His lips twitched. “Say ‘please, Riley.’”
I tried to glare at him without smiling. “Please stop being a pain in the ass, Riley.”
He chuckled. “I’ll see what Micah says. You do realize I know you’re up to something, right?”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“I feel hurt you don’t trust me.”
I punched his shoulder as I passed him. “Payback’s a bitch.”
“DUDE, YOU’RE INSANE.”
I grunted as I pushed the round piece of wood into the ground to make the last side of the tent and straightened to face Isaac. I squinted in the setting sun, watching as the Reboots in the distance transported water to the food tent. We were in the corner of the reservation, far enough away so that no one could overhear our conversation, but I still spoke quietly.
“Why am I insane?” I asked. I pushed back a brief moment of panic as the image of the human I killed slid into my vision. Isaac hadn’t meant “insane” in that way.
“They imprisoned you!” Isaac gave me a baffled look, a rope dangling from his fingers. He’d stopped working on the tent and was just staring at me.
Addie cocked an eyebrow at me as she hammered a post into the ground on the other side of the tent. I’d suggested we start feeling out the reservation Reboots, seeing if they all wanted to kill the humans. My idea to partner with them to fight off Micah didn’t seem to be going over so well with Isaac, my first test subject.
“And they tried to kill you!” he continued, stepping closer to me and lowering his voice. “And they would have killed you for sure when you reached twenty. And you want to go in and save them now?”
“HARC did that. I can’t blame all the humans for what they did.” I cocked my head. “Do you know why HARC does that? Kills Reboots at twenty?”
“It’s supposedly a population-control thing. They don’t need that many Reboots. Also they apparently found that nineteen or twenty was the age they started getting restless in the facilities. Doing crazy things like thinking for themselves.”
“And yet you want to go back!” Isaac said with a laugh before casting around a furtive glance. “Maybe I shouldn’t say that so loud. You probably don’t want word of that plan getting out.”
“You seriously want to kill all the humans in the cities?” Addie whispered, her hands on her hips as she walked closer to us.
He squished up his face. “Well, not particularly. But I don’t really have a choice. My money’s on Micah in that battle, and I don’t really want to be the one who deserted. Kind of seems like a bad choice, long-term.”
“But if we got together enough Reboots to help the humans—if we saved the Reboots in the facilities and convinced them to join us—Micah wouldn’t stand a chance. He’d be way outnumbered,” I said.
Isaac shook his head, tossing the rope he was holding to Addie. “Listen, I know you guys are new, but that kind of talk is going to get you strung up.”
“Strung up?” Addie repeated, horrified.
“Yeah. I’m lucky I didn’t get to experience that last night.” He took a step back. “I’d can it, if I were you.” He turned to go, almost breaking into a run to get away from us.
“Well, that went well,” Addie said with a sigh.
“What do you think ‘strung up’ means?”
“I think it means Micah’s an asshole.”
I snorted. “Yeah. I already figured that one out. What about the Austin Reboots? Have you talked to any of them?”
“Yeah, Beth and I have been testing the waters. Lots of them still have human families, so they’re not jazzed about Micah’s plan. They’re also not pumped to run back to HARC cities, but a lot of them would at least help us save the Reboots in the facilities. We were talking about maybe swiping the schematics Micah has in his tent at some point before we leave. So that’s something.”
That was something. Not as much as I was hoping for, but at least we weren’t getting outright refusal.
A blond head caught my eye, and I squinted to find Wren walking across the reservation with Riley. She scanned the area around her, splitting off from Riley when she spotted me. She strode straight to me and rose up on her toes like she was going to give me a kiss, which seemed strange, since she’d been a bit awkward around me since last night. I was trying not to show I was still freaked out by her deciding Micah was logical, but it seemed I was failing.
But she didn’t kiss me. She leaned close to my ear, placing a hand on my chest. “If they ask you to go to Austin, say yes. Don’t seem too excited. I think you’ll have the opportunity to slip Tony or Desmond a note.”
She pulled back, giving me a quick smile before turning to walk away. I wanted to grab her hand and tell her thank you, but I got the impression she wanted to keep our interaction brief. Riley was watching us from outside the big tent.
“What was that about?” Addie asked.
I shook my head. “Nothing.”
I turned at the sound of a voice to see Riley waving me in his direction.
“Come on, we need you!”
I shot a grin at a confused Addie and jogged across the dirt, coming to a stop in front of Riley. He gave me this look I didn’t understand, like a cross between amusement and annoyance.
“Do whatever you have to do. We’re leaving in half an hour.”
“What? For where?” I figured playing dumb was probably the best option right now. Riley rolled his eyes.
“Austin. We’re getting fuel from the rebels. Micah expects you to show him how to use the navigation system as we travel.”
“Meet me back here. I’ll get some weapons ready for you.”
I nodded and took off for the tent used as the school. It was empty except for a Reboot who was probably almost in his forties. He was one of the only older Reboots I’d seen here, and I rarely saw him outside of the school tent. I couldn’t really blame him. It must have been annoying to be the only old person around.
“Do you mind if I have some paper and a pencil?” I asked.
He gestured at a cabinet. “Go ahead. Not too much.”
I took one piece and a pencil and shot him a grateful look. “Thank you.” I jogged back to the tent I shared with Wren and found it empty, so I plopped down on the ground and scribbled out a quick note to Tony. I tried to keep it from sounding terrifying, but maybe two “don’t panics” would have the opposite effect.