“No,” I said quietly.
She looked taken aback by my answer. “No?”
She blinked as if waiting for more, and a smile began to appear on her face. “Okay then. I feel better.” She took a deep breath. “Right. Ride off with the strangers. Hope for the best. Got it.”
She nodded her head as she finished, and I blinked, suddenly realizing what I was asking.
“I can go instead—”
She laughed as she stepped back. “That’s all right. Can’t fault you for being honest.” She jogged across the dirt and hopped on the back of the bike, pointing in the direction we’d come from. Kyle peeled out, the bike spitting dirt as they disappeared.
“One-twenties and over with me!” Micah called to the Austin Reboots. “Let’s do this!” He was practically jumping up and down, he was so excited.
I didn’t understand.
I took a glance behind me at the Austin Reboots to see similar confused expressions on their faces. Beth One-forty-two, a couple girls, and two guys who I assumed were over One-twenties broke off from the group and slowly headed in Micah’s direction, but they kept turning puzzled faces my way. There were less over One-twenties in Austin than there had been in Rosa, but I’d been stationed in the toughest city in Texas. More assignments meant they needed more skilled Reboots. They were all close to my age except for one of the guys, who was probably only twelve or thirteen years old.
“Micah!” I called, following him as he darted for the gate. “What’s going on? How do you know HARC is coming? How did you know we were coming?”
He stopped. “We have people stationed in strategic places outside the cities, and equipment that monitors air traffic in the area.”
I raised my eyebrows, surprised. I hadn’t expected them to be so advanced.
Micah spread his arms wide, beaming at the Austin Reboots. “Guys! Let’s see some excitement!”
We just stared.
He raised his fist. “Whoop!”
“Whoop whoop!” a hundred reservation Reboots yelled at once, and I jumped. What the hell?
“Oh, come on,” he said with a chuckle. “Who wants to kick some HARC ass?”
That produced a few laughs. Someone at the back of the crowd of Austin Reboots raised his hand. “I’m in!”
I’d actually kicked enough HARC ass this past week to last me a very long time. I glanced at Callum. He’d never wanted to fight anyone, human or Reboot.
Micah chuckled as he caught my expression. “I know you’re probably tired. And you’re going to have to tell me the story soon about how you got out of Rosa, ended up in Austin, and stole two shuttles filled with every Reboot in that facility.” He stepped closer to me. “But right now, we’ve got a bunch of HARC officers on their way here to attack us. So we don’t have much choice.”
I looked at Callum and he lifted his shoulders, like he wasn’t sure what to do.
I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to hightail it out of here before HARC arrived. I didn’t know where we’d go or how we’d get there, but we certainly didn’t have to stay and fight.
Or maybe we did. I regarded the group of Reboots I’d brought here and saw several faces turned in my direction, watching to see how I’d react. I’d busted into the Austin facility and ushered them all into shuttles and dumped them into this situation. If I asked Callum to make a run for it, he would tell me they needed my help. And he would be right, unfortunately.
But this was the last time. If it seemed like there were going to be more attacks from HARC, I’d grab Callum and go. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life fighting off the humans. I’d be perfectly content never to see them again, actually.
I sighed and barely nodded at Micah. He clapped his hand on my back like he approved.
“Under-sixties with me!” a thin guy yelled, stepping from the line.
I shook my head at Callum and held out my hand. We weren’t doing that. A corner of his mouth turned up as he walked toward me.
Micah glanced down at Callum’s wrist. “One-twenty-two?” he asked, squinting.
“Twenty-two,” Callum corrected.
Micah pointed to the crowd gathering around the thin man. “Under-sixties with Jeff.”
“Callum’s with me.” I held his hand tighter.
Micah opened his mouth, but closed it with a hint of a smile. “Fine.” He turned to the reservation entrance, gesturing for us to follow him.
We walked toward the line of bikes guarding the entrance and I glanced back to see the remaining Austin Reboots divided into two groups: Under-sixties on one side, everyone over sixty but under one twenty on the other.
I faced front as we passed the bikes and heard Callum suck in a breath of air as the reservation within the fence came into view.
There were more Reboots inside. This must have been the second wave, and it was maybe half the size of the first. About fifty or so stood in neat lines in front of a giant fire pit, guns in their hands but barrels lowered so they were facing the ground. A Reboot ran past us and started talking excitedly to one of the guys in front.
The reservation was laid out in a circle, with thin dirt paths snaking in between brown-and-tan tents. There were very few permanent structures in the compound, but sturdy tepee-style tents lined each side of the paths. There were tons of them, at least a hundred, as far as I could see.
To my right were several much larger rectangular tents. The material they’d used was dirty and worn in some places. How long had they been here? Why didn’t they build more permanent structures?
To the left, near the fence, were two long, wooden buildings that looked like they might be a shower area. Pipes ran up the side of the building and the ground around it was wet. At least we didn’t have to bathe in the lake.
I scanned the lines of Reboots. When I discovered rebels were helping Reboots get away from HARC, Leb told me that my trainer, Riley One-fifty-seven, had escaped to the reservation and wasn’t dead like I’d previously been told. But I didn’t see One-fifty-seven in the crowd.
I stopped behind Micah as we approached a tent and he pulled back the flap, gesturing for us to enter. I ducked my head and stepped inside, followed by Callum and the five One-twenties from Austin.
I’d never seen so many weapons in my life. Guns of all sizes lined every wall, were stacked on the dozens of shelves around the tent. There were grenades and axes and knives and swords and things I didn’t even recognize. They had enough weapons to arm the entirety of Texas. There were a bunch of empty shelves, but I assumed those weapons had gone to the Reboots outside. Still, they had enough to give everyone a second weapon. Or a third.