“We’re thinking we’ll pack some stuff up and come to Austin for a while,” she said. “Dad thinks that’s where they’ll start electing leaders and establishing a government. We figured we should stick close.”
He was probably right, and I was suddenly glad we were going to be close, too. If they were going to rebuild, we needed to make sure Reboots were part of that. My first thought was Riley, and I swallowed when I remembered he was dead.
“I’m going to stay and help my family get things together,” Addie continued. “We’ll probably be there in a few days.” She bit her lip. “Tell Gabe for me?”
“Sure,” Wren said.
“Who’s Gabe?” Leb asked, looking between them.
Addie patted her dad’s arm, which only increased his alarm. She turned to Wren. “I’ll find you when we get there, okay?”
Wren nodded. I dropped her hand as Addie stepped forward and wrapped her arms around her. She returned the hug, and Addie leaned down and whispered something in her ear. I couldn’t hear what it was, but when Wren pulled away she had tears in her eyes again. She smiled at Addie through them and slipped her hand into mine.
Wren squeezed my hand and pulled me in the direction of the shuttle. “Let’s go home.”
I WAS MET WITH LAUGHTER AS I TURNED THE CORNER TO CALLUM’S old house. A group of human kids sat in a front lawn to my left, but when they spotted me they quieted. One of the girls leaned over and whispered something to a boy, and his eyes widened.
I instinctively reached for the weapon on my belt, just in case, but there was nothing there. I’d given all my weapons to Addie days ago.
A grin spread across the boy’s face when I glanced back up at them. “What’s up, One-seventy-eight? They described you as taller!”
I laughed, and when I faced front again Callum was standing on his porch, watching us.
“Hey!” he called, his voice amused. “She can’t control her height!”
I hopped up the steps and pressed my lips to Callum’s, smiling as he pressed a hand into my back.
“They do describe you as taller,” he murmured against my lips.
I pulled away, trying to stand straighter. “Better?”
“No.” He quickly kissed me again and pushed open the front door, holding his arm out for me to go first.
I took in a deep breath as I stepped inside. I hadn’t seen Callum’s family since that day they’d come by the facility. He’d visited them a few times, but I hadn’t gone with him. When he’d invited me to come to dinner, Addie had clapped her hands like this was exciting. It mostly just made me uncomfortable.
The house didn’t have any more furniture than the last time I’d been here, but the smell of meat cooking drifted out from the kitchen. Callum’s dad stood next to a table already set with plates, one hand clasped around his opposite arm.
Mrs. Reyes turned around, spoon in hand. She smiled when she spotted me. It even seemed genuine.
“Hi, Wren.” She put the spoon down and walked across the kitchen, holding her hand out. “Nice to see you again.”
“You too.” Her hand was warm and when she smiled she looked like Callum.
David bounded into the kitchen as Mr. Reyes shook my hand. He lifted his nose in the air.
“What is that?” He peered over his mom’s shoulder. “Where did we get meat?”
“Callum brought deer meat,” Mrs. Reyes said, walking back to the stove.
I turned to him in surprise. “Did you go hunting?”
He snorted. “Yeah, right. Isaac gave it to me since we’d been helping him with construction so much.”
I nodded. Callum and I had both been working on rebuilding Austin, since I’d turned down every request to police the streets or leave the cities to assess the situation in the rest of Texas. There were plenty of Reboots—and even a few humans—more than willing to take on that kind of job. I wasn’t doing it anymore. Nor was I training anyone. I’d enjoyed that once, but I couldn’t stomach the idea of training Reboots for combat any longer. I’d seen enough fighting.
I didn’t even like carrying a gun anymore, which was why I gave them all to Addie a few days ago. The world felt different after I’d chosen not to kill Officer Mayer. After I killed someone I would often feel this far-off sense of guilt, like I knew it was an emotion I was supposed to be having but didn’t actually feel. But when I didn’t kill him, I suddenly felt proud of that decision, like it was totally mine.
And then Callum had looked at me like I was a hero when I told him and I decided I had no more use for a gun.
“Is deer meat good?” David asked, like he doubted it.
“No idea,” Callum said, sitting down at the table and gesturing for me to do the same.
“Yes,” I said as I slid into a chair. “I like it.”
Callum’s mom seemed delighted by this, though I wasn’t sure why.
David plopped down into the seat across from me, his eyes darting between me and Callum.
“Did you decide where you’re living yet?” he asked Callum.
“We’re at the facility for now, until they finish the repairs at Tower Apartments. I rented the small place across from where Wren and Addie will be.”
His dad looked between us with concern. “Are you sure? It’s not really that nice over there.”
“It’s nicer than a HARC facility,” Callum said with a laugh. “Besides, the slums aren’t so bad. Especially now that HARC isn’t around anymore.”
“You could both stay here, you know,” Mr. Reyes said softly to Callum. I knew they’d asked him to move back in and he’d declined. He said it was too weird and almost claustrophobic after spending time out on his own. I could see his point. We had separate apartments for now as we adjusted to life outside of HARC, though we would probably end up spending more time together than apart. Even so, I’d never had a room all to myself, and it was an interesting change.
“I think we’re okay.” Callum smiled at his dad. “But thank you.”
Callum wrapped his arm around my waist and kissed the top of my head as we walked away from his parents’ house later that evening. The sky was dark, the roads mostly deserted.
“I think they might have liked me a little,” I said, glancing up at him.
He laughed. “Yes, they did. Don’t sound all surprised about it.” He swooped down and kissed me, swinging our hands as we walked.