We all met them in the middle of the lobby. My mom looked like she was going to cry, and I wasn’t sure what to make of that. My dad just seemed nervous.
“This is Wren,” I said, glad to have something to start the conversation with. She dropped my hand to offer it to my parents, and my dad shook it first, his gaze falling to her bar code.
“It’s nice to meet you,” she said, noticing his glance. “It’s One-seventy-eight.”
My mom’s eyes widened briefly but she shook Wren’s hand and turned a tentative smile to me.
“We heard . . .” My mom cleared her throat. “Well, we heard a lot of things.”
“I hope some of them were good,” I said.
My dad laughed. “Of course.”
I felt awkward with them staring at me like I was a hero. It was better than last time, though, when they saw me as a monster. I tightened my hand around Wren’s. “Is everything okay at the house? David said you weren’t hit too bad by the attacks.”
My mom nodded. “It took a bit of a beating, but it’s still in one piece. Nothing that can’t be repaired.”
“Good.” I felt a rush of relief, even though I never planned to live there again.
The front doors banged open and Riley and Addie walked through with several other Reboots. He gestured at Wren and she looked up at me.
“Go ahead,” I said, slipping my hand out of hers. “I’ll be over in a second.”
My parents watched her walk away, and my mom turned to me with a questioning look on her face.
“She was there, that night you came to see us.”
“Yes. We were in the Rosa facility together. She helped me escape.”
“Oh.” My mom smiled. “That’s wonderful. I didn’t know Reboots escaped.”
My dad eyed my bar code. “Rosa? What’s it like there?”
“Rosa is . . . a mess. I like it better here.”
“Are you staying?” my mom asked. “People were saying this morning that if we saved the Reboots in the last facility, we might drive HARC off for good.”
I cocked my head in surprise. I didn’t know who she’d been talking to, but it sounded like the humans were having a change of heart.
“I should go check in and see what the plan is,” I said, gesturing back at Wren and Riley. “A lot of the humans have been gathering at the schoolhouse. Have you been there?”
My dad shook his head. “Not yet.”
“You should probably check in with them. I’ll catch up with you guys later.”
My mom nodded, stepping forward like she was going to hug me. She stopped, her face twisting in worry.
“Do you still hug?”
I laughed, quickly covering it with my hand. I held my arms out. “Yes. I still hug.”
She wrapped her arms around me and gave me a quick squeeze. If I felt different to her she didn’t show it. In fact, she was teary-eyed as she pulled away and I quickly took a step back as I felt a lump grow in my throat.
They turned to go and I headed for Wren. She slipped her arm around my waist and gave me a kiss. I put my hand on her cheek and made the kiss last a moment longer.
“Do they approve of me?” she asked when I pulled away. “Am I too blond?”
“Yes. That’s what stuck out in their minds about you. You’re blond.”
Riley turned to us, an amused look on his face. “Are we done making out? Does anyone maybe want to come with me to figure out how the hell we’re going to rescue the Rosa Reboots?”
“Fine,” I said with an exaggerated sigh, grinning at him.
He charged ahead of us with Addie, and I slipped my hand into Wren’s as we followed them out the door. It was sunny but chilly as we walked through HARC’s front lawn and back into the heart of the slums. The city looked worse in daylight, many homes and buildings destroyed and not a human in sight. Maybe my parents misunderstood and the humans were uniting to kill all the Rosa Reboots. Take revenge for Micah’s attack.
Riley stopped in his tracks as he and Addie turned a corner.
“What the hell?” Addie exclaimed.
I jogged to their side, reeling back at the scene in front of me.
There were humans everywhere. Like the most I’d ever seen in one spot. They covered the schoolhouse lawn and took up an entire block.
And they all turned to stare at us.
I had a sudden urge to run even as Tony and Desmond appeared from the crowd and headed in our direction. Ordinarily that many humans against four Reboots would be terrifying.
“Hey,” Tony said with a tired smile as he and Desmond stopped in front of us. “Where are the rest of the Reboots?”
“Still at the facility,” Wren said. “What’s going on here?”
“Word got out that we’d taken Austin back from HARC. After HARC killed the Reboots in the cities, most of the humans decided to come here instead of New Dallas or Rosa.”
“To do what?” I asked.
Desmond shoved his hands in his pockets, his eyes moving between me and Wren. “To join One-seventy-eight in the fight against HARC.”
“Sorry, what?” She let out an incredulous laugh.
“The officers in New Dallas didn’t keep their mouths shut about you escaping. Everyone knows. And when they heard Micah and his crew hit Austin, too, they figured out who the good guys were.”
“Imagine that,” I said dryly, looking pointedly at Desmond. He’d given me an utterly baffled look yesterday when I’d pulled him out of the rubble, like he didn’t believe I’d stick around to help him.
“We all figured out who the good guys are,” Desmond said quietly. I nodded, trying not to give him a smug look.
Tony smiled at Wren’s increasingly confused expression. “They’re here to partner with the Reboots to take down HARC.”
“THIS IS DEFINITELY A TRAP,” ADDIE SAID.
I looked at her in amusement as we ushered the last of the Reboots out of the facility and instructed them to go to the schoolhouse. “If it’s a trap, it’s a very elaborate one.” I followed her into the hallway and we walked past the glass rooms together.
“It is, but it’s brilliant. They lure us to an entirely different city under the guise of helping us, and then drop us straight into HARC’s lap!”
“I think that’s highly unlikely.” I raised my eyebrows at her, unsure if she was kidding.
She grinned at me. “If you get captured again, I’m leaving you. No rescue this time around.”