“Why not free the remaining Reboots and leave?” I asked. “You’ll lose more Reboots fighting a war against the humans. Not to mention we lost last time.”
“Reboot numbers were smaller last time, and they didn’t have the weapons we have. Once we get all the Reboots from the four remaining facilities we’ll be three times the size we are now. And if we leave, humans will continue to Reboot and we’ll have to keep coming back to save them. It’s easier just to get rid of them all.”
The humans were screwed. Utterly, totally, screwed.
Micah glanced at me again, hope lighting up his face. I tried to make my expression neutral, but he looked disappointed I didn’t seem more excited about his plan. I turned my gaze to the ground.
As we reached the shuttle, Riley rushed forward, his eyes bouncing between me and Micah. He was attempting to hide his nerves, but I could see them edging out ever so slightly.
Riley had told Micah he couldn’t find the humans. Yet they were right around the corner, less than a mile away. I seriously doubted Riley wouldn’t be able to find a target less than a mile away. Not unless he didn’t want to find them.
The thought comforted me only slightly as we piled into the shuttle. Riley might not be interested in killing humans but he was still playing along.
The dead humans were placed in the middle of the shuttle with the supplies and I took a quick look at them. The boy was maybe fourteen or so, surprisingly well-fed, with plump cheeks. The girl was tall and probably pretty, but it was hard to tell with her eyes all dead like that. They were still human, dull and a light shade of green.
I turned away and caught Riley staring at me as we lifted off the ground.
“How long has it been?” Micah asked.
“Fifteen or twenty minutes,” Jules replied.
I stared at the humans as we rode in silence. I’d never seen a human Reboot. The process was long over by the time a Reboot got to HARC, and I’d never been allowed to stick around a dead human long enough to see them Reboot.
I watched them out of the corner of my eye for a long time, until I heard Micah suck in a breath.
“Look at the girl.”
My gaze flew to her, but I wasn’t sure there was anything different. Her human eyes still stared at the ceiling vacantly. I leaned a bit closer.
Her hand twitched.
“What time are we at?” Micah asked.
“Fifty minutes or so?” Jules asked. “We’re going to need a death timer to tell if she’s under sixty or not.”
Her hand twitched again and I gripped the bottom of my seat, holding my breath.
Her body convulsed, a huge gasp escaping her mouth as she slammed her chest into the air, then back to the floor.
She was still again, but her eyes were closed.
Riley slowly unbuckled his seat belt and edged onto the floor between her and the boy. He sat next to her still body.
She gasped twice more, her body jerking like she was having a seizure.
“Is this normal?” I whispered.
“Yes,” Riley said without turning around.
Her eyes flew open. The dull light color was gone, replaced by bright green.
A strangled noise escaped her throat, like she was in pain. Was Rebooting painful? I frowned, trying to remember, but there was nothing to that memory but the screaming and panic.
She bolted upright, her head whipping from side to side. She didn’t appear to see any of us. She was panicked, tears starting to stream down her face. She screamed.
Riley clamped his hand over her eyes and circled his arm around her waist, pulling her to the other side of the shuttle. He turned so she was facing the wall and held tight as she struggled and screamed.
“Don’t look, okay?” he said softly. “Everything’s okay, but you don’t want to look.”
I glanced over at the other human, still motionless on the shuttle floor. Riley spoke softly to the girl as she began to sob in his arms, her whole body shaking.
“She’ll be fine,” Micah said, his voice full of sympathy, like he wasn’t the one who’d killed her.
I pushed my hands underneath my thighs for fear of reaching out to choke him. I took a deep breath, closing my eyes briefly.
“Wren,” Micah said.
I ignored him.
I slowly opened my eyes, trying not to let the hate shine through.
“She’s better now,” he said. He gave me a nod, like he needed me to agree. “We made her better.”
I clenched my hands into fists beneath my thighs.
We had to get away from these people. Immediately.
I RAN FOR THE GATE AS SOON AS I SPOTTED THE SHUTTLE IN THE sky, my heart pounding loudly in my chest. It landed several yards away and a tall, muscular guy got out first, a girl wearing a blood-soaked T-shirt in his arms. He was followed by Jules, who was also carrying a dead human, then Micah, and, finally, Wren. She was pale, her face hard as stone. Micah said something to her but she walked right by him.
I couldn’t breathe. I hadn’t been able to breathe since Addie told me the hunt was actually for humans. Since she told me Micah and his friends had been slowly killing all the humans they could find and bringing back the ones who Rebooted.
Wren’s face made it worse. I’d forced myself not to panic, to be calm and rational even though I wanted to scream at all these crazy people. I had to wait and see what Wren’s reaction was, to gauge how much trouble we were in.
Apparently we were in “everyone panic, we’re screwed” trouble.
“Wren!” Micah called to Wren’s back.
Her face hardened and she threw a look over her shoulder that made Micah stop in his tracks. I swallowed as I watched his face change, the excited, friendly expression he’d been wearing around her slipping away.
She offered me her hand as she approached, relief splashed across her face. Even through my panic, I felt a twinge of happiness that she was relieved to see me. I laced my fingers through hers and squeezed.
“Come with me,” she said, pulling on my hand as she kept walking.
“They told me what the hunt was,” I said under my breath as we strode across the compound.
Her eyes flicked to mine and she swallowed, nodding slightly. I held her hand tighter.
We walked across the reservation and through the back gate. A thick band of trees was in front of the lake, and Wren didn’t stop until we were right in the middle of them. She released a rush of air as she dropped my hand and turned to me.
“We need to leave. Now.”
I hesitated, taking a quick glance back at the reservation. Addie might have been on board with that plan, given how upset she was earlier, but the rest of the Austin Reboots? We couldn’t leave them here.