I squished up my face. I didn’t know how I felt about humans deciding to work with Reboots. It made it harder to hate them when they started introducing common sense into the equation.
I barely slept that night, and when I rolled over in the morning Ever was curled up in a ball, her fingers shaking as she clenched the covers to her chin. I sat up and swung my legs over the side of the bed, quickly averting my eyes when she noticed me staring.
I wanted to talk to her about what had happened the night before, but it seemed mean. If anyone needed to get out of here it was her, and Leb had made it clear he wasn’t interested in helping any of us. What would I say, anyway? Some Reboots get to escape, but looks like it won’t be you or me?
I slid out of bed and pulled on my running clothes, taking another glance at her before I left the room and headed down the hall. Twenty-two was waiting on the track, his eyes big and round and full of regret.
“Let’s just run,” I interrupted, avoiding those eyes. They made me feel guilty again, and I didn’t want to feel guilty when he was the one who thought I was a monster.
I took off running and he followed, both of us silent as we circled the track. He stayed quiet through the whole run, and through the training that afternoon. He continued to give me a look I took to mean he wanted to apologize, but I ignored it, speaking to him only about training.
“I’ll meet you on the roof in an hour,” I said when we’d finished training for the day. We had a sickie assignment that night, and I was grateful for the break. Extracting sick humans for delivery to the hospital was an easy assignment, one that was difficult to screw up. And it rarely involved violence.
Twenty-two nodded and I turned to leave, catching sight of Leb leaning against the gym wall, his eyes on me. I let Twenty-two walk in front of me, and as I approached the door I slowed, pausing with half my body out.
“Thanks,” Leb whispered, his head lowered so he was speaking to the floor.
“Do you still have it?” I asked, my face turned toward the door. “The tracker locator?”
“No. I returned it so they wouldn’t suspect someone inside had helped him.”
I gripped the edge of the door, Ever’s shaking body flashing in front of my eyes. “And you really can’t—”
“No.” His eyes slid to the camera on the wall. “Go. Mayer’s going to notice you talking to me.”
He was right, and I sighed as I pushed through the door into the hallway. Maybe it wasn’t even a good idea to try to help Ever escape. She wasn’t in the best shape, and they would certainly send HARC officers out immediately to track down an escaped Reboot. It was hugely risky for any Reboot, but a Fifty-six who wasn’t in top shape? Even if I found a way to go with her, the chances of her surviving were slim at best. Maybe she was better off here.
I stuck my helmet on top of my head and tightened the strap under my jaw, casting a nervous glance at Ever. She adjusted her com with trembling hands, much shakier than this morning.
“You need help?” I asked.
She shook her head, pushing the com into position in front of her mouth. “Is Callum doing better?”
“Fine,” I muttered.
“He feels really bad, you know. Maybe go a little easy on him? The first few weeks here are hard.”
I shrugged, even though I thought she could be right. Twenty-two’s big, sad eyes floated through my head, and I let out a sigh.
Ever stood and her legs promptly gave out. She crumpled to the floor, gasping.
“Are you—” I stopped as her head shot up and her glazed eyes fixed on me.
She rocketed to her feet and flew at me. We hit the ground and she slammed my shoulders down, pinning me with her body.
I kicked my legs but she didn’t budge, only bared her teeth and growled at me.
Two humans appeared outside our room, one holding a clipboard. Ever’s head whirled around and she darted for them. The doctor with the clipboard quickly pushed the lock button.
I slowly got to my feet, keeping my glare on the floor instead of directing it at the humans.
I closed my eyes, listening to Ever’s rhythm. I didn’t want to do this tonight. I wanted the real Ever back, the one who made me feel better and wanted to walk to the cafeteria with me.
I missed her.
I opened my eyes and sighed. Ever slowly turned, scowling at me as if that had offended her.
“Watch yourself, One-seventy-eight,” the doctor outside called.
Oh, thank you, human. That is just so helpful.
She bounded to me like an animal, grabbing my shirt as I tried to duck away. I heard the tear as she ripped a chunk off the back. She seized what was left and tugged me to her, wrapping an arm around my stomach. I felt her teeth scratch my neck and I elbowed her in the side, wriggling out of her grasp.
I jumped onto my bed, but she was too fast. Her fingers circled around my wrist, jerking my arm from its socket as she pulled me to the floor. She leaped on top of me and clamped her fingers around my neck.
A tiny whimper escaped my mouth. I pressed my lips together, ashamed, and hoped the humans hadn’t heard it.
But Ever had. Her eyes cleared and she snatched her hands off my neck, horror settling onto her pretty face.
“I’m sorry,” she said, scrambling away from me. She looked from me to the humans outside, her eyes filling with tears.
“It’s fine,” I rasped, sitting up and leaning against my bed. My arm sagged strangely. “Will you put that back in?”
She grasped my arm and yanked it back into the socket, keeping her head down as tears began spilling over her cheeks.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered again as the humans walked in.
“It’s fine, Ever. Really.” I smiled at her but she wasn’t looking at me.
“Feeling a little weak?” the doctor asked in a kind voice, like he wasn’t the one who had done it to her.
She nodded mutely and he held out a syringe, gesturing for her arm.
“That’ll help.” He pushed the liquid in and patted her on the head.
She closed her eyes and took in a few breaths.
“Is that better?” he asked. “Do you think you can go out on assignment tonight?”
She nodded, wiping at her cheeks with her fingers.
The human chewed on his lip, considering for a moment. “It’s just sick extraction tonight, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” Ever said.