her top down and handed the thread off to Jules. When I turned around, Micah had the dead girl swung over his shoulder.
“Take those,” he said, pointing to a pile of animal hides and clothes at his feet.
I grabbed them and trailed behind Micah as we headed back toward the shuttle. The girl’s dark hair bobbed as we walked and I didn’t know what to hope for. Was it better to die permanently, or wake up to find that you’ve become a Reboot and everyone you knew is dead?
I didn’t know what I would have picked, if someone had given me a choice.
Micah slowed, letting Jules and Kyle pull ahead of us, and I was forced to walk beside him.
“I know this isn’t ideal,” he said quietly. “But we need as many Reboots as possible.”
“Because right now, the humans outnumber us. If we’re going to go after HARC, we need an army.”
I looked at him quickly. “Go after HARC?”
“Sure. Don’t you want to take revenge on them?”
I paused. Sometimes I still fantasized about snapping Officer Mayer’s neck. It would make such a satisfying sound. But I mostly just wanted to get away from them.
Maybe if they’d killed Callum I’d feel differently, but they didn’t. I won, and I was fine with enjoying my victory from a distance.
“No,” I said.
“What about all those Reboots left in there?” he asked. “Do you want to save them?”
My chest tightened as I realized where this was going. Did I want to jump back into the cities of Texas and fight off HARC four times? Four facilities, four break-ins, four battles. Or five, if HARC transferred Reboots back to the Austin facility soon.
But the intensity of Micah’s stare made me hesitant to admit how little I cared what happened to the rest of the Reboots. Now wasn’t the time for outright argument. I needed to get back to the reservation first. Find Callum. Figure out what to do.
“I think it would be very hard,” I said slowly.
A grin spread across his face. “But it wouldn’t. I already have it all planned out.”
I cleared my throat, beating down the rising sense of dread. “What do you mean?”
“We’ve been preparing for battle for years. I managed to get schematics to all the HARC facilities. Those rebels.” He laughed, gently punching my shoulder. “They’re such trusting souls, aren’t they?”
That sounded bad. That sounded really, really bad.
“Now that we have increased our numbers so unexpectedly, we’re going to fast-track the next phase. We’re going to release the rest of the Reboots in the facilities into the cities, starting with Rosa. Then we’ll eliminate the human population.”
I sucked in a breath. Eliminate the human population? All of them?
“You’d be a big help in Rosa,” he continued. “Riley is the only other Reboot from that facility.” He adjusted the girl on his shoulder. “I get the feeling you’d be an asset on the front lines of anything, though.”
I swallowed before I spoke, steadying myself. “Why eliminate the human population?”
“Because they enslaved us and killed us and evolution has spoken. Our turn.”
“Evolution has spoken?” I repeated.
“They treat us like we’re some sort of evil virus gone wrong, when in reality we’re the evolved ones. The human race was dying out, and the strong found a way to survive. We should be celebrated, not enslaved.”