Riley came to a stop next to me, a frown on his face. “We should put some people at the HARC watchtowers. We’ll want to know when they’re coming back. And they can keep an eye out for Wren and Addie.”
“I know a few who wouldn’t mind,” Gabe said, bouncing on his heels.
“Can we put people on the city side, too?” I asked. “Chances are Wren will try to enter on that side. She’d go back to the area where the tunnel is first.”
“I haven’t been over to the rico yet,” Tony said. “You might want to do a quick sweep of the area, see how many humans are left and what kind of attitude they have.”
“I’ll go,” I said. I looked down at my clothes, smeared with dirt and grime. I had a few things in the backpack slung over my shoulder, but maybe I could stop by my old house and grab more before it was blown up or something. Some of the Reboots were going through the slums, searching for empty homes to crash in. It wouldn’t be long before they moved on to the city.
Tony held out a hand com. “Channel three,” he said. “Don’t say anything you don’t want HARC to hear, this is their equipment. But I’ll radio and tell you to come back if Wren shows.”
I nodded and slipped the com into my pocket. Gabe found two humans to go with me, and three Reboots trailed behind us, Beth leading them. They didn’t appear to want to talk to each other on the walk over and I didn’t try to push it. Our alliance with the humans seemed tenuous at best.
The wall was unguarded, quiet, and I dug my fingers into the brick and hoisted myself to the top. I offered my hand to a human on the ground. He glanced over his shoulder, as if considering going back instead.
“The death doesn’t rub off on you, I promise,” I said as the other Reboots jumped over the wall. One of them snorted.
The human reddened and took my hand as he started up the wall. I pulled him to the top and held his hand as he found his footing on the other side of the wall. I did the same with the next one and then hopped down myself.
“Thanks,” the younger guy said, his eyes flicking over me for a moment like he was looking for something but didn’t want to be too obvious.
We walked straight through the city and down Lake Travis Boulevard. There were a few humans out, sitting in front of stores, casually talking or eating like nothing was wrong. It appeared HARC hadn’t touched this side of town, because everything was still pristine. I wasn’t really surprised.
I nodded to one of the humans. “You want to talk to people over here, tell them where to go on the slum side to get instructions if they’re staying?”
“Sure.” He jogged away and I stopped, squinting in the sun at the part of town where I used to live.
“You guys going to the towers by yourselves? Things look pretty dead here.” I pointed in the direction of my old house. “I’m headed that way. I’ll comb the residential areas, see if I run into any humans.”
“Yeah,” Beth said, lifting her com. “We’ll radio if we get into trouble.”
The wind was chilly as I turned away from them, and I pulled my jacket tighter across my chest. I wondered if Wren was outdoors. If I was cold, she must have been freezing.
I took a quick glance down at my com, willing Tony’s voice to come through any second. Part of the reason I’d volunteered to come over was to have something to do, something to stop me from exploding, but now I sort of wished I was back there, angling for a shuttle or making a lap around the Austin fence.
I turned onto my street and upped the volume slightly on the com. If I couldn’t go search for Wren, this was the next best thing. Staying busy. It’s what she would have told me to do.
I glanced at Eduardo’s house as I approached it, looking for signs of life. He’d been one of my best friends, and willing to help me even after I Rebooted, but I wasn’t sure how his parents felt. The swing in front of their white house moved with the breeze, but it was the only sign of life on the whole street.
I’d always been aware I lived in one of the poorest areas outside of the slums, but I’d liked my neighborhood. The guy who lived in the blue house across the street used to tell me I was “growing like a weed” every time we ran into each other. Even if he’d just seen me the previous day.
My house still had the auction sign in front and I took in a deep breath as I stepped onto the front porch. I hadn’t locked it when I left a few days ago, and the doorknob turned easily when I tried.
It was empty, exactly as I’d left it. The kitchen cabinets were still open from where I’d hunted through them for food.
I trudged down the hallway to my room. The door was cracked slightly and I pushed it open.
I hadn’t made the bed before we left, and it was the first thing my eyes found. The sheets were rumpled, one of the pillows half hanging off the bed. My chest tightened. I’d barely slept that night, the first and only time I’d had a girl in my bed, and the memory of the way Wren had curled up against me while she slept hurt suddenly.
I took in a ragged breath and tried to stop my brain from going down that path. A corner of my mind was trying to prepare me for the fact that she might be gone, and I refused to listen. Giving in for even a second was so painful I had to squeeze my eyes shut and focus on something else.
I yanked open one of my drawers and started shoving clothes into my empty backpack. I finished and meant to head for the door, but instead I found myself plopping down on the bed. The bag slid to the ground and I swallowed as I closed my eyes.
What was I supposed to do if she was gone? Lead the Reboots into Rosa? Find the bounty hunters and exact revenge?
That night we’d spent at Tony’s, I’d told Wren she should help the humans and keep fighting if I died. I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to live another day, and I was also pretty sure she had no intention of helping or fighting anyone. She’d tried to reassure me, but I could see in her eyes that she didn’t mean it. I understood that now. The thought of jumping back into the fight if Wren was dead was exhausting. I would probably still do it, though, if only for vengeance.
I rubbed a hand across my forehead. If she came back—when she came back—we’d do whatever she wanted. Leave, stay, fight, whatever. Maybe she’d been right about staying out of it. Maybe I’d already done enough for the humans and we should leave. Taking charge of the Reboots and leading them to Austin had been easy. Getting humans to side with us? Not so much. Maybe I needed to focus on saving the Reboots, and let the humans solve their own problems.