A flash of rage hit me so hard I almost gasped. It burned so strongly in my chest that I clenched my fists together and stared at my lap to keep myself from jumping up and snapping his neck.
I would eliminate him?
“You need to do it out in the field. This facility is . . . restless tonight after that crazy girl got herself killed.”
That crazy girl. My best friend.
I could hear the snap it would make in my head. Snap.
He gestured for me to stand and I did, my legs shaking. He opened his office door.
“We’ll say a human did it. Last thing we need is another elimination. We’ve had too many lately.”
Officer Mayer gestured for me to follow as he strolled into the hallway. “You gave it your best shot,” he said, turning to walk away. “But he’s bringing you down, too. We need to stop this nonsense.”
I watched his back as he strode off. I could do it so quickly. He’d be dead before he hit the ground. Then I’d be dead a few minutes later. Perhaps only a few seconds later, depending on how far away the guards were.
I forced myself to move in the opposite direction. I certainly couldn’t help Callum if I was dead.
I opened the door to the stairwell and stopped next to Callum, who stood in the dark alone.
I turned toward the noise, coming from one floor down. The floor where the Reboots slept.
“What is that?” Callum asked.
I descended the stairs, gesturing for him to come with me. I pushed the door open and stepped onto the eighth floor.
It came from my right, the girls’ wing.
“Why are they doing that?” Callum whispered.
“Ever did that,” I replied. “When she . . .”
When she went crazy.
Had they drugged them all? What good were Reboots if they were all totally insane?
“Get to your quarters,” a guard barked.
I entered the girls’ wing and stopped. In almost every room both girls were out of bed, methodically pounding on the wall.
Their eyes followed me as I walked to my room.
They weren’t drugged.
They were rebelling.
I SAT AT THE EDGE OF THE TRACK AND WATCHED CALLUM RUN the next morning. Even after the pounding stopped I barely slept, my eyes constantly drifting back to Ever’s empty bed. I couldn’t run today.
I wondered, if a human had helped her get out, would she have survived? Would she have improved once outside of HARC? Or would she have gotten worse?
Escape had never appealed to me, even when I heard about the rebels and the supposed Reboot reservation. The outside world was filled with humans who hated us, and a government set up to enslave or kill us. Outside, as a human, I had starved, caught several diseases, and ended up shot. Inside, I was fed regularly, clothed, and given a place to sleep.
But now, escape was all I could think of.
Rosa was surrounded by an electrified fence. Even if a Reboot could find and get rid of his tracker, he still had to find a way over or under the fence.
Going over it would be a little painful.
That was if we actually made it there. Armed guards patrolled the city line on every side, and sharpshooters were stationed in the towers strategically placed every half mile or so.
My plan so far was to run like hell, hope not to get shot in the head, and climb an electrified fence.
It was not the best plan.
I watched as Callum rounded the track in front of me, his breathing steady. He’d improved in almost every area. He was faster, stronger, more confident. His body was tighter, his movements sharp and controlled.
But I should have known he would never live up to the HARC standards. Even if he’d overcome his greatest obstacle—his sad little twenty-two minutes—he wasn’t built to follow orders. He had too many questions. Too many opinions.
I had no idea how to save him without getting rid of our trackers. And there was no way to find a tracker without a HARC tracker locator. I’d never even seen one of those. I’d be surprised if they kept it in the same building with Reboots.
I needed someone who knew where those locators were. I needed Leb.
Relying on a human made my stomach clench. There was no reason he would want to help me and no reason I should trust him.
I pressed my hand to my forehead and forced my eyes away from Callum. I couldn’t think straight when I looked at him. I was nothing but a pathetic knot of emotions and I couldn’t think of what Leb needed, what he wanted, what a human couldn’t—
He wanted his daughter.
They promised to help my daughter, he had said. They lied.
I slowly got to my feet, excitement swirling through my stomach and up to my chest. I had to find him. Now.
“Stop!” I called to Callum.
His chest heaved as he paused on the track and gave me a curious look.
“Come on,” I said with a wave of my hand.
I rushed out the doors and down the hall, Callum’s footsteps behind me. Leb was on duty today in the gym, and I had to get to him as quickly as possible. Officer Mayer would find us a kill assignment soon. I didn’t have much time.
I rounded the corner and pushed open the door to the gym, scanning the room to find Leb. He was leaning against a wall, pretending he hadn’t noticed me.
“Push-ups,” I said to Callum, pointing to the floor.
He dropped down without comment, but his eyes followed me as I took a few steps toward Leb. The officer shook his head slightly. He didn’t want me talking to him.
I took a quick glance around the gym. Hugo and Ross were on the other side, engrossed in drilling their newbies. The rest of the Reboots were training or talking. I moved a little closer to Leb.
“Yeah, he is improving,” I said loudly. I hoped whoever was watching the cameras didn’t notice Leb hadn’t actually asked me a question.
He stared stone-faced at me. He wasn’t playing.
I turned to face Callum. “He’s much faster now,” I continued to Leb. I ducked my head and focused on the ground. “Your daughter,” I whispered.
The silence stretched on for too long. There were about ten other Reboots in the gym, and for several seconds there was nothing but the sounds of fists smashing into bodies.
“What about her?” Leb finally mumbled.
“I can get her out.”
He said nothing. He was so quiet that I finally peeked over my shoulder at him and found his face stricken, almost horrified. I might as well have just told him I was going to kill his daughter, not rescue her.