“Callum, leave it,” Isaac repeated, throwing me a pleading glance over his shoulder.
I let out a defeated sigh and moved back so I was next to Addie again. She was motionless, fear plastered on her face.
Micah took a step forward, furious eyes darting between Addie and me. “There are rules here.”
“No one told us any rules,” Addie said.
Micah’s jaw moved, like he was trying to control his temper. “Isaac told you at the beginning of the conversation that we don’t talk about our lesser human lives.”
Lesser human lives? Was this guy for real?
“But I know you’re new, so I’m cutting you some slack.” His tone lightened enormously, which gave me the impression he was completely out of his mind. It was like he flipped a switch from “I’m going to kill you” to “Let’s be friends.”
I took a small step back. I didn’t want to be friends.
“But I suggest you mind your own business and stop interfering in things you don’t understand.”
Which part didn’t I understand? He killed people. He controlled them. He scared them. Seemed pretty basic to me.
Addie and I didn’t say word, which appeared to please him. He gave us a slight nod and turned to walk to his tent.
“That seems really bad,” Addie breathed when he was out of earshot.
Yeah. It did.
I returned to our tent that evening to find Wren already sitting on the mattress, her legs pulled to her chest and an arm wrapped around them. She turned to me with a worried expression as I shut the tent flap.
“How’s Isaac?” she asked. “Did you find him?”
I nodded. I’d filled her in earlier, then gone looking for Isaac. It was quiet outside, most of the Reboots already in their tents, and I lowered my voice when I spoke. “Micah didn’t have him for long, and he seems fine. He wouldn’t talk to me, though.”
“Micah could do whatever he wanted to them,” she said with a sigh. “They’d just heal a few minutes later and no one would know.”
I winced at the possibility. “Lovely.” I sat down next to her and ran a hand down my face. “I can’t understand why they would all just go along with him being their leader.”
“He makes some good points,” she said quietly. “They want to survive, and he’s providing them with a good plan.”
I raised my eyebrows. “A good plan?”
“A logical plan,” she corrected, avoiding my eyes.
I pushed back a burst of annoyance at Micah being called “logical.” That was the last word I would have used to describe him. I gave her a confused look.
“He’s doing the only thing he knows how to do to protect everyone here. His experience has shown him that humans and Reboots can’t live together. So he had to make a choice.”
“The choice to kill everyone?” I asked.
“Everything isn’t black and white, Callum,” she said quietly.
I paused, deciding not to tell her I thought murder was black and white. You chose to kill people or you didn’t.
Unless HARC made you insane and you accidentally killed someone. I paused, a pang of guilt zipping through my body. Maybe it wasn’t totally black and white.
“But that wouldn’t have been your choice,” I said.
“No,” she said immediately. “But I see his rationale.”
I scrunched my face up. I didn’t see how anyone could make a decision that involved murdering an entire species. I could barely handle that I’d killed one person.
“I made choices like that,” she said to her lap.
I slid my fingers between hers. “How do you mean?”
“I went into the Austin facility knowing that humans were going to die. That maybe some Reboots would die. I decided that was an acceptable sacrifice to save you. Micah has decided that all the humans are an acceptable sacrifice to save the Reboots.”
I held her hand tighter. “That isn’t the same. You never wanted to kill anyone. You did it because you had to, or because you were protecting yourself or me. You’re not committing mass murder because you can. You see the difference, right?”
Wren squinted, like she was thinking about it. It freaked me out when she gave serious thought to things that seemed simple to me. She really had to think that hard about it?
She caught the look on my face and immediately slipped her hand out of mine, her cheeks turning pink. “Yes,” she said. It was an obvious lie, said to make me feel better.
She looked embarrassed now, and I wrapped an arm around her waist, pulling her closer. I didn’t appreciate her seeing any of Micah’s points, but I felt guilty for making her uncomfortable.
“Hey,” I said, running my hand to the back of her neck. “They said you sewed up the kids Micah killed.”
She nodded, her fingers closing over the collar of her shirt. I tried not to look. I didn’t want to tell her that by not showing me her scars, she’d made me even more curious about them. But I couldn’t come up with a way to ask about them that didn’t sound like “I really want to see your boobs,” so I kept my mouth shut.
“That was a nice thing to do,” I said, gently removing her fingers from her shirt and taking her hand.
She shrugged. “I would have liked someone to do that for me.”
I nodded, giving her an understanding look when she met my eyes. I leaned down and brushed my lips across hers, holding her tighter.
I MET MICAH OUTSIDE THE RESERVATION THE NEXT DAY, IN THE grass near the lake. Most of the reservation was already there, milling around as they waited. Micah had explained to me that everyone capable of fighting participated in sparring/training sessions several times a week. I’d volunteered right away when he mentioned it, and I was happy for the distraction this morning.
My heart took a dip as I found Callum in the crowd. He stood next to Isaac, arms crossed over his chest, and when his eyes met mine he smiled. I returned the smile, trying to push last night’s conversation out of my head. I kept seeing his face after I told him Micah was logical, like he was horrified I could ever think that.
I’d known it was a mistake the moment I said it. But what was I supposed to do? Lie? Micah wasn’t insane; he was strategic. He was making decisions based on logic and experience and he wasn’t letting emotions get in the way. The results were kind of horrifying, and I hadn’t lied when I said I wouldn’t have made the same decisions, but to dismiss him as insane wasn’t smart.