“I got it for Callum,” I said softly. “I could have gotten it for her, too.”
Addie was silent for a moment. “I sort of doubt she would want you carrying around this kind of guilt.”
“Then what can you do to make it better?”
I turned to her. “Nothing. She’s dead.”
“Yeah, she is. But there are other things you could do to make it better, aren’t there?”
“Like what would she have wanted you to do? Would she have wanted you to mope and never have friends and—” She stopped suddenly and winced. “Promise not to hit me until this drug wears off?”
I let out a soft laugh. “Yes.”
“Would she have wanted you to run off with Callum and leave all the Reboots in the cities to fend for themselves? Did she have a family? Would she have wanted you to abandon the humans?”
“She had four sisters in New Dallas,” I said quietly.
“Then what would she have wanted you to do?”
I stared at the table as her words sank in. I didn’t think Ever would have expected me to save everyone or fight a war on behalf of the humans. She wouldn’t have expected it, but I could almost picture her face if I told her that’s what I was doing.
She would have been proud.
IT WAS DARK WHEN AUSTIN CAME INTO VIEW.
I sat in the passenger’s seat next to George, the small Reboot who was piloting the shuttle. He looked about fourteen years old and seemed entirely comfortable in the pilot’s seat. He explained to me that Micah had all kids learn to drive when they turned ten, because it would be where they were most “useful.” I’d laughed, sort of hysterically, and George hadn’t said much to me since.
The other shuttle was behind us, following our lead. It was full of mostly reservation Reboots, and I’d worried they’d take off in a different direction, abandon our plan to go to Austin. But they’d stayed right behind us the whole trip.
Riley walked up the doorway, arms crossed over his chest. “I instructed everyone back here to put on their helmets since we’re close.”
“Jeez.” George’s eyes widened as he blinked at the Austin skyline. The buildings of the city were alight and they must have appeared huge to someone who’d been living in tents his whole life.
I turned away, staring into darkness instead. I couldn’t stop thinking about Wren, and how her current situation was entirely my fault.
Why had I made her stay at the reservation? Why hadn’t I listened when she begged me to leave? She’d said it to me: “One or both of us could end up dead.” Even though she’d said “both,” I hadn’t even heard it. I’d thought she was just worried about me. Why had I assumed she was invincible? Why hadn’t I considered that by making her stay I risked losing her?
I looked up to see Riley and George staring at me. Riley cocked his head toward the pilot. “You need to tell him where you want to land.”
“Oh.” I turned to the Austin skyline. “Veer east. We’ll land in the slums, near the schoolhouse. I’ll point it out as we get closer.”
“Right in the middle of the slums, huh?” Riley said skeptically.
“Unless you have a better plan.” I suspected Riley thought my entire plan was bad. He hadn’t said much to me since I laid it all out for him on the ride over.
He slid his hands into his pockets as he leaned against the shuttle wall. “If the humans in the slums and the city join HARC, we’re screwed.”
“Why would they do that?”
“Because they’re scared of us. Because you just told Tony that Micah was planning to kill them all. They may not be on our side anymore. If they ever were.”
I strapped my helmet on. “Then we show them there’s nothing to be scared of. Try not to kill anyone.”
He gave me an amused look. “I’ll give it a shot.” He tilted his head to the Reboots behind him. “I think you might want to explain that to them, too. Maybe tell them what to do when we get there?”
I nodded and slid from my chair. Riley moved farther into the shuttle, and the Reboots quieted as they turned to me. Even Beth and the other over One-twenties had largely left this plan up to me, and I shifted beneath the gaze of so many people.
I wondered if Wren felt this way. She’d always seemed confident in her plans, even if they’d been conceived five minutes prior. I knew that she didn’t particularly enjoy being the center of attention, being the person everyone turned to for help, but I wondered if she was ever nervous. Did having the weight of so many lives on her shoulders stress her out?
I cleared my throat. “When we land, I’m going to Tony’s house. It’s not far, maybe a ten-minute walk. You guys stay here. A team of the best shooters should form a line outside the shuttle. I don’t know whether to expect an attack from HARC or not.”
A few faces grew eager, but for the most part no one looked excited about the prospect of a HARC attack.
“It’s really important that you don’t kill any humans unless you have to,” I said, my voice low. “If you’re under attack, I understand. But we want the humans in the slums on our side. If we’re going to get Wren and Addie and all the Reboots still under HARC control back, we can’t do it alone. If humans approach you, lower your weapons. Explain that to them.”
“And if they don’t listen?” Beth asked.
“Don’t get confrontational. If things escalate, aim to wound, not kill.” My eyes skipped over the crowd. “Do any of you have family in the Austin slums?”
Zero hands went up. I guess that was to be expected, as almost all the escaped Reboots were from the Austin facility and HARC didn’t assign Reboots to their hometowns.
“What about Rosa?” I asked.
A bunch of hands went up.
“Okay. Good. As soon as we find Wren and Addie and get HARC out of Austin, anyone who wants to go to Rosa is welcome to join us. We’re going to follow Micah’s original plan to free the Reboots from HARC’s control. Anyone who doesn’t want to do that or thinks they can’t stand being around humans is welcome to leave when we touch down in Austin.”
A blast rocked the shuttle and I stumbled, grasping at the wall for support. We veered left and the Reboots slid sideways.