“Let’s install trackers in them, in case they try and run away,” Addie said, her serious face starting to crack.
“And we should probably just get rid of them when they get too old, because you know how adult humans are.” Callum made a talking motion with his hand. “Blah blah blah, rebellion, blah blah blah, let’s fight back. And they’re not as strong when they get older anyway.”
“This is productive. Thanks, guys.” Riley shook his head as he rolled up the map.
“Oh, come on!” Addie called as he walked away, a smile spreading across her face. “We’ll give them really good food!”
Riley turned to give us an amused look. “Callum, fill them in on your plan.”
“You have a plan?” I asked, turning to him in surprise.
“A brilliant plan!” Riley called over his shoulder.
“Well, I don’t know about ‘brilliant,’” Callum said with a shrug. “But I was thinking about how screwed we were in New Dallas with that intercom system. HARC gets on there, says three words, and the Reboots do whatever they say. So I thought we should get a com and let you talk to the Reboots instead.”
“That is a brilliant plan,” I said, smiling at him.
He looped an arm around my waist, pulling me closer. “I plan, you do the punching-people-in-the face part. I like how this works.”
I STOOD BY THE LARGEST OF THE SHUTTLES THAT NIGHT, WATCHING as our human allies climbed on behind the Reboots. Tony and Desmond filed in, and Desmond cast a glance in my direction. He nodded at me as he leaned against the shuttle wall.
We didn’t have nearly enough shuttles for everyone going to Rosa, so the pilots were going to have to make two trips. The first wave was mostly Reboots, but there were a few humans with us.
I turned to the other shuttle to see Wren walking in my direction. She held her arms out as she got closer and I took a step forward and scooped her up, lifting her off the ground so she wrapped her legs around my waist. She ran her hands behind my neck and pressed her lips against mine.
“You’re not allowed to die,” she said quietly with a small smile. “I’m ordering it, as your former trainer.”
“Got it,” I said, kissing her again. “You either. Or captured. Or anything.”
She leaned closer, so our foreheads were almost touching. “If we get separated and it looks like this isn’t going to work, if it looks like we’re losing, I want you to run. Meet me at that spot halfway between Rosa and Austin where we stopped and ate. Remember?”
I nodded. “Only if things get really bad, though.”
She nodded in agreement as her lips touched mine again. I tightened my arms around her and held on until she slowly began to pull away. She hopped down to the ground.
Our shuttle was now fully loaded. Wren grinned at me, the kind of grin that made my insides turn over.
“I probably love you,” she said.
I let out a surprised laugh. “Probably?”
She laced our fingers together and tugged me toward the shuttle, glancing over her shoulder. “Probably. It’s hard to tell with me, you know?”
I laughed again. “I probably love you, too.”
I wanted to grab her and kiss her again, but I settled for a smile as we stepped inside with the others. The door banged shut as I ran my fingers down her cheek, and she returned my smile as the shuttle roared to life.
The day I arrived at the Rosa HARC facility, my first day as an active Reboot, I’d been brought in by ground transportation. I’d sat in the back of a HARC van, my hands cuffed, a guard on either side of me.
I’d been able to hear my heart beating, and realized I’d never asked if a Reboot still had a heartbeat. I’d understood the general idea of Rebooting—the body shutting down and coming back stronger—but I’d never considered what exactly the body still did (or didn’t do) after it happened.
I remembered sitting in the van as the Rosa fence opened. My palms were clammy and I felt sick. It had taken me a minute to remember I was a Reboot, and to realize I still had all the same emotions and feelings I did as a human.
I hadn’t known whether to be relieved or terrified. Relieved to be the same person; terrified to have to go through being a HARC Reboot while I still had a conscience and happy human memories.
We approached Rosa on foot this time, the shuttle parked a mile behind us. My fear was the same.
No, not the same. It was still there, but it wasn’t fear of HARC or worry for my future. It was fear for Wren, fear of messing up, fear of the plan not working and all the Reboots dying. But I could keep the fear under the surface now. No sweaty palms or pounding heart.
I glanced down at Wren, who was staring straight ahead, her expression blank. I might not have been as good as her at keeping my emotions in check, but I admired the way she could push them back and pretend they weren’t there when it suited her. I wouldn’t have ever guessed I’d like that about her.
She stopped, and the Reboots and humans behind us paused as well. Riley, Addie, and Isaac were following us, with about twenty Reboots. The human group bringing up the rear was small, only about ten or so.
We were so close to the gate I could see the towers. It was silent, the usual buzz of the fence gone. It had been turned off, just as Riley had said it would be. That seemed like a good sign. Maybe we had enough human support in Rosa after all.
Wren gestured for us all to stay put and walked to the gate. She wrapped her fingers around the wire without hesitation and paused for a moment. I winced, thinking of the charge that could have gone through her body.
She nodded and Riley and Addie ran forward with wire cutters. They snapped them quickly, the wires falling down loose toward the ground. Once there was enough space for us to get through, Wren went first, followed by the Reboots, then the humans.
My eyes darted to the towers as we quickly formed a half circle, humans in the middle, and took off toward the city. We’d been told to go to this location because the guards in either tower would pretend not to see us, but I still braced myself for bullets as I ran.
They didn’t come. It was silent as we passed the towers and headed for the HARC building looming ahead.
THERE WAS NO FENCE AROUND THE ROSA FACILITY, SINCE IT WAS set so far away from the houses of the slums. I’d rarely seen it from this angle, my view usually obscured in the shuttle, although I would occasionally glance back at it from assignments.