I wasn’t sure I was glad to be here anymore, so I just stared at him.
“You did a good job on the hunt today,” he said. He put a hand on my arm, locking his gaze on mine. “Very calm and rational.”
“When you don’t know what to do, you keep your mouth shut.” Riley’s words from our first week of training echoed in my head. “Calm and rational keeps you alive. Panic makes you dead.”
I nodded, still feeling that small spark of pride I used to get when he praised me.
His serious look faded as he stepped back, replaced by a half smile. “And I see what it takes to get you out of HARC. Who knew you were such a softie?”
I rolled my eyes at him and he laughed as he walked away. I took a deep breath as I faced the tent, arranging my face into a neutral expression before I stepped inside.
The tent was empty, nothing but Micah and the guns lining every wall. He sat at the long table in the center and I sank into a chair across from him. The air felt tense, and I had the sudden urge to grab my gun. I pushed it back and cleared my throat.
“You’re upset.” He folded his hands on the table.
I narrowed my eyes at him. “Let’s say confused.”
A corner of his mouth twitched. “Okay. Confused.”
“You killed unarmed humans.” I chose my words carefully, aware of the weapons on every wall around me. The hundred-plus Reboots outside were more likely to back him up than me.
“And you don’t . . .” I shifted in my chair. “Do you feel guilty?”
He shrugged. He looked younger suddenly, closer to twenty than thirty. He was letting down his guard for me. “I don’t know. I did, at first. But, you know.” His eyes met mine. “After a while the guilt goes away.”
“Yeah,” I said softly. It did. Callum had made me more aware of that than ever. “But revenge. That didn’t go away.”
“No.” He leaned forward, resting his palms flat on the wooden table. “I was only seven when I died. I had to spend five years in a holding facility, and for a couple years I got to be part of a special group they experimented on. They’ve been shooting us up with drugs and running crazy tests from the beginning, you know.”
I shook my head. “I didn’t know.”
“They had some nasty stuff in the works. Stuff to make us weaker, crazier, all kinds of shit. Half the kids there didn’t even make it to a full facility. It was worse than the large-scale experiments they’re doing now.”
“My friend died from one of their experiments,” I said quietly.
His face softened. “The recent one meant to diminish brainpower? Make us more compliant?”
“Yes. It almost killed Callum, too.”
“And that still doesn’t make you want revenge?”
I paused, truly considering it. “Maybe.”
“I always wanted to get even. I used to stare at Suzanna every day and plot how I would kill her, down to the last detail.”
“Suzanna Palm? The HARC chairman?”
“Yeah. We spent a lot of time together.”
“You did?” I asked in surprise. I’d only seen the chairman of HARC a handful of times during my five years at the Rosa facility. I’d known she was in charge of all HARC operations, but was never totally clear on her role.
“She runs most of the important experiments herself. She’s the controlling type, can’t delegate.” Micah leaned closer to me, his face serious. “You can’t even imagine the things they’re working on, Wren. And I’ve been gone for years. Those drugs they were developing, they’re probably farther along now. Or ready.”
“What were they working on?” I asked.
Micah sighed. “I got a little bit of everything. One of them slowed my reflexes down to where I could barely move. One made everything I saw purple. One made me want to eat humans alive. One slowed down my healing so much it was hours before a wound closed.”
I swallowed. I’d never considered how lucky I was to have died at twelve, and not earlier. I’d never bothered to ask the other Reboots what they did all those years in the holding facility. “So, after I escaped, I decided it needed to stop. We can’t trust the humans. Even those rebels who claim to be helping us are just using us so they can get rid of HARC. I mean, they made it pretty clear they didn’t want us hanging around after they helped us escape, right? Who cares if we had families or lives in the city before? Now that we’re Reboots, we’re just supposed to leave and never come back.”
I nodded. “I’m not dying for them.” Desmond had said it to me a couple nights ago, when he tried to convince the other rebels not to help us.
“I didn’t come to this decision lightly,” he said. “When I got here, I tried to focus more on the reservation, to let go of my anger, but the human attacks were constant. Not even just from HARC. Human stragglers in the area would try to raid the reservation and kill as many as possible. They weren’t scared of us out here like they were in the cities. They hadn’t seen what we were capable of. We put up those signs to deter them, to warn them, and they didn’t listen. The Reboots who left, the older generation? They didn’t want to fight HARC. That’s why they left. They wanted to go live somewhere peacefully and leave the humans alone.” He ran a hand over his face. “And HARC killed every one of them, because they could. I moved the reservation out here so they would know we weren’t hiding or running, but it wasn’t an aggressive move. They showed up and attacked us anyway. They won’t stop, Wren.”
I focused on the table, a frown crossing my face. The rebels were a small group of humans. The majority had been just fine with HARC imprisoning Reboots and killing us at will.
Micah scooted closer, touching one of my hands. I slid it from his grasp. “I understand that not all humans are bad. I really do.”
I met his eyes. He was being serious.
“Tony? That one human who’s the leader of the rebels? He’s always been really nice to me. He talks to me like I’m an equal. I had an older brother in New Dallas who might still be alive. Maybe he grew up to be a nice human.” He clasped his hands together. “But a few exceptions aren’t enough. A few humans who can tolerate us are not enough to convince me that all Reboots will be safe. By letting them live, I risk all the Reboots. I made a really difficult choice, but I truly think it was the right one.” He took in a breath. “Do you see my point?”