I shook my head, biting back anger at the humans as we rounded the corner. A HARC shuttle lay in two pieces on the ground, and someone had tied an officer, bleeding but still alive, to one of the halves. I almost laughed. At least they were listening to my “only kill if necessary” suggestion.
Humans started coming out of their houses, trickling into the street, and Beth was in the distance handing off a gun to a teenage human who looked vaguely familiar. I squinted at his slight frame and curly hair. Gabe. He’d been there the night we first met Tony. A tiny sliver of hope wiggled into me among my disappointment. At least someone was willing to help us.
He spotted me and waved, but a shuttle zoomed overhead and a blast of gunfire blew up the dirt around me. I ducked and ran, passing Isaac and three other Reboots returning fire from the ground.
I stopped next to Beth, and she pointed at something behind me. “Look.”
I turned. A group of at least twenty humans ran toward us, some of them armed. Their faces were tight with fear and worry, but when they aimed their weapons, it wasn’t at us. It was at HARC.
“HOW BAD DO YOU THINK IT WOULD BE TO EAT THIS CANDY?”
I looked at the dirty pink package Addie was holding up. “Worse than eating rats, I think.”
She examined it. “I disagree. I’m intrigued. They’re advertising ‘sour’ like it’s a good thing.”
“I think there’s a reason that’s the only food left in here,” I said, stepping over the mess of broken shelves and empty bottles. We’d found a fueling station not long after leaving the café, but it looked like it had been picked over many times before.
Something white and blue caught my eye, and I grabbed the edge and pulled out a giant bound book with the words Map of the US on the plastic cover.
“Got it,” I said, flipping to the end of the book and finding Texas. I located the lake at the edge of New Austin, Lake Travis, and traced the route up with my finger. “There’s an old Ranch to Market Road that goes straight there. If we find it and follow it, we should be fine.” I glanced at her. “We might want to be careful, though. I wouldn’t be surprised if HARC uses that road.”
She nodded and we hopped over the debris on the way to the door. It was sunny and cold, and my leg was frozen where my pants were torn. The night had been quiet, not a human in sight, and now that Addie was fully healed, we could probably make good time to New Austin.
Addie crossed her arms over her chest as she emerged from the store. “How far is it?”
“Not that far. Fifteen miles, maybe.” We were still in the middle of the city, crumbling buildings on either side of us.
“Cool.” She gave me a worried look. “When we find Callum, we’re going to go to Rosa, right? To rescue everyone? I know you weren’t exactly wild about the idea, but you and Callum know Rosa.”
“Yes,” I said. “I told Callum I would.” And maybe the idea was slightly less annoying than before. If Ever were still in there, I wouldn’t have hesitated to go back for them. So what about all the others? The trainers I knew? The Under-sixties getting shot up with drugs? It didn’t seem right to leave them.
“Good,” she said with a smile. “Besides, I’m sure no one really thought you were dead. They’re probably expecting you.”
“Why would they think I wasn’t dead?”
“Not everyone was as brainwashed by HARC as you, Wren. Some of us were sort of suspicious when Reboots mysteriously went missing, especially the high numbers.”
“I was not brainwashed.”
“Yeah. Sure you weren’t.”
Addie rolled her eyes like she seriously doubted it. “Anyway. They are probably expecting you to come back for them. Or at least hoping.”
“That’s wildly optimistic of them.”
Addie punched my shoulder. “Stop acting like you don’t care. You totally care. You’re like a big ball of caring.”
“Yes,” I said dryly. “That’s just the way to describe me.”
“But my point is, the Rosa facility is the biggest. It has the most badasses like you.
We release them, we get them to help us with the rest of the cities, run off HARC, save all the humans. Boom.”
“Yes. Boom. Done. Easy.”
I raised an eyebrow at her.
“Okay, maybe not easy,” she conceded.
“Maybe not.” I tucked the map under my arm. “One step at a time, okay? I’m not doing anything until I find Callum. And then I wouldn’t mind strangling Micah.”
“I’m down with strangling Micah. Then let’s push him out of a shuttle. Then let’s chop his head off.”
I laughed and she grinned at me.
“I’m not kidding,” she said.
“I know you’re not.”
After a few miles, the big buildings of the city began to disappear and the road became narrower. It was also in better shape than most of the other roads in the city, confirming my suspicion that HARC used it for travel, but the homes lining it were in shambles. It looked like the entire area had been heavily bombed. This had probably once been a wealthy area, but now the houses lay in ruins.
When we turned onto the Ranch to Market Road to find a wide, empty street in decent shape, I scanned the sky warily. I pointed to the trees on the left side of the road.
“Maybe we should walk in the trees,” I said. “I’m not sure being out in the open on the road is the best idea.”
“Sounds good to me.” Addie followed me across the black asphalt and to the trees. They didn’t provide as much cover as I would have liked, as many of them had started to lose their leaves. The river that wound all the way to New Austin was right beneath us, the trees giving way to rocks and a steep incline.
“Where are you going to go when all of this is over?” Addie asked.
“I don’t know,” I said, leaves crunching under my boots as we walked. “Callum and I had talked about it a little. He’d like to see the ocean.”
“That would be nice.”
“You?” I asked. “If the rebels manage to get rid of HARC, would you want to stay in the city with your family?”
“Maybe. If they wouldn’t mind me staying with them. I miss Rosa.”
“Oh, yes. The smell, the trash, the lovely people. What’s not to miss?”