“They already tried,” he stuttered.
“I’m better equipped than any human. I’m trained for this. If you want her, you need me.”
He paused, looking at me with wide eyes. “How do I know you’ll keep your word after you get out of here?”
“Trust?” One look at his face made it clear that wasn’t an option.
We were silent again, and Leb stared at the floor with furrowed brows. Finally, he said, “You want to go to the reservation, right?”
“If it actually exists.”
“You’ve been there?”
“No, but the Reboots who meet with the rebels say it does.” He looked almost excited as he spoke. “I could instruct the rebels in Austin not to give you a map to the reservation until you show up with Adina. Would you do that?”
The reservation was not my main concern—getting Callum out was—but Leb didn’t need to know that. “Yes. You have to get me a tracker locator I can keep, though. I can’t get her without it.”
Leb nodded and my heart jumped with hope. This might actually work.
“Do it fast,” I said, moving away from Leb. I jerked my head at Callum. “You can go shower.”
Callum gave me another curious look that I ignored as we split off to our respective showers. My chest was pounding in anticipation but I couldn’t decide if I wanted to say anything to him. What if I got his hopes up and everything fell through?
I grabbed a towel and stepped into a stall, snapping the curtain shut behind me. I tossed the towel over the side wall and gripped the bottom of my shirt.
I whirled around to see the outline of someone standing on the other side of the curtain. “Callum?”
He pushed open the curtain and stepped inside the stall, amusement flickering across his face when he looked down at my fingers, still tightly clenched around the bottom of my shirt.
I quickly dropped it and smoothed the material over my stomach. He just stood there. Was I supposed to do something? Had he come thinking I’d want to have sex? My hands were shaking suddenly and I was relieved he hadn’t immediately pounced on me.
And maybe a little disappointed.
“What have you been talking about with Leb?” he asked.
I crossed my arms over my chest and beat down the surge of disappointment that he hadn’t come to kiss me.
“Plans,” I said.
“What does that mean?”
I wanted to tell him that I was going to get him out of here. I wanted to tell him to hang in there, to be good for a little while longer until I could figure everything out. I knew he’d give me a look of happiness and hope and excitement. But I was worried he would be crushed if it all fell apart.
“Plans like he’s going to help us escape?” he asked.
“I don’t know.”
His eyes were already hopeful. So much for not getting his hopes up.
“Will you please follow orders until I do know?” I asked.
He hesitated. It was brief, but it was there. “Yes.”
I waited. He hadn’t meant the yes.
The yes was a lie.
“Within reason,” he finished.
There was the truth.
“They’re sending us on a kill assignment any day now,” I said quietly. “If it comes down to it, you need to do it.”
“Callum . . .”
He smiled. “I like that you call me Callum now.”
“You have to do it.”
“No, I don’t.” He reached out, trying to pull one of my arms away from my chest.
I shook him off. “Leb can’t help us if you’re dead.”
“They can’t make me kill someone.”
“It’s an adult Reboot. It’s not even a person anymore.”
He looked down at me, a frown crossing his face. “Wouldn’t humans say the same thing about us?”
“Yes, but it’s true with an adult, they—”
“You don’t know that. That’s just what HARC says. I’m inclined to be suspicious.”
“You saw Gregor last night,” I said. “He was crazed. And every person I’ve seen who Rebooted as an adult is like that. They can’t even talk anymore, Callum.”
“We were there to capture him so HARC could experiment on him. I’d fight back, too. And besides, I was hysterical after I rose. Weren’t you?”
“It doesn’t matter,” I said in exasperation. “Either you kill the next one or HARC eliminates you.”
“You’ve really killed lots of people?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said, dropping my eyes. Without even thinking about it. Refusing had never even occurred to me.
“They made you do that?”
“Sometimes I offered.” I looked up as he took a sharp breath at that admission.
“Why would you do that?” he asked, his voice catching.
“When the assignment killed my fellow Reboots, I offered.”
“So because you were mad.”
I paused, hugging my arms tighter to my chest. “I guess.” His face was full of confusion and horror and maybe even a little disgust. A rock had formed on top of my chest and I closed my eyes, trying to make it go away. “I was only twelve when I died; I’ve been here a long time and I thought I had to do everything I was—I mean, I do have to do everything I’m told. They were bad, the people I killed, and I didn’t—”
“I’m not judging you,” Callum interrupted, his face softening as he stepped closer to me. “Well, I was, but I shouldn’t be. I’m sorry. I’ve been here only a few weeks and you . . . I can’t imagine being here five years.” A smile crossed his face. “Maybe I won’t have to be. You and Leb looked pretty serious today.”
“Or you won’t be here five years because you disobey orders again and they kill you tomorrow.”
“Or that,” he said, patting my head with a little laugh. Apparently his own death bothered him very little.
“It’s me, Callum. If you don’t carry out the assignment I’m supposed to eliminate you.”
“Oh.” He looked at me questioningly.
“I won’t do it,” I said, my annoyance coming through in my voice.
“But then . . .”
“Then they’ll probably eliminate me, too.”